It's been 13 years since Andy Lambros filmed the Oscar Mayer bologna commercial, "The Little Fisherman," that made him as recognizable as kiddie commercial greats Rodney Allen Rippy and Mikey, the Life cereal tot who'll try anything.
Expectant mothers were so taken with 3-year-old Andy that (according to an Oscar Mayer spokeswoman) parents called to get the name of the curly-haired boy with the dimpled, ingenuous smile--they wanted to name their own sons after him.
The commercial aired nationally for 10 years, and is now part of J. Walter Thompson's in-house promotional package. Every spring Lambros is seen sitting on a dock with a fishing pole in hand, while he spells out his good feelings about luncheon meat.
However, it wasn't an adorable little boy who climbed out of the family Cadillac (they have four cars) at the Lambros' Chatsworth home. It was a muscular, barrel-chested, 168-pound 16-year-old who aspires to a pro baseball career. He's so taken with baseball that Lambros' mother introduced him to George Argyros, the owner of the Seattle Mariners, whom she knew through charity work.
"Baseball is what I want to do," said Lambros, who plays third base, center field and pitches in the San Fernando Valley's Babe Ruth League. "I went to the Mariners' training camp for three days in March. They looked me over and said I had a good shot at playing. But that's a couple of years away."
Lambros, who has a B-average in high school and a batting average in the high .400s, isn't keeping all his eggs in one mitt. He plans a pre-med major in college if a pro team hasn't signed him by graduation next year.
Either way, his parents don't have to worry about rising tuition costs. Lambros' father, Ted, has turned his son's residual checks from the bologna spots into real estate holdings. The rest of the money's in a fund that Andy can't touch until he's 21.
"I own half a warehouse in Alhambra and 20 acres in Tehachapi," Lambros said before his mother warned him that he was telling too much. They wouldn't say how much he's earned, but an executive at J. Walter Thompson estimates it's been in excess of $100,000.
Lambros also did two films when he was 8 and 10--"Fatso" (he played Dom DeLuise as a child) and "History of the World: Part I" (his scenes were cut)--but was unimpressed with Hollywood.
"I never wanted to act that badly," Lambros claimed. "I did commercials for Kodak, Kraft and Morton Salt, but by the time I got to high school I was turning down stuff. Now I don't get asked."
His career started when a commercials agent noticed the 2-year-old Lambros in a department store with his mother ("He was a beautiful baby," she cooed).
"Not anymore," said Andy--and grinned to reveal braces.
His parents claim that he was chosen over about 100 children. Originally, they said, the spot was supposed to feature five children, but Oscar Mayer decided to air his part separately. He did more than sing and spell on cue--he ad-libbed.
"It only took me an hour to learn the song because my two (older) sisters helped me," he said. "But I had to wait around all day to film my part. Then it just took two takes.
"I didn't realize the cameras were still rolling, and I asked, 'How's that?' They kept that line in, and started writing 'ad-libs' for the other commercials."
Although Lambros has not worked recently as an actor, he still likes making money. Six months ago, he started a computer consulting firm after taking a computer language course in school.
He runs his business from the family home; he has a suite of rooms upstairs, while his sisters and parents live below. Despite the appearance of independence his bachelor-type digs evoke, Lambros' mother insisted that he's been reared with a firm and careful hand.
"My parents didn't let my success go to my head," Lambros maintained. "I was a regular kid. I had to take out the garbage and do the dishes. I still do."