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It's been nearly half a century ago since three-year-old John Gilchrist won America's hearts by playing little Mikey in the Life cereal commercials. The first one aired in 1972 and also featured Gilchrist's real-life brothers Michael and Tommy, sitting around a breakfast table, suspicious of the cereal because it's supposed to be healthy. They're convinced that Mikey won't like it, since he is supposedly picky and doesn't like much of anything. But, lo and behold, Mikey likes it. The catchphrase took off, the commercial won a Clio award in 1974, and it remains one of the most iconic ads of its time. But whatever happened to Gilchrist? Read on to see what the former kid star been up to since making his television debut.
No, he didn't die from eating Pop Rocks.
You might have heard the urban legend that took off in the late'70s when Pop Rocks candy was first released. Although there was no social media back then, a rumor spread quickly that Gilchrist had died after eating Pop Rocks and then drinking a Coke. That may sound incredibly ludicrous now, but Gilchrist once said that his own mother received a phone call from a neighbor offering their condolences. He had literally just come in from school and had gone to the park, but still, he told Thrillist in 2017, "She sent my oldest brother to drive by the field where I was playing to make sure I was OK. That's when I first heard the Pop Rocks story."
He made tons of other commercials.
Born in the Bronx, Gilchrist and his six other siblings all acted in commercials growing up. Gilchrist himself filmed over 150 commercials before giving up on performing entirely. He even reprised his role as Mikey at 18 years old, though that spot is far less famous than the original. He told the Orlando Sentinel in 1986 that commercials were such a family business that seeing each other in one became old hat. "'At first, it was, 'Hey mom, come here,' whenever I'd see one of us on TV," he said. "But now, when we see someone, we just look. Not even a word. Only my little sister gets excited."
His father, a retired Bronx police officer, told the outlet that he was surprised which of the Life kids became the breakout star. "'Personally, I think the other two guys really made the first commercial work so well," he said. "Over the years, they would kid John and say, 'You did nothing but eat. "
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He barely remembers the experience.
1/ Recognize this guy? John Gilchrist played Mikey in the 1970's "Mikey Likes It" commercials for Life cereal. The Quaker Oats Company (makers of Life owned by @PepsiCo since 2001) ran them for over 13 years. John, now 51, was 3 years old at the time. pic.twitter.com/MJJ5XLOx01
— Ray Cole (@raycoletv) September 10, 2019
Gilchrist has said that he doesn't really remember much about making his first Life commercial. But what little he can recall is positive. And it sounds like it was pretty easy. "It's a curiosity thing. It didn't take a lot of talent for me to sit there, or at least I don't remember," he said in the Orlando Sentinel interview. To this day, he'll sign autographs for fans who remember his famous taste test and doesn't even mind if people call him Mikey. But he doesn't see his early childhood fame as a huge part of his identity.
Living Pelham, New York with his wife and three kids, he told Newsday in 2012, "[Mikey is] who I am, but it's only a part of who I am; I have a lot of great things in my life."
He has a completely different career now.
Remember Mikey From the "Life" Cereal Commercial? Here He is Today.
His Name is John Gilchrist and Resides in New York.
— 80sThen80sNow (@80sThen80sNow) June 28, 2020
Gilchrist, who's now in his early 50s, didn't pursue acting as an adult. Instead, he went to Iona College and majored in communications. Per his LinkedIn profile, he's been working at Madison Square Garden in New York City for over 15 years and has been the venue's Director of Media Sales since 2011. Seems like he likes it.
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