L.A. Vintage Commercials: Larry Parker

If Cal Worthingon’s lighthearted ads are a throwback to the shiny optimism of 1950s-era California (“pussycow” references notwithstanding), then the ads of Larry H. Parker showed us a grimmer, more materialistic side of life. My recollection of these comes mainly from watching the back-to-back episodes of the Twilight Zone that KTLA aired every noon during the summer.

Freaky as the T-Zone was, what made a stronger impression was Larry Parker’s commercials: a litany of wronged and/or injured citizens, each one inflated with self-righteousness as they announced the hefty verdicts or settlements that Larry had won on their behalf, and included the unforgettable formulation “Larry Parker got me” followed by some outrageous financial figure. This wasn’t about justice, it was about physical suffering translated into cold cash. The capper, though, was the African-American gentleman who appeared at the very end of the ad and famously proclaimed “Larry Parker got me” [dramatic half-pause] “2.1 million.” Sounds like a lot of cash, eh? Well, as anyone who was a kid in the 80s could tell you, it was a dead-ass fact (read: urban legend) that the reason they only showed the client’s head in a small frame was that he was paralyzed from the neck down. Other rumors added that he only had one leg. Some even had it that he was just a head and torso. Now how does that 2.1 million sound?

The cultural impact of the Larry Parker commercials reached far beyond just the pool of intended injury-suit clients. For one thing, dyslexic rockers “Korn” [sic] gave Larry a shout-out in their ballad “Wicked”: “I won’t choke like the Buffalo Bills, sittin at the pad just chillin; Larry Parker just got 2 million, oh what a fucking feeling.” In fact, Larry’s commercials may have helped change the way lawyers advertise. In order to counter expectations that injury victims were automatically entitled to loads of cash, regulations were passed preventing lawyers from announcing specific dollar-amount recoveries. In the kind of meta-twist that would give any cultural studies maven a hard-on, Larry responded to this move by bringing back the black quadriplegic spokesman, who now teases the audience with “Larry Parker got me . . . well, you know the story.”

The Parker legal juggernaut continues to chug along, apparently more robust than ever. And because I have no doubt that Larry would file a defamation suit against me if he read this, let me note here that this post was done in the spirit of lighthearted jest, is not meant to be factually accurate in the least, and is thus protected by the First Amendment. And in all fairness, I should note that Larry Parker’s firm sponsors a scholarship to underprivileged youth who demonstrate both academic skills and a propensity for gratuitously suing their classmates.