Quick, now, complete this sentence: "You get your way at..."
Most Washingtonians know the correct ending is "Ourisman Chevrolet." That TV advertising slogan, market studies showed, was a hit as soon as it began six years ago. That's when Susan Gailey first chirped the phrase which, she acknowledges, also hinted that you, dear viewer, might also get your way with her (or some other equally gorgeous blonde) if only you bought yourself a new Chevrolet. Nothing subtle in the ad world.
"The ads have gotten more mature because I did," says Gailey, who today is less the temptress in the commercials than she once was. Talking over a bowl of fresh raspberries in the Beverly Hills Hotel -- she lives in Los Angeles now, returning to Washington only to film commercials -- Gailey is crisp and striking in silk slacks and a loose-fitting blouse. At 39, she has the kind of figure and face that drive other women her age to fat farms and plastic surgeons.
"One thing any guru will tell you," says Gailey, who studied with Guru Maharaj Ji, "is, 'Be careful what you wish for, because you're going to get it.'"
She should know. It's been a bumpy road since that day 11 years ago in York, Pa., when she told her family she wished for a stage career. A lead in a local theater production preceded her Ourisman ads. Originally, the ad agency wanted the Noxema girl ("Take it off, take it all off") to deliver the come-hither "You get your way" line. But she wasn't available.Gailey was. She quickly became "Washington's only sex symbol."
Severl years ago, after an acting stint in New York, she and her husband separated, and Gailey drove to California with a new boyfriend to try her luck in Tinseltown.
Just when her bank account was telling her she couldn't afford to stay there, she signed to do car ads for a Chicago Chevrolet dealer. ("What's is it about me and Chevies?" she asks.) A guest star on Starsky and Hutch followed. So did a Lysol ad and two Ore-Ida national ads. (Yes, she was Mrs. Goodcookies.)
"For an actress, if you're working, you're successful," says Gailey. "That's the hard thing about being out here: you only work sporadically. You have to learn to deal with that... now I think of that time as vacation."
It wasn't always vacation.
"There came a time in my life that I don't want to talk about -- I don't know how you'll explain that, but I just went away. Then about six months ago I started caring again." A stint at Esalen helped, so did some reading about the human potential movement.
Gailey lives with one of her daughters and a "great and good" friend, as Time magazine once described William Randolph Hearst's relationship with Marion Davies, in Woodland Hills. What would the Ourisman girl do if she could get her way?
"If I ever decide not to act anymore, I'd like to be a newscaster.I'm a newsaholic, that's my Plan B."