Hate is a strong word, said Mrs. Heartline, my kindergarten teacher. But if she was still alive today, God rest her soul, and she watched one of Billy Fuccillo’s commercials, even she would fly into a bitter, mouth-frothing rage.
A few days ago, you told us about your favorite minor celebrity car dealers and the impact they’ve made on generations of hoons from across the television. But for every yin there’s a yang, and for every local dealer whom you can tolerate, chances are there are a dozen more whose television, radio, billboard, mail flyer, airplane skywriting, chest-scribbling bombardment will drive any well-composed individual into attacking a busload of nuns with a linoleum knife. Local dealer ads are designed to provoke that primitive response center in humans that allows us to strike with the same unrestricted, reckless fury after, say, a sabre-tooth tiger’s ripped off a limb in unarmed combat. Selling cars is merely a curious by-product. And some ads, of course, touch our buttons in all the wrong ways.
Anyone who has lived in the upstate New York area (or served time at Auburn Prison) will know who Billy “It’s Huge!” Fuccillo is. Entrepreneur, businessman, local-advertising tour de force, his ever-looming presence haunts I-81 with promises of EZ-Financing and “Billy Credit.” He swaggers onto our TV screen in yet another decidedly low-budget commercial, filling the frame with his large girth—he’s both wide and tall, built like an aging linebacker, and the black peacoat he usually wears only serves to enlarge his size. “We got all these brand-new 2011 Sorrentos!” he shouts in a harsh, booming voice, arms in the air, as he stands in a snow-strewn lot surrounded by Cobalts, PT Cruisers, Hyundai Sonatas. “Forget about Camry, forget about Accord, we got Sonatas! You can drive it!—30 month lease! You’re not gonna believe it! Not gonna believe it!” Every sentence is yelled, every motion exaggerated; so eager is he to get his pitch out that his mouth seems to act faster than his brain can form sentences. Occasionally he’s joined by his guests—a blonde woman in her mid-30s, and a business partner named Tom who does most of the talking—both of whom he loves to interrupt every chance he gets.
“How big is this sale, Billy?” the woman asks.
“It’s bigger than big, Caroline!” Billy barks, rapid-fire, before she even has a chance to finish.
“Sure are a lot of great cars here, Bill- ”
“You sure know it, Tom!” Billy interjects, then stands grinning, quietly swaying, as Tom finishes his pitch:
“…and if you want to drive right past those gas pumps, this is it! This ’09 Cobalt is ready to go! Just take Rt. 81 to exit 41 to Rt. 11 in Adams, because…”
This is his commercial, these are his dealerships, and you had better not damn well forget, dear viewer. And to reiterate his message, at the end of every commercial, without fail, he growls out his catchphrase: “IT’S HUGE!” He pauses before pronouncing the G, attacking that last syllable with almost comical precision: “HUUUUUUUUUUUUU-GGE!” Ask any man, woman, and child, from the Lower Westside to Inner Harbor to University Hill, and you’ll soon discover how it’s been drilled into their minds until they can hear it in their sleep. This is how he uses his physical size to full advantage. There’s no denying that he himself is a big person, and that he’s hard to ignore—he’s kind of a big deal around here. The aggression serves as a metaphor: it’s how he does business. He doesn’t even have to try anymore—his buddies Tom and Caroline can hammer out the dirty work, and he just snarls his catchphrase. It’s Huge!
Fuccillo must have been a bully in high school. Not that he’s a bad person, per se, but it’s such a fitting personality—everybody grew up knowing someone like him, no matter what side of the eternal bully/nerd dichotomy they were on. Does he use his catchphrase with his wife? Some questions are better left unanswered.
Of course, the ads are infuriating only because Billy Fuccillo is a natural for this business, someone who has spent decades honing the dealership commercial to an art. And, it may be an ugly art but he is its foremost practitioner, for better or for worse. The Fuccillo Automotive Group owns string of dealerships in the upstate New York (and one in Southern California), 20 in total, stretching from Watertown to Grand Island to Syracuse to Adams, his home base. In Rochester, he even bought the naming rights to an ailing radio station, 107.3FM. Its name now? Huge!107.3.