Whassup?! Oh, popularity, income . . .
|[Times photo: Chris Schneider]
Tracy Vaughn and niece Toneille Gomez pose with Whassup?! guys Scott Brooks, top left, Paul Williams, top right, and Fred Thomas Jr.
By TERRY TOMALIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001
TAMPA -- If you grow up in New Jersey, you learn to hate Philadelphia.
Phillies, Flyers, 76ers, and, lest we not forget, the Eagles.
Long may they lose.
"It's only fair that I warn you," I told the Budweiser Whassup?! guys. "I'm a Giants fan."
They looked at each other, rapped their knuckles on the table and issued their response.
"We hate you, too," they said.
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Sure, the Philly boys are celebrities. Stars of the hottest commercial in the Western Hemisphere. Heroes to thousands of men -- no, millions -- who wish they could get paid to hang out with their friends, too. But put all that aside, they are just football fans.
"You guys stick batteries inside snowballs," I said. "What's up with that?"
"You guys listen in to our plays on the radio," said Scott Brooks, the Whassup?! enforcer. "Can't you win without cheating?"
For a year now, the Whassup?! guys have traveled the world promoting Anheuser-Busch and the commercial that made them famous, but never had they encountered such a hostile interviewer, they said.
"That's because you are from Philadelphia," I confessed. "Sorry."
Fred Thomas said I needed to travel.
"They were down with it in England," he said. "They like to sit around, have a beer and watch a little football (soccer) on television."
The world's most famous beer commercial has been translated into more than 36 languages, including Russian, Serbian, Chinese, Fijian, Scottish, Maori, Danish, Dutch, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Farsi, Hindu, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew and Inooktatut Inuit.
"Don't ask me to say then all," Thomas said. "Cut me a break on that one."
The actor and buddies Paul Williams and Scott Brooks have made quite a name for themselves. They still can't believe they are getting paid to cut up like they did back in a Philadelphia high school.
"It was something we would say to each other back when we were kids," Williams said. "It was just something we did."
But Thomas said he thought the commercial in which five friends greet in the ever-exaggerated phrase "What's up?" has universal appeal.
"It is all about friends doing what they do," he said. "Just hanging out, having fun."
They admit there are those who may not appreciate their medium, an underappreciated art often referred to as Three Stooges humor.
But Thomas, Williams and Brooks, said Whassup?! is more than a cheap gag. Each Whassup?! is an expression of their individuality and belief in personal freedom.
"Everybody has got their own thing," traveling companion Randy Scott said. "You need to rate each one on its own merit."
For example, Thomas' Whassup?! has been described as "assaulting. "Like the cry of a banshee," Scott said.
Williams, in comparison, has patented the more jovial, light-hearted Whassup?! But Scott, a professional wrestling fan and bouncer by trade, prefers the soft touch.
"My style is schmoove," he said. "With a V."
But then Scott, whom the Whassups?! compared with a cat that drank your milk but refuses to leave, tried to start some trouble.
"I'll tell you about the Bucs," he began.
But I stopped him dead in his tracks.
"Come on now, we're all friends," I said. "Let's sing Kumbaya."
The Whassup?! guys smiled and joined in.
"Kumbaya, My Lord," they sang. "Kumbaya."
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