Actress Bridgetta Tomarchio figures she gets her stage presence from her dad, Mr. Tire. But she's taken it far afield of "on the rim and out the door."
Tomarchio, daughter of the tire store executive known around Baltimore for doing his own ads, has for the past four years been the ExtenZe Girl, host of an hourlong infomercial for a "male enhancement" product. She has appeared in the Lingerie Bowl, which had scantily clad models playing full-contact football. She played one of David Duchovny's hotties on Showtime's "Californication."
Joe "Mr. Tire" Tomarchio, does not approve. And even Bridgetta says she is tired of always playing "the hot-girl sex symbol."
She breaks out of that sort of role in "6 Nonsmokers," a low-budget independent comedy by Maryland writer/director Francis Abbey that's in its final stages of editing. In her first starring role in a feature film, Tomarchio plays a bespectacled Ph.D. trying to mediate a conflict among six stupendously mismatched roommates.
"I'm typecast, basically, and it's really hard to get out of that typecast," Tomarchio, 30, said in a telephone interview from her Los Angeles home. "This is the first thing that's showing people I am funny and comedy's my forte. It will give people a new perspective on me because I'm so nerdy."
Does the new perspective extend to Joe Tomarchio, who did not speak to his firstborn for months when she started that ExtenZe gig? His daughter is playing a psychologist. Her long brown tresses are primly pulled back. She wears business suits borrowed from her mom.
His take on Bridgetta's big, respectable break: It really rusts his rotors.
A man who for years has successfully and colorfully griped about competitors in radio spots and occasional TV ads has plenty to say about his daughter's Hollywood aspirations, none of it good. Not just because Tinseltown is so shallow, but also because Bridgetta is so smart.
"She could BE a Ph.D.!" he said. "She could be TEACHING someone to be a Ph.D.!"
This is not just parental pride talking, Joe said.
"As a young child, we would show her something once and she would get it - mathematics, her vocabulary. She started talking at a very young age."
So when she was a teenager, her parents had her IQ tested.
"My wife hired a psychologist," he recalled. "It was a doctor. It was a professional. It was a professional test. It was very expensive. Back then it was several thousand dollars. I come back and they tell us, 'Your daughter's IQ is 135.'
"My daughter is fairly brilliant, for lack of a better way of putting it, and she could do anything that she wanted if she applied herself. But she's chasing this Hollywood dream," he said. "I don't like that whole Hollywood persona, where it's just based on what you look like. ... If she would have applied herself to almost anything else, she would have been far more advanced in any career she would have chosen."
Joe Tomarchio, 53, said this with all the passion you hear in his radio spots, like the one that goes like this:
"This is Joe Tomarchio from Mr. Tire. You know what really rusts my rotors? My competitors. They advertise one price, but when you get there, you pay another price. It's like going to a restaurant and ordering spaghetti and they charge you for the plate and the fork and the knife. At Mr. Tire, it's all you can eat."
Those ads cut through the "clutter" of other commercials by being "cute" and "a little edgy," said Tomarchio, who six years ago sold Mr. Tire to Monro Muffler Brake Inc., the publicly traded national firm based in Rochester, N.Y., that's kept him on as executive vice president for store operations.
For all the sway Mr. Tire has over radio listeners, his daughter manages to tune him out.
Blame Dad for giving her a taste for the limelight. When Bridgetta was a kid growing up in Ellicott City, the family would gather around the cassette player for a preview of his latest ads.
"He would bring them home, a bunch at once, and play them for us," Bridgetta recalled. "It was always a really funny, witty commercial. ... He's actually a really good actor. I think I get my stage and speaking skills from him."
Bridgetta was painfully shy as a youngster. An only child until age 6, when the first of two siblings arrived, she clung to her mother's side. She nevertheless got interested in children's theater at Ellicott City's Little Theater on the Corner.
"The director would squirt me with a water bottle until I would talk louder," she recalled. "I got out of my shell, obviously."
Her father was something of a wallflower, too.
Joe Tomarchio never wanted to play pitchman for the tire-store chain he launched with his brother in the 1970s. The only thing he knew about radio was that his ads on there needed more zing.
"I was constantly complaining that the spots weren't creative enough or aggressive enough," he said. After venting to ad agency reps in 1998, they came back with the suggestion that he do the spots himself.