As you’ve probably heard, Phil Rizzuto died this week. The Yankee shortstop had seven World Series rings, then became a colorful broadcaster for the team. But those of you outside the New York metro area probably didn’t know about his years as pitchman for The Money Store. In fact, if you didn’t follow sports, you may have known him ONLY as a spokesman.
Which got me to thinking: who can I (and I’m hoping YOU) name where the person had considerable success in one field, but a new generation would know that person only as a performer in another field?
I’m thinking of Rizzuto’s teammate, Joe DiMaggio, who was a great centerfielder. But all I really know about him in my direct awareness, besides him being the ex of Marilyn Monroe, was Joltin’ Joe as the Mr. Coffee spokesman. (Oh, yeah, and that Simon & Garfunkel reference.)
George Foreman went from angry young heavyweight boxer to jovial grillmeister.
Jim Bunning went from Hall of Fame pitcher to U.S. Senator.
My favorite example may be Orson Welles. The movie writer/director/producer/actor who scared America with his War of the Worlds radio broadcast was this behemoth of a man in those late 1970s TV ads for Paul Masson wines: “We will sell no wine before its time”.
What are your favorite examples?
Someone testing my knowledge of trivia – a regular happenstance – asked me this question: what was the only white artist to have a Number One record on Motown Records? I gave some guesses: Rare Earth, Bobby Darin, Chris Clark, Soupy Sales. The answer I was given: Captain & Tenille! This didn’t sound right at all. So I got out my trusty Billboard books and discovered that the duo had hits on A&M and on Casablanca Records. No Motown.
BUT, according to the Wikipedia post: “In 2004, the name [Casablanca Records] was revived for a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Tommy Mottola. In a Billboard article, Mottola said that he chose the name as an homage to the original label, but that there was no direct connection between the old and new labels. Casablanca is now a part of Universal Motown Records Group.” My guess is that my inquisitor, who was working off partial info – he couldn’t even name the hit song – was attributing “Do That to Me One More Time” that was on the original Casablanca Records to the new Universal Motown-related label. Or so I surmise.