The Mad Man and the Super Bowl


We are on the cusp of THAT DAY, Super Bowl Sunday. We won’t need reminders from camels tromping around to make sure we know what day it is.

A grand majority of folks in the free world—as well as a big chunk of others in shackles—will put more serious pursuits aside, deeply interested—or appearing so—in the year’s ultimate sports spectacle.

I confess to planning a “home-gating” party–as opposed to “tail-gating”–with the promise of a big pot of queso. I cut a deal for Velveeta with my 101-year-old Uncle Mort, who drove around in his golf cart buying up all the cheese “before the Super Bowl hoarders get it.”


The zany pitchman of television, Earl Muntz
The zany pitchman of television, Earl Muntz

Hours before kick-off, I will replace batteries in my TV remote, make sure record buttons have been properly pushed and then re-comb my hair. I’ll part it on the wrong side, thus causing me to walk like a badly aligned car pulling to the right. The something-not-right feeling such parting produces will help me to mentally shift into “reverse thinking,” that is ads first, game second.

This approach is helpful for annual ultimate enjoyment of the ultimate game. I’ll resist turning on the TV until an hour AFTER it starts.

My interest will lie in the commercials that are going for $4 million per half-minute. Competition on the field can’t be as fierce as ad agencies fighting for choice accounts. I’ll fast forward through game action to catch the ads, many of which are bound to be good. If it turns out to be a good football game, I can watch it later. I hear one of the ads features Arnold Schwarzenegger playing ping pong!


   Reckon which historical figure would have most enjoyed jousting with the ad experts in this unique event?

I think Earl “Mad Man” Muntz would have fit right in. Born a century ago, he was into “hucksterism,” outlandish ideas and foolishness that led to multiple landings in both riches and poverty.

Best known for his antics in California, Muntz was the state’s premiere big-personality media pitchman, hawking cars (yep, had his own brand), televisions and other stuff that plugs in.

Famous for undercutting the competition, he came up with black and white televisions that sold for under $100 in the 1950s, saying “I want to give ‘em away, but Mrs. Muntz won’t let me; she’s crazy!” He claimed origination of the abbreviation “TV,” and named his only daughter “Tee Vee.”


   Muntz invented a “Stereo-Pak” car radio, a “four-track” system popular among high-rollers before the eight tracks came along. They were first snapped up by his buddies—Phyllis Diller, Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Red Skelton.

These “funny folks” worked Muntz vignettes into their routines, thus directing even more business to the zany figure well-known until his death at age 73 in 1987.

His endeavors were all over the charts; he experienced both peak and valley moments. As to the latter, he sent a representative to distribute Stereo-Paks to the GIs in Viet Nam; but, the feds refused his offer to install them in jeeps.


   His Muntz Car Company made the “Muntz Jet,” a sports car with jet-like contours, manufactured from 1951-53. However, fewer than 400 vehicles were produced. (Bob Hope and Lash La Rue owned Jets; Jay Leno probably wishes he did.)

In 1968, though, he sold $72 million worth of traditional car brands, and five years later rang up $55 million in TV sales.

Once he mailed out thousands of TV knobs, saying “Call us and we’ll show up with the rest of the set!”


   Some ventures flopped. Motorcycle rentals, aluminum homes and “Muntz Motor Mansions” tanked, but he forged on, never minding fortune losses “because it was so much fun making another one.”

He wasn’t “lucky in love;” he was married seven times. He admittedly had a hard time keeping their names straight, yet remained friends with them after divorces. He called their new spouses “husbands-in-law.”

So many ways a pioneer in advertising and merchandising, he was inducted posthumously into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2001. If he were still alive to crash the Super Bowl party, we’d all be telling “Muntz stories” the next day.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: Call: 817-447-3872. Website: Twitter: @donnewbury. 


Please click the book cover image to read about Don Newbury’s humorous and inspirational anecdotes in his book, When The Porch Light’s On.

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