Once upon a time, a young man with a scant eleven hairs and a blue blanket and who went by the name of Linus van Pelt warned us all of the dangers of commercialism. If only I’d known then that he wasn’t speaking of the corporate removal of the Christmas message, but that one day, I would be hurt and confused by an elderly man selling carpet.
In the six years that I’ve lived in Chicago, I have become well acquainted with a few local commercials. We Chicagoans take a bit of semi-ironic pride in these hometown hucksters, but our joy upon seeing them contains no “semi-“. The joy is real.
When I gaze upon the snowy-haired visage of Peter Francis Geraci, I know that I’m not alone in the world. That someone will be my personal injury friend for the low low price of an as-seen-on-television lawyer.
When I see Eagle Man, with all the dignity and class of the Pizza Time Players, I know that I’m home. And that if I need low-rate car insurance, someone has my back.
When I see the Smithe family selling us furniture, sometimes having a bit of a sing-song, sometimes having brotherly spats, I remember the importance of family, and mahogany and suede ottomans.
You see, Chicago commercials have given so much to so many. But ask any Chicagoan, and they’ll all name the same favorite: The Empire Man.
Unfortunately, as I tragically learned this past week on vacation in Florida, apparently so would any other local from any other area in this great nation. And it hurts. It hurts so bad. Like Thomas Jay and his bee stings hurts-so-bad-make-it-stop.
I don’t remember phone numbers easily. I mean I can remember my parents’ numbers, my brother’s and my ex-boyfriend’s, like any good daughter/crazy person. But if you asked me to recite you my best friends’ respective phone numbers, I couldn’t do it. “Uhh, Kelly’s is a 773. Quita’s is a 3 … something. Kenzie and Erin are definitely 217. And they have 4’s in there I think … Maybe a 3.” But you know what number I never forget, nay, what corresponding song I always have stuck in my head? 800-588-2300 Empiiiiiiiiire. Today.
Seeing this spot on the Gulf Coast, I thought I was having a stroke. Or that I’d Mulholland Drive’d this whole trip and was actually still back in Chicago (and that I was the dead body in the apartment THE WHOLE TIME). Because I’d never seen one outside of the Windy place before. They don’t play them in Springfield, IL, my hometown. How was I to know? I ask you, How. Was. I. To. Know? Someone take the pain away.
Obviously, my first reaction was to get on Twitter (Hobo Stu’s nemesis) and beg someone, anyone, for an explanation for all of this madness. And here’s what I found out (and you can follow me too while you’re at it because it would be super awesome to the max! *thumbs up* [This is the kind of self-promotion I learned from Empire Man!]):
They’re everywhere! And everyone thought they were local. It’s like buying a dress and being told that it’s a one of a kind and then you see some high school twatter wearing it in her prom pictures.
I’ve been misled. Hurt and misled. I mean, some commercials are obviously local and then go worldwide when they should obviously have stayed home, like that Cheerio’s Multigrain commercial. It’s the one where the husband asks the wife if she’s eating it to lose weight because that’s what the box says, and it’s obviously and painfully dubbed from the original whatever-it-is, I always thought it was British, but could easily be from the Netherlands or Uzbekistan for all I know. That is how for-a-loop this whole mess has thrown me.
Through some intense research (Googling “empire man chicago” and clicking the Wiki link – a.k.a., HARD WORK) I have found that Empire is, in fact, a Chicagoland based company. That gives little comfort. Fucking sellouts. Oh, my favorite band is so cool and popular now and everyone’s heard of it, wah, SHUT UP, THIS IS WAY WORSE.
It will take years of intense therapy to get over this. Until then, look for me wandering the streets of Chicago mumbling “800-588-2300 NIGHTMARES SPIDERS GARGOYLES” at the top of my lungs. Maybe I’ll get a commercial and go national and hurt you the way you hurt me, Empire Man.
Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.