A while back, I was watching television and not entirely sure what network I was viewing? Was it the WUAN (Washed Up Athletes Network)? Or maybe it was the AARP Network. Or perhaps it was the Old and Gullible Network. In 1992, Bruce Springsteen released 57 Channels and Nothing On, which was an indictment on the vast wasteland of television. Now there are literally thousands of channels with nothing on.
I really don’t remember the programming I was watching, but I do remember the ads. They all featured men well past their prime, but at one time or another had been household names in American pop culture. They had become Pitchmen for various products and services to an older generation that still remembered them fondly and held them in high regard. But after delving into these ads, I was left astounded at what these men have become. There are second acts in American lives when it comes to Fred Thompson, John McEnroe, Alan Thicke, and Chuck Woolery. They have become Pitchmen.
Fred Thompson – Thompson is a lawyer turned actor, actor turned politician, politician turned actor, actor turned politician…ok enough already, I’m getting dizzy. Let me out of this revolving door. Thompson is pitching a product (scheme) called a reverse mortgage. How it actually is supposed to work, I’m not sure but it sounds like something Mr. Haney would trot out as a sound investment for the good citizens of Hooterville.
John McEnroe – Former tennis superstar John McEnroe was the guy you loved to hate back in the day. And you didn’t even have to be a fan of the sport. He was known as much for his fiery outbursts and verbal fusillades as he was for his tennis skills. McEnroe was playing in an era that gave us Jimmy Connors, Stan Smith, Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase, Chris Everett, and Martina Navratilova – all bigger than life personalities. McEnroe along with his contemporaries energized and gave fresh life to a staid and dying sport. Even the most casual fan was familiar with these names. Who are the top five tennis pros in the world currently? I don’t know and I don’t care.
Besides being an on air tennis commentator, McEnroe has been known to pitch a few products. His latest pitch is for a toenail fungus medication (you can’t make this stuff up). The ad consists of cartoon fungus creatures playing tennis. McEnroe in commentator mode feigns the anger that made him famous. Toenail fungus be damned!
Alan Thicke – I sorta, kinda remember this guy as one of those cheesy 80’s sitcom dads. But 80’s sitcom dads generally turn into grumpy old grandpas in their golden years. But I assume there are no grumpy grandpa roles available for Alan Thicke. He pitches a service that will resolve all of your IRS tax debt. For all of you tax dodgers, help is on the way. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The IRS will not take your first born. Thicke’s smile is so reassuring; you are led to believe that your tax problems will soon be a thing of the past. But if things do go wrong, maybe Thicke can represent you in a court of law. But you better check the IMDb database to see if he’s ever had a lawyer role.
Chuck Woolery – Woolery is one of those legendary game show hosts I remember watching as a kid. Of course there was Bob Barker who at the age of 155 is still tan and trim and spading and neutering his pets, Gene Rayburn who was always just a little bit too creepy for me, and Chuck. Those were the guys. But Chuck is a television personality so smooth; he could sell ice to the Eskimos. He’s that good. Now he is pitching a contraption that will relieve shoulder and knee pain (and perhaps all bodily discomfort). Chuck promises this device will change your life. Hmm...seems like I've heard that line before. And isn't this just a variation of a Rube Goldberg machine with pulsating lights?
But if for some unknown reason, this device doesn’t eliminate your pain, Chuck will send your money back. Well maybe not Chuck but Chuck’s assistant or someone who knows Chuck. Oh hell, someone will get back with you. But don’t hold Chuck personally responsible.
Well there you have it. If you ever get into a tax jam, have toenail fungus, shoulder or knee pain you might consider a reverse mortgage. You’re gonna need a lot of dough. But don’t despair; you have a talented lineup of individuals to assist you.