On late-night television in Utica, N.Y., leather store salesman Charlie Celi went off the script in November to share his opinion on the state's politicians. Celi, who handles marketing for Forever Leather at the Sangertown Square shopping center in New Hartford, N.Y., flew into a Howard Beale-style rant against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and departing Sen. Hillary Clinton.
"If Spitzer wasn't out there poppin' chicks like bon bons, maybe we'd be a little better," Celi says in an ad that has made its way to YouTube. "The people in upstate New York always gettin' the short end of the freakin' stick," he continued, directing his next comments directly to the politicians: "You all suck. ... Hillary Clinton, thanks for nothin'."
In an earlier ad, Celi shares his opinion on dog urine and cigarette butts in the streets of Herkimer, N.Y.
"There's a nice smell of dog urine all down Main Street," he observes. "I'd like to see something done and I'm not alone. ... I'm not turning my back on Herkimer. I love Herkimer."
"These gas people. They've been hosin' us, hosin' us, for a year when we were down," Celi says. "The scumbag Nice N Easy people -- I say scumbag, that's a harsh word -- ratballs is a better one! ... Did you have a good time, because someday you're going to pay for what you did. Pisses me off."
Celi has been holding court on local television since 1989, his son Patrick told me in a phone interview Tuesday. Forever Leather's a family-owned business, and the company began buying blocks of late-night time for half-hour infomercials in the '90s. "We never plan them out," Patrick Celi said. "We used to do them once a month." The rant against politicians inspired a call from the mayor of Rome, N.Y., and some suggestions from the public that Charlie Celi run for office. He's a political independent who isn't interested in doing that, his son said.
"It has been said to me that I'm quick with the tongue," Charlie Celi acknowledges in one ad. "There's people out there pretty mad at me right now for things I said. I didn't mean it. I just get mad."