Phantom of the Opry

Trying to get to the bottom of the Dr Pepper "Freaky Old Guy" mystery

Meanwhile, at another site (, a poster announced that she had called Dr Pepper's marketing department and been told that the extras in the ad were cast members from the musical Stomp.

Smith thinks the Stomp theory is the most likely. "It probably is people from Stomp," he says, "but that doesn't explain why they made him look so weird. I can't tell if it's a young guy who is supposed to look old. If so, did they mean for it to be such a bad makeup job? And if he's supposed to be realistically old, why couldn't they just get an old guy?"

Some Netizens of a musical bent have posited that the FOG's apparent lack of any semblance of rhythm is in fact a sophisticated display of jazzy, offbeat thigh-slapping. "But even if he's doing offbeat stuff, he's still doing it very spastically," says Smith. "It's creepy. It looks like he's having a seizure."

Armed with more questions than he thought a freaky old guy could generate, Racket did a little digging of his own. The ad and the video were filmed in Watertown, Tennessee, a rural hamlet one county east of Nashville. The jingle was penned by Nashville songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick, who also wrote the 1996 Eric Clapton mega-smash "Change the World." And it turns out the Stomp theory -- or a variation thereof -- is close to the truth, so all you Brent Spiner, Michael Jeter and Kevin Costner fans can now count yourselves officially discredited.


Racket tracked down Jon Small, the ad's director, at Picture Vision, the Nashville film company where he now plies his trade. Small confirmed that the Freaky Old Guy was in fact a young man made up to look old. With bated breath, on the brink of pulling off the villain's mask, Racket asked for the actor's name.

"I'm not willing to give the guy's name out," Small said, speaking fast and with a New York accent. "He's an actor, and you know, I'm not gonna give his name out."

Why not?

"I don't find it very proper," he replied. "I have no idea if the guy…I mean, we did the thing over a year ago…Uhhh, I just have no idea. I think it's pretty funny that he has a cult, though."

In desperation Racket asked if he would confirm or deny the Stomp rumor. Small first said that he was not a member of the cast -- and then said maybe he was. "Actually it was Garth's band, and let's see, I don't know if any of the guys ever toured with Stomp, but they were some of the guys that had either auditioned and maybe did some of the tours, but they were all professional dancers. But it was so long ago to me, so it's hard for me to remember, but I know that one of the criterions that I was looking for was guys who had that kind of rhythm like the guys who were in Stomp, so either they toured with Stomp or they auditioned for Stomp or they were top dancers that had been in a zillion TV shows…"

Then came the classic interview-ender: "How'd you get this number anyway?"

Hmmm. Sounds like Small has something to hide. Maybe those Brent Spiner advocates have it right after all. Or maybe the Freaky Old Guy is Dick Cheney, and the undisclosed location we've been hearing so much about is actually Watertown, Tennessee. After all, the spot was filmed around 9/11…The truth is still out there somewhere.

Meanwhile, Dr Pepper has already unveiled the second phase of the "Be You" campaign. Starring LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C., this commercial, which would have been pretty hip in 1986, prominently salutes the late Jam Master Jay. Now that Dr Pepper is being hawked by a famous guy who looks very much alive but is really dead, instead of a resolutely anonymous guy who looks dead but is really alive (at least as far as we know), Racket is more confused than ever.

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