Johnny Roventini, the pint-size bellboy who became one of the best-known figures in American advertising by shouting “Call for Philip Morris,” died of natural causes Dec. 1 at a hospital near White Plains, N.Y. He was 88.
In 1933, a 22-year-old Roventini was being promoted by the New Yorker Hotel as “the smallest bellboy in the world” at 4 feet tall when he met advertising man Milton Biow, who had an idea for a cigarette ad. Biow gave him a dollar “to locate Philip Morris.”
“I had no idea that Philip Morris was a cigarette,” he said later, and he strode through the hotel, shouting “Call for Philip Mor-rees.”
That began a career that brought Roventini a lifetime contract and a salary of up to $50,000 — fabulous at the time. He was heard on popular live radio programs and on some of the most-watched television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including “I Love Lucy,” “Candid Camera” and the Red Skelton and Jackie Gleason shows.