What Do Gary Coleman, MC Hammer, the Sock Puppet, Mortgages, Insurance, and Loans Have in Common?

Where do once-famous but now almost-forgotten former celebrities turn? Some of course host infomercials. Others attempt to revive their sagging careers by debasing themselves on some “celebrity” reality show such as The Surreal Life.

But what if that star’s fame has not merely faded but has instead been replaced by infamy? What if the celebrity is now known more for the wreck he has made of his life than for whatever made him famous in the first place?

Take, for example, Gary Coleman, the former child star of Diff’rent Strokes and an E! True Hollywood Story staple. All the money he made in his “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis” days was, he claimed, taken and squandered by his greedy parents and corrupt manager. He sued them in 1993 and filed for bankruptcy in 1999. There was even a Gary Coleman “Web-a-thon” selling Coleman-branded items to try to help get him out of debt. And things didn’t get any better from there: Coleman had to take a job as security guard to make ends meet, was charged with assaulting an autograph seeker, and made a clownish run for governor of California during the 2003 recall election.

Or consider the case of MC Hammer. Hammer was once the most popular musician in the U.S. and the most famous rapper in the world, a man whose videos for “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit” were played ad nauseam on MTV in the early 90s. But then the usual Behind the Music scenario played out as Hammer squandered his fortune on a mansion and other bling and was forced into bankruptcy in 1996.

Can the term “tragedy” be applied to an inanimate object? If so, then the fate of the Sock Puppet might be characterized as tragic. The Sock Puppet remains to this day the pre-eminent icon of the Dot Com bubble era. This piece of fabric was the star of TV commercials, including a $2.6 million spot during the infamous 2000 “dot com” Super Bowl broadcast, and made an appearance as a balloon in the 1999 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. When ceased operation in November 2000, the famous sock puppet became a mere asset, to be sold off like so many chairs and computer monitors.

They were all once as famous as anyone, and now each of these personalities is better known for his fall than for his rise. So what are these fallen stars to do? Join forces to open a “Bankrupt All-Stars Café?”

Actually, they all leveraged their reputations for making financial wrecks of their lives to shill financial services to other people who have made financial wrecks of their lives. Their commercials aired on daytime TV during broadcasts of programs such as Springer and The Maury Povitch Show, when most of the viewing audience consists of prostitutes, drug addicts, welfare bums, and people living of phony workman’s comp claims.

Gary Coleman appeared in commercials for CashCall, which provides quick, unsecured payday loans with “just a signature”—his endorsement made all the more effective by the fact that CashCall is exactly the kind of service Coleman himself may have relied on in the past and will probably need again in the very near future.

MC Hammer, the rapper with screwed up finances, peddled the services of Nationwide Financial Services, which offers mortgages and insurance for people with screwed up finances. (By the way, Hammer also appeared in the first season of The Surreal Life.)

The lucky winner of the Sock Puppet in the fire sale was 1-800-BAR-NONE, which offers auto loans to people with “less-than-perfect credit.” The spokespuppet now utters Bar None’s poignant motto “Everyone deserves a second chance.” Below are two video clips of the dog being put to work in BarNone’s commercials. It’s a long way from the Super Bowl!


  • 4 Responses to “What Do Gary Coleman, MC Hammer, the Sock Puppet, Mortgages, Insurance, and Loans Have in Common?”

  • It is good to see that even a puppet can rise to stardom, fall, and still pull himself back up from the ashes.

    Comment by ConservativeCat on December 5, 2006 at 6:16 pm

  • Don’t forget the sock puppet dog replaced Fran Tarkenton.

    Comment by Jen on March 4, 2008 at 2:17 am

  • I’ve seen MC Hammer on occassion on one of the Taking People’s Money-I mean Trinity Broadcasting Network-Religious Talk Shows
    with Paul and Jan Crouch!!

    Comment by Shanghai Johnny P on August 27, 2008 at 6:26 pm

  • I DESPISE those 1-800-BAR-NONE commercials. DESPISE THEM. They are so annoying and they’ve been playing for years (obviously!)

    Comment by Canaduck on March 26, 2009 at 1:56 pm