In the 1990’s, Before Cleveland’s WKRK-FM radio station was the sports-format “The Fan”, it was “Jammin’ 92.3”. Then a top-chart dance station, it played a heavy rotation of hits from such acts as Ace of Base, Spice Girls and Will Smith.
Back then, even if you never turned the dial to 92.3 in your car, you knew about Jammin’ through a series of local television ads on such heavy rotation, they seemed to be broadcast hourly. The “Dancing Guy” ads.
The ads were simple. Songs from the 92.3 play over footage of a heavyset 20-something in shorts and a t-shirt, leaning against a street wall until the beat overtakes him, and he begins to dance. Cue the Jammin’ logo. That was it.
Short, charming, and to the point, the ads were wildly popular. In coming years, more ads were made where the “Dancing Guy” bopped through Cleveland landmarks, or invaded a gym class. Eventually, the steam ran out of the campaign, (and 92.3 went through several format and ownership changes) and the ads stopped. But what happened to “Dancing Guy”, and where did he come from?
For one thing, the dancer wasn’t from Cleveland. He was Eustachio Robert Marena, known to his friends as “Joey Bag-O-Donuts”, and he lived in Chicago. The 5′ 9″ 300-pound Marena was working in a car phone store when his cousin, Joe Scudiero, asked him to film him dancing for Scudiero’s demo reel in 1989. An ad agency saw the footage, and realized that it was just what they wanted for a new series of advertisements promoting the Chicago radio station WLUP, know as “The Beat”.
The ads were an instant hit, and soon the agency was selling the footage to other radio stations for their television campaigns. It was a perfect one-size-fits-all. Just play your station music over Marena’s dancing, slap a logo over the footage, and boom: instant local ad. Soon “Joey’s” dancing was being seen in over seventy-five international markets, including Australia, New Zealand and Italy. He appeared during halftime at Bulls games, bopped around on the Arsenio Hall show and got a write-up in the L.A. Times.
Like so many quick rises to minor fame, this one also had it’s legal troubles: Marena was caught in 1991 selling almost three hundred M-250’s and M-80’s explosives to an undercover federal agent. (When writing about the case, the Chicago Tribute referred to him as a “rotund dancer who jiggled to music”.) He plead guilty, and got five hundred hours of community service. Legal troubles aside, Marena kept being given money to travel to other cities (including Cleveland in 1998) so he could dance on location.
He still lives in Chicago, and works for a construction company. No word on his current dancing career.