WIRTB Review: A Real Baltimore Commercial Break – Volume One

Good afternoon. My name is Speed on the Beat and, as always, I review the crap so you don’t have to. Today, we’re taking a big ol’ fashioned look at…commercials. Since, ya know, it’s not like I can get any less like a Black Nostalgia Critic. But, instead of international or even nationwide spots, I’m talking Baltimore–and DMV-centric–spots. So, about a year-plus months overdue, here is something I’d like to call…A Real Baltimore Commercial Break. My analysis on these spots will probably go from LOL to reflective in a split second, so bear with the potentially bipolar approach.

Back before WNUV-TV became known as the home of the CW, they were a local station, through and through. And what did that mean? Cheesy-ass commercials for stuff like Monster Truck Rallies! These commercials were usually narrated by a guy who one could only describe as what happens when wrestlers take too much coke and are expected to deliver promos. Considering it sounds like the guy does his own echo at the end, I think it’s safe to assume drugs were involved. But, the actual content of this spot takes the cake. I mean, BIGFOOT, drag racing, giant fuckin’ transforming robot cars…

The slow transformation itself isn’t bad. It’s the “STAY IN SCHOOL! DO WHAT YOUR PARENTS TELL YOU TO” message that kills it for me. Like, if I wanted an Afterschool Special, I could’ve just looked out the window at the crackheads down the street. What a letdown…
What apparently won’t let you down if Vitalis hair lotion.

All I can say about this is that it’s the 1950s antithesis to Soul-Glo. Instead of black folks walking around leaving jheri curl sperm all over the place, white folks would leave “greaseless” spots all over in the hopes their bedhead-less head of hair would, at the least, get them some head. I originally thought that this pile of false advertising was long dead. But, according to the internets, it still exists…as of the mid-2000s. And it’s a heap more blatant with its “you’ll be fucking hair-gel pixies in no time” message.

Next up? A classic.

The “Sexy Lady” riddim is a thing of beauty. It’s a glorious riddim that’s infectious and just amazeballs. When you take that riddim and have NFL and NBA stars lip sync a car jingle, you’re either gonna get one of three things. You’re either going to get something that’s so cheesy, your arteries will instantly clog up, something so insane, you can’t help but stare, or a combination of the two that creates a memorable commercial. Look at the screen cap YouTube chose: Ray Lewis in stunner shades, cooling like a boss in an Eastern Motors car.
This was before Ray started “speaking for everyone, but really just speaking for himself” on Fox Sports 1 and ESPN. So, people still loved him and thought he was a genius on and off the field. Not saying he’s not a genius now, but some people are against his thought processes. But, hey. He’s an athlete that’s pretty spiritual and whatnot. His ideals are bound to be different from your’s if you’re not in a similar boat. Don’t shoot him for it.
But, speaking of music for car-related expenses, check out this 1988 Gebco Insurance commercial.
It’s somehow wackier than Ravens great Jonathan Ogden dancing around with cheerleaders.
That could be because of the Golden Era-esque rap they try to employ for the Gebco jingle. The flows are cool, but there’s something about the fact that these guys look like they’re forty trying to play hip, happening twenty-somethings. It was acceptable in the ’80s, I guess, even though Calvin Harris didn’t create disco.

I love how our Gebco commercial ends with “NOW AVAILABLE IN P.G. COUNTY,” as if Gebco was so balls-out epic that the idea of them being available in PG County was something that should be celebrated for eons. And lo and behold, the PG County office, by Route One and Powder Mill Road, is still a thing. Gotta call Gebco, indeed.

I’ve got to give a huge shoutout to Atomic TV for our next collection of ads. We can see in them that Baltimore was a puddle of everything in the 1980s and 1990s. From kickboxing to bikini battles, Baltimore had it all. The announcer on the commercials, however, seemed slightly uninterested. He’s putting on a show, but he still seems to not give a damn about kickboxing or bikinis. Maybe he thought the bikini models would be slamming each other and the kickboxers would just be available to gawk at within Slammer’s Cafe & Nite Club?

One thing you’ve got to notice is this. I hate bringing race into these sorts of things, but there’s a lack of non-White folks in this set of videos. You’d think that 1980s Baltimore was nothing but 40-something White guys with pornstaches that look like they’re ready to snatch your kids and eat them, raw. There is, however, an overabundance of mullets and cheesy rock. 
Now, our next video features laser tag. 
Laser tag is the shit. I’m 28 and I still enjoy going out with Drizzle Sez and the rest of the PA gang, suiting up, and shooting laser guns for LULZ. It’s a good workout, it’s harmless fun, and you don’t need to be drunk off your ass to enjoy it (although, if you’re into that sort of thing, it amplifies the epicness…or so I’ve heard). But, this video, from Photon in the former North Point Shopping Center (I spoke of this place a couple years ago in my College Park Denny’s review) makes it seem like you’re fighting to the death, complete with 80s nostalgia. 
Screw guns, bombs, and knives. Our future fights should be decided by how many points the other side can get. That’ll really make America great again. Laser tag. Vote for me in 2024 and I’ll be sure to make laser tag the official American way of resolving disputes with other countries…or bomb the beejeebus out of those ignorant countries who aren’t listening and die trying because Murrica fuck yeah.
Remember when TV stations used to have lion puppet mascots that said “yo?”

Me neither, but apparently, in 1988, WNUV-TV (Channel 54) had one. This commercial was dedicated to naming the little fuzzball. It’s nothing really special, outside of the lion having a knockoff Kermit voice. But, for some reason, it sticks with me. Anyone know what this furry clown’s name became? Or nah?

Our next video isn’t really a commercial, but it got my attention because of its rotoscoped graphics and jazzy instrumental. It’s borderline hypnotizing in its presentation, down to the voiceover guy’s soothing voice. I mean, look at it and say you don’t want to time travel and do some sightseeing in “old school Bawlmer.” On top of that, the plug for Tony Brown’s Journal spoke about the power of Blacks in America, financially, so woot woot.

Now, in the 1970s, 1980s, and even into the 1990s, Baltimore TV stations would air midday, midmorning, and late-night movies. These movies were usually either public domain films or films that’d been out for years. For some of us, myself included, this is how we got introduced to John Wayne flicks, Blondie shorts, and a bevy of other stuff my parents and grandparents probably loved.

But what was scarier than even the scariest Creature Feature? The Saiontz & Kirk commercial. I mean, seriously. The stalker music, the slow-mo cars careening into the abyss, the crash sound effects, the sole telephone booth with flashing lights. You can’t make this shit up, guys. I was probably more scared of these commercials than Jason or Freddie. I guess that means they worked. To this day, sometimes, I hate driving at night because I think my car’s just going to get possessed by this commercial and kill me. Is it irrational? Probably. But, did the commercial impact me? Oh hell, yeah!

Our final video today comes to us from Washington’s WFTY (a/k/a “Channel 50,” Washington’s CW affiliate).

Back in the day, I’d watch repeats of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Full House, and other 80s/90s sitcoms on Channel 50. It was the place to go if you wanted funky fresh dope stupid fly TV. That’s evident by the second commercial in this bunch, a piece against using drugs.
People who incorrectly think that ad execs using rap to be “cool” is a recent phenomenon are…well, they’re wrong. In the 80s and 90s, that’s all you saw: commercial after commercial with raps about drugs, car insurance (see above), and just about anything. That’s fine and dandy. Rap is seen as something you can connect with the youths with. Word up and shit.
However, the bars are just cheese AF and the commercial, oddly, somewhat glorifies drug slinging (while saying it’s bad). While there’s “no amount of money that can get your life back,” kids aren’t looking at the consequences of their actions really. They’re looking at the cool parts. And if you’re making pushers look cool, blinged out, and, dare I say it, badass by running from police and the like, you’re glorifying what you’re trying to condemn. 
Plus, the freeze frame of the “good guys” at the end is so fucking awkward.
Next time, we’ll look at some real goofy stuff (hi Mr. Ray). But, for now, remember: local ads were/are usually cheesy as Cheetos. However, as cheesy as they were/are, they gave/give us some classics.
Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com. Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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