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Model Behavior

December 20, 2012 By:
Rachel Vigoda, Special Sections Feature
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Seniors know they’re still going out to dinner, booking vacations, buying clothes, and shopping for cars.

And now advertisers know it, too: Companies are relying on the baby boomer generation to sell products to their peers through print ads and commercials.  

“Seniors are a very, very hot item. They’re so in demand you can’t imagine,” says Rodney Robb, director of the Actors Center in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood, which offers acting classes and talent management.

Robb, who’s been in the business for 30 years, sends people on auditions for commercials every day, frequently collaborating with his wife, Edie, who manages TV, movie and Broadway stars through her own company, Station 3.

“The country is getting older, and we have to relate to each other — have to have seniors talking to seniors,” Robb says. “Advertisers realize people are going to live longer and continue to be consumers.”

They aren’t just shilling bifocals and arthritis medicine, he adds. “I send them out on every kind of audition you can think of. Seniors are now in commercials, with people of all ages, for anything. They’re no longer excluded,” he says.

It’s all about marketing, explains Laurie Bianco of Look Models and Actors, a talent agency she founded 20 years ago, with locations in Bethlehem and Doylestown.

“It’s about whoever is buying the product — if an advertiser is trying to appeal to seniors, seniors are going to be in those ads,” Bianco says.

Seniors have also become part of the politically correct equation, she says, and “have to be represented, just like any group.”

Both Robb and Bianco agree that when it comes to older models and actors, every look is in demand — and your look doesn’t have to be catwalk-ready, either.

“It doesn’t make any difference, believe me when I tell you that,” Robb promises. “They’re not looking for Brad Pitt and Robert Redford.”

One exception, according to Bianco, is that most advertisers are seeking people who are relatively fit, unless it’s an ad for, say, an adjustable bed, and they want to show it can accommodate someone who’s overweight.

Veronica Wilder, one of Bianco’s models, doesn’t want those particular jobs. “You have to invest — in pictures, a portfolio — so they can market you,” says Wilder, who is trim at 65. “So you want to keep yourself looking like your pictures. It’s a motivator.”

Five years ago, Wilder, a retired software engineer, was enjoying a QVC trade show when a vendor asked her to try on a pair of slacks, and then suggested she audition to model on the shopping channel. That gig didn’t pan out, but it did give Wilder the modeling bug.

She contacted Bianco, put a portfolio together, and has since been in ads and infomercials for everything from pet products to a casino.

“It’s a fun hobby,” she says. “Modeling is never something I thought I would be doing — but it makes for great cocktail conversation.”

Another of Bianco’s clients went from minister to model. Champion Goldy, a retired reverend in Haddonfield, N.J., stays busy exercising, competing in track meets, and auditioning for modeling and acting roles. He’s played hospital patients, showed off chairs for Sears, and even strolled through a door held open by Chase Utley for a Phillies video.

Goldy is 95.

“You get to try out, you might get a job and make a little money. It’s a fun thing,” Goldy says. “When they call me, I’m ready to go anytime.”

Goldy and Wilder fall into a category of senior models Robb of the Actors Center works with often: the retired set who aren’t ready to “just sit.”

“They can have a second career, make some money, and have a wonderful time doing it,” Robb says.

Of course, not every senior Robb sends out on an audition books a job, but for many who come to his classes or open calls at the Actors Center, the point isn’t the money or the screen time.

“They enjoy themselves. They learn, interact with younger people, go out on auditions — it’s the fun of the experience,” he says.

“I have seniors who tell me it’s a lot cheaper than therapy.”

Rachel Vigoda is an award-winning writer and editor represented in a number of area publications and online sites. This articlee appeared originally in "The Good Life," a special section.

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