ANGEL FALLS Part Dos
August 6, 2012 by JoBe Cerny
Once I got used to the fact that the film crew only wore guns as a precautionary measure, I started to relax. In the Cheer commercials, I never talked, but there were some questions if my silent character would translate into other languages. And of course, it did since I didn’t have to talk. But no matter where I went I got on well with the crews. My make-up lady was very nice, and we got on well. She spoke a little English, and I could read a little Spanish and everything was hunky-dory. Procter & Gamble’s Number One selling detergent in the world was a product known as Ariel. The tests I did were similar to the Cheer tests, but different countries had different stains. In this case, I was removing a stain from shirt caused by a popular Venezuelan drink called Tres & Uno. It was like a fruit smoothie made of orange juice, carrots, red beets and ice. It was the color of blood so it went well the guns on the set. I put all the ingredients into a blender and then made a stain on my shirt that made me look like a shooting victim. I have to say when I first saw the stain, I had my doubts, but the chemists at P&G were sure it would get the stain out, and it did. There was a warehouse in Cincinnati where they housed each item I soiled and so the other soap companies could inspect the removal of the stain. In the P&G Museum, there is a display of me in my famous JoBe suit. It wasn’t a tuxedo, by the way. My acting made it seem fancier than it was. They made a hundred of them for me because I frequently got them dirty. And my costumer Martha Heppler assembled a wonderful vintage bow tie collection for me so we had lots of choices for any clothes washing occasion anywhere in the world.
Leroy Koetz and I did ninety-nine of these commercials together in sixteen different countries, and we eventually won over 150 major advertising awards around the world. And language never seemed to be a barrier. I have always been a physical actor, and to do the Cheer commercials I took dance classes. Each movement had to be very precise and defined. And Leroy knew how to keep me honest and real. But sometimes it took me many more takes than anyone might image to make things look honest and real. Soap is slippery, water is slippery, ice is slippery, and clothes being washed are not easy to control. The perfect simple test needed to be broken down into many little movements that were choreographed to perfection in the time allotted. Each take was like a slalom course and a single mistake would result in disqualification. After years of doing commercials, I have a built-in body clock. As I perfected my actions, I would find ways to make things faster and faster until I got the action to fit into the allotted time. In some cases I might have 20-25 actions that needed to be on cue. So it was always a team effort to make that happen. Virtually everybody on set helped me – even the guys with the guns. All in all Tres & Uno became one of my favorite commercials.
We shot several commercials in Venezuela, and on the night after the first day of the shoot. Leroy, Tim Martin (the P&G Client), Elizabeth Keenan (Leroy’s producer), and I went out to dinner together. Three waiters in tuxedoes waited on us hand and foot. The menu was in Spanish, and Elizabeth asked a lot of questions about the entrees. Each time she pointed and asked a question in English the head waiter nodded his head and smiled. Each time she pointed to an item the head waiter nodded. Then we all ordered. Leroy, Tim and I all ordered steak. After salads, the entrees came, and Leroy, Tim and I all got our steaks. Elizabeth got five all five entrees she pointed to. The waiters must have thought she was really hungry. But, Elizabeth did save room for desert.
The next day we did another commercial. And then we had a day off while they processed the film. Once the film was checked and double checked, we were supposed to fly to Columbia to do some commercials there. But, we were informed that there was a dispute between the American and Columbian governments, and we were not allowed to cross the border. So, Procter & Gamble decided to fly the Columbian Advertising Agency people to Chicago once the political differences were resolved. When I got home, I asked my wife if she’d like to see Angel Falls with me some day. After I let her read the airline article about the tourists that got killed by headhunters, she decided Pirates of the Caribbean in Orlando would be more fun for the kids.