If you happened to listen to the radio or watch TV in the 70s around the New York area, there is no way you could ever forget Crazy Eddie. Thanks to a heavy rotation of memorable commercials throughout the decade, and a newsworthy fall from grace, memories of the crazy pitchman who sold stereos are unlikely to fade. Eddie was an original.
First of all, there really was an Eddie, but he wasn’t the guy in the commercials and he wasn’t as crazy as he was made out to be. Eddie, and his brother Sam Antar entered the world of retail electronics in the late 60s.
Their first store in Brooklyn was called Sight and Sound and offered prices so competitive that word got around that the owner was crazy. The name stuck, and by 1971, the store was changed to Crazy Eddie. Now, it was time to find an even crazier Eddie.
Enter radio DJ, Jerry Carroll, who was reading a radio ad on air for the retailer in 1972. The company loved the way he said “his prices are In-saaaaane!” and forever after, Carroll would be the spokesman for the company, both on radio and on the barrage of television commercials that would hit the airwaves starting in 1975.
Always wearing a suit and blue turtleneck (except around the holidays when he donned a Santa suit), “Eddie” spoke like a carnival barker, rattling off the store’s latest sales at breakneck speed before delivering his famous catchphrase.
Over the next fifteen years, thousands of these ads (yes, thousands) would air in support of over 40 retail locations. At the peak, Crazy Eddie’s sales topped $300 million. Crazy like a fox, that is.
Around 1987, Crazy Eddie became better known as Fraudulent Eddie, the result of a SEC investigation that led to criminal charges. Eddie Antar was forced to resign from the company, which would never recover from the bad press. Attempts were made to revive the chain but none were successful. Today, Crazy Eddie resides only in our memories, and it ain’t even Eddie we’re thinking of.
If you have any thoughts you would like to share on this unforgettable chain of electronics stores, or their maddening commercials, I welcome all of your recollections in the comments section below.