Now facing shortage of pitchmen
January 25, 2011
We’re coming to a shortage in this country. We should have seen it coming, but it may be too late now.
Fossil fuels? No, I’m talking about pitchmen.
The small group of informercial celebrities just got smaller this weekend, with the passing of fitness guru Jack LaLanne, a man who, at 96, on his deathbed, would still be favored in a fight against me.
The older generation might remember “The Jack LaLanne” Show,” an exercise and advice show that ran for parts of four decades.
I remember “Amazing Discoveries.” The show featured LaLanne’s Juice Tiger. His co-host was Mike Levey, whose only contribution seemed to be a colorful sweater. The show’s appeal wasn’t related to the juice. I was a teenager; my beverages of choice were Citrus Cooler Gatorade and Coca-Cola.
You see, “Amazing Discoveries” had the inherent quality that makes infomercials so great. It tells you, “You need this product,” and justifies it with a problem that either does not exist, or exists to a much smaller degree than advertised.
It was the perfect vehicle for LaLanne’s salesmanship, including a dogged insistence that you get out of your body what you put into it.
“This bowl is your stomach,” LaLanne told Levey, before filling it with enough American food to feed third-world villages. He adds milk and cereal, coffee with sugar and creamer, two pancakes, two raw eggs, raw bacon and sausages, a couple of cigarettes and a donut, before he mixes it into a gooey mess. Levey feels LaLanne has made his point, and wants to move on, but LaLanne is undeterred. “And MORE COFFEE,” he butts in as he pours on a little more black liquid.
LaLanne’s gone, and Billy Mays is still selling products 18 months after his death. We used to reference him and his “Oxi Clean” natural bleach alternative derived from oxygen. It made sense when he explained it.
My friend Brian said, “I’m thinking about coloring my hair.” My friend Robert didn’t waste any time before he got into his Billy Mays impression.
“Now what you want to do, BRIAN, is give yourself an OXI-CLEAN coloring job,” Robert shouted. “Just take a few cups of nature’s powder, add some tap water and get a good paste to put on your hair. You’ll be a NATURAL blonde because your hair was colored with the NATURAL power of OXI-CLEAN.”
The only pitchman with any gravitas left is George Foreman, who’s either crazy or a genius for naming all of his kids George, and is a certified genius for selling people an angled panini grill that takes the juice out of mediocre steaks.
Now, products are sold with random models, because the celebrities most likely to slap their name on a product aren’t famous for athletic achievements. They’re just famous for being famous. Do you really want a device that came from the mind of a Kardashian sister? Of course, that would explain Pajama Jeans.
Well, here’s to you, Jack LaLanne. May you rest in peace, and may we all drink juice in your honor. Or, if you prefer, more coffee.