Blast trainer Marty McGinty thought he was being tricked. He thought then-Blast defender Tim Wittman was playing a practical joke on him.
"They don't call Timmy 'Slick' for nothing," said McGinty, recalling the day last spring when he was asked to answer some product research questions before a motion picture camera on a downtown Baltimore street. The film wound up being part of a national advertising promotion by AT&T.
McGinty has been seen in AT&T commercials from coast to coast this fall saying "I've always had it. It's always worked. And I don't have any complaints." He's also been seen saying he had tried another telephone company, "but I was tired of two bills, two envelopes and two stamps . . . so we just scrapped it [the other company]."
So far, he has had parts in three television commercials, one radio spot and one printed AT&T flier. How he initially got selected, he doesn't know. But it's easy to see how he thought someone might be playing a joke on him.
"It started one afternoon when a woman called and asked me about a number of different consumer products," said McGinty. "When she was finished, she asked if I'd be willing to answer some more questions at a live interview at a Hunt Valley hotel. I went there and spent about 20 minutes sitting on a couch answering questions from two women. While we were talking and laughing, a video camera was filming us. When it was over, they asked if I'd be willing to do it again."
McGinty said he would, and laughed all the way home, still believing Wittman was setting him up.
"I called Timmy and asked him if he knew anything about this," McGinty said. "Timmy said absolutely not and laughed louder and louder, which made me think he really was doing it."
A few weeks later, McGinty, a native of Salisbury, got another call. Congratulations, said the voice, you've been chosen to do another taping. A car would pick him up and take him to the filming site.
"They said they'd pay me a fee, and I thought, 'No, way. Timmy's going all out.' When the driver picked me up, I kept saying, 'You know Tim Wittman don't you. You know Slick.' And the guy laughed and said he didn't know what I was talking about, that he was just hired to do a service."
The driver dropped him in front of the 19th Century Shop, a book store across the street from Hollins Market on Lombard Street. McGinty looked around, saw two policemen and no one else. What a setup. Chauffeured to a deserted street and left
without a ride.
"Very funny," McGinty thought. But he hung around for about 10 minutes, and then around the corner came four Winnebagos. The two policemen stepped into the street and blocked off all other traffic. Out of the vans came big movie cameras.
"It was at that point, I realized it wasn't a joke," McGinty said. "Up till then, I thought Timmy was pulling off the best practical joke of the century."
But it wasn't a joke. He was told he was about to take part in an American Technology Co. documentary on consumer research. It wasn't until after 25 minutes of leaning in the book store doorway answering questions about everything from Walkman to AT&T, that he finally was told he had just made a commercial for AT&T.
"They told me it was against some government regulations to tell me what I was filming, until after the interview," said McGinty, who made his comments without a script.
The crew had sought out people in Seattle, Baltimore and Austin, Texas. They told McGinty he would be contacted if he was chosen to be part of the final production.
"About a month later, a video tape arrived with a letter of congratulations," said McGinty. "I couldn't believe it. What do you think the odds are of being picked in something like this?"
Sheila Olden, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said McGinty was chosen for a number of reasons.
"He was articulate and folksy," she said. "We were looking for a broad range of people and he filled a gap. He was picked basically because of his good nature and because he came across as just one of the guys."
For McGinty, being one of the guys is just fine. His commercials
have just been renewed for another 13-week cycle in New York and Los Angeles and can continue to be renewed until December 1992. In the meantime, checks appear every couple of weeks in his mailbox. "He's being paid union scale," said Olden. "Just as if he was an actor, even though he didn't have to join the guild."
"I'm not getting rich," McGinty said. "But it's been nice. Those checks have helped me pay on my school loans and they made Christmas a little nicer for my family."