|America's Favorite Pitch People: Where Are They Now?|
|By KATIE KINDELAN||Jul 18, 2013, 9:24 AM|
They're the ordinary people who became overnight stars by selling us everything from OxiClean to flavored drinks to men's suits. Though you might not recognize their names, if you've ever watched TV or read a magazine, you would recognize these people in an instant.
Sometimes the regular folks-turned-corporate spokespeople are stories of glimmering success and other times a crash-and-burn tale of caution.
"I always think we should have a spokespeople convention, getting together and swapping stories," said Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, one of the more successful of the group.
Click through to see some of the most iconic pitch people, where they went and what they're doing now.
If being a spokesperson was an Olympic event, then Fogle would be the gold medalist. The 35-year-old pitchman for Subway lost 235 pounds by eating only Subway subs for one year in college and turned that success into an even bigger one, a 15-year and counting career as the face of Subway.
Working for the sandwich chain has been the only career Fogle, an Indiana University undergrad when he was plucked from obscurity to stardom, has ever known.
"After the third commercial I thought, 'Maybe there's something more to this,'" Fogle told ABCNews.com. "I never would have thought 15 years, that's for sure."
Fogle, who still lives in Indianapolis with his wife and young son, credits the fact that he is not an actor and that he has a relatable story – a struggle with weight – for his longevity in an often-fickle business.
"I think sometimes in life, with a lot of companies, somebody loses out," he said. "But in this case, Subway has done well, I've gotten a lot out of it and the customer, when they come in, they get a good product."
If Fogle is considered the champion of spokespeople, then Kaufman could be called the pioneer. The now 54-year-old was an employee in Snapple's order department in 1991 when she made it her mission to answer every customer letter the company received.
She made herself the head of public relations for the at-the-time small company because she could "publicly relate," she says, and parlayed her spunk into commercial fame. She stayed on with the Snapple brand through multiple corporate changes as the company was bought and sold before finally hanging up her "Snapple Lady" persona in 2008.
"My parents both got sick and I had a house fire that burnt down my house in Massachusetts," Kaufman told ABCNews.com of what she did in the time after. "I just took a time of breathing and getting myself together and I was so closely equated with Snapple that I needed time to regroup and figure out what's next for me."
For five years, Kaufman, split her time between New York City, Florida and Massachusetts with her husband, Steven. Now, however, she is ready to return to the public eye and has just the idea for her big comeback.
"My cousin called me and said, 'You'd be a no brainer for Twinkies,'" Kaufman said of the beloved snack treat that returned to stores this week after its maker, Hostess, went bankrupt.
"It's such a perfectly relatable brand for me," she said. "I was the beginning of reality TV and social media so it'd be funny if I could go back to my roots in some way."
Millions of TV watchers knew George Zimmer by his signature tagline, "You're going to like the way you look. I guarantee it," thanks to the decades he spent on screen as the pitchman for Men's Wearhouse, the men's clothing company he founded in 1973.
That all changed in June when the company released a terse statement announcing it was "terminating" Zimmer as executive chairman, citing disputes over compensation and whether the company should be taken private. Zimmer quickly released a statement of his own saying the board had "inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns."
Zimmer had accumulated 500 hours of footage in his decades as company spokesman, footage the company still owns. That means customers and fans of his commercials could potentially still see his face but analysts say Zimmer's age may cause Men's Wearhouse to drop him again like an old suit.
"George is 64-years old with a grey beard," Richard Jaffe, analyst with Stifel Nicolaus, told ABCNews.com last month. "Is he the right person to sell to a 24-year old kid?"
Billy Mays was a ubiquitous TV presence for years as the salesman for products like Orange Glo and OxiClean. With a booming voice, dark beard and over-the-top presentation style, Mays made himself just as famous as the products he was selling.
Mays' life came to a sudden halt at the age of 50 in June 2009 when his wife found him unresponsive in their Tampa, Fla., home. Initial reports that Mays may have died from head trauma were disproven by an autopsy that found the famous pitchman had died of a heart attack and that cocaine use was a contributing factor.
Test results also discovered traces of the narcotic painkillers Oxycodone, hydrocodone and tramadol in his bloodstream. Small amounts of Xanax and Valium, as well as alcohol, were also detected.
Stephanie Courtney was your average gone-to-Hollywood actress doing bit parts in movies and improv theatre until she hit it big in 2008, not on the big screen but as Flo, the happy-to-help insurance guru in commercials for Progressive.
Since then Courtney, 43, has filmed nearly 100 commercials for the insurance giant and become a household face, if not name. She told People magazine in 2009 that she doesn't often get stopped in public but she does know that people love Flo.
"I realized when people starting sending me pictures of them dressed up as Flo for Halloween," Courtney told the magazine of her character's fame, evidenced by the page on the company's website that offers tips on how to dress and talk like Flo.
"Flo's as popular as ever right now," Progressive's Chief Marketing Officer, Jeff Charney, told ABCNews.com. "In fact, our research shows that she's actually gaining popularity with consumers, which is unheard of for a character who has been on the air for almost 100 commercials. We expect Flo to be around for a long time."
Outside of Progressive, Courtney is an alumni of the famed The Groundlings improv theater group and has appeared on "Mad Men."
Anheuser-Busch's famous Clydesdales can't use words to sell their product but that hasn't stopped them from selling millions of beers and becoming iconic representatives of the Budweiser brand in the process.
The thomping Clydesdales made their first appearance in 1933 as a gift from the Busch sons to their father in celebration of the repeal of Prohibition. The sight of Busch Sr. and his two sons moved to tears over the gift of Clydesdales inspired the "crying in your beer" phrase still heard in bars around the world to this day, according to Budweiser.com.
Since that tear-provoking debut the champion Clydesdales, most frequently in a six-horse hitch, have appeared in countless commercials, appearances across the country and even alongside U.S. presidents in inauguration parades.
When Old Spice sought to revamp its image in 2010 it looked no further than Isaiah Mustafa, a former college football player who went on to play on the practice squads of four NFL teams and had the muscles to prove it.
Emmy-winning commercials featuring an often-shirtless Mustafa, and his bulging biceps, made him a watercooler topic and put Old Spice on the map once again.
Mustafa parlayed his fame as "The Old Spice Guy" into a variety of acting roles, including a character on the short-lived TV version of "Charlie's Angels," and a spot on People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" list in 2010.
In April of this year Mustafa kept his shirt for a more, kind of, serious role, playing the U.S. president in a commercial for Maccabee, an Israeli brand of beer.
Hallie Kate Eisenberg stole America's hearts in the 1990s with a series of commercials for Pepsi that featured the young, precocious girl with ringlet curls delving into a deep-throated voice of protest when served the wrong drink.
Eisenberg, now 21, went on to star in movies like "The Insider" with Al Pacino and "Bicentennial Man" with Robin Williams, according to IMDb. She also starred in the indie film "Holy Rollers" alongside her famous brother, "The Social Network" star Jesse Eisenberg.
Today, years after her Pepsi role, Eisenberg is a college student.
"She is happily living the life of a typical young adult," her mom, Amy Eisenberg, told ABCNews.com.
Benjamin Curtis is his name but if you watched TV in the early 2000's you know him better as the "Dell Dude." That was the moniker Curtis, now 31, made famous through his commercials for Dell computers starring as Steven, a hip teenager who convinces friends, family and random shoppers to buy Dell computers.
Curtis made his character's catchphrase, "Dude, you're getting a Dell!," a household term but then found himself in an unwanted spotlight in 2003 when he was arrested on suspicion of trying to buy marijuana.
"Dude, You're Getting a Cell," read the post-arrest headline on TheSmokingGun.com, which also posted the court documents of the misdemeanor complaint.
Curtis' commercials for Dell ended soon after but the parting was not bitter, according to his agent.
"He and Michael Dell were friends and both had a lot of respect for each other," Renate English, Curtis' agent at Friendly Faces Talent Management, told ABCNews.com. "It was not a bitter parting."
Curtis, who lives in New York City, has stayed in the acting game. He shot commercials for the New York and Maryland state lotteries and had a role in the 2011 film, "We Are the Hartmans," according to English.