Crazy Eddie Advertising

Crazy Eddie

Crazy Eddie Relentless Advertising Campaign

Crazy Eddie’s advertising campaign was nothing short of revolutionary. For 17 years, we blanketed the whole northeast U.S. market with our non-stop television, radio, and newspaper advertisements. Among New York metropolitan area consumers, Crazy Eddie had better name recognition than Coca Cola. [Part 2B – Sampling of Crazy Eddie TV commercials.]

The message was:

Shop around. Get the best prices you can find. Then go to Crazy Eddie and he’ll beat it!

Crazy Eddie’s Prices are Insaane!!!!!!!!!!

It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Crazy Eddie’s advertisements have appeared in many movies such as “Splash!” and parodies of its ads appeared on such shows as “Saturday Night Live.” The parodies continue today.

Around 1971, WCBS-FM account representative Norm Golden talked Eddie Antar into purchasing radio advertising for $5 a spot. In 1972, during a radio broadcast, Jerry Carroll, known as “Dr. Jerry”, adlibbed some of Crazy Eddie’s ads. Eddie Antar heard his broadcast and liked his antics. Soon afterwards, Dr. Jerry became the official face of Crazy Eddie and was later immortalized as one of the greatest spokesmen in advertising history.

Larry Weiss was Crazy Eddie’s original Advertising Director from 1974 to 1983. Weiss deserves great credit for the genius and success of Crazy Eddie’s advertising campaign. He wrote and produced over 3,500 Crazy Eddie TV and radio spots.

As a measure of their brilliant and historic success, the words “Crazy Eddie” are still used synonymously with steep price discounting and predatory pricing to aggressively steal market share from competitors.

In a post on Facebook, Larry Weiss wrote the following insightful story about the history of Crazy Eddie’s legendary advertising campaign:

As the man responsible for developing and managing the famous (infamous?) advertising campaign for Crazy Eddie, it still amazes me that after more than 40 years since that work began, those commercials are still so highly talked about and remembered. Who would have thought way back then that those commercials would end up being universally considered advertising classics today, especially since we produced them when we were still essentially kids, since we had such a blast doing them, and especially after the Antar family turned to their now infamous criminal activities and became convicted felons.

Several years ago (2005) I was asked to participate in a Court TV documentary about the massive Crazy Eddie Wall Street fraud, but other than providing a few photographs, I declined. Instead, I chose to look not at the criminal piece that I had no part in, and instead reminisce about the fun part that I created. So while that Court TV documentary was airing, I chose to post these fun little tidbits of memory on the New York Radio Message Board. I thought I’d share with you here some history, trivia and stories around Crazy Eddie’s “Insaaane” advertising and marketing – stuff that few people talk about, or even know about Crazy Eddie (or “Sights and Sounds” as it was originally named) was one of the very early regular advertisers on FM radio. The original corporate name back then was ERS Electronics (ERS stood for Eddie, his first partner Ron and his father Sam).

The first radio station Sights and Sounds advertised on was WCBS-FM. Norm Golden was the CBS-FM account executive who first talked Eddie into radio advertising. Eddie, being who he was, told Norm the only way he could get the order was if he first went outside on Kings Highway and peed on a bus. Norm did. (Norm claims it was a cab -no matter). The rate was an unbelievable $5 a spot, buy one get one free. To top that, Eddie, being who he was, refused to pay the bill. CBS-FM kept the spots on the air anyway. (Not a whole lot businesses were advertising on FM radio yet.) Norm denies much of this. He is probably correct.

The original “free price quote” line in the early 1970’s was a pay phone on the wall at 1117 Kings Highway. Nobody expected it to ring. They were wrong. That pay phone evolved into one of the first electronically managed call centers and the project gave me my first opportunity to commercially apply telecom technologies I had been dabbling with as a hobby (and laying the foundation as my career evolved from broadcasting and advertising into telecom).

The Crazy Eddie “free price quote” number was a question in the original version of Trivial Pursuit. The number (for those who somehow forgot) was 645-1196 (pronounced “six four five eleven ninety six”). 888-645-1196 and 877-645-1196 still exist and ring to my office today. Call them to hear a sample of Crazy Eddie commercials or even have a chat with me.

It was my friend Jeff Coleman who first introduced me to Eddie Antar. Jeff and I had been partners in the Peace Palace theater in upstate Woodbourne, NY, producing rock concerts and showing alternative movies (in conjunction with the Uniondale Mini Cinema). I was also working at WVOS radio in Liberty. Meanwhile Jeff was also working as an account exec at WPIX-FM at the time and he called on Sights and Sound/Crazy Eddie. He thought Eddie and I would hit it off. He was right.

Back then radio stations were each producing their own Crazy Eddie commercials, and at WPIX the chore was generally divided between Dennis Quinn, Ted David and “Doctor” Jerry Carrol (and occasionally the hilarious Howard Hoffman when he joined PIX). It was Jeff who introduced me to Eddie, and it was I who eventually narrowed the talent down to using Jerry Carroll exclusively – although Howard was close.

Among the other personalities who were seriously considered and were almost hired to be the Crazy Eddie spokesman was TV sitcom actor Jay Thomas, who at the time was doing morning drive on 99X. He called me almost every day asking for a chance, and he nearly got it. Good thing for his career he didn’t. Mork and Mindy was a better deal. Also in the running was none other than “Godfather of Soul” James Brown – who personally called me nearly every day trying to talk me into it. (In hindsight, not hiring James Brown was probably a mistake. Those commercials would have been utterly hilarious).

We hired a small production company by the name Neshobe Films to produce the first television commercials. They had produced some racy “B” movies (“Velvet Smooth”, “Snuff”) and had just done the series of “Did You Hear What He Said This Morning?” spots for Don Imus and WNBC radio. Their young cameraman was Jay Dubin – who went on to direct hundreds of Crazy Eddie commercials and then to MTV fame (Billy Joel and others) – eventually producing and directing the Beekmans World television series (shot in very much the same format as Crazy Eddie commercials).

We initially had trouble deciding what direction to take the television advertising. We knew it would have to be outrageous, satirical and tongue in cheek, but we couldn’t decide whether to go with a pitchman or with creative satire. So we decided to do both. (In the end we discovered that while the creative, satirical spots were fun and won awards, the hard sell spots, with Jerry Carrol screaming, were the ones that rang the cash register.)

Having watched Jerry Carroll voice our radio spots for some time, it was clear he should be the TV pitchman. I proposed it to him while we were recording radio spots in the WPIX production studio – and he accepted immediately.

The first TV spots we shot were the Doo Wop “Boys in the Bathroom” spot and a Jerry Carrol “Hard Sell”. They were shot on the same day. The “Bathroom” was the men’s room near the Cafeteria at Pratt Institute. The Jerry Carrol “Hard Sell” was shot late that night in the 6th Avenue Village store.

The lyrics to the “When You Think You’re Ready, Come Down to Crazy Eddie” song were written by a grateful Crazy Eddie customer – initially as a folk song. The acapella Doo Wop version you hear on the TV commercial was written, arranged and performed by myself with my friends and fellow musicians Jeff Gottschalk and John Russo, and was vaguely (well, maybe not so vaguely) inspired by the Del Vikings’ “A Sunday Kind of Love”. We recorded the song at Jim Bernard’s Dawn Recording Studios in Farmingdale, NY. Jeff, who sang lead vocal, went on to write songs for Dianna Ross and Cher, and performed many years with the Rascals. John teaches music in a public school district on Long Island. In addition to singing harmonies, that’s my Brooklyn accented voice you hear at the end singing “and so the story’s told. across the whole wide woild …”

That line, “across the whole wide woild” was added by my sister, Tsivia Abraham, while Jeff and I were sitting at the piano in my folk’s living room working out the arrangement.

The Doo-Wop commercial was a CLIO Award finalist, and a BOLI Award winner! Same with the “Crazy Eddie Fever” commercial. The radio commercials won dozens of Big Apple Radio awards.

The first TV spots with Jerry Carroll were shot in the Sixth Avenue Village store, overnight after the store was closed.

I initially proposed ending the spots with the tag-line, “Crazy Eddie – the MAN is Insane!” Eddie actually took personal offense at this. We eventually settled on, “Crazy Eddie, his prices are insane!”

I hired unemployed, former Korvettes ad manager Larry Miller to buy our television time. He had just started his own little one man media buying company out of his apartment in the East 60’s. It wasn’t long before his Corinthian Communications became one of the largest media buying services in the world.

The first TV spots aired on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

Through Larry Miller, we persuaded many New York television stations to stay on the air overnight (remember they used to sign off?), by offering to buy advertising (usually $10 a spot or less). We also started sponsoring local movies, including Casablanca, filling the commercial breaks with spots and our spoofs of the movies.

After those first couple of commercials I fired Neshobe Films and created an in-house advertising agency and production company (CrazyAds!) which was fully responsible for media and marketing strategies and for every commercial produced. We built a radio production center upstairs at 1117 Kings Highway in Brooklyn where every Crazy Eddie radio commercial was written and produced by me. Jay Dubin and his crew from the Pratt Institute film program became our television production company, with Jay Dubin directing and me writing and producing. TV spots were shot in the stores (and sometimes at Mother’s Studios on the West Side) and edited at Unitel Video on East 57th Street (we were major customers of Unitel, which eventually became famous for editing Star Trek TNG, among others).

For many years Crazy Eddie was the largest volume buyer of radio time in New York City. Among the account executives calling on me regularly were Mel Karmazin, Judy Ellis, Steve Dinitz, Mike Kakayonis, Richie Wexler, Sharon Ritterband, Ralph Garone (RIP) and others.

Funny how so many people thought Crazy Eddie was a major advertiser on 77-WABC (Music Radio). We never bought any advertising time on WABC.

That great commercial with Jerry clucking away in a chicken costume was supposed to be a Thanksgiving spot and the costume was supposed to be a turkey. Rubies Costumes delivered the wrong outfit. We shot it as a goof. But, then again, so were most of the spots.

Every radio station had a stand-by spot carted up and ready to go called Crazy Eddie’s Blizzard Blitz. Whenever winter weather got extremely severe I would call directly in to each studio and authorize the on-air staff to run those spots, which claimed, “if you’re crazy enough to come out in this weather, Crazy Eddie is crazy enough to give you the most unheard of crazy deal …”

Once Eddie and I had lunch with Don Imus at the Swiss Center in Rockefeller Center. The Swiss Center was the restaurant run by the Swiss Embassy featuring fine Swiss cuisine. Eddie ordered a cheeseburger and fries. Not to be outdone, Imus ordered an AMERICAN Cheese sandwich. The waiters were flabbergasted, but they brought the food.

The major dealer for Cerwin-Vega speakers, Crazy Eddie had the honor of dispensing with those giant subwoofers that had been used to create “Sensoround” in theaters all over the country for the movie Earthquake. Many of those subwoofers were installed in major clubs around the City, most notably – Studio 54.

I made arrangements with the producers of Saturday Night Fever to shoot a scene in the Crazy Eddie Record and Tape Asylum on Kings Highway. Eddie’s brother in law Bennie shot it down. He was appalled that I would want to shut the store down for a day to shoot a movie. Such was the mentality of that place. I did, however get a Crazy Eddie commercial featured in the movie Splash. Carson productions also featured Crazy Eddie commercials in their TV’s Greatest Commercials special with Dick Clark and Ed McMahon.

The Crazy Eddie spoof of Saturday Night Fever was shot at the 2001 Odyssey House, same as the movie. It was easy to duplicate the lighting – each of the lights from original movie shoot had melted holes in the ceiling. The “disco” version of the Crazy Eddie jingle was arranged and produced by Ritchie Fliegler. The actor playing the “waiter” is the same actor who lip-synced my “and so the story’s told …” line in the Doo-Wap commercial.

Our spoof of Superman got Warner Brothers mad and they sued us. The NY Post headline read, “It Takes Superman to Stop Crazy Eddie”. Eddie countered with threats of halting all sales of Warner owned Atari video games (we were the largest dealer), and we settled.

Our spoof of Casablanca was shot in a studio that was usually used for porn. We had to wait for folks to get dressed and break down their set before we could start building our version of Rick’s American Cafe. (Eddie was in the hospital at the time this was shot – recovering from nearly fatal stab wounds inflicted by the Westies gang after he taunted them one too many times.)

Larry Miller worked out a deal with channel 11 for us to sponsor a showing of Casablanca. Every Commercial was a Crazy Eddie commercial – including, of course our spoof of the movie.

Channel 2 refused to show the Casablanca spoof. Why? The whiskey bottle. They didn’t want to show whiskey on channel 2 (even though it was just ice tea).

Crazy Eddie was responsible for the demise of what was then known as the “Fair Trade Laws”, where manufacturers dictated the prices at which retailers could sell their products. Our willingness to not only break those laws, but to tout it in our advertising, not only laid the foundation for the business, it also toppled and changed the entire world of retailing.

Eddie and I together came up with the line “shop around, get the best prices you can find, then bring ’em to Crazy Eddie and he’ll beat ’em”. We were the first retailer to ever do that. I coined the term “guaranteed lowest prices” and included it in all our commercials. Today, practically every retailer from Walmart and Home Depot on down incorporates that same marketing strategy!

Crazy Eddie was primarily responsible for the demise of Blue Laws (that prevented retailers from opening on Sunday), by being one of the first major retailers to open on Sundays, not to mention Christmas, New Years and Thanksgiving. Paramus was the only regional location where blue laws remain today. Once a Crazy Eddie manager was arrested for going into the Paramus store on a Sunday. He was only there to retrieve his wallet, accidentally left there the day before. I remember the first time we decided to open on Christmas Day. We all looked at each other and thought, “hey we’re all Jewish – why not”. Was one of the highest grossing days of the year. Now every major retailer does this. (By the way, I apologize for being the one to start this trend of being open on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am sorry that it caught on the way it did and I applaud retailers that now defy this trend and give their employees those days off.)

After his release from jail in 1999, Eddie contacted me and asked me to get involved in rebuilding the company as an online merchant. We secured crazyeddie.com and gave it a shot. We produced a new series of hilarious radio and TV spots and generated a ton of press. A lot of old timer Crazy Eddie staffers came back to work and we engaged some slick management to get things up to speed, but potential investors were unable to see Eddie Antar other than as the convicted felon he was and were afraid to invest. Eddie refused to bow out – dooming the new venture.

There’s much, much more – hardly enough bandwidth for it all. Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed typing out these great memories.

More Crazy Eddie History from Larry Weiss

Crazy Eddie Advertising Memories (from the guy who created it), Linkedin, September 15, 2016 

As anyone who has been exposed to the news this past week can tell you, Eddie Antar, a/k/a Crazy Eddie, passed away on September 10, 2016.

As I have shared with many, my feelings were very deep and very mixed on learning of his passing that Saturday morning. I loved him for who he was, but not for what he did. He was a complex and fascinating guy, and quite a character – charming, charismatic, powerful, fun – an awesome leader, an amazing business man, quick and sharp as a tack – but also quite challenging and very far from perfect. Many considered him to be sociopathic. Eddie’s nickname was “Kelso” (Eddie’s father Sam once explained to me it was because, like the famous race horse, he always left them in the dust.). Kelso was loved and even idolized by those of us who worked with him as well as the thousands of employees who worked for him (for most, working at Crazy Eddie was the experience of a lifetime), but his behavior also hurt so many people, including myself, and eventually landed him in prison. Working with Kelso gave me the unique opportunity to make broadcast advertising history and allowed me to pursue one heck of a career. For that I will always be grateful. He played an integral roll in my life (and, I suppose, I did the same in his), and he will always be in my thoughts.

There has been much focus in the press this past week on Eddie’s crimes, but even more attention has been paid to Crazy Eddie’s advertising, which I created. As the man responsible for developing and managing this incredibly famous (infamous?) advertising campaign, it still amazes me that after more than 40 years since that work began, those commercials are still so highly talked about and remembered. Who would have thought way back then that those commercials would end up being universally considered iconic advertising classics today, especially since we produced them when we were still essentially kids, since we had such a blast doing them, and especially after the Antar family turned to their now infamous criminal activities and became convicted felons.

Several years ago (2005) I was asked to participate in a Court TV documentary about the massive Crazy Eddie Wall Street fraud, but other than providing a few photographs, I declined. Instead, I chose to look not at the criminal piece that I had no part in, and instead reminisce about the fun part that I created. So while that Court TV documentary was airing, I chose to post these fun little tidbits of memory on the New York Radio Message Board.

In light of Eddie’s passing, and to help clear up the incredible confusion in the press about the Crazy Eddie ad campaign, I thought I’d share that post with you here – some history, trivia and stories around Crazy Eddie’s “Insaaane” advertising and marketing – stuff that few people talk about, or even know about …

——-

Crazy Eddie (or “Sights and Sounds” as it was originally named) was one of the very early regular advertisers on FM radio. The original corporate name back then was ERS Electronics (ERS stood for Eddie, his first partner Ron and his father Sam).

The first radio station Sights and Sounds advertised on was WCBS-FM. Norm Golden was the CBS-FM account executive who first talked Eddie into radio advertising. Eddie, being who he was, told Norm the only way he could get the order was if he first went outside on Kings Highway and peed on a bus. Norm did. (Norm claims it was a cab -no matter). The rate was an unbelievable $5 a spot, buy one get one free. To top that, Eddie, being who he was, refused to pay the bill. CBS-FM kept the spots on the air anyway. (Not a whole lot businesses were advertising on FM radio yet.) Norm denies much of this. He is probably correct.

The original “free price quote” line in the early 1970’s was a pay phone on the wall at 1117 Kings Highway. Nobody expected it to ring. They were wrong. That pay phone evolved into one of the first electronically managed call centers and the project gave me my first opportunity to commercially apply telecom technologies I had been dabbling with as a hobby (and laying the foundation as my career evolved from broadcasting and advertising into telecom).

The Crazy Eddie “free price quote” number was a question in the original version of Trivial Pursuit. The number (for those who somehow forgot) was 645-1196 (pronounced “six four five eleven ninety six”). 888-645-1196 and 877-645-1196 still exist and ring to my office today. Call them to hear a sample of Crazy Eddie commercials or even have a chat with me.

It was my friend Jeff Coleman who first introduced me to Eddie Antar. Jeff and I had been partners in the Peace Palace theater in upstate Woodbourne, NY, producing rock concerts and showing alternative movies (in conjunction with the Uniondale Mini Cinema). I was also working at WVOS radio in Liberty. Meanwhile Jeff was also working as an account exec at WPIX-FM at the time and he called on Sights and Sound/Crazy Eddie. He thought Eddie and I would hit it off. He was right.

Back then radio stations were each producing their own Crazy Eddie commercials, and at WPIX the chore was generally divided between Dennis Quinn, Ted David and “Doctor” Jerry Carrol (and occasionally the hilarious Howard Hoffman when he joined PIX). It was Jeff who introduced me to Eddie, and it was I who eventually narrowed the talent down to using Jerry Carroll exclusively – although Howard was close.

Among the other personalities who were seriously considered and were almost hired to be the Crazy Eddie spokesman was TV sitcom actor Jay Thomas, who at the time was doing morning drive on 99X. He called me almost every day asking for a chance, and he nearly got it. Good thing for his career he didn’t. Mork and Mindy was a better deal. Also in the running was James Brown (yes, THAT James Brown) – who personally called me nearly every day trying to talk me into it. (In hindsight, not hiring James Brown was probably a mistake. Those commercials would have been utterly hilarious).

We hired a small production company by the name Neshobe Films to produce the first television commercials. They had produced some racy “B” movies (“Velvet Smooth”, “Snuff”) and had just done the series of “Did You Hear What He Said This Morning?” spots for Don Imus and WNBC radio. Their young cameraman was Jay Dubin – who went on to direct hundreds of Crazy Eddie commercials and then to MTV fame (Billy Joel and others) – eventually producing and directing the Beekmans World television series (shot in very much the same format as Crazy Eddie commercials).

We initially had trouble deciding what direction to take the television advertising. We knew it would have to be outrageous, satirical and tongue in cheek, but we couldn’t decide whether to go with a pitchman or with creative satire. So we decided to do both. (In the end we discovered that while the creative, satirical spots were fun and won awards, the hard sell spots, with Jerry Carrol screaming, were the ones that rang the cash register.)

Having watched Jerry Carroll voice our radio spots for some time, it was clear he should be the TV pitchman. I proposed it to him while we were recording radio spots in the WPIX production studio – and he accepted immediately.
The first TV spots we shot were the Doo Wop “Boys in the Bathroom” spot and a Jerry Carrol “Hard Sell”. They were shot on the same day. The “Bathroom” was the men’s room near the Cafeteria at Pratt Institute. The Jerry Carrol “Hard Sell” was shot late that night in the 6th Avenue Village store.

The lyrics to the “When You Think You’re Ready, Come Down to Crazy Eddie” song were written by a grateful Crazy Eddie customer – initially as a folk song. The acapella Doo Wop version you hear on the TV commercial was written, arranged and performed by myself with my friends and fellow musicians Jeff Gottschalk and John Russo, and was vaguely inspired by the Del Vikings’ “A Sunday Kind of Love”. We recorded the song at Jim Bernard’s Dawn Recording Studios in Farmingdale, NY. Jeff, who sang lead vocal, went on to write songs for Dianna Ross and Cher, and performed many years with the Rascals. John teaches music in a public school district on Long Island. In addition to singing harmonies, that’s my Brooklyn accented voice you hear at the end singing “and so the story’s told. across the whole wide woild …”

That line, “across the whole wide woild” was added by my sister, Tsivia Abraham, while Jeff and I were sitting at the piano in my folk’s living room working out the arrangement.

The Doo-Wop commercial was a CLIO Award finalist, and a BOLI Award winner! Same with the “Crazy Eddie Fever” commercial. The radio commercials won dozens of Big Apple Radio awards.

The first TV spots with Jerry Carroll were shot in the Sixth Avenue Village store, overnight after the store was closed.
I initially proposed ending the spots with the tag-line, “Crazy Eddie – the MAN is Insane!” Eddie actually took personal offense at this. We eventually settled on, “Crazy Eddie, his prices are insane!”

I hired unemployed, former Korvettes ad manager Larry Miller to buy our television time. He had just started his own little one man media buying company out of his apartment in the East 60’s. It wasn’t long before his Corinthian Communications became one of the largest media buying services in the world.

The first TV spots aired on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

Through Larry Miller, we persuaded many New York television stations to stay on the air overnight (remember they used to sign off?), by offering to buy advertising (usually $10 a spot or less). We also started sponsoring local movies, including Casablanca, filling the commercial breaks with spots and our spoofs of the movies.

After those first couple of commercials I fired Neshobe Films and created an in-house advertising agency and production company (CrazyAds!) which was fully responsible for media and marketing strategies and for every commercial produced. We built a radio production center upstairs at 1117 Kings Highway in Brooklyn where every Crazy Eddie radio commercial was written and produced by me. Jay Dubin and his crew from the Pratt Institute film program became our television production company, with Jay Dubin directing and me writing and producing. TV spots were shot in the stores (and sometimes at Mother’s Studios on the West Side) and edited at Unitel Video on East 57th Street (we were major customers of Unitel, which eventually became famous for editing Star Trek TNG, among others).

For many years Crazy Eddie was the largest volume buyer of radio time in New York City. Among the account executives calling on me regularly were Mel Karmazin, Judy Ellis, Steve Dinitz, Mike Kakayonis, Richie Wexler, Sharon Ritterband, Ralph Garone (RIP) and others.

Funny how so many people thought Crazy Eddie was a major advertiser on 77-WABC (Music Radio). We never bought any advertising time on WABC.

That great commercial with Jerry clucking away in a chicken costume was supposed to be a Thanksgiving spot and the costume was supposed to be a turkey. Rubies Costumes delivered the wrong outfit. We shot it as a goof. But, then again, so were most of the spots.

Every radio station had a stand-by spot carted up and ready to go called Crazy Eddie’s Blizzard Blitz. Whenever winter weather got extremely severe I would call directly in to each studio and authorize the on-air staff to run those spots, which claimed, “if you’re crazy enough to come out in this weather, Crazy Eddie is crazy enough to give you the most unheard of crazy deal …”

Once Eddie and I had lunch with Don Imus at the Swiss Center in Rockefeller Center. The Swiss Center was the restaurant run by the Swiss Embassy featuring fine Swiss cuisine. Eddie ordered a cheeseburger and fries. Not to be outdone, Imus ordered an AMERICAN Cheese sandwich. The waiters were flabbergasted, but they brought the food.

The major dealer for Cerwin-Vega speakers, Crazy Eddie had the honor of dispensing with those giant subwoofers that had been used to create “Sensoround” in theaters all over the country for the movie Earthquake. Many of those subwoofers were installed in major clubs around the City, most notably – Studio 54.

I made arrangements with the producers of Saturday Night Fever to shoot a scene in the Crazy Eddie Record and Tape Asylum on Kings Highway. Eddie’s brother in law Bennie shot it down. He was appalled that I would want to shut the store down for a day to shoot a movie. Such was the mentality of that place. I did, however get a Crazy Eddie commercial featured in the movie Splash. Carson productions also featured Crazy Eddie commercials in their TV’s Greatest Commercials special with Dick Clark and Ed McMahon.

The Crazy Eddie spoof of Saturday Night Fever was shot at the 2001 Odyssey House, same as the movie. It was easy to duplicate the lighting – each of the lights from original movie shoot had melted holes in the ceiling. The “disco” version of the Crazy Eddie jingle was arranged and produced by Ritchie Fliegler. The actor playing the “waiter” is the same actor who lip-synced my “and so the story’s told …” line in the Doo-Wop commercial.

Our spoof of Superman got Warner Brothers mad and they sued us. The NY Post headline read, “It Takes Superman to Stop Crazy Eddie”. Eddie countered with threats of halting all sales of Warner owned Atari video games (we were the largest dealer), and we settled. (Addendum: CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, actually played the Superman Spoof in their coverage of Eddie’s passing. Eddie would have been amused at the irony. I know I was.)

Our spoof of Casablanca was shot in a studio that was usually used for porn. We had to wait for folks to get dressed and break down their set before we could start building our version of Rick’s American Cafe. (Eddie was in the hospital at the time this was shot – recovering from nearly fatal stab wounds inflicted by the Westies gang after he taunted them one too many times.)
Larry Miller worked out a deal with channel 11 for us to sponsor a showing of Casablanca. Every Commercial was a Crazy Eddie commercial – including, of course our spoof of the movie.

Channel 2 refused to show the Casablanca spoof. Why? The whiskey bottle. CBS, now home of CSI and other graphic, gory programming, didn’t want to show a whiskey bottle on channel 2 (even though it was just ice tea).

Crazy Eddie was responsible for the demise of what was then known as the “Fair Trade Laws”, where manufacturers dictated the prices at which retailers could sell their products. Our willingness to not only break those laws, but to tout it in our advertising, not only laid the foundation for the business, it also toppled and changed the entire world of retailing.

Eddie and I together came up with the line “shop around, get the best prices you can find, then bring ’em to Crazy Eddie and he’ll beat ’em”. We were the first retailer to ever do that. I coined the term “guaranteed lowest prices” and included it in all our commercials. Today, practically every retailer from Walmart and Home Depot on down incorporates that same marketing strategy!

Crazy Eddie was primarily responsible for the demise of Blue Laws (that prevented retailers from opening on Sunday), by being one of the first major retailers to open on Sundays, not to mention Christmas, New Years and Thanksgiving. Paramus was the only regional location where blue laws remain today. Once a Crazy Eddie manager was arrested for going into the Paramus store on a Sunday. He was only there to retrieve his wallet, accidentally left there the day before. I remember the first time we decided to open on Christmas Day. We all looked at each other and thought, “hey we’re all Jewish – why not”. Was one of the highest grossing days of the year. Now every major retailer does this. (By the way, I apologize for being the one to start this trend of being open on major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am sorry that it caught on the way it did and I applaud retailers that now defy this trend and give their employees those days off.)

After his release from jail in 1999, Eddie contacted me and asked me to get involved in rebuilding the company as an online merchant. We secured crazyeddie.com and gave it a shot. We produced a new series of hilarious radio and TV spots and generated a ton of press. A lot of old timer Crazy Eddie staffers came back to work and we engaged some slick management to get things up to speed, but potential investors were unable to see Eddie Antar other than as the convicted felon he was and were afraid to invest. Eddie refused to bow out – dooming the new venture.

There’s much, much more – hardly enough bandwidth for it all. Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed typing out these great memories.

———-

Addendum:

Regarding press coverage of Crazy Eddie Advertising over the years and especially since Eddie’s passing…

I will note that in the days following Eddie’s passing, there was much press, and much mention of Crazy Eddie’s noteworthy advertising. Sadly to me, and to journalism in general, the majority of that coverage has been just plain wrong, some of it utterly wrong. I was especially surprised by flaws in the New York Times. Eddie and I once decided that we should never talk to the press – they always get it wrong. Apparently that hasn’t changed. Since Eddie’s passing I have been receiving many calls and emails from friends, clients and colleagues, asking about the discrepancies between what they see in the paper and what they know of me. So, while it may seem petty or trivial to some (and especially to one like me who has chosen to keep a low profile), I feel the need need to clarify a few things that the press has been screwing up royally:

1. Fakes: Over the years I have found dozens of different characters taking credit for my work, walking around with reels of my commercials and claiming to have been their creator. I suppose that happens when creative work becomes classic and the creator decides to keep a low profile as I have. But over the past 35 years I have seen more people take false credit than I can imagine, and I have seen the press buy into much of it, without any fact checking what-so-ever, especially in the last several days. That is just plain irresponsible journalism.

2. Harry Spero: In many publications, Harry Spero is given credit for my work. That’s wrong. Sometime around 1979/1980 we deemed it important to hire someone to manage the cooperative advertising aspects of the record and tape division (Crazy Eddie’s Record and Tape Asylum). Eddie’s brother-in-law Benny was in control of that division, and the person he and I mutually decided to hire was Harry Spero who had been working as a promotion guy at Midland Records. In his position at Crazy Eddie from the time he was hired until I departed at the end of 1983, Harry essentially worked under Benny and me coordinating cooperative advertising programs with the various record labels. That’s ALL Harry did until my departure. When I told Eddie I was moving on, he asked me to help find a replacement. I suggested Harry. Eddie resisted, but I persisted and Harry got the job. To show his (in)gratitude, from that time until this very day, Harry has falsely taken full credit for creating the entire Crazy Eddie ad campaign; for all of my work including everything I did for the 10 years prior. His website states that he was VP Director of Advertising starting in 1979, which is baloney. However, with my taking a low profile and Harry blabbing about how he did it all, the press bought into it, especially in the coverage after Eddie’s passing. The truth: Harry was my assistant from mid 1979 through the end of 1983. He took over in 1984, and did little creatively. Most of his work was a re-do of my own. Some of the TV spots shot during his time were remakes of my original concepts, truly dumb and over-embellished, losing the tongue-in-cheek simplicity that made my earlier Crazy Eddie commercials so memorable and endearing. Eddie was focusing on going public and committing his fraud schemes and acting out with women, so I guess Harry got to play in the studio with little supervision. I don’t care so much about that, but for him to take full credit for all of my work is lower than low. I seriously do not know how he sleeps at night.

3. Jerry Carroll: I can’t tell you what his reasons are, perhaps ego, perhaps some sort of bitterness, but Jerry seems to have written me out of existence in his own unique version of Crazy Eddie history. In the press Jerry seems to recall that Eddie loved his radio work and hired him directly on the spot as the pitchman. Jerry forgets that it was I who decided he should get the gig, that Eddie wasn’t interested at all in using Jerry and that I had to argue with Eddie to even give Jerry a try. Jerry has blabbed that it was he who did all the creative work and that he and Eddie are solely responsible for all that was produced. Yet Jerry wasn’t around at all for any of the back-end stuff – the strategy sessions, the media planning and buying, the production coordination, the set designing and creating, the tons and tons of copy-writing (my poor overworked IBM Selectric typewriter). Jerry was very good at what he did, but all that involved was showing up in the studio or on the set, putting on the turtleneck and blue blazer (Neshobe’s Mike Fink thought of that), delivering my scripts (sometimes editing or embellishing) and going home. He never once set foot in the edit room. He never once sat in on any of the planning meetings. Jerry was an actor I hired. Period. For him to take full credit for everything is beyond belief. For him to not ever mention me, even once, is beyond absurd. But since he was the “face”, the press believes him and will print anything he says. Jerry even went on the road for a while doing speaking engagements about Crazy Eddie, never once mentioning me or anyone else who was involved. I understand he even brought a band along that played music written by myself and colleagues, never once giving credit. Jerry and Eddie did become buddies and drinking partners as time went on, and the photos of them together are kind of fun, but none of that has anything to do with the back-end work, the sweat, the coordination or most importantly the creativity that went into creating one of the world’s most renown advertising campaigns.

Again, sorry if that all seemed rather petty. It probably doesn’t really matter to the rest of the world, especially in the grand scheme of things. But it matters to me and it matters to the others involved, so, in the immortal words of one of my former Crazy Eddie colleagues, Nick Zipilli (now owner of Manhattans amazing West Side Steak House), “There, I said it!”

See Part 3 – Crazy Eddie Fraud

Written by:

Sam Antar

© Copyright by Sam Antar. All rights reserved.

Sam Antar