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When a public figure grips a city as strongly as Chuck Brown did Washington, businesses want in on the love-fest, too. In the last decade, the Godfather of Go-Go graced television screens to promote the D.C. Lottery and the Washington Post—both local institutions for whom borrowing Brown’s support was a logical move—and provided the soundtrack for a national cookie commercial, too.
The lotto ads—the campaign was called “Rolling Cash 5” and ran between 2005 and 2009—have a distinct Washington flavor: Each one shows Brown walking, singing, and dancing in front of various D.C. landmarks. The commercials are campy, and they talk to the people: “D.C., I’m about to explain/The D.C. Lottery games are not all the same,” Brown sings over “The Party Roll” as he kisses a woman on the street and dances on the Big Chair in Anacostia.
The Post promo, which also aired in 2005, shows Brown without the go-go beat, but his voice still makes you want to dance, still sounds like D.C. How better to exploit Brown’s history as a boy selling the Post on the street even before he invented the city’s musical genre? “The Washington Post is a Washington institution—just like me,” he says. Boom: newspapers sold. Almost makes you think Chuck Brown could save the Post from the death of print media.
A 2010 Chips Ahoy commercial featuring Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” was more of a surprise to Washington audiences. Although Chuck didn’t make it on screen, his music was there to sell cookies well outside the District—the ad aired nationally. The kids dancing in the ad may never have heard of go-go, but they sure as hell knew to get moving when they heard its beat. And to eat Chips Ahoy, too.