Collection: Johnny Calls for Philip Morris
Philip Morris’ famous spokesperson of over 40 years, Johnny Roventini (1910-1998), began his career as, reportedly, “the smallest bellhop ever.” Coming in at under 4 feet tall, Roventini resembled a child in stature, later gaining him and Philip Morris popularity among children and adults alike. While working as a bellhop, Roventini was approached by two Philip Morris marketing executives who heard his voice and knew he was an advertising gold mine. They asked for him to “call for Philip Morris” for one dollar. Johnny, unaware that Philip Morris was a cigarette brand, called out loudly for him. Immediately, the marketing executives saw the promise in Johnny, and enlisted him as the first ever living trademark in their new advertisement campaign. He later appeared on the TV show “I Love Lucy” alongside stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, both of whom endorsed Philip Morris in 1959.
Throughout his career as spokesperson, “Little Johnny” made appearances at countless events, ranging from supermarket grand openings to public school fairs. He booked so many events in his first year touring that Philip Morris was forced to hire more actors to play the part of Johnny. There are rumored to have been at least ten Johnny Juniors who helped facilitate Johnny’s public appearances; however, Philip Morris kept quiet about these actors, preferring everyone to believe there was only one Johnny. The most well-known Johnny Junior was Albert Altieri (1916-2002), a 3-foot-7 inch bellhop. He was hired 2 years after Roventini at the age of 19. When Altieri passed away from a heart attack at the age of 86, CNN printed his obituary which read, “The second half of a duo famous in American advertising for yelling ‘Call for Philip Morris’ has died.” It appears that Philip Morris was successful in keeping quiet the existence of the other Juniors. Two of the other Johnny Juniors mentioned in the UCSF Tobacco Legacy Archives include Leon Polinsky and Buddy Douglas.