top 10 chicago ads

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.

4. Aronson

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.

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.


47 Responses to “top 10 chicago ads”

  1. freeandflawed Says:

    I can hear all of these commercials in my head. Peter Francis Geraci is the worst.

  2. Kayleigh Says:

    This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. When I read this line: “The PFG is a bankruptcy attorney who apparently swallowed a bucket of Valium in 1983 and has yet to recover.” I guffawed out loud at work, FYI.

  3. Mom in real life Says:

    I was born in Chicago but grew up by Detroit. My occasional visits to family in Chicago meant that I saw most of these commercials growing up….I was the only person in Detroit that could knew/sing the Empire song…

  4. Kayleigh Says:

    You woke up at 3:30 today? Um, wow, I’m jealous especially considering the fact that I had to be in downtown Evanston at 9:30 a.m. I’m going to assume that the rest of the blogger event and the Victor Hotel were pretty fun, since…you know…you were a mere 1.5 hours away from waking up at dinner time.

  5. Angela Says:

    Congratulations! You’ve been added to the “Bloggers I’ve Met in Real Life” section of my blog roll. 🙂

  6. Big Time Fancy Says:

    Oh man, one of Geraci’s suburban offices is about mile from my parents’ house. He talks in real life just like he does on his commercials

    And I’ve waited on Bob Rohrman – shitty tipper. Weirdest looking guy in the world, it’s like his whole face is crammed into 1/20 of his head.

  7. Fartnog Buttstinkle Says:

    That’s funny, because I too have a connection to Bob Rohrman; a girl in my biology class had a picture of her with Mr. Rohrman and apparently he was sleeping with her. The problem? Rohrman was married.

  8. Mehmet Yanki Yonel Says:

    Thx for nice article.

  9. Christine Says:

    I love it, I was waiting for the Victory Auto Wreckers one. It’s never a complete list without this. Thank you for the hilarious analysis. You’ve done us natives a great service.

  10. Justin Says:

    Best post ever.

  11. VI Says:

    Way too soon, but for years we will all still be singing the 1-877 cars for kids jingle

  12. BeeRockafeller Says:

    Bunny Hutch AKA Novelty Golf & Games. I can’t believe you left this one off! Haha but hilarious article, had me cracking up. Thanks!

  13. BeeRockafeller Says:

    I couldn’t resist, here is the Novelty Golf commercial which they showed still well into the 90s (they might even still for all I know) –

  14. delk Says:


    where is Timmy?
    Harlem Furniture?


  15. alc Says:

    Do you work for Menard’s cause anyone who does says the same thing.

  16. Sam Says:

    Oh, great, now I’ve got the “NAtional-2-Nine-Thousand” jingle stuck in my head and it wasn’t even on your list…

  17. Mike Doyle Says:

    I almost peed when I read “Fuck Menards”! Too funny!

    Two years ago, I mercilessly annoyed my then-boyfriend by mimicking the out-of-tune “Moo & Oink” jingle at the end of the commercial. We were driving in the Southland, and came upon on of the stores. Until then, we just thought they were myths!

  18. nick Says:

    Harry Schmerler, your singing Ford dealer

  19. jen Says:

    Is Harry Schmerler the one who’s mother popped up in a window and announced “On Grand Avenue”?

  20. blitherer Says:

    How come you can swear and post racist crap in your articles and I can’t?

  21. Pete Says:

    jen you’re thinking of Howard pontiac, another classic. I might put it in a follow-up post along with O’Connor Ford (“if anyone can…O’CONNOR CAN).

    and blitherer, if you found something racist in this article, then not only should you not be allowed to swear, you shouldn’t be allowed to air your opinions in public, period.

  22. JimBobDoneThat Says:

    Oh my God Yes I too remember, especially the Victory ad since I once gave up my car to them…I bashed it with a baseball bat B-4 they arrived just for grins. I must say, the funniest thing i read here was the name of the reply from Fartnog Buttstinkle :O unfukingbelievably hilarious

  23. Mary Says:

    588-2300…. 588-2300…..
    OMG. Now it’s stuck in my head again.

  24. NWsydedude Says:

    Let’s not forget Joe Perillo dressed as Rocky Balboa, shadow boxing around a car with a foot-high styrofoam ‘$9995’ on the roof. As we hear the voiceover guy say “Joe Perillo – knocking out high prices,” Perillo jabs the styrofoam numbers, which are pulled away on a fishline – cheap, corny, and utterly hilarious.

    And late 70s-early 80s: “Tomczak Tomczak Tomzak Dodge – forty seven forty seven South Pulaski!”

    And “The whole town is talking about the Webb Boys…And the Webb Family Promise is Whyyyyyyyy” Leave it to the car dudes for the best lame ads.

  25. Rob Says:

    How about Shelley Long with her John M. Smyth furniture. “Or do you say SmYth.”

  26. Dave Says:

    Right on Rob and Delk!

  27. mark Says:

    I’m assuming that there must be some personal animosity toward Menard’s, because I have always found it a much more enjoyable shopping experience than visiting, say, Home Depot?

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    What about Olsen Rug shop at home, shop at home Olsen Rug. Call 888- OLSEN-RUG?

  30. greg Says:

    What about the fat guy dancing for the loop raido station.

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  32. ANDRES Says:

    Can anyone help me find the girl from the EAGLE MAN FREAK COMMERIAL . THE ONE THATS TIED UP.

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  34. Bob Says:

    The one that sticks with me was the “Tony the Tiger” imitator singing for Bouchelle.

    Hudson 2-3-7 HUN-dred!

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  40. Mike W. Says:

    Carson’s… Take it to go! Take it to go! C-A-R-S-O-N-S

  41. Mike Says:

    or where’s (voice of Indian chief) Mohawk4-4100, CET for television

  42. Dave LaPorta Says:

    8 years too late finding this post but i know you’ll remember this is you remember the Victory Auto wreckers original commercial above.

  43. dennisjpadua Says:

    glad that victory autowreckers is where it belongs at number 1. why no mention of 773 202 – LUNA

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