CHICAGO - Nick Celozzi and Maury Ettleson were fighting a bad case of the giggles.
Outside their Chevrolet dealership in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Ill., they tried to keep straight faces for the taping of one of their infamous TV commercials. But take after take broke down in howls of laughter.
After six attempts, the pair kept it together long enough to belt out the familiar Celozzi-Ettleson tag line: "where you always save more money."
"When you start laughing, you can't stop. Maury had this high-pitched voice, and when I heard it, I thought it was funny," says Celozzi as he watches the outtakes from the 1983 commercial in his Elmhurst office.
"We had a lot of fun," says Ettleson of the commercials that made him and his former partner local celebrities. "People still remember them."
Can't get them out of their heads is more like it. Jingles and tag lines from Celozzi-Ettleson and at least a dozen other local car dealers still ring in the ears of Chicagoans old enough to recall their 1970s heyday.
"Singing Ford Man" Harry Schmerler's rendition of "Rock-a-bye My Baby," Bob Rohrman's trademark roar, the Long Chevrolet kid's grating cries of "Extra! Extra!" and Erwin Weil's invitation to "a beautiful place in the country" - all are hard-wired into the brains of consumers who have tuned out today's barrage of blander commercial messages. They weren't pretty, polished or even particularly professional, but they connected with viewers and moved a lot of metal.
Celozzi-Ettleson's spots helped make the dealership the top-selling Chevrolet franchise in the United States. The dealership spent $1 million annually on TV commercials.