Friday, June 09, 2006

My brush with Russ

A lifelong dream is realized: I finally get to write something about Wonderful Russ, and get it published in Phoenix Magazine. No pictures of him, unfortunately. But it’s in an article titled “As Seen On TV,” and it’s in the June issue of Phoenix (“on newsstands now!”).

Here’s a couple excerpts from the article, and a link to where it’s reproduced online:

His face is so well known to Valley residents that when Russell Shaw turns sideways, the unfamiliar angle can be a bit jarring, like catching a glimpse of the dark side of the moon. From the side, Shaw's bug eyes, rounded face and short, gray hair oddly resemble the late Rodney Dangerfield's. But when he turns back to smile at you, you instantly see the billboard, the realty signs, the face on TV that airs on four locally run stations at a cost of more than $600,000 a year. He's the Realtor famous for his "No Hassle Listings."

"I'm on TV a lot," says Shaw from his surprisingly modest ranch-style home in one of the cozy neighborhoods north of Paradise Valley Mall. (His home office, staffed today by four women – including his radiant wife, Wendy – is located in an add-on room.)

"And I get recognized all the time. Usually it's this stuck attention thing. Someone looks at me for a long time, and you can just feel it. Next thing you know, they're walking over saying, 'Aren't you that real estate guy from TV?"

Shaw understands the fascination. After all, he once called his wife, practically out of breath with excitement, to tell her he had just passed car dealer Lou Grubb on Camelback Road.

"I called Wendy and said, 'You're not gonna believe this, but I just drove past Lou Grubb!" Shaw remembers, laughing jovially. "She was like, 'Yeah, I can see what you've got going on today' But hey I mean, Lou Grubb! He's an icon."

Russell Shaw got his start in commercials by making fun of them. His distinctive baritone voice was first heard on the hippy-dippy early '70s FM station KDKB, where, as the self-made celebrity "Wonderful Russ,” Shaw heartily endorsed a moving company he'd never used (which happened to share a parking lot with KDKB's broadcasting towers) and gave his authoritative-sounding stamp of approval to the various stereo stores and head shops hip enough to advertise on the station.

In the mid-'80s, Wonderful Russ resurfaced, doing joke commercials on KSLX for his pal Bob Boze Bell, and, as part of the bargain, sneaking in a couple of genuine commercials for his new realty business.

Initially a lot of longtime residents scratched their heads upon hearing Shaw's own spots, failing to find any of the usual Firesign Theater-like humor in the bits.

"People would literally be calling the station, saying, 'I don't get the joke," says Shaw, whose well-modulated tones still trigger warm flashbacks for legions of former Valley hippies. "Like, 'There's something funny there, but I don't know what it is.'

"I suppose there is something funny about me doing my own TV ads now, with this huge media budget," Shaw adds, bursting into one of his infectious belly laughs. "Not that funny. But funny."

To read the whole thing, go here.


Anonymous said...

A little secret about Russ that I can share....... He is THE Count of Monte Cristo!

And MAY be the Duke of Earl.


Mariah Fleming said...

Hey Jimmy,
Great title "my brush with Rush!" Liked the excerpt so much I went over to Changing Hands and bought the issue!! Congratulations on a really fun and interesting piece!!

vagabondvet said...

Hey, excellent piece, Jimmy, that was quite enjoyable to read. You have a gift for putting together a good article, thanks for sharing. I didn't know any of that history about Russ, either... that was interesting. Say, Russ, Dan Covington was in the Real Estate business, too - did you know Dan, were you guys friends, or did you ever collaborate or do business together?

Anonymous said...

Great article, Jimmy !

I can't believe Woofy's been gone 15 years.
Thank God we still have Russ !

Liz Boyle

Russell Shaw said...

when Russell Shaw turns sideways, the unfamiliar angle can be a bit jarring, like catching a glimpse of the dark side of the moon. From the side, Shaw's bug eyes, rounded face and short, gray hair oddly resemble the late Rodney Dangerfield's

Jimmy, is this your way of saying that like Rodney - I am DEAD?? :-)

Nice article!

Jimmy said...

Russ: No, just that you don't get no respect! :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Russ, But what have you done lately for R n R...Get a hunch, bet a bunch, take a ole rocker to ?

Bob Gately

Mariah Fleming said...

Hi Russ,
Yeah, Wonderful! Lets see more of you on this blog! After all you were at least half responsible for some of the most hilarious bits on KDKB...the "Love Workshop".

You may not remember me from the Love Workshop days but I sure remember you!! (o: Some of the most fun I had in those days was when I was enlisted to do the voice overs and jingle for the 1st Women's National Credit and Trust Bank. I will never forget the line: "for those of you who find procreation cumbersome and distasteful..."

Do you know what happened to the one where you had me pretend to be Shirley MacClaine saying "In my travels through the People's Republic of China, one thing peasant women everywhere said they wanted was their own bank..."?? I heard the others on Radio Free Phoenix last year. Andy Olson never ceases to surprise with his many treasures from those days.

You wrote some of the funniest. most offensive material I've ever heard. You'd no doubt be crucified by the PC crowd today. But in those days seems many people took themselves and each other a lot less seriously...not so much narcissistic, self righteous indignation. However, I really ticked off a few of my feminist friends at the time by doing those ads (when they heard them much later they laughed till there were tears in their eyes.)

What ever happened to that 'cease and desist' letter from the Az Fiduciary suits, and do you know what happened to your co writer Rus? Decades ago I heard he was working for National Lampoon...

Let's hear more from you, whaddya say? Jimmy's article was glad you are still around and when I'm ready to sell my house I'll let you know! (o: