Sunday, May 1, 2011

five eight eight, two three hundred . . .

an icon from my television youth ... RIP Empire Man.

Elmer Lynn Hauldren created the Empire Man character and wrote the carpet company's nationally recognized jingle, which made a lasting imprint of a phone number: "5-8-8, 2-300, Empire!"  Mr. Hauldren, 89, died Tuesday, April 26, of natural causes in his Evanston home, according to family.

"He has made an indelible mark on advertising history with his creativity and warmth," Steve Silvers, chief executive officer of Northlake-based Empire, said in a statement.
Empire's former owner, Seymour Cohen, hired Mr. Hauldren as the on-air talent for commercials in 1973 after dozens of actors auditioned for the role. Mr. Hauldren created the Empire Man and also wrote and sang the jingle in the commercials along with the a capella group The Fabulous 40s.
"Lynn was just a joy all the time," said Tom Felgen, a bass singer in The Fabulous 40s. "He was a neat and special guy who was really wrapped up in music and words. He had a very natural way of writing things. When we were singing together, it was total fun all the time."

In 1994, Pearl Jam belted out the jingle at a Chicago concert.
For nearly four decades, Mr. Hauldren portrayed the folksy, bespectacled Empire Man in more than 1,000 commercials. More recently and until shortly before his death, the company broadcast animated commercials with Mr. Hauldren continuing to provide voice-overs.
Mr. Hauldren's son Joseph said the idea for a soft-spoken carpet salesman emerged because Mr. Hauldren thought there was too much shouting and screaming in commercials.
"I think he appealed to people because he was so genuine," said his son. "He was a great father, a great family man, very mild-mannered and friendly. He was a lot like that character on TV."
In a 1997 interview with the Tribune, Mr. Hauldren commented on his unexpected fame.
"People are good-natured," he said, "but once in a while they'll grab at you and say, 'Here's that carpet dude!' or 'Hey! Aren't you somebody?' I always hope folks understand I'm not a celebrity. I'm just a TV pitchman, a glorified salesman."

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