Posted by Ahem on July 17, 2001 at 01:37:41:
TORONTO (CP) - It's not easy being the poster boy for erectile dysfunction. But for actor James McGowan, the angst-ridden star of an endlessly played TV commercial about the embarrassing malady, a perceived lack of prowess has brought about unprecedented popularity.
"People stop me on the street. It's weird," he said of the notoriety he has received since the ad began airing in the spring. "I had no idea this was going to happen - that it was going to be that big of a campaign."
The 30-second spot - called Doctor Appointment - was in frequent rotation during the NHL playoffs and remains a constant on stations across the country.
The premise is simple: at the end of a doctor's appointment, the physician asks if there is anything else to be discussed. The sandy-haired patient - sporting boxer shorts and a tortured expression - gruffly says no.
It concludes with the tag line: What's disturbing? Most suffer in silence. You don't have to.
A phone number for information about erectile dysfunction then appears on the screen.
Almost from the day it aired, the 41-year-old actor heard the inevitable jokes about his character's troubles with tumescence.
Women directed steely stares at the area below his waistline. His girlfriend was mocked mercilessly. His hockey buddies offered wisecracks about ailing appendages.
Even customers at the trendy restaurant where he worked were distracted by thoughts of McGowan's member.
One such incident occurred as he was serving a table of women who suddenly realized their waiter seemed familiar.
"As I'm explaining the menu and whatnot, their faces changed," McGowan said. "One of them specifically got this smile on her face and I knew exactly what (it) was about.
"She leaned over to her friend and said something and a smile went onto the friend's face. I went away to get the drinks and (when I came back) another one of the women looked at me and said: 'Do you suffer in silence?' "
It's a query he hears often, but insists the vast majority of barbs are good-natured.
"You've got to take it in stride," said McGowan, who is originally from Montreal but moved to Toronto about six years ago to pursue acting. "It's this weird pop icon thing."
With its deadpan delivery, the spot has become Canada's answer to the much-lampooned U.S. spot for Viagra starring former presidential candidate Bob Dole.
The Canadian commercial is far more cryptic, making no reference to a specific product. Although it is paid for by Pfizer, makers of Viagra, industry rules forbid the company's name from appearing in the spot.
And many of the calls to the hotline have been from women expressing sympathy for "that poor guy."
McGowan said when the ad was shot, he was so busy with other projects that he didn't even consider the ramifications of the subject matter. In fact, he didn't even realize what it was about until he arrived for the audition.
"I saw the storyboard and I realized 'Oh, I have that problem in this ad, do I?' "
Overall, he said, he's pleased with the attention. He's been busy with movie and TV work and has taken leave from his restaurant job.
Still, McGowan said, he's not sure he'd be willing to extend the exposure with another ED commercial.
"I just have to be careful in terms of where I go with this as an actor," he said. "How much do I want to be attached to the idea of being the erectile dysfunction man?"