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The GE Soft White Lightbulb Commercial



The Art Director on the phone needed something quickly. He needed a portrait for a TV commercial, and having seen Victor Kalin's album covers of Coltrane, Ellington and others, he asked if he could see some samples right away. Right away?


Since moving to Connecticut from NYC, Vic had settled into a slower life, painting in a studio that looked out over woods and stream, tinkering in a workshop with a dog by his side. He said that he would do his best.


When he appeared a few days later with a portfolio under one arm, the art director’s face dropped. “Sorry,” he said, “I should have called. We already hired someone... but,” the A.D. softened, “since
you’re here, show me what you’ve got.”


Vic was still pulling out samples when the art
director got up from his chair and walked out of
the room. It seemed a bad sign. A few minutes
later the A.D. returned with a colleague. They
looked and walked out.  More minutes passed
and when they returned there was yet one more colleague. Vic wondered, was there a problem?

Yes, there was a problem. The ad agency felt it had hired the wrong artist to paint the portrait. And not only that, they felt they had hired the wrong actor to play the artist.  After all, didn’t he look just like an artist?  “But I am artist!” Vic said. (And was he ever!) He both painted the portrait and performed as the actor. The 1981 GE Soft White Light Bulbs commercial went on to be a Super Bowl favorite and win a Clio.

© 2015 by Rebecca Kalin

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