Little big man: child sensation Reese

Question: What was the name of the "borgasmord" kid from the '70s and what else did he do? I remember him being all over the place. Thank you.


Answer: You're thinking of pint-size pitchman Mason Reese, who, it seemed, was the face of every brand and the guest on every talk show under the sun in the early and mid-'70s, Dee Dee. And his famous line — "It's like having a borgasmord!" — was a line from an Underwood ham commercial, which made it the "Where's the beef?" of its time.

Reese, who had already won a Clio award and cohosted The Mike Douglas Show by the time he hit 7, was a nationwide sensation due to his character-actor looks and his little-old-lady-in-a-little-boy's-body quality. "Mason isn't Procter & Gamble pretty," his mother, who had once been a model herself, told TV Guide in 1973. And he certainly wasn't, which is why he was so memorable.

Described by a writer as "a pudgy redhead who looked like Arthur Godfrey playing one of the Seven Dwarfs," Reese was first noticed at the age of 4 by a neighbor in his parents' New York apartment house who steered him toward a magazine ad for cornflakes. "Mason," the photographer for that ad said to him, "pick up those cornflakes and smile, smile, smile." Reese's reply: "What's so funny about cornflakes?"

Thus a career was born, as the wise-beyond-his-years boy beat out hundreds of other kids in his first audition for a TV commercial, landing the spokesman spots for Ivory Snow and eventually adding Underwood Meat Spreads, Snoopy Sneakers, Ralston Purina, Thick & Frosty, Post Raisin Bran, Zayre Stores and Betcha Bacon to his résumé. A very bright kid, he was reading high-school-level books and memorizing 250-word commercial scripts by the time he was in third grade. Not only that, he was quite the little con man.

When asked by an interviewer if he'd read any good books, young Reese mentioned finishing a work by card expert John Scarne, then proceeded to demolish the writer in crazy eights using a marked deck. For his mother, keeping her brainy son away from the more negative influences of the industry was paramount. "Nothing in this business is more important than Mason," she said. "You know, my husband Bill and I haven't lifted a finger to push him along. We don't let anything interfere with his schooling — we took a tutor down to Philadelphia when Mason did The Mike Douglas Show — and we don't even have a publicity man. We're not giving Mason a 'Speak, Baby June!' shoving around; we're just taking all this as it comes. We even turned down the Carson and Griffin shows because we don't want him flying to California."

Did they manage to protect him? Only he can say. But it was anyone's guess as to whether showbiz stood to corrupt him, or the other way around. "How do you like working?" another young actor asked him within earshot of the TV Guide writer. "I like it. It's fun," Reese said. "You get to travel around and meet lots of important people and shoot craps with the cameramen."