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Joe Rein, Producer Extraordinaire

That’s Joe Rein in a recent photo with the great Manny Pacquiao.

Joe was our VP of Broadcast Production at Cohen/Johnson.  It was a big job because we were producing over 75 TV spots a year.

He was an experienced, street smart, can-do kind of guy.  A former prizefighter whose tough battles in the ring helped prepare him for the wars on Madison Avenue.

But this is the story of one production where Joe almost went down for the count.

Cohen/Johnson had just made it into the finals of a new business pitch for Bally’s Health & Fitness Clubs.  It was a sizable TV broadcast account so we were the perfect agency for it.  But, of course, there were forty other agencies banging on their door.

Mark Johnson and I managed to get an hour-long meeting with their VP of Marketing and learned some inside information.  He wanted to appeal to a whole new target — boomers.  We seized upon this insight and decided to make it the focus of our advertising.

We would invest our own money and shoot a finished spot in order to win the account.  The key was to find a talented director who was hungry to put a great new spot on his reel and would be willing to shoot it for nothing.  Enter Joe Rein.

He found the perfect director in New York and, as luck would have it, we were heading there to shoot some beautiful food footage for Jack in the Box. 

All we needed now was the right guy to play the key role.  No problem, right?  Wrong!  Due to the uniqueness of our story, this guy had to be at least 60 years old and very fit.  There aren’t too many of those guys hanging around the streets of New York.  But we weren’t worried.  Joe Rein was on the case.

In the middle of one of the hottest Augusts on record, Joe started pounding the pavement, like a cheap detective, going from gym to gym looking for our guy.  He scoured Manhattan, and when he couldn’t find him there, he took the train up to The Bronx, and when that failed he hopped over to Brooklyn.  Time was running out and Joe was getting a little punchy (poor choice of words, perhaps?) but he wouldn’t give up.

One hot humid night after a long day of shooting food, Joe walked into a gym that had seen better days.  Due to the intense heat and humidity, he was wearing tight white tennis shorts, a strappy tee-shirt and white sneakers with no socks.  He sauntered up to the counter where a big, burly manager was sitting and said, “I wonder if you could help me.  I’m looking for a good-looking man about 60, well built with big muscles.”  “I’ll bet you are” the manager said.

Without realizing where the conversation was going, Joe continued.  “I want him to have large biceps…clear skin with no tattoos…and preferably no hair on his back.”  “Listen buddy…” the manager tried to cut Joe off, but to no avail.  “And he shouldn’t sweat too much.”

The manager exploded.   “Listen pal, this ain’t the YMCA and we’re not The Village People!”

Joe started backing out the door, but wasn’t finished.  “I’m staying at the Roosevelt Hotel, room 715!  I’ll pay cash!”   “Get the hell outta here, you pervert!”

Two days later, as a bunch of us were sitting around the hotel lobby, Joe walked in with a good-looking well-built older man by his side – the very embodiment of what we were looking for.  “Gentlemen” he said, “I’d like you to meet our guy!”  Joe Rein had come through.

This commercial also marked my official debut as a professional voice over announcer.  If my voice sounds particularly mellifluous, it’s  because I had a bad case of bronchitis.  (With pneumonia, who knows how far I could have gone.)

On the big day of the presentation, we screened the spot for the Bally’s people. They asked to see it again and again, and by the next day, we had won the account. 

And to think, it never would have happened without the fancy footwork of Joe Rein — prizefighter, producer and honorary member of The Village People.


Like my stories?  Please comment here or send questions to  And if you like it, spread it.

© 2010 Howard Cohen, All Rights Reserved


Comment from steve platt
Time November 19, 2010 at 11:53 am

Howie….Home run, after home run, after home
run. You are truly the Babe Ruth of
advertising. Shecky

Comment from Curvin O’Rielly
Time November 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm

What a spot! And a reminder that I’d better find a gym…

Comment from ARNIE POPKY
Time November 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Joe is the best of the best. What creativity

Comment from vivian mintz karow
Time November 20, 2010 at 4:50 am

Not only do I like the story, I have been in touch with Joe, not recently. We went to high school together and I remember him as a great guy. Good fottball player. All the girls loved him.

Send my love to Joe

Comment from Mad Mensch
Time November 20, 2010 at 10:04 am

Yes, he’s one-of-a-kind. I loved writing this story and sharing the memories with Joe.

Comment from Kenny Spring
Time November 20, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Brilliant Howie, just brilliant.

Comment from Mark Affif
Time November 20, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Really enjoyed reading your story about my good friend, Joe Rein. What I read is the guy that I know. The kind of guy you want in your corner no matter what the challenge. I have a feeling that many have had the same thought that you expressed so well! “Enter Joe Rein.”

Comment from Mad Mensch
Time November 20, 2010 at 5:01 pm

In the many years that we worked together, I can’t remember anything we asked Joe Rein to do, no matter how seemingly impossible the task, that he didn’t get done. Yeah, he’s my cut man.

Comment from Katy Bishop
Time November 20, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Terrific. Joe and Howie…what a team! Made this self-professed non-gym-rat think about joining….and that’s a change for me.

Comment from Mad Mensch
Time November 21, 2010 at 8:35 am

Thanks Katy, Don’t forget to shape your life.

Comment from Ted Roebling
Time November 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Great story, Howie. Doesn’t surprise me. Worked with Joe Rein for years. Constantly amazed how he was able to pull rabbits out of a hat.

Comment from Dan Workman
Time November 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Excellent story. It is funny how an idea will take wings so to speak, but what goes unnoticed is at times the most important ingredient. I know Joe Rein from discussing boxing and fighters, One of the most friendly and engaging people you would ever have a chance to talk to. Joe always struck me as a man of ‘ways and means’…He would get the job done…and did! It’s a pleasure to consider Joe as a friend.

Comment from hoss
Time November 22, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Great story! Some people were born with a gift, Joe has a few of them. Great teacher, mentor and friend.

great ad! kudos to Joe and his crew!


Comment from PC
Time November 23, 2010 at 2:19 am

Nice story. Good pic too!

Comment from Boggle
Time November 23, 2010 at 6:40 am

Joe Rein has so many great stories, he needs to write a book!

Comment from roberta casagrande
Time February 27, 2011 at 7:34 am

my twin daughters are in the ballys commercial with grandpa i remember the day the commercial was daughters are now 24 one is in law school and one works at goldman sacks.i think that was a very creative commercial .since my parents lived in florida at the time it made a lot of their friends want to work out.i was so happy to find at youtube we are now watching it in face book.great job

Comment from Popeye
Time February 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Joe has inspiration to burn & an imagination that sets you on fire.
The Master of the Quill. I salute you mate.

Comment from raymann
Time November 19, 2012 at 2:18 am

esb in the house! much love to JG!

Comment from Wendi
Time November 25, 2013 at 8:57 pm

He sounded like quite a mensch. As always, you tell a great story, Howie.

Comment from Mark Affif
Time December 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Just found out today that our friend, Joe Rein has passed. We hadn’t spoken for a while, but I feel so lousy. He was the generous uncle I never had. Will so miss his emails and his phone calls. Would give so much to pick up the phone and hear his voice. Joe led a thousand lives. Raised in Brooklyn, weaned at Stillman’s, adopted by Graziano, and once took a jacuzzi with Bridget Bardot. Miss you already Joe. Save me a ringside seat.

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