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FLASHBACK\Rrrrrich commercial careers.

Byline: Ray Richmond

Mrs. Olson. Mr. Whipple. The Federal Express fast talker. Rodney. The Maytag Repairman. The "It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature" lady. Josephine the Plumber.

All these historic icons of the world of TV commercials are scheduled to be in attendance to talk about their lives as ad-industry legends as part of a 50th anniversary salute titled "50 Years of 30 Seconds" at the Academy Plaza Theatre in North Hollywood.

Tonight's event is a sellout, so we thought it prudent to bring it to you with profiles of some of the participants.

Virginia Christine: She's 76 now, but Virginia Christine is still that Swedish, kindly Folgers coffee pitchwoman Mrs. Olson. She always will be. And that suits her just fine.

"I really did drink it; it's good coffee," said Christine, who is retired and lives in the hills above Brentwood.

But is it the rrrrrrrichest-tasting coffee?

"I think so, and they aren't even paying me to say it anymore."

For 21 years, Folgers paid Christine. Between 1965 and 1986, she starred in what she estimates were "hundreds" of Folgers ads, paid to smile and tell people that she loved the product.

The spots proved to be a blessing and a curse for Christine. The curse was that being Mrs. Olson effectively ruined the rest of her acting career, which had included small roles in such films as "Judgment at Nuremberg," "High Noon."

"Producers would say, 'We'd love to use you, Virginia, but you're Mrs. Olson,' " Christine recalled.

Yet her Folgers career was mostly a blessing. "It was simple, enjoyable and lucrative," Christine said. "The ads were clean and decent, and the product was clean and decent."

The ads certainly made her famous. Even a decade after filming her last commercial, Christine is still recognized, which amazes her.

Not too long ago, in fact, one woman strolled up to Christine in a supermarket and thrust a jar of Yuban in her face.

"She said only one word: 'Sorry,"' Christine said.

Rodney Allen Rippy: At 3-1/2, an age when most toddlers are still struggling to conquer potty training, Rodney Allen Rippy had already conquered America.

By age 5, in 1974, the adorable tot who couldn't speak with his mouth full of Jumbo Jack had a greater recognition factor than the vice president of the United States. He'd cut a record album, had his own line of T-shirts and sweat shirts, a talking Rodney doll and his own international fan club. He once guested on five national TV shows in a single week and even had a cameo in the film "Blazing Saddles."

Today, at age 27, Rippy works as a news coordinator and producer for KABC (Channel 7) on the 3:45 a.m.-to-noon shift. He hasn't done a commercial for Jack-in-the-Box or anyone else since he was a teen-ager. The casting agents stopped calling long ago.

But while Rippy looks to be the ultimate example of a child star who committed the crime of growing up, he remains good-natured and decidedly unembittered.

"I would love to work in entertainment, but I'm not going to sit around and wait for it to happen," said Rippy, who lives in Glendale. "Hollywood doesn't have me in a noose."

Rippy wants to do "serious acting, serious roles." Yet 11 years after his burger-pitching days ended, he can't quite escape the shadow of that lovable pint-size carnivore.

"I think people just get a bigger kick out of seeing me," Rippy said. "I'll get invited down to auditions and people will say, 'Wow, you still look the same.' I have to tell them, 'Forget about that. Just give me the job!' I still have to prove I can do more than just bite a burger."

John Moschitta: It's been a dozen years since John Moschitta has filmed a spot for Federal Express, but the fame from being the speed-talking lunatic who specialized in such tongue-twisters as "I picked Pittsburgh because it's perfect, Peter," continues to haunt him.

"Every place I go, every day, people stop me," Moschitta, 41, said.

Not that all of Moschitta's recognizability is tied to Fed Ex. He has guest-starred in dozens of TV shows, made more than 500 talk-show appearances.

Moschitta is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Fastest Talker, clocking in at an astonishing 586 words per minute at his peak.

But in fact, the Pacific Palisades resident who parlayed his motor mouth to fame and fortune is hoping to move beyond that to carve out a niche as a normal-speaking actor.

Unfortunately, Moschitta understands that it's the Fed Ex job that propelled him. He's a prisoner of his own uncanny ability to speak supersonically. "It's a tough battle," Moschitta admitted. "I've done some TV series pilots where I'm not the fast talker, but they didn't sell. I really do want to get more work where I'm not required to talk fast."

On the other hand, Moschitta has earned himself a handsome living as the man voted Public Enemy No. 1 by the Court Stenographer's Association.

"That's my favorite honor," he said.

CAPTION(S):

PHOTO

Photo (1--2) Rodney Allen Rippy (3) Virginia Christine (4) John Moschitta
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 28, 1996
Words:865
Previous Article:GETTING NOTICED NO PIECE OF CAKE.
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