To the delight or chagrin of Oklahoma City television viewers, Linda Soundtrak is coming back.
The spunky, fast-talking Chicagoan was a commercial mainstay on many of the televisions she helped sell from the mid 1970s to the early '90s (vintage commercials) as the co-owner and spokeswoman for the Soundtrak electronics stores.
A new generation is about to be introduced to Linda Soundtrak in December with the opening of the first store in 16 years across the street from the site of the original Soundtrak near N. Pennsylvania Avenue and W. Hefner Road. Along with the store, new television spots are slated featuring Linda Verin in her most famous role.
During the 18 years Verin owned Soundtrak, viewers saw a regular stream of themed commercials featuring her alter ego, Linda Soundtrak, parodying television shows and characters from popular culture. Other spots found her donning various costumes from a chocolate kiss " to "kiss off high prices" " to a chicken suit promising "cheap, cheap prices."
Verin came to Oklahoma from Chicago via Southern California where she learned the electronics business. When Verin was in her early 20s and looking for a new market to open a discount electronics store, but with little startup money, Oklahoma tycoon Sylvan Goldman provided the backing to put Soundtrak in business in Oklahoma City.
After trying out a commercial concept featuring Sound Man " an animated character short on cash but in need of electronics, which coincided with the opening of the first store in 1975 " Verin soon found herself in front of the camera. She wrote the copy for the television ads and, after auditioning staff members, found that she was the only one who could rattle off the store's weekly bargains in 30 seconds.
"I got the job because I could talk much faster than everyone else," Verin said. "It was kind of an accident. I never aspired to be on TV."
WAVE OF PROSPERITY
Soundtrak rode the wave of prosperity during the oil boom, and despite how clever or annoying people found the ads, Verin sold a lot of televisions, stereos, camcorders and electronic accessories to Oklahomans flush with cash but still seeking a deal.
As the mid '80s set in, however, that all began to change.
"It was great for a long, long time until the oil bust, and then it got very difficult," she said.
Looking to diversify, and seeking to set up operations in a part of the country not counting its every high and low based on the price of a barrel of oil, Verin looked east and moved her operations to Birmingham, Ala., in 1989.
At its height there were Soundtrak stores in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Alabama. But the economy continued to take its toll nationwide, and in 1993, Verin turned off the lights at the last Soundtrak stores.
Today most remnants of Linda Soundtrak have disappeared, and only three commercial shorts from 1986 exist on YouTube.
After Soundtrak, Verin stayed in Birmingham and looked for a new career. Since moving to Alabama, she has held a variety of jobs from selling cars to becoming the marketing manager of the largest car dealership in the state and running a bipartisan political action committee to elect more women to public office in Alabama. From there, she was marketing manager for two Alabama publications before starting her own firm, Ads That Work, 10 years ago.
Linda Soundtrak remained firmly in Verin's past until she was approached by Russell Kim in June. Kim had acquired the Soundtrak name five years ago and had been dabbling with different ways to use the brand. Verin met with Kim in Oklahoma City over the Fourth of July weekend, and he had an interesting proposition.
"I was totally taken aback," Verin said. "He (Kim) said, 'I want you to come back to the grand opening.'"
Verin does not have an ownership interest in the new store, but Ads That Work will handle advertising and promotions. Kim knew Verin was busy, and that she hadn't played Linda Soundtrak in years, but took a chance on asking her if the perky, motor-mouthed Linda Soundtrak might return.
Verin agreed, and now the first Soundtrak ads since 1993 are set to begin airing at the beginning of December.
"I thought for sure she'd turn me down," Kim said. "It's not like she has nothing to do."
Verin gave few hints about themes for upcoming commercials, but said the first one will focus on coming home.
"We're going to embrace the past and move forward," she said.
Anyone who thinks Linda Soundtrak has slowed down or softened with age may also be in for a surprise.
"People want to know if Linda Soundtrak can still rock," Verin said with a laugh. "I really think I'm too old for this, but I'm going to give it my best shot."
Verin has no plans to move back to Oklahoma, but expects to return quarterly to shoot a fresh batch of Soundtrak commercials.
The store is set to have its grand opening Dec. 11-13 with in-store appearances by Verin to meet and greet customers. Kim is anxious to get the store open and bring an old familiar friend to metro television screens.
"She's smarter and sharper and more energetic than ever before," Kim said. "I'm thrilled." "Kelley Chambers