Every city has bargain-basement pitchmen: TV and radio hucksters who launch themselves into our living rooms with high-decibel sales pitches that confuse poor Grandpa and cause toddlers to shriek for quality pre-owned vehicles. The Pleasures Dudes may have carved their own peddling-porn niche, but their shtick follows a time-honored practice of local businesses using screwy personas to shill, shill, shill. While these pitchmen appeal to the common man, they often gain celebrity status for themselves. Have you been injured in an auto accident? Because you'd have to be brain-dead to forget these top-five favorites:
"Cleanest cars in Colorado."
Contrary to popular belief, Shaggy, aka the Shagman, does not own Rocky's Autos. And cheery Officer Odell? He's not a real cop. Which just leaves that blond cheesecake, Audra -- actually a fembot built by the dealership's true founder and president, David Rothrock. He's been authorizing a new used-car commercial almost weekly since 1995, with the thirty-second one-acts revolving around events ripped straight from the headlines and employing all manner of cartoonish props and costumes. Anything can happen on these mini-serials, with the Shagman and his wacky crew tangling with corporate dealership mobsters or fighting to keep their rotund leader out of the slammer. Despite a disorienting casting change in the late '90s during which ol' Shaggy was temporarily replaced, the trio has become quite the attraction at county fairs and other events, including the National Western Stock Show. In 2005, the mostly Latino audience at a youth-boxing championship was enchanted when Officer Odell, in full Keystone Cop regalia, belted out the national anthem with a voice suited to Marvin Gaye. Perhaps it's time for the Shagman to take on a new challenge -- Rocky's Autos: The Musical.
American Furniture Warehouse
"There's nothing wrong with giving the customer a bargain!"
He started with puppies on a recliner. And since everyone likes puppies, Jake Jabs thought that everyone would really like chimpanzees on an ottoman! From there it was just a short step to full-grown African lions cavorting on coffee tables and Bengal tigers yawning on love seats. But what everyone assumed was an unnatural fetish for exotic animals and home furnishings was in fact pure marketing genius. Since buying a single American Furniture Warehouse in 1975, Jabs has amassed an empire of eleven furniture mega-stores throughout Colorado, including the 635,000-square-foot super- complex in Englewood. Throughout the '80s and early '90s, Jabs was a regular fixture on local TV, yapping about inventory in a voice one notch below a shout while some furry jungle creature rollicked in his lap; viewers always paid attention in the dark hope that this would be the ad where the sofa king was finally mauled, but to no avail. In the late '90s, Jabs's daughter briefly took the reins as spokesperson, but was eventually jettisoned in favor of some fitness queen who sprawls across the furniture like so many oversized felines before her. Though he now makes only cameo appearances, the 76-year-old Jabs remains the plucky president and CEO of Today's AFW, where shoppers can purchase copies of his autobiography, An American Tiger.
Franklin D. Azar & Associates
"In a wreck, get a check."
It can occur when you least expect it. You're hunkered on the couch, attempting to decide between Judge Judy or Judge Joe Brown, when suddenly, in the blink of an eye, it happens. The screeching of car brakes, the crunch of metal on metal, and -- wham -- you're crippled by another Frank Azar commercial.
Hello, I'm attorney Frank Azar...
You look to the remote control for help. You left it in the kitchen! You're alone, helpless. The only one you can turn to for help against Frank Azar...is Frank Azar. There's Brian "Bulldog" Moore, of course -- he's been fighting insurance companies all his life, and they don't frighten him. But Azar, however pudgy, is "the strong arm." Look at his animated metal fist pound that piece of iron to crap. Just imagine what he can do in the courtroom. His Aurora-based law firm has four offices around the state with attorneys who specialize in auto accidents, workplace injuries and slip-and-fall mishaps. If you've become disabled as the result of a Frank Azar commercial, you may be entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thanks, Frank Azar!
"Nobody beats a Dealin' Doug deal. Nobody!"
It takes a special breed of man to don Superman tights, a red Speedo and a cape, then aggressively shout into the camera about his great deals on Pontiacs, Buicks, GMCs, Kias, etc, etc. It's even more special when this man is barrel-chested Doug Moreland, owner of Grand Automotive in Thornton, who indulges his penchant for large gold rings and Elvis hair while "flying" over the Denver skyline.
Not even Hollywood could concoct a more stereotypical car-dealer character than the flag-waving cheeseball known across the metro area as "Dealin' Doug." But unlike with Rocky's Autos commercials, viewers here are left unsure if Doug is actually performing. Is he for real?
Real enough. Moreland is also an avid sports fan whose commercials occasionally show him wearing Rockies or Broncos jerseys -- when he's not dressing up as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. A special breed indeed.
The Shane Company
"Now you have a friend in the diamond business."
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While most pitchmeisters go over the top, Tom Shane goes the other direction. For the past thirty years, his monotone, impossibly boring voice has lulled radio listeners into a hypnotic stupor as we absorb the details of Shane learning the jewelry business from his father and grandfather, flying to Belgium to pick out the highest-quality stones, blah, blah, blah, then detailing the locations where we can buy these gems. The pitch becomes so fused in our memory that when the exact same ad comes on in California, we feel betrayed.
"The Shane Company. Fourth Floor, Bayview Federal Building, 2121 South El Camino."
What? No I-25? No Arapahoe Road?
Though based in Englewood, the Shane Company has 23 stores ranging from Oregon to Georgia, and all use the same spots. Discovering that was bad enough, but early last year, Shane changed his time-tested formula by adding a female voice to the end of the commercial singing a shrill "He's dull...but he's brilliant!" Thank God that idea was chucked by summer. Leave self-awareness to the jerks on Madison Avenue, Tom. We like our brainwashing chant the way it is.