Unprompted: The Unforgivable Tutti Frutti 

I like to eat as much as anyone else, perhaps more than most, but so far I have avoided doing stupid commercials even for money.

click to enlarge gene_cox.jpg

One of the first things I noticed when I quit work was that the paychecks stopped coming in. Really, Channel 12 stopped paying me. Although I knew that would happen, it was still a shocker. Failure to earn a living creates a sense of worthlessness. Nobody wants me, boo hoo.

For a while I watched television. I watched a live report from McDonald’s where a dumpster had caught fire. Nobody was hurt and the fire was out before the Fire Department got there. Wow. Did I actually spend my career doing such things. They paid me for that! Nah. I believe we were better than that back when we didn’t have to fill four thousand news shows a day with something, anything … as long as there was something to plug in between the car commercials. Sometimes too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Speaking of commercials. … Yes, an ad agency asked me to do a commercial for a reverse mortgage company. I thought about it. There was money on the table and I didn’t have to do much to get it … only give up what dignity I thought I had. At the last moment I said no. Forty years of broadcasting news could not come down to this. Gene will not peddle reverse mortgages. Pat Boone came to mind. In my mind he is a model for what not to do.

I met Boone many years ago when he was a guest on a show I did in Baltimore. Sitting with him on a sofa waiting to go on created the opportunity for limited conversation. Yes, he was a celebrity but I had nothing to say to him. In my mind he was a cheater. He recorded Little Richard songs to make them more salable to white kids. That was just wrong.

Tutti frutti, oh rutti, Tutti frutti, oh rutti, Tutti frutti, oh rutti, Tutti frutti, oh rutti, Tutti frutti, oh rutti, Wop bop a loo bop a lop ba ba!

No doubt the most stirring musical lyrics in history.

Some years later, after he had successfully restored his disappearing hair, Boone made a commercial for a reverse mortgage company. Then he became a spokesman for walk-in bathtubs. My God! How can someone of his stature do things like that. Then I remembered. He had ripped off Little Richard.

Pat floated a while in the wake of daughter Debbie’s one hit, “You Light up my Life,” a pretty good tune done well, but I kept thinking of the reverse mortgages and walk-in bathtubs. And “Tutti Frutti.”

I like to eat as much as anyone else, perhaps more than most, but so far I have avoided doing stupid commercials even for money. Boone may be to blame for that. But back to the eating thing: I may have to reconsider. This failure to earn a living is really bugging me. It may be time to compromise. But if that happens, I promise it will be different. Gene will never try to sell you a walk-in bathtub, or mattress at 85 percent off. Really. Fifteen cents on the dollar. Give me a break. Gene won’t tell you that you can have a car for $219 a month, without telling you what the car really costs.

There are legitimate products and services advertised on television. Talking about them is no worse that reporting live from a fast food dumpster that used to be on fire. There are viewers who would like to know more about certain things and a TV commercial is a good way to spread the word. After all, there are still many smart people who turn on, or at lest tolerate, TV news. If you watch the national news at 6:30 you can learn about which of the many new drugs for problems you’ve never heard of are least likely to kill you. There are remedies for restless leg syndrome and dry mouth. Viagra and Cialis are good but call your doctor if the side effects last more than four hours. And on and on it goes.

After this rant it is likely that Gene won’t become a spokesman for anything. That’s OK, I’m too far along in this game to try to fool anybody. However if I find a good deal on ocean front property in West Virginia, I’ll pass it along. S



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