When a Very Young John Dickerson Starred in a Toothpaste Commercial With His Mom

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Dec. 17 2013 2:29 PM

My Brush With Fame

In 1975, when I was 7, I did some commercials with my mom and brother. I’d never seen any of them until this Thanksgiving, when one of my older sisters surprised us with a DVD of an ad for Aim toothpaste that I was in.

My mom was a news correspondent whose career at the networks had ended, and she helped support the family through giving speeches, writing a book, and doing commercials. My brother and I were included in the ads because, even though she had been the first woman news correspondent for CBS 15 years earlier, it was still a requirement that she also be a mother in charge of her children’s dental hygiene.

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I remember our flight to Florida where the ad was shot. My brother and I stood in pajamas in the middle of the day brushing our teeth in some suburban bathroom. It took forever and the lights were hot. I’m not sure why we had to do so many takes, but, as you can see, someone appears to have told me to really put the whole arm into it. I’d like to think that spitting out the toothpaste was my own improvisation that broke the creative logjam.

We did another commercial around the same time for something called Propower Orange Drink. It was a Tang-like product that never made it to market except in Tulsa or some other small city. If the Aim ad ran, no one around our parts saw it. The lack of local air play for either ad caused two different reactions from my friends. First, they thought I was a liar. If you were in an ad why can’t we see it? The second reaction was to conflate me with the other kid on television: Mikey from the Life commercials. Rumor went around that I was Mikey! That wasn’t true, of course, though at summer camp I may not have corrected people as fast as we’d all hope.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.