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Boxer Boogie?


Kmart and men's novelty boxer champ Joe Boxer recently launched an advertising campaign announcing a partnership that brings an exclusive assortment of clothes and home furnishings to the 103-year-old chain.

Big deal. 

What people really want to know is: Who is that guy in the TV commercial? No man in tightie whities - with the six-pack of D'Angelo - has looked as goofy and sexy boogying to bossa nova.

Well, his name is Vaughn Lowery and he made up the um, moves, himself. 

"He just pulled down his pants and started dancing," said Dave Karraker, director of marketing and communications at Kmart's San Francisco office.

Thing is, nobody at the Los Angeles audition told him to take off his pants and dance. They didn't have to. Nearly three years of runway work in the U.S. and South Africa has made stripping down to his skivvies in front of a crowd easy. "Vaughn exhibited personality right out the gate," Karraker said of the 22-year-old professional model and actor from Kmart's hometown of Detroit. "Everyone was shocked and surprised."

Then they got over it, quit their laughing and rolled tape to capture the dance now known as the "Boxer Boogie." It's part kangaroo boxing, part jumping rope, part Rocky fists-in-the-air victory dance. Lowery pairs the jaw-dropping combination of quirky choreography with crazy facial expressions most would perform only at home. Alone.

The performance, inspired by the urge to dance in front of a mirror to snappy music while clad in underwear, has left viewers hysterical and company reps scrambling to keep up with the demand for a guy more sought after than the Dell dude. "It feels so surreal," said the Cornell University grad, who has a degree in industrial and labor relations, via telephone from his Los Angeles apartment last week. "I never thought everybody would embrace it like they did." Especially, he said, when his first thought after doing the dance was, "What did I just do?"

The commercial is actually one of five produced by the New York City-based TBWA/Chiat Day firm. But since Lowery's 15- and 30-second versions started running July 28, he has made several TV appearances including CBS' "The Early Show" and NBC's "The Tonight Show." He even stopped by the Big Apple's famed Apollo Theater, home of TV's "Showtime at the Apollo," to do his dance during a pre-show.

"Boxer Boogie" fever also hit cyberspace, where Kmart created a special site ftp://ftp2.bluelight.com/ with a free download of the commercial. More than 3,000 have downloaded as of last week.

When they're not downloading the spot, TV-commercial lovers are voting it to the Top 10 list on http://ads.com/. 

Others have flooded the inboxes of Kmart at http://www.kmart.com/, Joe Boxer at http://www.joeboxer.com/ and Lowery's Web site at http://www.aboutvaughn.com/ with hundreds of fan e-mails. The authors, whom Lowery writes back, are a mix of age groups and genders but not all want his number. Many simply say he made their day. "Being a male model, we tend to be a little too serious" and focus on being sexy, said Lowery, who opted to do the opposite during his audition. "I figured, 'OK. Let's just have fun.'"

Fun is a staple for Joe Boxer, whose CUO is known as the Chief Underpants Officer and its signature item is a pair of smiley-faced licky boxer shorts. Still, it's the company's line of white boxers and briefs that are its "bread and butter." That's why, in the commercial, Lowery is wearing tightie whities with the Joe Boxer logo on the waistband, not the trademark boxers, said Colette Sipperly, vice president of PR and marketing for Windsong Allegiance Group, Joe Boxer's parent company in Connecticut.

Fun is also something that's been in short supply at Kmart since it recently filed for bankruptcy. Reps from both companies said their partnership was struck last year, long before the financial problems came to light. Sipperly, however, said the Chapter 11 filing has "not made a blip" of difference because Kmart is still holding up its end of the deal. Sales haven't been hurt either. More than 1 million Joe Boxer products, packing about a $20 million punch, have sold each week. Karraker said the commercial, which some company reps found too racy, is "one of the very few 'feel-goods' it has right now"

For Lowery, a man with at least four other national commercials to his credit, the "feel-goods" from this one are many. The TV and movie offers are rolling in and there's talk of him becoming a VJ. Together, they make for an ongoing out-of-body experience the youngest of five keeps in perspective with the help of loved ones. "If I have their affirmation, that's all that counts," he said.

And what did his mother say? 

"'You're so crazy!'" 

 
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