The Time I Made Radio Commercials Like They Don’t Make Anymore: PART TWO

In PART ONE, I mentioned the influence that old-time radio had on my writing and performing. PART TWO has more fun for you, starting with a radio commercial that could never be made today.

I wrote all of them except the General Motors and Dick & Bert spots.

167th STREET CHINESE LAUNDRY: RELEVANCE (1971)

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Some of our customers?

In the early 70s, hippie boutiques were on every block, trying to outdo each other with the coolest clothes—and the weirdest names. College radio buddy Ron Schon and I, then both living in South Florida, recorded some two-dozen spots for a shop that offered “Clothing for the New Dynasty.” Ron’s great announcer voice matched well with my awful Asian dialect. The commercials got lots of attention, and absolutely no complaints. Today, you couldn’t even think about putting this on the air.

LAZARUS DEPT. STORE: PAUL LYNDE (1974)

Summer stock was a big thing back then. TV stars on hiatus traveled the country and had as much fun doing live theatre as their audiences had being close to them. In one of my first assignments for Byer & Bowman Advertising in Columbus, I took a cassette recorder over to the theatre and met the wonderful Paul Lynde. I wrote little bits for him to bracket my announcer parts. It was a treat to work with him, and he delivered the lines as only he could.

Paul Lynde people RETOUCHED
Photo credit: people.com

FAMOUS-BARR: LEVI’S (1976)

One of the biggest TV shows of the 70s was “Welcome Back, Kotter.” In this national award-winning Christmas spot for the huge St. Louis department store chain, I did my Arnold Horshack (and his signature laugh), along with fellow Byer & Bowman Advertising producer Jerry Greenfield in the Kotter role. Today, Jerry is nationally known as The Wine Whisperer—author, public speaker and wine educator (www.winewhisperer.com).

WINE EX 2017
Friend for over 40 years, Jerry Greenfield—The Wine Whisperer

FAMOUS-BARR GRAND OPENING: DICK AND BERT (1978)

As mentioned in PART ONE, I was inspired to make creative radio commercials in large part by the work of Dick Orkin and Bert Berdis. We collaborated on several radio spots during my tenure in Columbus. When I was hired by Mort Zieve of SMZ Advertising in Detroit, I discovered that Dick and Bert had made TV commercials for client Big Boy just months earlier. They were kind enough to send me this letter. I was saddened to learn of Dick’s passing in 2017.

D&B Letter

PERRY DRUGS: JACK BENNY AND FRANK NELSON (1983)

Me and Paul Caplan
Paul Caplan and I made a terrific team. You can hear more of us in the Misc. montage further down, doing Fantasy Island characters for Kmart, a Chrysler spot, a Laurel & Hardy bit, and another appearance of my Wallace Wimple with Paul’s overbearing boss.

I loved Jack Benny and all his cast, particularly Frank Nelson (“Yes-s-s-s!”). This commercial for the quick photo turnaround at Perry Drugs practically wrote itself, with all those hilarious catch phrases. The fabulous and funny Detroit actor Paul Caplan and I had a real feel for these characters, and I only wish I had a tape of the rehearsals.

BIG BOY RESTAURANTS: WINTER BARBEQUE (1990)

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This is the full 60-second radio version of the Surfin’ USA television commercial you can read about in the KatzTale, THE TIME I WROTE A HIT SONG WITH CHUCK BERRY AND BRIAN WILSON. There’s more singing on here, with me performing the Mike Love lead vocal and Brian’s falsetto signoff.

GENERAL MOTORS: BRANSON CHRISTMAS (1995)

I auditioned for another agency to play an elf. I had previously produced chipmunk-style radio station promos, so I knew how to slow my voice down to create the elf effect when the tape is played back at double speed. It came out cute.

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My job: give the elf a voice.  Photo credit: jacintaslyricalthoughts.blogspot.com

A Montage of Misc.

Here’s a brief montage of snippets. First up is from an internal contest promotion for Kmart managers, in which Paul Caplan and I played the Fantasy Island characters. Next, I was a parrot for McDonald’s and a crazed auto dealer for Chrysler (again with Paul). All the other bits are from spots I wrote, with me as Ed Wynn, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Stan Laurel (with Paul as Ollie), Howard Cosell, a trio of Christmas elves, and another appearance of Wallace Wimple (with Paul).

surfin-usa-studio-1-retouched-2

So why no radio spots after 1995? I went solo that year as Katz Creative, and specialized in writing/producing/directing corporate videos and live events for Fortune 500 companies. Later I added print, direct mail, outdoor and internet content to my skills list (winning many awards for each discipline). I also wrote three books on personal finance. But I’ll always love radio.

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