If you grew up in Chicago in the 80s and 90s and had as few friends as I did then you watched a lot of TV. Here are some of the ads you absorbed for products that you were decades away from affording.
10. Rockenbach Chevrolet
Rockenbach is the first of several car dealerships on the top 10 list, and the first of several ads that are here strictly because of their jingle. Unfortunately I can’t find a clip of the ad on the interwebs. We’ve got Chevys and Chevys and Chevys, in Grayslake, saave a lot, at Rockenbach Chevroleeeet.
9. Celozzi-Ettelson Chevrolet (and Geo!)
There’s not even a jingle here – just a classic catchphrase uttered by two would-be mob henchmen. There are many examples of these guys on the YouTubes, but I picked this one for nostalgia over Geo cars. It’s 1992 and the Metro is getting 50+ MPG? WTF, Detroit.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Celozzi and Ettelson’s Pizza Hut ad. Wait – who was that at the end?
8. Mad Max Madsen
Another car dealership, and I’ve definitely never seen a TV spot from them. The format is always the same. We start with the jingle “He’s mad, he’s bad, Max Madsen.” A phone rings and an Indian stereotype answers with “Hallo, this is de doctor? Oh hallo grand poo-bah!” This is followed by an absurd recitation of the current hot deals in feigned disbelief. The conclusion is always “oh, Max, you may be bad and you may be mad…but youu’re not craaaaazy!”
I think everybody can relate to this ad. We’ve all been there. For example, when I used to work part-time at Borders I would always call my dentist and tell him about all the great deals that were available “What’s that? Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits for $7.99? Oh Pete, you may have gum disease, but you’re not crazy!”
7. Golf Mill Ford
Shame I couldn’t find this ad online either. This was a combo visual and jingle thing. The point of the ad was to encourage you to bring your shitheap of a used car to Golf Mill Ford for trade-in cash (this is a hot market in the Chicagoland area, as we’ll see later). The jingle was “Push it. Pull it. Tow it to Golf Mill Ford.” On screen, a massive fatass apparently named Stu would act out each command as it was spoken. At the end of the ad we were once again reminded “So do like Stu and you’ll save too. Push it. Pull it. Tow it to Golf Mill Ford.”
6. Peter Francis Geraci
I went to law school and I think I still learned more about bankruptcy law from Peter Francis Geraci commercials. The PFG is a bankruptcy attorney who apparently swallowed a bucket of Valium in 1983 and has yet to recover. He stares into the camera and mesmerizes you into calling his bankruptcy info tapes, which are always written on screen as ((INFO))((TAPES)), which either indicates that they are AUDIO TAPES or that there is some kind of SEISMIC ACTIVITY associated with the phone call. I don’t have a youtube link for this one but his ads often featured a Michael Jordan signed basketball in the background. This is not the last time that MJ basketballs will appear on this list.
5. Moo and Oink
This is not a joke. People actually buy meat from this place.
Aronson was previously discussed, along with a YouTube clip, in this post. Aronson furniture is out of business, but the jingle remains in my head forever.
3. Empire Carpet
A lot of people might have put this at #1 but I think there are a couple of better entries. The Empire Guy suffers from being too earnest and likeable. We all know the jingle. I don’t even know my own land line number, but I can order carpet anytime I want. FYYVE AIGHT AIGHT, TOO THREEE HUNDURD EMPIIIIIIRE. At some point in my life they added “Today” right after the EMPIIIIIRE, like a sort of travelocity DOT COMMM.
But aside from the jingle, the ads change too often and have too high a production value to be truly kitschy and beloved by those who wear ironic t-shirts.
Also, this is an election year, so let’s use somebody’s comments from years ago against them. Keep in mind that Empire now sells window treatments and bath liners.
Pwn3d, Mr. Empire.
And, as promised, the second appearance of Michael Jordan basketballs:
2. Eagle Man
Eagle Man is probably the most bizarre entry on this list. I guess it made sense at first, you have a company named Eagle Auto Insurance, you spend five minutes thinking up a character called Eagle Man, and he brings you low auto rates. Eagle Man first appeared in an ad where he came to the aid of two chicks apparently on the way to a Winger concert. It was a pretty straight-forward ad, although all lines were delivered with the comic timing of a rotting eggplant. You can see this ad here if so inclined. Then things got weird. The next ad featured the weirdest fucking car dealership on the planet, and, against all odds, even worse comic timing. For no reason that I can discern, car insurance was sold by a mustachioed woman named “Freak” who was using oversized playing cards to torment a woman tied to a chair. Eagle Man saves the day again.
The third ad was where Eagle really jumped the shark. It was really just a retread of the first ad – accident, no insurance, whatever shall I do? But in this case the uninsured motorist was local radio celebrity Mancow Muller, and it was Eagle WOMAN who came to his rescue. In defense of this ad, this was the first one in the series featuring a chick who I would bang.
1. Victory Auto Wreckers
In a world of change, we need something to serve as a touchstone – a memory of a bygone era. The Victory Auto Wreckers ad is constant as the northern star. Almost. As my friend Homes noted, Victory used to have seven acres of parts: starters, transmissions, batteries. Now it has ten. Also, the lawyers probably got to them – “that old car” used to be worth money. Now, it might be worth money. But everything else is exactly the same.
Here is the old version, back when Bensenville was still 312 (imagine!)
And here it is today
The car still fetches sixty bucks, the spare-parts yard is still littered with Studebakers and DeSotos, and our hero still looks like he’s bummed because he just got kicked out of Foghat.
Honorable mention goes to Al Piemonte and Bob Rohrman. Both are fixtures on the Chicago car-dealership ad scene, but I don’t think either of them are memorable enough to place in the top 10, especially amongst such stiff competition.
You may also note Menards is missing from this list. The reasoning for this omission is simple: fuck Menards.