Bonanza

Before melting hearts on Bonanza, little Teddy Quinn became famous for one line in a commercial

His perfectly timed ad lib made him a nationwide sensation.

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The 1960s was a turning point in American culture for numerous reasons. Music, technology and civil rights activism were just three of many forces driving progress in arguably the most iconic decade of the 20th century.

One other area experiencing transformation was advertising. Gone were the days of formal narration and straightlaced spokespeople talking directly to the audience. As television sets spread across the nation, commercials incorporated a more narrative approach. Scenes and storylines that featured company products played much better than boring monologues and product demonstrations.

With a wider variety of advertising methods came a wider variety of spokespeople, including America’s newest – and largest up to that point – generation, Baby Boomers! When they were still babies, or at least very young.

As the Eugene Register-Guard put it in 1967, “Gurgling infants, blonde lasses and freckle-faced boys are being employed more and more by advertising agents to persuade adults to buy toys; baby food, soap, cameras, paint, food and household appliances.”

The paper went on to mention one of the most famous child advertisements of the decade, a 1963 TV commercial for children’s aspirin. The spot became universally beloved not only for the message about mothers caring for their kids but for the young actor whose adorable personality shines through with just one line.

The commercial shows a little boy named Mike at the front door of his friend Susie’s house asking if she’s home. Susie’s mom says Susie has a cold, but reassures Mike that she is okay because she took some children’s aspirin. Susie’s mom explains to Mike that when he feels better after getting sick, his mom feels better, too. Mike responds, “Mothers are like that,” and then, as if realizing the meaning behind his carefully rehearsed lines, the actor playing Mike smiles and adds, “Yeah, they are!”

Those last three words would make four-year-old actor Teddy Quinn a star and a fondly remembered part of Sixties TV to this day. The totally unscripted moment made the ad an instant success and garnered both Bayer, the maker of the product, and Edward Gottlieb & Associates, the agency that produced the commercial, letters of praise from across the country. According to the Eugene Register-Guard, “The agency said one woman wrote, ‘I never thought I’d watch TV for hours hoping to see a commercial. It’s adorable.’”

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A trade publication at the time touted over four million TV home impressions per week for the spot and named Quinn a “star salesman.”

Naturally, after a debut like that, it wasn’t long before little Teddy was booking roles in TV and movies. He played an unnamed toddler in the Frank Sinatra Western 4 for Texas and was a child seeking an autograph in the Don Knotts favorite The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. On television, Quinn appeared in My Favorite Martian, The Patty Duke Show and That Girl before playing Jerry Van Dyke’s son in the short-lived 1967 sitcom Accidental Family.

He appeared twice on Bewitched in 1968, one time as a boy who Samantha turns into a dog. He also guest starred twice on Bonanza, including playing the title role in the memorable episode “Tommy” as a deaf boy the Cartwrights take in. His scenes with Hoss are some of the cutest ever seen in TV’s Old West.

Quinn continued acting into the Seventies before pursuing music. He formed the Eighties synth group Telekin whose song “Imagination” was a dance hit in Europe. He was a singer and lyricist for the band, coming full circle from the moment his tiny toddler voice made him a star.

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