Here's a typical Marvin Himelfarb radio spot:
Sound effects: cats meowing.
Voice 1: You've trained those cats to sing jingles?
Voice 2: That's us -- Max and his advertising cats.
Voice 1: Well, that's swell, Max, but the American Service Center is offering some great deals and I don't see how those cats fit in. This is pretty serious stuff.
Voice 2: Oh, no problem. Ready cats? On three.
Perfect Andrews Sisters-type chorus: Less gas, more class, realize you're driving ambitions at American Service Center.
Voice 1: Unbelievable. Do they read too?
Voice 2: No, I do that.
The bad news is that Himelfarb is leaving the Washington advertising scene. The good news is that the rest of the country may soon be enjoying his comedy madness.
A master of the humorous 60-second radio spot, Himelfarb is leaving the Abramson/Himelfarb Inc. advertising agency after 15 years for Los Angeles and hopefully the footsteps of Neil Simon or Woody Allen.
"I love to write and I'd like to write something longer than 60 seconds," he said.
Himelfarb, who also is a playwright, decided to leave now because he didn't know "how long these doors will stay open" for him. He is toying with the idea of writing screenplays but has made no commitments as yet except to write full-time.
during his 15 years with the agency, Himelfarb has written, produced and directed more than 5,000 radio commercials for such clients as American Service Center, the Washington Diplomats and Woodward & Lothrop. Many of the bits are spoofs on movies or television shows. "I was weaned on radio in the 40s," the 42-year old Himelfarb said. "So I brought in elements of drama, comedy and music to my commercials."
"Too many times, accounts are lost on award-winning commercials because they didn't sell the product."
Himelfarb has come a long way since the days when he used to dress up as a clown or Santa Claus and run promotions at area shopping centers.
After graduating from American University he went to work for Doug Bailer, whose agency handled the Tops restaurant account. One of Himelfarb's early duties was to appear on an afternoon television cartoon program as the character Deputy Dawg.
Himelfarb teamed up with David Abramson after a brief and unsuccessful attempt to run his own agency and a stint with another local advertising firm. Now Himelfarb0/Abramson has a creative staff of 10 people. "Hopefully, they'll continue some of the things I've started," Himelfarb said.
Himelfarb will not be completely removed from the agency, however. He'll stay on as a consultant there.
While at the agency, Himelfarb has enjoyed the freedom to experiment creatively. "David and I were the perfect partnership," he said."I didn't have to worry about business."
Always looking for new talent to use in his commercials, Himelfarb spent a lot of time at local theaters such as Arena State. He knew that actors and actresses were always looking for a chance to make some extra money. He also managed to lure well-known celebrities into the Bias recording studio and make a commericial or two.
"People always ask me how I got Lauren Bacall or Jose Ferrer. I just asked them," he said.
Now Himelfarb may be working with nothing but big names. "I'm a little scared. It don't know if I can do it," he confessed. "I've only proved myself in 60 seconds. I'm dynamite in 60 seconds."