The Blog Squad

Friday, August 10, 2007

Jhoon Rhee Means Might for Right!

If I’m in a crowded area, say a doctor’s waiting room, and I want to know who grew up in the Washington D.C. area circa the 1970s and 1980s, all I have to do is say “Nobody bothers me.”

Anybody who responds, “Nobody bothers me either,” will definitely earn a smile and some conversation.

For those of you who weren’t privileged to grow up with Joe Gibbs and the Hogs, Manute Bol, Mike Gartner and Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, then you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about.

So here, check this out.

The commercial was perhaps the most popular during its 15-year tenure on Channel 5 (WTTG) and Channel 20 (WDCA). Every kid, and I stress every kid in my generation saw it and could recite it.

I can’t remember a single phone number, not even my wife’s, but ask me how to reach Jhoon Rhee, and I could tell you under the influence of bad sushi.

“Call USA-1000!”

Now I might have a Western name, but I look 100 percent Asian in the winter (some say with a summer tan I look Hispanic). So it was pretty cool back in the day to have that little commercial in my back pocket and anyone who messed with me, got a little Bruce Lee glare and the Chinese restaurant waiter accented “Nobody bothers me.”

I tried to actually reach Jhoon Rhee (USA-1000 is not the number now) at one of his dozen schools that also can be found in Texas and Arizona. The 5-foot-6, 135-pound Rhee has built an empire after coming to America from Korea with $46 in his pocket.

Apparently, at age 75, Rhee is as active as ever. He does a lot of speaking engagements and seminars. People who see him marvel at his youthful appearance.

But Jhoon Rhee was never the interesting one to me. While watching cartoons like Underdog or Scooby-Doo after school, I often would see the commercial and imitate the little boy.

“Nobody bothers me either!” And then wink a good wink.

He’s not so little anymore. Chun Rhee is now a master and runs the Jhoon Rhee Falls Church school.

“I remember my dad was going to say the line,” Chun Rhee says. “His friend, the cameraman, suggested the kids do it. There were never any intentions for us to do the commercial. We were just there to watch.

“It took me five takes to get it right. It was the wink that got me. You can see me struggling with my eyebrows.”

Chun Rhee was five when the commercial first aired in 1972. His sister, Meme, was a year younger. The ad cost a few hundred dollars and catapulted Jhoon Rhee to cult status.

“A lot of people still remember the commercial,” says Chun Rhee, who graduated from William & Mary. “It’s amazing.”

OUT AT HOME: I want to know what’s in Dora the Explorer that has my daughter addicted. It was just a month ago we introduced her to Dora, Boots and Swiper and now she’s obsessed. What is it that make children want the blanket, the pillow, the towel, the action figure, the freakin’ backpack and map?

Man, the people who make children’s television are good! Real good!

“Dora, Dora!” that’s all I ever hear her say anymore. She ignores her toys, her mother and her friends. She doesn’t want to eat. She doesn’t want to sleep. She sneaks a dose of Dora behind our backs.

It’s time for an intervention.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: I feel bad for this poor guy, but he did come up with a cool catch phrase, “BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!”


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