8 Local Ads That Are Beautiful Madness
We all know the template to a crazy local ad: some guy in a short-sleeved shirt ranting about slashing prices while his nephew's synth jingle plays in the background. But these boilerplate commercials lack any artistic vision.
Out in the heartland of America, true gonzo filmmakers/cash4gold salesmen are making true art with nothing but a dusty Handycam, a homemade greenscreen and the kind of dream you have in the middle of a sleep paralysis attack. These are the true crazy local ads, ones that lose track of what they're trying to sell and in the process dare to defy every single expectation of what a commercial is supposed to be. For example ...
See A Man Live Out His Kinks In These Philadelphia Menswear Ads
Ask any old-timer in Philadelphia and they can tell you about Benjamin "The Polyester King" Krass, part of South Philly's Krass Brothers menswear empire. In fact, they can probably tell you more about Ben than you'd care to know because, for a decade, he lived out his wildest kinks on TV.
It's not an uncommon tactic for commercials from the eighties to feature groups of scantily clad babes in stripper heels, especially if they were trying to sell stuff to men. But the late-night Krass Brothers suits commercials had a target audience of exactly one -- Ben Krass' spank bank.
The store's many 10-second commercials all share a similar setup. On a backdrop ripped straight from a soap opera dream sequence, a snazzily dressed Ben urges you to buy a Krass Brothers suit while, for some reason, he's surrounded by the biggest beauties a Philly cheese steak can buy.
Emphasis on "big." Towering over the diminutive Polyester king, the "Store of the Stars" models look absolutely Amazonian as they claw at Ben's bespoke suit. Say, you don't think that's something Ben was into, right? That he got off feeling like a small boy?
Or, surely not, a widdle baby?
Now, we're not accusing a Philly icon like Ben Krass of being a guy who got his kicks by having a gaggle of tall women put their hands all over him. But we will note that, in some of these suit commercials, he isn't even wearing a suit.
Sadly, these good times weren't to last. By the nineties, the Krass Bros. fell on hard times. In 1993, this decline cost two of Ben's nephews were killed in a suit robbery gone wrong. With little money coming in, the Polyester King hung up his commercial crown and was forced to declare bankruptcy. Remaining a local legend until the end, Benjamin Krass died in 2004 -- gone too soon, but probably just in time to dodge a lot of MeToo lawsuits.
Join This Time-Traveling Lion At A Chinese Buffet
The year is 126 AD. Under the rule of the ambitions imperator Hadrian, Rome is in the midst of its final golden age, a time of prosperity and peace. But not so in the arenas, where gladiators, slaves and beast alike still shed their blood for the entertainment of the mobs. This is the tale of one of these noble warriors and his noble quest for freedom, peace and Chinese food.
Also, he's a lion.
In this animated commercial, seemingly made on someone's dad's work computer, we see an emaciated man literally being thrown to the lions in the Colosseum. Frightened and bewildered, the doomed slave is taunted by the callous Roman guards. "You might be OK", they mock. "This lion only eats good food."
But what these primitive ancient humans underestimated was how far their simple beast would go to satiate this sensitive pallet. So instead of munching on low-rez Steve Gutenberg, the big cat summons all his picky eater powers, leaps through what I assume to be an off-screen magic portal and travel through time and space to the greatest culinary experience of the universe -- a 2007 Chinese buffet restaurant in Fairbanks, Alaska.
This is the power of the Mayflower buffet, conveniently located on 3rd and Steese, that a 2000-year-old lion would taunt God itself to enjoy its cuisine. "It's gr-r-reat!" announces the lion as it presses its mane against the sneeze guard, meaning it didn't just violate the laws of nature but also the copyright of Tony the Tiger.
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A Sci-Fi Wrestling Movie Was Recycled Into A Mail-Order Gold Infomercial
If there's one thing local ads tend to lack, aside from coherence, production values, and someone who can act, it's star power. But that's not the case for one small-time Baltimore infomercial ...
Which, if you can't tell fro the grainy footage, features music and the appearance of none other than the world-famous Santo Gold! No no no, not the singer-songwriter of such hits as L.E.S. Artistes and Disparate Youth -- that's Santigold. Sure, artist Santi White did once go by Santogold, but she had to change her stage name mid-fame to avoid getting sued by the original Santo Gold, famed auteur of the sci-fi wrestling horror film Blood Circus and the singer of its non-hit soundtrack.
Hmm? You've never heard of Santo Gold or the movie Blood Circus? That's probably because the privately funded flick was so bad it couldn't find a distributor and was only seen by a handful of disappointed Baltimoreans. But that didn't prevent Santo Rigatuso AKA Santo Gold AKA Bob Harris from finding a way to recoup his losses, using scenes of this cannibal alien wrestling movie as tie-in infomercials for his mail-order jewelry business.
But nobody tells Santo Gold he's not famous, because he can and will come after you. Even when Santigold buckled and relinquished the name, Santo Gold released a diss track called "I Am The Real Santo Gold" to really drive the point home.
Highlights of the track include "I did the wrestling movie and lots of TV / My name is well known throughout history" and rhyming Santo Gold with "stoled." Since that epic burn, Santigold has gone on to sell hundreds of thousands of albums and receive multiple music awards. Meanwhile, Santo Gold keeps promising to release Blood Circus at some point this century.
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Scottie Pippen Got Real Close To Doing A Porno In This Sandwich Commercial
One of the main benefits of having an athlete as your business' spokesperson is that the scripts write themselves. Every product gets to be a home run or a slam dunk or a technical foul that allows for a free penalty. But some commercials lose themselves in the convenient wordplay. And the more low-budget they look, the more they start to resemble another staple of late-night programming.
In 1989, a pre-Dream Team Scottie Pippen was probably pleased as punch that he got to make some extra bread doing a local sandwich commercial for Chicago's "original submarine" Mr. Submarine. And it's easy to see where the budget of this commercial went -- not just in Pippen's pockets, but also the kind of amazing basketball special effects unrivaled until the release of Space Jam in 1996.
And the rest of the commercial also feels ... awkwardly familiar. Joined by two cheerleaders, Pippen hesitantly quips: "This is one six-footer I can't handle one on one. Ladies, let's have a party." How suggestive. And since every heavy meats-and-cheeses party needs games, let's play one called How Many Times Does Scottie Pippen Look Like He Thinks He Might Be Doing Porn. Here's one.
That's definitely another one.
And double points for the ladies, who end up kneeling on the floor and nervously staring at the cameraman.
So yeah, Mr. Submarine, maybe a little less money on celebrities and more to hire a script supervisor and someone could've told you that your video starts and ends exactly like every video opened in a private tab does.
A Manic, Gravity-Defying Girl Will Buy All Your Gold
In the Cash4Gold game, there are two schools of thought. You can either prop yourself up as a slick-suited hustler acquiring and curating luxury items or you can drop the facade and emphasize how you're just a shiny scrap metal dealer. But you do have to pick a lane, because mixing the two doesn't always work.
Are you in the market to offload some heavy jewelry before you get on your flight to Duluth? Then the Airport Plaza Jewellers in Cheektowaga, New York, is the place to be. In this iconic early aughts commercial, local legend Don Hoffman pulls out all the stops as he announces that his store is having a million-dollar buying event for old jewelry, gold, coins and anything else of worth that the Cheektowaga meth-heads manage to swipe from their grandmothers' dressers.
But this very budget-friendly commercial for some reason doesn't make me believe the good people of the Airport Plaza Jewelers are the million-dollar high rollers they claim to be. Maybe it's the hospital balloons ...
Or maybe it's that this million-dollar headquarters operates out of what appears to be an abandoned Kinko's ...
Or the fact that he had to pull his daughter out of AP Bio, put her in the only spare suit he owns that doesn't smell of a mortuary and have her pop up around the ad like a gold-obsessed demon.
That's not to say that the obviously tongue-in-cheek Hoffmans aren't lovely people and a great, great choice to offload your unwanted preciouses.
A Taekwondo Studio Had The Greatest Jingle Of All Time
If you'd only know it from its commercial, you would be forgiven in thinking that Jhoon Rhee's taekwondo studio in Washington D.C. was just another '80s strip mall dojo run. Between its grainy footage, unconvincing slo-mo kicks and focus on distractingly cute kids, the ad has plenty of meme-able charm but doesn't look like the kind of place you'd want to prepare for your upcoming gig in Mortal Kombat.
But like in any good martial arts movie, those who'd underestimate the quiet dude would soon find their heads kicked off their bodies. Behind his facade as a late-night commercial guy, Jhoon Goo Rhee was actually one of the greatest martial artists the world had ever seen. A tenth dan grandmaster and the "Father of American Taekwondo," Rhee was such a skilled warrior he even taught a few moves to Muhammad Ali and his good bud, Bruce Lee.
And while he could have made a video of him spin-kicking a board to splinters while balancing a soda bottle on his head, the viral goofiness of "Nobody Bothers Me" wasn't just some happy accident. Rhee, a martial arts philosopher, knowingly crafted this genteel, almost silly tone to draw as many newcomers as possible into his sport -- newcomers that wound up including many D.C. politicians like Newt Gingrich and Joe Biden.
And it's not just Rhee's talent that elevated the commercial from its late-night trappings. That catchy jingle? Written and performed by none other than Nils Lofgren, famed guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, who agreed to work in exchange for free lessons from Grandmaster Rhee. And the effortless charm of his two children? Not quite so effortless, as Rhee instilled into them the kind of strict discipline he demanded from his martial arts pupils, having his little tykes do take after take until his son got that wink just right.
Mario Promises Hell On Earth In This Anti-Drug PSA
PSAs that tell bored middle schoolers not to have any fun will always have an uphill battle. So what better way to grab their attention than to get Mario Mario to be your spokesperson? Except that, when it comes to preaching to kids to stay off drugs, everyone's favorite mushroom muncher is all about the fire and brimstone approach.
It must've felt like quite a coup when a local Philadelphia TV station managed to nab Captain Lou Albano, former Italian wrestler turned fantasy plumber on the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, to do their anti-drug PSA. But what they failed to account for was that Captain Lou had lived a life and had lost some of his wrestling buddies to steroids. So instead of your friendly neighborhood plumber telling you everything's going to be okay, this Mario rattles off drug safety tip after drug safety tip with the speed and intensity of someone who just snorted a line of powdered Power-Up Star.
But the real body blow doesn't happen until the very end. Just before the PSA cuts off, Albano stares into the camera, Da Nang helicopters flashing past his glassy gaze, and tell his audience of tweens: "And if you do drugs, you go to hell before you die." And something tells us he isn't talking about all those underground lava levels.
John Waters Tells You To Smoke Up In This Non-Smoking PSA
John Waters, the only man cool enough to pull off a pencil mustache, has built an entire career on not doing what the mainstream wants him to. The writer, director and artist has never made a piece of film that wasn't radical and avant-garde and in hilarious bad taste. And his public service announcements aren't any different.
Waters' breakout film, Pink Flamingos, owed much of its impressive box office to the support of indie cinemas. To show his appreciation for his local Nuart Theater in Los Angeles, which screened his niche drag queen comedy longer than they did The Godfather, Waters agreed to star in a PSA for them. Since this was the eighties, the theater had to comply with this weird new rule that said you can no longer smoke in a closed room full of other people. So Waters stood in front of the camera and told the Nuart's audiences not to smoke during the movie. Or do. Whatever. He doesn't care.
In what has to be the only non-smoking PSA that starts with the spokesperson taking an inch-long drag off of a cigarette, Waters takes all but eight seconds to declare the warning "one of the most ridiculous things I ever heard in my life." Then, doubling down on his "this is part of my community service" vibe, Waters releases his inner edging dom, teasing and goading the audience with his seductive smoking to light up anyway.
Amazingly, despite spending more time peer-pressuring people into smoking than advising against it, the obviously ironic PSA did meet the lax government rules of the eighties and the reel was a fixture in many indie movie theaters throughout the country for decades to come.
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