Update 4/27/11: FOX Chicago News has learned Lynn Hauldren has passed away at age 89.
He’s a Chicago television legend: Lynn Hauldren. Recognize the name? You'll recognize the face. Hauldren is the Empire man.
You've seen him for 34 years, both in the flesh and as a claymation figure. He is a Chicago icon, but just who is the Empire man?
Hauldren has been recognized while on vacation in Europe and Mexico, and even now at the age of 88, hardly a week goes by when somebody doesn't come up to him and say, ‘Aren't you the Empire guy?’
“People think I'm a celebrity, I'm not. I'm just a pitchman, a pitchman,” Hauldren said.
What a pitchman. They've made dolls in his likeness and Empire man bobble heads. He's thrown out the first pitch at Wrigley and even took part in a FOX Chicago promo for a Bears special with Steve McMicheal and a cast of other wacky characters.
To think it all started back in 1977 when Hauldren, an advertising copy-writer, couldn't find an actor Empire executives liked for the commercial Hauldren had created. Someone suggested he do it himself.
“I thought it was crazy. I never did any acting. But I said ‘I'll try it and see what happens.’ It worked ok,” Hauldren said.
Hauldren might not have been an actor, but he's been a singer his whole life, performing as a member of barbershop quartets like Chordiac Arrest for better than a half century. He's performed in competitions around the world, placing among the top 10 internationally on four occasions.
It was Hauldren’s musical background that really made the Empire spots resonate. What many people don't know is that Hauldren not only starred in the Empire spots, he wrote the iconic jingle, arranged the music and performed it with his quartet.
“I tried to keep it low key as opposed to everyone else that was screaming at you. I think that's what worked,” Hauldren said.
Hauldren lives in Evanston and still loves to arrange music. The Empire man isn't just a Chicago-thing; the campaign and his image are used in markets all over the country.