Enjoy the look back. I hope you’ll be a frequent visitor.

So this is where it all started: WTBU, the campus radio station at Boston University. Six years after this 1970 photo, another shy boy from New York found his voice on the same microphone. Maybe you’ve heard of him: Howard Stern.
Every budding DJ pays his dues at a small-town radio station. At WAWR-FM in Bowling Green, Ohio, I paid my dues and they paid me bupkis. The 1974 photo is out of focus, and so was my life. I got out of radio and into advertising. I got lucky … and then unlucky … and then really lucky. Read about “The Time I Made Six Figures in Six Seconds.”
Mona Scott was the weathergirl (well that’s what they were called back then) at the Columbus, Ohio NBC affiliate. She was also the announcer for most of my radio spots while at Byer & Bowman Advertising in the 70s. I had a wonderful time at our recording sessions, and a wonderful time reminiscing about it in “The Time I Slept with Miss December.”
From 1975-78, I wrote hundreds of Christmas commercials for the large national department store clients of Byer & Bowman Advertising in Columbus. We shot them “live,” recording each spot in one complete 30-second take. Here, I’m on the studio floor holding a stopwatch. If the take took 31 seconds, we had to do it all over again. That’s why we started in August.
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“Sometimes opportunity doesn’t knock. It rings.” This was the opening line in my national award-winning TV public service announcement promoting the Allied Jewish Campaign’s Super Sunday Telethon. SMZ Advertising Chairman Mort Zieve (right) looks on as Judge Avern Cohn makes the presentation. Most PSAs aren’t given prime airtime by broadcast stations; this was an exception.
We won two Detroit Emmy Awards in three years (1981, 1983) for Best TV Commercial. I accepted for our Big Boy Restaurants spot called “Creation.” It won despite a bunch of phone calls complaining about our using a church choir to sell hamburgers. Good Lord.
Our 1982 Hiram Walker Holiday Sales Film featured the entire Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I’m in the second row between two other clowns. Read the remarkable circumstances that led to this career-changing film in “The Time I Got My Biggest Gig by Going Deaf.”
The 30-minute 1982 Hiram Walker Holiday Sales Film was the first time I’d written anything more than 60 seconds. Our time on the road with The Greatest Show on Earth was THE GREATEST! Posing with me are HWI’s Don Hazelwood, SMZ’s Susan Schafer and Ron David, and famed animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams with one of his larger trainees. How did we bag this phenomenal assignment? The surprising tale is told in “The Time I Got My Biggest Gig by Going Deaf.”
See the girl? Of course you do. Find out how she got ME in trouble, when you read “The Time I Slept With Miss December.” Also enjoying the assignment were Hiram Walker’s Don Hazelwood and SMZ Advertising producer Ron David.
What was Pro Football Hall of Famer Lem Barney doing duded up in Early American duds? And how did my job become in jeopardy over it? Don’t ask. Just read “The Time I Put Mom on TV—and She Nearly Put Me Out of Work.”
Football legend Broadway Joe Namath put on top hat, white tie and tails for our 1983 Hiram Walker Holiday Sales Film, an original 30-minute musical. To Joe’s right is Art Director Susan Schafer. On his left is Writer Eric Head. I’m back there between Eric and SMZ Advertising President Jim Michelson.
It took three hours to turn singer/impressionist Fred Travalena into President Ronald Reagan for Hiram Walker’s 1985 Holiday Sales Video. During a break, Fred and I demonstrated that politics really does make strange bedfellows. You’ll see lots more of Fred in “The Time I Took a Beatle to White Castle.”
How did starring in a local production of “Guys and Dolls” get me in good with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself? You’ll get a kick out of reading this exclusive narrative, in “The Time I Made Sinatra Smile.”
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A national trade magazine did a feature on “commercial generalists.” I had no idea that’s what I was.
We used a “Patton” theme to motivate Metro 25 Tire Centers dealers at their national convention. Actor Whit Vernon pulled it off brilliantly. I’m on the General’s right. To his left is Bob Lipson of CTC Sports, who directed many videos for me during my SMZ years. On the end is Art Director Extraordinaire Susan Schafer.
Soupy Sales was a legend in Detroit years before he came to New York in the mid-60s and made a lasting impact on me. It’s my pleasure to share this warm and very personal story in “The Time Soupy Sales Changed My Life. And the Time I Told Him—20 Years Later.”
I wrote a series of fun spots for a drug store chain, promoting their fast photo developing. We had Napoleon, Cinderella and Tarzan coming in to get their pictures. Actually, Tarzan swung in (or is it swang?), accompanied by a furry friend. We paid Tarzan scale. The furry friend got a private trailer and a huge check. If I remember, Art Director Lisa Sabo and I weren’t having as much fun as it looks.
As the caption explains, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Detroit Tigers greats George Kell and Al Kaline. They took script coaching without complaint from this devoted Yankees fan. Freelance director Shev Goldstein helmed many spots and videos for SMZ with much-needed patience.
I sang on many jingles and corporate videos. My crowning moment came when I did Beach Boys vocals on the “Surfin’ Big Boy” radio and TV spots. The whole story—including how I got around my boss and the client to record it—is revealed for the first time in “The Time I Wrote a Hit with Chuck Berry and Brian Wilson.”
On location for Hiram Walker in Chicago, 1986. This shot was for Mom and Dad.
Hank Stram, who coached the Kansas City Chiefs to a victory in Super Bowl IV, starred in our 1986 Hiram Walker Holiday Sales Video. We shot in Michigan Stadium—“The Big House.” We wrote the motivational piece around his quirky character, which he performed, well, quirkily. The liquor salesmen watching it around the country really got into our dynamic treatment of a terribly dreary subject.
One of us is 6’8” and it ain’t me. John “The Tooz” Matuszak added to his post-football credentials with our 1986 Hiram Walker Holiday Sales Video. He played an intimidating customer, an intimidating bartender, and an intimidating convenience store manager. He appreciated the chance to stretch his acting skills.
I’m to the left of the delightful Lou Jacobi, playing a modern-day Ponce De Leon (notice the shorts—and those legs!). This was a Big Boy commercial to win a trip to Florida. He really was a pleasure to be with, and even gave me a private performance of his big line as Uncle Morty in My Favorite Year: “So did you schtup her or what?”
Academy Award winner Cliff Robertson made a series of commercials for our hospital client, urging people to have their own blood stored for an emergency. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Another example of the ad agency’s peculiar philosophy: “Why pay for a model, we’ve got someone here who’ll do it for nothing.” This was for a health care brochure. They actually used this shot of me fooling around. And the boy? He was the son of the print production manager. See what I mean?
Detroit Tigers manager and fun guy Sparky Anderson did a series of commercials for our tire client. The voiceovers were done by football announcer (and another fun guy) Jim Brandstatter.
Once again, I got to play straight man for writing partner Eric Head. And once again, one of our clients got the benefit of SMZ Advertising staffers who could get up onstage and perform professionally. For free, of course. In this bit, we introduced Metro 25 Tire’s new mascot, Metro Max. Eric has a more lasting claim to fame. Read about it in “The Time I Kept America’s Biggest Star From Going to Prison—Again.”
An extreme example of the free modeling services SMZ offered its clients. I’m on the left—if you couldn’t tell—with Creative Director Harvey Gabor. This really ran. Maybe I should’ve done the same.
Pit Road at Daytona International Speedway for Metro 25 Tire Centers’ 1994 national convention video. As on-camera interviewer, I memorized the drivers’ bios so it looked like I had actually heard of these guys. Detroit Pistons’ play-by-play announcer George Blaha did a magnificent narration of the race footage.
When you’re in advertising, you’ve gotta wear many hats. Or costumes. My SMZ writing—and stage—partner Eric Head must have lost the toss.
That’s hockey great Steve Yzerman upper right, and Duane Rao of Metro 25 Tire Centers. We shot a couple of funny spots on the practice ice (hence the winter coats) with Duane, Steve and Red Wings teammate Sergei Fedorov. The ladies were my teammates at SMZ. All the camera crew guys had to be able to skate. This was Michigan, so that was no problem. Me? I watched.
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This is one of my favorite photos. Learn what we were talking about, but not how she got her hair to do that, in “The Time My Client Ran for President—and Put the Pain in Campaign.”
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My whistle-stop tour as “manager” of the 1992 “Big Boy for President” promotion included a stop at the Toledo Blade. You already know how the election came out, but what you don’t know is uncovered in “The Time My Client Ran for President—and Put the Pain in Campaign.”
A few days after the massive 1994 earthquake in Northridge, California—and a few days before my wedding—I flew out and shot a TV commercial and promotional video for a cell phone operation. Former Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda was the inspirational spokesman. It was the first time I had to stop a taping due to aftershocks.
Comedian Dave (Full House) Coulier was kind enough to record a public service announcement for a local school promotion, and kept the kids entertained with his famous impressions of Popeye and Bullwinkle. I’m way on the left directing.
I interviewed the charming and clever Fred Willard during my late-90s stint as movie reviewer for the Observer-Eccentric newspapers in Metro Detroit. Fred was in town promoting Best in Show, and he appreciated my familiarity with his early work in the Ace Trucking Company and Second City improv groups.
I brought my multitalented step-daughter Renee to an AFTRA meeting where Motown legend Martha Reeves gave a workshop. It was inspiring for Renee and nostalgic for me. Renee has performed on stages around the country, and even sang “Heat Wave” with The Stubbs Girls, relatives of Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops.
The fabulous Fred Travalena received a Special Award from the National Italian-American Foundation for his charitable work. I attended the Grand Rapids event with my wife Cathy and her folks Nancy and Giovanni (who was particularly interested). My memorable experiences with this amazing impressionist weren’t limited to the soundstage, as you’ll discover when reading “The Time I Took a Beatle to White Castle.”
Leave it to those playful Anheuser-Busch distributors to put on a live show, hire me to write and direct, and then add a quartet of Hooters girls. Turns out it really didn’t matter how well I wrote and directed. It’s one of the more spirited portions of the tale I call “The Time I Made Six Figures in Six Seconds.”
Billy Crystal and I shared a moment. And then I shared something more personal. All is revealed in “The Time I Told Billy Crystal About My Intimate Relationship With His Babysitter.”

2 thoughts on “Gallery

  1. So here’s MY Lou Jacobi story.

    Among a zillion things in his career Lou performed on an obscure comedy album from the ’60s called “You Don’t Have To Be Jewish” along with Valerie Harper (The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Rhoda), Frank Gallop (“The Ballad of Irving”), and others. I used to play the bits from the album all the time on my show on WTBU (where I met Jon).

    One of the bits was called “The Hobby”, about a guy (LJ) who tells his friend that he has a hobby – he collects bees. Every day he gets a gallon jar, fills the jar with bees, screws on the cap, puts the jar on the mantlepiece, and sits and watches his bees. And that’s his hobby. His friend asks “Do you poke holes in the top of the jar so the bees can breath?”. LJ replies “No”. His friend says: “If you don’t poke holes in the top so the bees can breath they will die”. Lou delivers the punch line: “So let ’em die it’s only a hobby”.

    30 years later I’m having lunch in a coffee shop in NYC when all of a sudden I see Lou Jacobi coming towards my table near the door. I had to stop him and say something. So I stood up and said “Mr. Jacobi, I’ve been a big fan of yours for many years since college. I used to play the “You Don’t Have To Be Jewish” album on my radio show.”

    He paused for just a moment, trying to place this in his life. Then he nodded his head, gave me a big smile, and said: “Oh the bees!”


    1. During that time in the late 60s, there was a DJ in Boston named Ken Mayor who played comedy records on Sunday nights. The album you mentioned got a lot of airtime. I remember the cut where the young Brooklyn wife calls up her mother crying that the kids and husband are all sick. The woman on the other end says don’t worry, she’ll take the train and three buses to bring her chicken soup and take over. After further comforting words, the wife realizes she called the wrong number. “Does this mean you won’t be coming over?”


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