During the decade of the ’90’s I was sales manager for a large builder distributor of major appliances. Each year I attended the IBS (International Builders Show). Not only were our top customers there, but all the major appliance manufacturers had booths at the show displaying their latest appliances.
In 1999, IBS was held in Dallas. I was staying in a hotel on the outskirts of Dallas, and partnered up with a couple of guys from another appliance distributor from Ohio. We both were distributors for Maytag and GE appliance brands. The night before the show opened we shared a ride into town to attend a cocktail hour hosted by Maytag. Later that evening, we also were attending a dinner hosted by GE.
The Maytag cocktail party was quite crowded and noisy. In one corner there was a lineup to get your picture taken with the Maytag Repairman, Ol’ Lonely. Gordon Jump, aka Mr. Carlson from WKRP in Cincinnati, was Ol’ Lonely, wearing his signature blue work jacket, Maytag cap, and red bowtie. I choose to hang out at the bar, rather than wait in line for a photo op.
Eventually, I and my new buddies left the party, and got in line waiting for a cab to go to our GE dinner. It just so happened that Gordon Jump was standing in line right in front of us. Under his arm he had his Maytag blue cap and jacket.
Well, my friends from Cincinnati were elated to have this chance to chat with Ol’ Lonely. At one point they asked him if it was common for him to get noticed in public. His reply was that he lived in LA where there were a lot of other actors so he didn’t really stand out that much.
Then he said, “However, that reminds me of something. Let me tell you boys a story:
I have a daughter attending college back east at one of those pricey New England private schools. When she got there and was settling in to her dorm room, she went into the town to get a vacuum cleaner. So, she was walking around this little appliance store, and she bumped into one of those cardboard stand up replicas of me next to the Maytag display. She started laughing, and the owner of the store said. “What’s the matter. Haven’t you ever seen Ol’ Lonely before?” “Mister” she said. “I just traveled 5,000 miles to get away from that guy!”
A year later, I went to work for Maytag. Gordon Jump retired as Ol’ Lonely in 2003, and a few months later he died from cancer. At his funeral his pall bearers wore blue jackets and red bowties.