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Whatever Happened To These Famous Commercial Actors?

"Can you hear me now?" Unless you live in a cave, you know exactly what that's from and maybe even suffered a rage-tick just reading it. That's because when a company finds an ad gimmick that resonates with a wide audience, they unscrupulously beat that gimmick into our eyes and ears until we scream for mercy. But as bad as it was for us, imagine what it was like for the actors in those commercials to try to move on from such memorable ad campaigns. Here's a list of those very people who probably can't go anywhere without hearing some version of "Hey, weren't you the guy in..."

John Gilchrist

Although Gilchrist filmed more than 200 commercials during his career, he'll forever be linked with Life cereal. Given that Gilchrist was only a few years old when he filmed the ad in 1971, he doesn't even really remember doing the shoot, which found him playing a fussy eater named Mikey whose fondness for Life takes his brothers—played by Gilchrist's real-life siblings—by surprise. Decades after the commercial turned "Mikey likes it" into a catchphrase, Gilchrist grew up to become the director of media sales for Madison Square Garden.

Demetri Goritsas

Remember those completely crazy Slim Jim commercials where a single bite of the spicy meat stick would send a lunatic banging around stomach walls? Demetri Goritsas played that lunatic. Since those heady days of the '90s, Goritsas has built a respectable career of character acting as well as voiceover work, narrating more than 100 documentaries about things like earthquakes and volcanoes, and commercials for stuff like orange juice and beer. Outside of the Slim Jim costume, he's pretty much unrecognizable, but that was him in the 2015 Jake Gyllenhaal movie Everest.

Pete Gardner

Hollywood is a competitive, overcrowded place, and if an actor can have a "hook," more power to them. Pete Gardner's distinctive characteristic: His impressive mustache. (He's rightfully proud — his website logo is a disembodied illustrated 'stache.) Gardner and his facial hair have been a part of many commercials for many clients: He played a goofy dad in a Postal Service ad, NBA star James Harden's "beard guru" in a NBA 2K15 spot, and a guy in a locker room who can make his armpit talk for, obviously, Juicy Fruit. Gardner also boasts a résumé full of movie bit parts and TV guest star roles going back decades. In 2015, he landed his first major role in a TV series: the supportive, emotionally open lawyer Darryl Whitefeather on the CW's musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

John Moschitta, Jr.

Moschitta was a well-known (if minor) celebrity in the '80s because he possessed a singular, impressive talent: he could talk really, really fast—like Guinness World Records-certified fast. Others have since beat it, but he could once get through 586 words a minute. Moschitta demonstrated his talents on That's Incredible!, The Merv Griffin Show, The $10,000 Pyramid, and in lots and lots of ads. Most famously, he appeared in spots for Federal Express and Micro Machines. He's pulled back from public life a bit, but in 2010 he voiced a character named Key-per on Adventure Time. In 2014, Tonight Show host and nostalgia merchant Jimmy Fallon had Moschitta on his show to speedily summarize that year's Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.

Lucky Vanous

Vanous was the lucky guy at the center of some Diet Coke commercials in the mid-'90s. He played a hunky construction worker who'd take a daily "Diet Coke" break at precisely 11:30...as noticed by the gaggle of female office employees who'd show up at their office windows each day to watch him drink his soda with his shirt off (which, frankly, is dangerous on a construction site). That was the big break the actor, model, and Army veteran needed; the Coke ads led to gigs on quintessentially '90s shows like Wings, Pacific Palisades, and Will & Grace. His last TV role to date was a 2005 short film called Widowmaker.

Ben Curtis

Ben Curtis had good news for you, early 2000s TV viewer: "You're getting a Dell, dude!" In an endless array of commercials for the PC company, 19-year-old Curtis played a fratty guy sporting spiky blond hair and hemp necklaces (such was the style at the time) who was always extremely happy to extol the virtues of Dell. Honestly, the character  seemed like he might be a little stoned...and the fact that Curtis smoked marijuana in real life spelled the end of his Dell pitchman days. In 2003, he was arrested on a drug possession charge after his weed delivery guy got tailed by an undercover cop. He was immediately terminated for violating Dell's anti-drug policy and couldn't find any acting work for a while—blacklisted by typecasting and scandal. He bartended for a while, staged his own theatrical productions, and he now does a lot of voiceover work. He also started his own yoga-based wellness company called Soul Fit NY.

Chris Robinson

It's one of the most famous catchphrases and ad slogans in TV history: "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV." It's oddly supposed to imbue authority...but also provide a caveat to any medical advice given. It's weird, and the first guy who said it on TV was a soap opera actor named Chris Robinson. The line was for an ad for Vicks Formula 44 cough syrup in 1984—and at the time, Robinson portrayed Dr. Rick Webber on General Hospital. In 1986, the ad was reshot with a new actor, Peter Bergman (Dr. Cliff Warner on All My Children), after Robinson was convicted of tax evasion and served four months in prison. After that brief bump in life, Robinson returned to acting, mostly in soaps, with a role on Another World and a couple of brief returns to General Hospital.

Hallie Kate Eisenberg

This actress parlayed a career in as a child actress in commercials into a career as a child actress in movies and TV shows. She first hit screens as a button-cute, curly-haired star of a series of Pepsi ads (with the voices of Aretha Franklin and Joe Pesci dubbed in) in the late '90s before moving on to roles as Minnie Driver's daughter in Beautiful, Helen Keller in a TV version of The Miracle Worker, and the owner of a talking parrot voiced by Jay Mohr in the family movie Paulie. After a few more movies and theatrical performances, Eisenberg (whose older brother is Academy Award-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg) quit acting altogether in 2010. These days, she's focusing on recording her own music.

Sean Whalen

Thanks to the popularity of the musical Hamilton, most everybody now knows the answer to that pivotal trivia question in a 1992 "Got Milk?" campaign: "Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?" An Aaron Burr expert knows that it's his guy, but he can't answer because his mouth is stuffed and he doesn't have any milk to wash the food down. The poor historian was played by Sean Whalen, a hard-working performer with more than 100 acting credits. Apart from the milk ad, he's probably best known for his role as Lion, part of the creepy, incestuous McPoyle family on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or his recurring portrayal on NBC's Superstore of an employee named Sal.

Charles Stone III

"Whassup?" was as inescapable in the early 2000s as "Where's the beef?" was in the 1980s. The campaign for Budweiser was simple, silly, and endearing: a bunch of guys call each other on the phone just to say "what's up?" and the question gets louder and more incoherent with each utterance. The ads were based on "True," a short film directed by filmmaker Charles Stone III. In the film, and the ads, he played one of the "Whassup?" guys (the first to appear onscreen; he has a beard), surrounded by a bunch of his real-life friends. "True" hit the film festival circuit, and was discovered by ad agency DDB, which contracted Brooks to remake the film as a beer commercial. It debuted during Monday Night Football in December 1999. Stone had already directed a lot of classic hip-hop videos (like A Tribe Called Quest's "Bonita Applebum," Public Enemy's "911 is a Joke," The Roots' "What They Do") but the commercial helped push him into feature filmmaking. Among his directorial credits are the 2002 hit Drumline and the 2004 Bernie Mac comedy Mr. 3000.

Reid Maclean

Maclean starred in a commercial that ran for more than 10 years—remarkably long for a 30-second spot. It's an anti-drug public service announcement from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. The scene: A suburban dad who's found his teenage son's drug stash confronts the boy about it. 

"Where did you learn how to do this stuff?" Dad bellows. 

"You, all right?" the son retorts. "I learned it by watching you!" 

"Parents who use drugs," the narrator intones, "have children who use drugs." 

The teen boy trying to be like his daddy was portrayed by a young actor named Reid MacLean. By the time he shot this ad, he'd already done numerous commercials, including another drug-fighting campaign for a rehabilitation center. "All-American boy drug kid. I don't know how I got into it!" Maclean told the Just My Show: The Retro Pop Culture Podcast in 2008. After touring with a production of The Sound of Music, and taking a small role in the epic 1993 Civil War film Gettysburg, Maclean turned his artistic pursuits from acting to music. He's a soulful acoustic guitarist now.

Wendy Kaufman

Wendy Kaufman stumbled into her star-making gig as Snapple's spokesperson completely by accident. In 1990, she was actually working in the company's billing department and decided to answer customer letters because nobody else in the office would. An advertising executive heard about it, and created an ad campaign built around Kaufman answering Snapple consumers' questions. Kaufman well represented the folksy drink company, and the memorable ads helped turned it into a major national beverage brand. After 17 years with the iced tea and lemonade giant, Kaufman left Snapple in 2008, after a corporate takeover by Quaker Oats and a failure to negotiate a mutually agreeable contract. Her most prominent onscreen role since: she appeared on VH1's weight loss reality show Celebrity Fit Club in 2005, the same year she made a few more ads for Snapple.

Jerry Lambert

Lambert has done many major, nationwide ads, probably because he has a familiar, everyman face that makes a person think of their dad or boss. He's shilled for Geico, Wendy's, and most notably for Sony's PlayStation as "Kevin Butler," the company's smarmy (and fictional) vice president. Lambert lost the gig in 2012 after he angered Sony by appearing in an ad for Bridgestone. A tire company isn't exactly an electronics conglomerate's competitor, but the ads promised a free Nintendo Wii to anyone who bought a new set of wheel rubbers. Sony sued Lambert, but the case was settled when he agreed not to appear in any video game advertisements for two years. Fortunately, roles in series television started in roll in: Since his fake-corporate days finished, Lambert has popped up on Key and Peele, Maron, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Modern Family, and Family Guy.

John Hodgman

John Hodgman had just landed a gig as a The Daily Show with Jon Stewart contributor when Apple's "Get a Mac" campaign started. He played "PC," the bumbling, ancient-technology foil to Justin Long's "Mac," the youthful, cool, hipster alternative. The campaign spawned 66 ads (not including its many parodies and ripoffs) and made Hodgman a recognizable face and media personality. He now does stand-up, hosts a podcast, and has published several books, including the fake trivia volumes The Areas of My Expertise and More Information Than You Require, as well as a memoir, Vacationland. He also works as an actor, although he's generally cast as characters who are a bit, well, nerdy. (Also, in real life, Hodgman is a Mac guy.)

Matt Frewer

A computer-generated TV host from the future, the character of Max Headroom was created for a 1985 British dystopian sci-fi movie called Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future—and proved so popular that he got his own music video show, which led to a dramatic TV series, Max Headroom. Coca-Cola also landed the rights to use him in some commercials for New Coke, the company's woefully misguided 1985 attempt to reformulate its flagship product. 

Through it all, Max wasn't really CGI—he was actor Matt Frewer under what he called "pounds of prosthetics and rubber makeup" meant to make him look artificial. When the character's popularity faded, Frewer (who had a second role on Max Headroom, as a reporter named Edison) returned to his career as a quirky character actor. He voiced Panic in Disney's Hercules, played neighbor Big Russ in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Moloch in Watchman, and, most recently, mysterious clone master Dr. Aldous Leekie on Orphan Black.