Roventini, Ad Figure, Dies at 88
Dec. 02, 1998
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) _ Johnny Roventini, the 4-foot bellboy who became one of the best-known figures in American advertising by yelling ``Call for Philip Morris,'' has died at 88.
Roventini died Monday at a hospital in Suffern, said his nephew Philip Roventini. The cause of death had not been determined.
In 1933, Roventini, touted by the New Yorker Hotel as the smallest bellboy in the world, met advertising agent Milton Biow, who had an idea for a cigarette ad and gave him a dollar to locate Philip Morris.
Roventini strode through the hotel shouting ``Call for Philip Mor-rees.''
``I had no idea that Philip Morris was a cigarette,'' he later said.
The call began a career that landed Roventini a lifetime contract and a salary of up to $50,000, fabulous at the time. He was heard on popular live radio programs and on some of the most-watched television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including ``I Love Lucy,'' ``Candid Camera'' and the Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason shows.
Roventini, who always appeared in his short-jacketed bellboy outfit, was Philip Morris Cos. Inc.'s ``living trademark,'' company spokeswoman Darienne Dennis said.
Roventini estimated that he called out the slogan more than a million times and shook hands with more than a million people, she said.
``I remember going out with him in Brooklyn,'' his nephew said. ``We'd go to the post office or something, and they'd yell, `Johnny, give us the call.' Absolutely everybody knew him.''
After his commercials went off the air, Roventini made personal appearances for Philip Morris. He retired in 1974.
Roventini, who was born into an immigrant Italian family, lived with his mother until she died in the 1960s and never married. He is survived by a brother and two nephews.