Local commercials have a special aura to them.
Maybe it’s the low production value or the subpar sound design or the wooden acting, maybe it’s the goofy catch phrases or the hokey jingles, maybe it’s the fact that they’re mercilessly replayed over and over and over again for years at a time. There’s just something about them that tends to crawl inside our heads and cling to our memories far more effectively than any actually important information we may want to retain.
Here’s a time capsule containing nine of the most infectious local commercials from decades past that are likely to inspire a sense of nostalgia in any Long Islander who remembers them.
Hold on. Is their couch an actual roller-coaster?
This one is likely to stir some Saturday morning cartoon memories for Long Island’s children of the ’90s. It was on heavy repeat from 1998 into the early 2000s across all children’s networks. Just the “Mom, we’re so bored…” line can strike up a spirited discussion among the proper crowd.
FunZone was an indoor amusement park in Farmingdale with a number of rides and games as well as bumper cars, a laser tag arena, and a special area for birthday party attendees to gorge themselves on pizza and ice cream cake. In other words: it was a childhood wonderland.
It’s no wonder then that these youngsters came out of the experience with smoke pouring from their ears and electricity coursing through their bodies, but it is a bit strange that they were unaware of the boredom-busting thrill ride in their own home that could send them hurtling down to Route 110 in the blink of an eye.
Brothers 3 Pools
This one is still running today, but this list would be incomplete without it. It’s a modern classic.
Short, sweet, and to the point, this little gem serves to promote a Long Island backyard staple: the swimming pool. BUt not just any swimming pools. These are Brothers 3 swimming pools. Made by this woman’s father and sold by her uncle. You can’t beat that combination, can you?
Wait a second. Why exactly can’t you beat that combination? Who are these two brothers and what makes them such a pool industry powerhouse? And isn’t it called Brothers 3? Who’s the third brother? Why did we leave him out? He must factor in somewhere…
So many unanswered questions, but one thing is for sure: this commercial is a local treasure.
Zacharys Night Club
Zacharys in East Meadow was apparently a place of many lavish adjectives: elegant, exciting, exclusive, sophisticated. The kind of place where beautiful people with expensive cars meet up to drink champagne and ogle one another expressionlessly from across a well-lit dance floor.
As goofy as this 1987 time warp of a commercial seems now, one has to imagine that it served its purpose. It knows its target audience and how to reach them: opulence, decadence, big hair, and gaudy jewelry. The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous crowd must have eaten this one up.
The only thing that’s truly off-putting about this ad is that strange synth music. It sounds so foreboding, like Jason Voorhees or Patrick Bateman are somewhere in the shadows, just waiting…
Dan, Dan, the Citywide man. What a guy.
So astute at clearing clogs and retrieving lost wedding rings that entire families eagerly anticipate his arrival on their porch.
So irresistibly dependable that he inspires domestic daydreams in his housewife clientele.
So renowned for his plumbing prowess that he has his own hokey theme song.
If you’re having toilet troubles, Dan is your man. Unless you’re the jealous type. Then you might want to seek out a plumber who isn’t so darn charming.
2 Brothers Scrap Metal
Another modern classic, this time for all of those teenage girls who just can’t seem to figure out what to do with all their scrap metal.
There’s something about the cadence of this couch-bound father’s assertive recommendation that has captured the hearts of Long Island television viewers everywhere and turned this commercial’s catch phrase into a local version of McDonald’s, “ba-da-ba-ba-ba, I’m lovin’ it.”
Go ahead and approach someone on the street, anyone at all, and say, “Just tell her to call…” and odds are they’ll be able to come back at you with, “…2 Brothers Scrap Metal!”
Okay, on second thought don’t do that. This is reality, not a low budget local commercial. But do call 2 Brothers Scrap Metal next time you’re sitting on some extra aluminum siding. They deserve the business after crafting this gem.
Oh, and bonus Long Island points awarded to the father for prominently displaying an Optimum cable remote.
This song should have you swelling with Long Island pride.
“From the lady in the harbor to the lighthouse on the ocean. From the farms out east to the city streets, it’s the place that we call home.”
Can we have Billy Joel record a version of this to be played at all Ducks games?
So what if it’s actually a commercial? It’s a commercial for King Kullen, the beloved local grocer recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as “America’s First Supermarket.”
This heartwarming 1988 song-ad is reminiscent of the intros to some of the family sitcoms from around that era: Full House, Family Matters, Family Ties. It’s warm with nostalgia and full of smiling faces. Michael J. Fox may even play the butcher if you squint and use your imagination.
That mysterious meal the woman is serving her family is a bit concerning, but even so, this commercial deserves a 10/10.
Now that is how you sell electronics.
These commercials were a TV and radio staple in the tri-state area for more than 15 years. The auctioneer-tongued madman in the used car salesman suit is not actually Eddie, though. He’s DJ Jerry Carroll. The frenetic pitchman starred in countless ads from 1972 to 1988 that helped to grow the Brooklyn-based consumer electronics chain into a 43-store behemoth. They were so popular that they even inspired a Dan Aykroyd spoof on the original Saturday Night Live.
The most interesting part of the story, however, is the real life Eddie.
While DJ Jerry was cranking out high quality maniac advertising, owner Eddie Antar was busy skimming millions from the company and stuffing it away in offshore accounts. His various white collar crimes included securities fraud, tax evasion, insider trading, racketeering, and a money laundering scheme that came to be known as the “Panama Pump.” Yikes.
When these crimes came to light in the late 80s, Crazy Eddie stores began liquidation in order to pay off debts to suppliers and in 1997 Antar was sentenced to 8 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges. He was ordered to pay $150 million in fines in addition to over $1 billion in compensation from civil suits.
Okay, maybe that’s not how you sell electronics.
Nobody beats the Wiz! Except Best Buy, of course.
The Wiz was an incredibly popular electronics chain that had its heyday in the ’80s and ’90s. Unlike Crazy Eddie, their business practices were seemingly on the up and up and at one point they reported an annual revenue of $1.4 billion across 94 stores in five different states.
It’s of little curiosity that they found such dazzling success with endearing advertisements such as this one, tugging at the heartstrings of Long Islanders with references to beloved Jones Beach and their then-dynasty NHL team. Although, this historical resume does feel a bit incomplete…
No mention of the Battle of Long Island or the Washington Spy Trail? Walt Whitman writing Leaves of Grass? Charles Lindbergh taking off on his legendary trans-Atlantic flight from Roosevelt field? Peter Frampton recording “Show Me the Way” at a gig in Commack? None of that stuff is worth mentioning in the same breath as the opening of an electronics store in Valley Stream?
Historical exclusions aside, this ad is still bound to put a nostalgic smile on the face of any Long Islander who remembers The Wiz.
Optimum Triple Play
Mermaids, palm trees, kooky pirates, banana boats, dancing lifeguards, a rapping sea serpent. It’s clear that the producers of this commercial did not fully understand what type of island they’d be advertising to when they took the job. That’s just fine though, because this commercial for Optimum’s Triple Play package is an exhilarating ride anyway.
The knock-off Pitbull (Mr. 631?) does a fantastic job of laying out the basics of the monthly cable, Internet, and phone plan in the most danceable way possible. Then the lady singers add some reggaetón to your dial tone with that infectious 877-393-4…4…4…8 routine. Finally, the aforementioned rapping sea serpent turns the internationally connected viewer on to the possibilities of Optimum Voice World Call. It’s an unforgettable advertising symphony.
The big budget flash of this one separates it from the other nine and perhaps reduces a bit of the local advertisement charm, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. Go ahead, try and forget that phone number. It’s going to be with you forever.