DS: Of course, the first thing we did to research the "Crazy Eddie" brand re-launch story was to go back and watch your commercials from the ’70s and ’80s. There was just nothing on TV back then like your arm gestures, not to mention your rapid-fire delivery.
JC: The character was actually a realization of a radio disc jockey…I was a high-energy radio disc jockey in those days. Back when Eddie had one or two stores, he heard me read his spots live on my radio show. He heard that "insaaaane" at the end and said, "Why can’t they all sound like this?" So he came up to the studio after my show at WPIX-FM one night and we met. It was the beginning of a long working relationship…as we went on, I started to adlib and play with the ads a little bit and that’s how it began. I wasn’t really ever an actor.
The radio commercials started gaining momentum. It was my early-20s. Eddie wanted to do television in 1975. He tried an agency and they didn’t really do any good spots, so he put me on TV. I went out and bought a blue suit and I had a gray turtle neck and that was that.
DS: Many viewers assumed you WERE Crazy Eddie. How did those commercials change your daily life?
JC: Ha, it’s one of those ‘blessing or curse?’ things. I don’t like the spotlight. I’m a person who lives in the shadows, but suddenly the sun was shining in the shadows. The doorman in my building finally figured out who I was. I was driven out of subway cars. I had people say, "Would you put your arm around my girlfriend?" on 6th Avenue so we could take a picture.
I hadn’t expected it. This kind of fame on this level gets you a great table in a restaurant, but right after that it falls off sharply. I didn’t do it for the ego of it, I did it for the fact that it was a job, it was work.
DS: Have you done any other commercial work?
JC: I have done so much commercial work….for Sony, Showtime, St. John’s University, and many others. I once did the weather on Eyewitness News. I’m a commercial announcer. But that high-energy, manic delivery was something I only did for Eddie.
DS: Your performances embodied a brand. Do you have a sense of how powerful that brand still is today?
JC: I have a sense of how powerful that brand still is to a degree, absolutely. I can go out anytime and someone will still say, "Aren’t you…?" I just say, "That’s my brother." It happens to me all the time.
DS: What do you think of relaunching a Crazie Eddie electronics retail operation twenty years later?
JC: It’s hard to say. The brand name is worth something that’s hard to quantify. They [the Gemal family] seem to have a good idea of what they want to do, so I’d say it might work.
DS: We hear you may be involved in the Gemal family’s new Crazy Eddie and www.pricesareinsane.com ventures.
JC: We’ve talked. I’ve met Jack [Gemal] and he seems like a decent, honest human being with all good thoughts about life.
DS: Any opinions about the electronics retail experience as it’s evolved over the years?
JC: Today with the intenet, things are so different, it’s hard to get a handle on it. I think if you have a big internet exposure and a small brick-and-mortar footprint, that may make it work. I live in Manhattan and one of the things I really like is to walk into places and still meet the people I’m buying something from. There is still value in that.
DS: Last question…do you ever do the Crazy Eddie voice today, you know, just for friends or after a couple drinks?
JC: No, absolutely not. I’ve even been offered $5,000 to do the voice at a Bar Mitzvah but I won’t do it. That’s not what that character was for.