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WITH AN EYE ON ... : Most valuable fan award goes to CBS’ couch warmer--Tony Hoty

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Football has made Tony Hoty a celebrity. And he’s never had to throw a block or catch a pass. In fact, he doesn’t even have to get up from the couch.

Hoty, the star of CBS commercials for National Football League games, just relaxes on a sofa or easy chair, sometimes with a bowl of dip and a bag of chips. His big task is to reveal what game the network will televise that week. He ends the promo with the smug, slightly obnoxious tag line, “I’m a big faaannnn!”

The 44-year-old New York stage actor says getting cast as the Big Fan was a stroke of luck. “They auditioned 80 guys and they decided on me. People say, ‘Who did you pay to get this job?’ ”

This is Hoty’s second year as the Big Fan. The job entails shooting four to 10 spots every Tuesday during the season. Some are made for the West Coast, some for the East Coast and some are designed for just one or two cities. When the Vikings play the Bears, for example, the Big Fan will be seen in Chicago and Minneapolis.

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‘So few people get this kind of opportunity,” he says. “I just fell into this and it’s nice not having to scramble to pay the rent next month.”

Hoty’s previous TV work included small parts in soap operas and a guest shot in NBC’s short-lived 1988 NBC prime-time series “Tattingers.” He’s also appeared in “Godspell” in Washington, “Gypsy” on Broadway and the national tour of “Other People’s Money.”

But none of that gave him the visibility of the Big Fan.

“I was in Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati last year for a game between the Reds and the Phillies,” he recalls. “I was sitting out in the bleachers with about 14,000 other people and a guy holding two beers walks by and says, ‘Hey, it’s the Big Fan.’ ”

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Hoty’s still amused at that. He politely proposed taking the fan club a step farther on CBS: Why not have the Big Fan promote baseball and college basketball games? But the network politely said no.

“They listened and said that’s a wonderful idea, but as for now the commercial will be just for the NFL.”

Hoty hopes the Big Fan will be a launching pad, maybe even to his own series, sans the sofa and bowl of dip. “A series is what every actor wants, and I’ve got a nice part in Ron Howard’s new movie ‘The Paper.’

“The Big Fan has gotten me into doors that were closed to me before,” he says.

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“And, I’ve gotten to meet some of my favorite sports broadcasters, like Terry Bradshaw, Greg Gumbel and Bob Costas.”


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