Pardon me, but who was Jimmy Randolph?
December 5, 2006 10:07 PM   Subscribe

NewYorkTVChannel9InThe1970sFilter: Who the hell was Jimmy Randolph from the Albert Merrill School commercials? [YouTube]

Anybody who grew up in the NY tri-state area in the 70s/80s and got to watch TV on sick days probably remembers ads for the Albert Merrill School, which was a technical training school not far from Columbus Circle.

The ads would typically feature somebody spotting Jimmy on the street and introducing themselves something like this: "Hey -- aren't you Jimmy Randolph, who does the television commercials for the Albert Merrill School?" Jimmy would invariably take them over for a cheerful tour. From the way the prospective students enthusiastically greeted Jimmy, it was easy to infer that he was some kind of celebrity; these were the days before the IMDB and Google after all, and we were just kids watching TV -- we had no way of knowing if he was some biggie in the world of grown-ups and just assumed he was.

Well, my bro sent me the above AMS ad along with the question "Who the hell was Jimmy Randolph, anyway?" We may now have the IMDB and Google but they aren't helping me out at all. And calling the school is out of the question as it appears to be defunct.

I beseech you, oh Mighty Hive Mind -- Help me keep my spot on my brother's Millionaire lifeline list!
posted by Opposite George to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I found an article through our library's newspaper database from the April 6-12 issue of The New York Beacon titled "USO of Metropolitan New York salutes Tuskegee Airmen at annual dinner gala," which mentions "entertainment was provided by charismatic performer Jimmy Randolph and the USO Troupe performers." A couple of Google search results (1, 2, 3 (search the pages for the name)) seems to connect a Jimmy Randolph to Motown as well.

So, maybe he was a popular, local Motown artist back in the day?
posted by icontemplate at 10:40 PM on December 5, 2006

Best answer: He is a Motown Artist according to this list.

He did a cover of Plainsville, U.S.A., single available here and here.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:19 PM on December 5, 2006

damn! like a cold war spy laying low for decades all I needed was her question for the cue and then it all came rushing back, I word for word mirrorred Mr. Randolph's commercial spiel.

I can't believe that commercial has been occupying brain space for all these years and I didn't even know. I wish I could do a brain disk cleanup and remove those temp setup files still taking up space for all those years.

I too am interested and await more info on who this handsome and dapper celeb pitch man Jimmy Randolph is/was!
posted by stavx at 12:37 AM on December 6, 2006

I don't remember this but do remember the bald guy from Apex Technical School who tells you every tool you learn goes into your toolbox and it's yours to keep.

You call us because we can't call you!

Don't get me started on Puppy City...
posted by dr_dank at 8:38 AM on December 6, 2006

The Apex Tech guy's name is Don Elliott. The summer before I started college, a bunch of friends and I were at the dear departed Ceasar's Bay Bazaar in Brooklyn and he was there doing a pitch for the school. I got an autographed brochure from him, and when he asked if I'd be interested, I said, "No... um, I'm going to college..."
posted by AJaffe at 9:59 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wasn't he married to Rula Lenska?
posted by AJaffe at 11:05 AM on December 6, 2006

Jimmy Randolph, I mean. Oh, never mind...
posted by AJaffe at 11:06 AM on December 6, 2006

Response by poster: Don't get me started on Puppy City...

"Ralph Avenue and Avenue J in Brooklyn. Free housebreaking and wee-wee pads with every purchase!"

It looks like icontemplate and Pollomacho have it. Working with their leads led me to this and this - it sure looks like the AMS guy with another 30 years on him. Apparently he goes by "James" or "Sir James" Randolph. At least he was born in 1934 which makes him ~40 in the AMS ads - that sounds right, too. The IBDB has a James Randolph as Sky Masterson in an all-Black Guys and Dolls in 1976, but that's the extent of his Broadway credits. Checking the NYT index on line reveals a couple more references related to performances, but I'm too cheap to pay for the articles (maybe next time I'm at the library...)

So it looks like the guy has had a legitimate career, but hardly at the level where you'd expect strangers to regularly stop him on the street. Maybe they all knew his mother...

Thanks all!
posted by Opposite George at 11:49 AM on December 6, 2006

Response by poster: AJaffe,
Did he give you a free set of tools?
posted by Opposite George at 11:52 AM on December 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was holding out for them...

He seemed kind of disappointed when I told him I was going to college.

And Puppy City is on Ocean Ave. and Ave. W, I think, about 15 minutes from where I grew up (there may be other branches...)
posted by AJaffe at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2006

Response by poster: AJaffe,
The ad for Puppy City must've just ground together with one for another business in the garbage disposal that is my mind.

I'm not familiar with the neighborhood but I'm pretty sure there was an ad for something on Ralph Ave and Ave J -- Crazy Eddie, maybe?

Hair Club for Men?

Bonwit Teller?

My brother's got an interest in NYC history and lives in Brooklyn now so maybe he'll know. I need to get back at him anyway, to bitch that his having sent me the AMS ad has caused me to blow most of today surfing YouTube for NYC-local ads from back in the day.
posted by Opposite George at 2:08 PM on December 6, 2006

Opposite George,

I seem recall something hair-related to the Ralph Ave. location, as that's near the Georgetown Shopping Plaza, if it's still there.

Take a spin around and maybe that will shake something out.
posted by AJaffe at 10:29 AM on December 7, 2006

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