After nine years of being the Verizon pitchman, the world can finally hear him now Paul Marcarelli — whose Buddy Holly glasses and catch phrase “Can you hear me now?” placed him in the pantheon of advertising legends — has spoken out for the first time about how being the face of the phone company put him in cell hell.
“There’s a price to pay,” Marcarelli told The Atlantic. “Don’t feel bad for me, but I’m definitely glad that chapter is over.”
Marcarelli, recently dropped as Verizon’s so-called “Test Man,” said that nearly everywhere he goes he is recognized, and that he even had to ditch his heavy-framed glasses for ones with wire rims to keep some anonymity.
His fame had gotten so broad — and so weird — that a few months ago, at his grandmother’s funeral, a friend of the family whispered to another person, “Can you hear me now?” just as her body was being lowered into her grave.
At his cousin’s wedding, more people rushed up to him and asked to pose for pictures than with the bride, leaving him feeling “like a cafone” (Italian for “oaf”), he told the magazine.
He also couldn’t find peace at his home in Connecticut. About five years ago, local youths began driving past his house and shouting, “Can you hear me now?” at all hours of the night.
They later started shouting, “Faggot!” at Marcarelli, who is gay.
“It got progressively more profane as the years went by,” he said to The Atlantic.
One night the harassment got so bad that he called the cops, but he declined to file a police report for fear that it might get out that he was gay, endangering his relationship with Verizon.
His contract with Verizon put a damper on his acting career. It prevented him from talking publicly about his role as “Test Man,” and kept him working as many as 200 days on Verizon promotions.
But the job was lucrative, and Marcarelli told The Atlantic that he was so worried about losing his golden goose that he stayed extra quiet.
“I definitely think that my reticence to have any kind of persona outside of this job was that I didn’t want to be put in a position to have to answer any uncomfortable question that would affect my income stream.”
He is now trying to promote the film “The Green,” which he wrote and produced.
“Most people my age are now trying to trade in their street cred for money, and I kind of made my money,” he said. “I still want to make something of value.”