Working isn't so bad!
by Corky Carroll
One of the more common questions that I get asked is what it was like doing the Miller Lite beer television commercials back in the 1980s and ’90s — and more specifically, how did I get involved in that in the first place.
For me, this was one of the best parts of my career and a period that I look back on with great memories. Plus, it was the most money I had made in my entire life.
For those of you that are too young, or just don’t remember, at one time Miller Lite was one of the leading beer brands in the country. This was on the shoulders, at least in part, of a mega-successful advertising campaign that featured retired athletes from different sports. Some of the athletes from the commercials were also part of what they called the “Miller Lite All-Stars.”
I was one of the lucky ones who did both the commercials and was part of the all-star program. That group did personal appearances around the country and were the national spokespeople for the brand. Some of the guys I worked with were Bubba Smith, Boog Powell, Billy Martin, Bob Uecker, L.C. Greenwood, Bert Jones, Sam Jones, Red Auerbach, Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds and Dave Cowens. It was a very cool lineup of really great dudes who were funny and amazing to hang out with. What Miller Brewing Company looked for were guys that people would want to hang out with and have a beer.
So, how did I get selected for this?
They had a guy in New York that researched sports figures and selected those he thought would fit. As most of the mainstream sports — such as baseball, football and basketball — appealed to the over-25-to-dead market they were looking for somebody to appeal to the “just turning drinking age” group. A surfer seemed a good choice for that. And, lucky for me, the dude doing the selecting came up with me.
Here is how the deal went down:
I was hanging out on the North Shore of Hawaii, surfing and staying with my pal Mark Martinson. One day I got a call from a woman who identified herself as being with an agency in New York and they had been looking for me because they wanted to know if I would come in and read for a Miller Lite commercial. I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke on me — many of my friends are not beyond that kind of thing — and started joking and saying, “Oh yeah, sure … um hummm.” Stuff like that. But after a few minutes I realized it was on the up and up.
She asked me if I could be in New York the next day. I said no, the surf was really good right then, but I could come as soon as the swell went down. Seemed reasonable. So, she told me to call her when I was ready and she would have a ticket waiting for me at the Honolulu airport. Two weeks later I flew to New York and tested for the commercial.
I thought I did a pretty good job and went home more or less expecting the call to shoot the spot.
After three months went by, though, I pretty much figured I didn’t get it. But then one afternoon I got the call to be at the Beverly Hills hotel the next day for “wardrobe and contract signing.” They would shoot my first Miller Lite commercial the day after that.
Wow, I was on cloud 376. I didn’t even bother to ask how much I was getting or anything like that, I just figured whatever it was it was gonna be a whole lot more than I had in my account at that moment. And I had no idea this would lead to a series of commercials and 11 years under contract with the Miller Lite All-Stars. To be continued...