Madman Muntz
Advertising pioneer, inventor, businessman, electrical engineer
Madman Muntz
Earl William "Madman" Muntz was an American businessman and engineer who sold and promoted cars and consumer electronics in the United States from the 1930s until his death in 1987. He was a pioneer in television commercials with his oddball "Madman" persona – an alter ego who generated publicity with his unusual costumes, stunts, and outrageous claims.
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Madman's masterpiece, in plum - News-Times
Google News - over 5 years
Earl “Madman” Muntz was a very successful salesman and promoter of cars, stereos and TVs (his daughter was named TeeVee) and he's best known for establishing the “crazy” school of television advertising. Muntz bought the Jet design from Kurtis in 1951,
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Google News article
WHEELSPIN; Museums Get Lively With Sleepovers and Films
NYTimes - over 9 years
AUTOMOBILE museums face the same challenge as other collections of historical artifacts: how to keep people coming back for more. New exhibits, rotating displays and traveling shows may help, but a basic problem -- convincing the public they have more to offer than rows of motionless cars that appeal mostly to boys of various ages -- remains. The
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NYTimes article
MOTORING; Yes, He Changed His Spots, But Cal's Still the Car-Sales King
NYTimes - almost 10 years
''HI, folks, Cal Worthington here,'' said the voice from the television set. It was 1950; our family had just become the first on the block to buy a television set. When we turned it on, one of the first faces that popped up on its little round screen was a tall, skinny cowboy in a white hat selling used cars. In the background, singers chanted:
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NYTimes article
ADVERTISING; Fake Products and the Movies That Loved Them
NYTimes - about 11 years
THE spread of product placements in movies has irritated many film fans. But such marketing was not always the norm. Before product placement became a lucrative business, movie studios mostly kept well-known brands off the screen. They generally considered the appearance of real products to be too great a distraction from the escapist worlds they
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NYTimes article
Our Towns; Bowling Balls, Cars, a Boat, On and On
NYTimes - about 12 years
SHORTLY before climbing into the pastel-pink 1973 Lincoln Continental he had just given his wife for Valentine's Day to drive home and inspect the 171/2-foot-long boat he had installed a third of the way up the oak tree in front of his house, Fred Kanter looked like a man with an important confession to make. ''I don't want you to print this,'' he
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NYTimes article
Where the TV Room Meets the Road
NYTimes - over 16 years
THE Maurer family -- Mike, Susan and their children, Ellen and Chad -- love their vacation condominium in Bellaire, Mich., four hours north of their suburban Detroit home. What they don't love is getting there. ''The kids hate the ride,'' Mr. Maurer said. ''They fight because they hate being in the car for four hours. They fight over territory, or
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NYTimes article
THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; The man folks thought was Crazy Eddie is back. He seems saner.
NYTimes - over 21 years
THE television commercial looks like a Crazy Eddie's spot, but on Valium. As the camera pans over consumer-electronics gear, a round-cheeked man outlines the store's products and services at a smooth canter, rather than a mad gallop. Then he raises his hands, more like a shrug than a lunge, and says calmly, "Remember Willoughby's, where the focus
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NYTimes article
Observer; The Big Sizing Down
NYTimes - over 23 years
If your ambition is to be fired, this is a great time to be an American. Most of the big companies -- Eastman Kodak, I.B.M., Procter & Gamble and lots more -- are firing as though unemployment is going to be the biggest thing since Madman Muntz brought television to the American parlor. The boss of any large corporation that hasn't fired at least
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NYTimes article
OUR TOWNS; Best and Worst of Times In Tale of 2 Crazy Eddies
NYTimes - over 23 years
DAVID M. LANE felt compelled to come to Room 5A in the Federal District Courthouse here for the trial of Eddie Antar, and for a glimpse into the lost world of Crazy Eddie Inc. "I was drawn to come and lay eyes on him again," Mr. Lane said. Mr. Antar, as his lawyers seem doomed to repeat forever, is not Crazy Eddie. That was a corporation, an idea,
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NYTimes article
THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; Hollywood's Take on the Industry's Excesses in a 1949 Movie Still Applies.
NYTimes - over 23 years
LOOKING for fresh, trenchant, penetrating insights into the foibles and follies of the advertising industry? Look for a film made 44 years ago. It is "A Letter to Three Wives," released by 20th Century Fox in 1949. Previously unavailable on videotape, it has now been issued, at a suggested retail price of $19.98 -- less than cocktails at a Jerry
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NYTimes article
Earl Muntz Is Dead; As Radio 'Madman,' He Sold Used Cars
NYTimes - over 29 years
LEAD: Earl Muntz, better known as Madman Muntz, a zany advertiser who sold used cars, low-priced television sets and car stereo systems, died of lung cancer today at Eisenhower Medical Center. He was 73 years old. Earl Muntz, better known as Madman Muntz, a zany advertiser who sold used cars, low-priced television sets and car stereo systems, died
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NYTimes article
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Madman Muntz
  • 1987
    Age 73
    Shortly before dying of lung cancer in 1987, Muntz centered his retail business on cellular phones, satellite dishes, a motorhome rental company dubbed "Muntz Motor Mansions", and prefabricated aluminum houses.
    More Details Hide Details At the time of his death, he was the leading retailer of cellular phones in Los Angeles. During his final years, Muntz drove a customized Lincoln Continental with a television installed in the dashboard: Muntz claimed it helped him "drive better". After he died, his children, James and Tee, continued to operate two Muntz stores in Van Nuys and Newhall; the remainder of the stores were franchised businesses. James employed his father's advertising techniques to create splashy ads featuring prices that annoyed his competitors so much that they referred to them as "cutthroat". The "Madman" method pioneered by Muntz was later copied by other retailers, including California car salesman Cal Worthington and New York area electronics chain Crazy Eddie. In Crazy Eddie TV commercials, radio personality Jerry Carroll leapt at the camera and jumped around while jabbering at high speed, always ending with the line, "Crazy Eddie: Our prices are insaaaaaane!" As a result of his Crazy Eddie commercials, Carroll became a significant 80s icon, even appearing in the film Splash.
  • 1979
    Age 65
    In 1979, Muntz decided to sell blank tapes and VCRs as loss leaders to attract customers to his showroom, where he would then try to sell them his projection TV systems.
    More Details Hide Details His success continued through the early 1980s until he invested heavily in the Technicolor Compact Video Cassette (CVC), a 1/4 in (.6 cm) system designed to compete with Betamax, VHS, and the Super 8 film home-movie system. The CVC format failed in the marketplace, sales quickly eroded, and Muntz's store closed soon after.
  • 1977
    Age 63
    Thanks to Muntz's talent for mass-market advertising and self-promotion, by 1977 the projection receivers were a multimillion-dollar business.
    More Details Hide Details Muntz was quick to feature Sony's Betamax as well as JVC's and RCA's VHS recorders in his store, setting up a showroom to demonstrate the potential for a "theater experience in the home".
  • 1970
    Age 56
    In late 1970, Muntz closed his Stereo-Pak audio business after a fire severely damaged his main offices.
    More Details Hide Details He then entered the growing home-video market. During the mid-1970s, Muntz thought of taking a Sony color cathode ray tube (CRT) television receiver, fitting it with a special lens and reflecting mirror, then projecting the magnified image onto a larger screen. He housed these primitive units in a large wooden console, making it one of the first successful widescreen projection TV receivers marketed for home use. The receivers were built in Muntz's headquarters in Van Nuys, California. Sony's U.S. sales division was unaware that Muntz was dealing directly with Sony's Tokyo original equipment manufacturer (OEM) department, which shipped him the TV chassis directly.
    The market for Muntz's 4-track system had faded by 1970 due to competition from Stereo 8, which reduced costs by using less magnetic tape and a less-complex cartridge mechanism.
    More Details Hide Details Although the 4-track system had higher fidelity since the tape speed was double the speed of the Stereo 8 system (and the 4-track had wider heads for better bandwidth), the Stereo 8 quickly became the dominant format for car stereo systems during the late 1960s. Ford Motor Company began featuring Stereo 8 players in their 1965 automobiles, and it became a standard option by 1966. In a 1979 interview in The Videophile newsletter, Muntz revealed the biggest problem for the Stereo-Pak business was returned merchandise. He explained that when reproducing the work of major artists like The Beatles, the Stereo-Pak plant had to make hundreds of thousands of cartridges. But once a popular album became less popular, retailers would return the unsold cartridges, expecting credit towards new titles. Muntz was unprepared for the returns and said the huge cost of unsold merchandise eventually made his Stereo-Pak business unprofitable.
  • 1963
    Age 49
    Bill Lear distributed the Stereo-Pak in 1963, intending to install units in his Learjet aircraft.
    More Details Hide Details However, he soon decided to re-engineer and customize the units to suit his own wishes, the result of which became the Stereo 8 system.
  • 1962
    Age 48
    Muntz audio products were so profitable by 1962 that he cancelled his agreements with tape-duplicating companies and founded his own company to manufacture prerecorded Stereo-Pak cartridges.
    More Details Hide Details Most record companies did not manufacture Stereo-Pak cartridges themselves; however, the Muntz Electronics Corporation licensed music from all the major record labels and issued hundreds of different tapes in the mid to late 1960s. Muntz exhibited his Autostereo players and Stereo-Pak cartridges under the trade name Stereo-Pak at the 1967 Consumer Electronics Show. Frank Sinatra used one in his Buick Riviera, Dean Martin in his Corvette, and Peter Lawford in his Ghia. James Garner, Red Skelton, and Lawrence Welk also used Autostereo players in their cars. Barry Goldwater purchased one for his son, and Jerry Lewis recorded his scripts onto Stereo-Pak cartridges to learn his lines while driving. Muntz attempted to establish a modern, trendy image for his players and cartridges. His print advertisements often showed the player installed in an appealing sports car and usually incorporated a young, attractive model with a suggestive tagline. Most of his employees in his California shops were attractive young women dressed in overbright clothing.
  • 1953
    Age 39
    Muntz admitted his business lost $1,457,000 from April to August 1953, and although he tried to reorganize, Muntz TV filed bankruptcy and went out of business in 1959. (The company would be reorganized and last through the 1960s, but without its namesake at the helm.) However, Muntz's success continued in the sales of cars and general consumer electronics.
    More Details Hide Details Attempting to combine his two main product lines, cars and stereos, Muntz invented the Muntz Stereo-Pak 4-track tape cartridge. 4-track was the direct predecessor of the Stereo 8 cartridge, also known as the 8-track, later developed by American inventor Bill Lear. The Stereo-Pak cartridge was based on the endless-loop Fidelipac cartridge, which was being used by radio stations, designed by inventor George Eash. Muntz chose stereo recording as a standard feature because of its wide availability. Before Muntz developed the Stereo-Pak, the only in-car units capable of recorded playback were phonograph-based players, such as the Highway Hi-Fi invented by Peter Goldmark. These units played special 16 rpm records or 45 rpm records, however they tended to skip whenever the vehicle hit a bump in the road, and attempts to alleviate this by increasing the pressure on the arm caused discs to wear out prematurely.
  • 1952
    Age 38
    In 1952, Muntz TV Inc. grossed $49.9 million ($ in).
    More Details Hide Details Muntz continued with his "Madman" persona in many of his advertisements. In one TV commercial that normally aired after The Ed Sullivan Show, Muntz, dressed in red long johns and a Napoleon hat, promoted his new televisions by saying, "I wanna give 'em away, but Mrs. Muntz won't let me. She's crazy!" Another TV commercial presented a marching-band song with lyrics about Muntz TVs and incorporated animations by Oskar Fischinger. His radio commercials, which Muntz ran up to 170 times a day, initially followed a classical music theme built around the spelling of Muntz's name. However, he soon convinced radio stations to run ads more in line with his persona. In one spot, Muntz screamed "Stop staring at your radio!" He followed up his radio ads with a direct mail campaign, collecting thousands of TV knobs and mailing them to prospective customers with a note saying, "Call us and we'll show up with the rest of the set!"
  • 1946
    Age 32
    Muntz started plans to sell television receivers in 1946, and sales began in 1947.
    More Details Hide Details Muntz played the madman in his unorthodox television commercials, but in fact he was a shrewd businessman and a self-taught electrical engineer. By trial and error, taking apart and studying Philco, RCA, and DuMont televisions, he figured out how to reduce the devices' electrical components to their minimum functional number. This practice became known as "Muntzing". In the 1940s and 1950s, most brands of television receivers were complicated pieces of equipment, commonly containing about 30 vacuum tubes, as well as rheostats, transformers, and other heavy components. By 1954, although broadcast television in the United States had existed in various forms since 1928, only 55 percent of U.S. households owned a receiver. By contrast, eight years later, 90 percent of U.S. households had one. Muntz developed a television chassis that produced an acceptable monochrome picture with 17 tubes. He often carried a pair of wire clippers, and when he thought that one of his employees was "overengineering" a circuit, he would begin snipping components out until the picture or sound stopped working. At that point, he would tell the engineer "Well, I guess you have to put that last part back in" and walk away.
  • 1940
    Age 26
    During a vacation in California, Muntz discovered that used cars sold there for far higher prices; so he moved to California in 1940 at age 26 to open a used car lot in Glendale.
    More Details Hide Details On a hunch, he purchased 13 brand-new right-hand-drive vehicles to resell. These vehicles had been built for customers in Asia, but could not be delivered due to World War II. One vehicle was a custom-made Lincoln built for Chiang Kai-shek. Local newspapers ran stories about the unusual cars, and Muntz sold them all within two weeks, still in their original shipping crates. Muntz soon opened a second lot in Los Angeles and closed his lot in Elgin. Muntz rejected the then common opinion that used car salesmen should project a staid image. He realized the possibilities of generating publicity with odd stunts, and developed a "Madman" persona as a result. His flamboyant billboards and oddball television and radio commercials soon made him famous. In his used auto commercials, he marketed one model as the "daily special"; Muntz claimed that if the car did not sell that day, he would smash it to pieces on camera with a sledgehammer. Another infamous Muntz used-car TV pitch was "I buy 'em retail and sell 'em wholesale... it's more fun that way!" His commercials generated so much publicity that comedians such as Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Steve Allen often tried to outdo each other during television appearances by telling "Madman" Muntz jokes. University of Southern California fans would spell out Muntz's name during halftime as a prank.
  • 1914
    Age 0
    Born on January 3, 1914.
    More Details Hide Details
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