Dick Maugg got famous by not talking.
In the mid-1980s, he played the fictional role of Ed Jaymes in more than 100 hugely popular TV commercials for Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers. But all the talking in the folksy ads was done by the Frank Bartles character, while the tall, slim, laid-back Maugg — dressed codger-style in a button-down shirt and tie, ill-fitting baseball cap, brown shoes and white socks — comically deadpanned into the camera.
The ads were such a hit that they were credited with making the sweet beverage, from wine giant E & J Gallo, the top-selling brand of its type.
But Maugg was no actor. He was a contractor and developer in Santa Rosa, California, who happened to be a longtime friend of the ad agency director. Ten days before the first Bartles & Jaymes commercial was shot, agency staffers arrived at his home where they “put a baseball cap on me,” he told The Associated Press in 1988, “started shooting film and told me to say, ‘Hello there,’ a couple of times.”
The line was dropped and Maugg became an advertising star.
Maugg, 83, died of cancer July 28, according to a report in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. His family delayed making an announcement until after the recent death of his daughter, Karen Coset, also of cancer.
In the ads, Maugg might have looked the part of hayseed, but in real life he was a loquacious businessman who happened into the commercial that made him “more money than I ever thought I’d make,” he told the AP.
And even though he was silent in the ads, it was not easy to do them.
“They take a lot of time to do very little,” he said. “It can get nerve-racking standing around so much.”
The comically down-home ads made their debut in 1985 with Maugg and real-life rancher Dave Rufkahr, who played Bartles, sitting on a porch. While Maugg looked on, the shorter, stocky Rufkahr said, “You know, it occurred to Ed the other day that between his fruit orchard and my premium wine vineyard, we could make a truly superior, premium-grade wine cooler.”
For several years, the commercials made the top 10 best-remembered lists compiled by research firm Video Storyboard Tests.
Maugg gave credit to the creator of the ad, his childhood friend Hal Riney, known for making commercials that made a visceral connection with a wide audience. Riney’s best-known ad was the “Morning in America” spot for Ronald Reagan’s 1984 presidential campaign.
“He’s warm, humorous, ordinary people,” Maugg said of Riney in a 1987 Chicago Tribune interview. “He doesn’t hire movie stars.”
Maugg didn’t need acting classes to be convincing. When Bartles said in the first commercial that Jaymes “took out a second mortgage on his house” to help start their wine cooler business, letters came in offering help to pay off the mortgage.
Maugg was born Aug. 29, 1931, according to state records, and grew up in Longview, Washington. He graduated in 1953 from the University of Washington, where he studied business, the Press Democrat said.
He served in the Army and later became a sales representative for a business equipment company. Settling in Santa Rosa, Maugg built homes in several area neighborhoods.
When the contract he and Rufkahr had with Gallo was not renewed in 1992, the duo looked into other advertising opportunities. But not as the same characters — their Gallo contract prohibited them appearing on a porch or wearing similar outfits to those in the wine cooler commercials.
They got at least one bite, signing in 1992 to do ads for Golf Illustrated magazine. It’s probably not a magazine Ed Jaymes would subscribe to, but Maugg was ready to move on from that character.
“We’re just personalities,” he said in a 1992 Los Angeles Times interview. “If Chuck Yeager can be a spokesman for more than one product, why can’t we?”
Maugg’s survivors, according the Press Democrat, include his wife, Barbara, and daughters Kathryn Toms, Kristina Maugg and Johanna Kousoulas.