Panama City News-Herald from Panama City, Florida on June 23, 1974 · Page 60
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Panama City News-Herald from Panama City, Florida · Page 60

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Panama City, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 23, 1974
Page:
Page 60
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King of TVs Tiny ( Dynamos "Just Your Average, All-American sKMMMM) Boy Next Door" Q: Whet Iseightyears old, has red heir, weighs SO pounds, la 45 Inches tall, sounds Ilka Donald Duok and has a birthmark on Its left shin? A: MASON REESE! M ason Mitchell Reese is all those things and more. He is a precocious little boy whose name is fast becoming as much of a household word as the brand- name products he sells on television. He is also a streaker. And, aside from his funny voice, which has been described by "Time" and "Newsweek" as "preternaturally adenoidal," aside from his "oddly pronounced" features and his puffy, bright-blue eyes, Mason has accomplished more in his eight years than most people do in a lifetime. By the time the little man- child celebrated his eighth birthday on April 11, he had: written his memoirs; appeared in 25 television commercials; won a Clio .award (the Academy Awards for commercials) for the best performance by a male actor; been a children's news correspondent; and saved more money than the average person makes in a quarter of a century. To what does Mason owe this extraordinary success? Like a Mickey Rooney or a Shirley Temple, Mason seems to have an innate proclivity for Center i'^ f ' ... - "Paopta oxpoct Mm to hava raad Tha Ham York Hints ironi covii TO cow. insy ask Mm quostkms Ilk* 'What do you tMnk about Watoroato?' and 'What do you think about Vlotnam?' Thoso ara invasion questions, and I rossnt paopta asking thorn." By Pamela Hawartl MB) tacky to have MO > Sonrany kroSNrasssslmy Stage. Perhaps even more responsible are his devoted parents (and his greatest fans) Sonia and William Reese. The combination of their backgrounds has undoubtedly skyrocketed Mason's career since he first began at age four in a cereal ad. Sonia is a former stage and television actress who grew up in "show biz" in California. Bill, 43, a casual dresser and a former corporate executive, has a background in marketing, communications and advertising. Two years ago he decided to "reevaluate his life." He dropped out of Madison Avenue and became a partner with a friend in a small Manhattan marketing-services company called Acorn. His new job also frees him to run "The Mason Reese Group" — the incorporated business he and Sonia head for the purpose of marketing and selling Mason. ("At present," says Bill Reese, "it's just a name and some papers—but when we get into movies, it will be something!") Although Mason's a client of one of the biggest agencies in New York, the William Morris Agency, the Reeses run his life. "We don't want a personal manager for Mason," adds his father. "Nobody knows better what is right for Mason than his parents." Mason's father takes care of all the business. His mother handles the creative end. "We are not easily star struck," says attractive, red- haired Sonia. But her life has taken a "new direction" since Mason has joined the ranks of the mini-superstars along with Tatum O'Neal and Rodney Rippey. Sonia writes many of his scripts, is working on some songs (which Mason will "talk," not sing), and is currently negotiating a television series, scheduled to be shot in New York this summer, starring, "who else but," Mason. She also contributed heavily to author Lynn Haney, who wrote Mason's Continued "Here's Yaw AUewaaee -fMf*.... 99 "Dees That Iaelasle Resislaals, Dad?" "I don't think this is a business. I think it's play, i think it's all funl I like eating all those cookies after umpteen cups of Jellol" The speaker is nine-year-old Cheryl Sprella of Montvtile, N.J., who, while not in the Mason Reese class, has made dozens of commercials for products ranging from Jetlo to Oreo Cookies to Fantastic spray cleaner. Mason Reese is a phenomenon. While his parents are hesitant to discuss his income, it is 4 SI FAMILY WEEKLY, Juno 23, 1874 probably close to six figures. But for every Mason Reese, there are hundreds of lesser known child models, hawking everything from candy bars to breakfast cereal.' The economics are simple: A nationwide prime-time commercial can earn a child $5,000 or $6,000. That's a pretty good boost toward college. You might surmise that the children earning this kind of money —and some make much more- may hold blackmail power over their parents. And sometimes that's true-though it's the fault of the parents. "Parents should never, never, never tell the child what he is making," Insists Mrs. Rosemary Brian, a well-known New York agent, because then the child begins to think his acting is all-important. Children who become too difficult or ornery are eased out of the business. Directors don't want misbehaving brats on the set If the work has its potentially destructive side in the development of children, it also has its positive aspects. Kids in commercials gain tremendous self- confidence and poise. Bill Parrott, who directs the Crest commercials, describes It as a growing experience in which a child sees a coordinated team of cameramen, director, lighting men and actors cooperate to bring a project to fruition. Also, travels to new places are a pleasant bonus. Young model Shelley Bruce sparkled when she recounted her recent visit to Disney World, locale for a Stove Top Stuffing commercial. Mother is perhaps the unsung hero In the career of her child. There's a lot of running around to auditions, and on the set Mother must stay with her budding superstar the whole day, which can drag on to 9 or 10 o'clock at night Some mothers do it because they themselves are frustrated actresses. And there are some no doubt who are simply exploiting their children. But there's a definite positive side. Says Mrs. Joan Sprella: "I enjoy my daughter and I enjoy being with her. I steal these extra moments with her because kids grow up so fast" Covar Photo by J«ny Abramowlta

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