‘Mr. Clean’ will be missed on the South Shore
With his bald head, elfish pointed ears and well-muscled body, Bob Hoskins had been known as “Mr. Clean” since 1957.
Robert Thomas Hoskins, who died of heart failure Aug. 30, 2001, at Barton Memorial Hospital, was the personification of the fictional character created by Proctor and Gamble as an advertising trademark for its Mr. Clean All Purpose Cleaner.
Hoskins was born May 14, 1927, at Pittsburg, Calif. He had taken up bodybuilding and weightlifting during his years at Antioch High School, Antioch, Calif., and Placer College, Auburn, Calif., and was an easily recognized face at Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach where he moved in 1955 to add to his already substantial physique. It was there that he was first tagged with the Mr. Clean moniker.
He was working out on the beach with Mr. California when two men in suits with attache cases walked up to him and asked if he had ever heard of Mr. Clean. He told them he didn’t know what they were talking about, but a few days later he saw the character on TV. After seeing his essence on a commercial Hoskins was convinced he was the person used to develop the character and the resemblance was remarkable.
That was the height of the Yul Brenner era with “Magnificent Seven” and the girls loved that guy back in the 1970s. Hoskins was sure Proctor and Gamble came up with the idea of a baldheaded strong guy for Mr. Clean. Then they roamed around Muscle Beach and snapped a picture of him without his knowing it and that’s how it got started.
Even though he was never officially recognized as “the” Mr. Clean, he lived the life of a celebrity. Following a stint at the Vic Tanny Gym in Southern California, he went to Hawaii in 1964, where he managed a gym at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. While he was there a local TV station was going to broadcast a movie and landed Proctor and Gamble as a sponsor. Hoskins went down to the station and became Mr. Clean on some local commercials. After the commercials were broadcast he became the host of a TV fitness show for station KGMB in Honolulu. After 10 years of being called Mr. Clean by everyone he met, Hoskins finally realized some financial gain from the resemblance – he got $7 an hour.
Hoskins eventually moved to Spokane, Wash., where he hosted another TV exercise program on a regional station. He also volunteered to appear as Mr. Clean in a benefit fund-raiser for the 1964 U.S. Olympic Team. During the early 1970s he migrated to Las Vegas, where he ran a health club at the Showboat Casino and Hotel. He moved to Lake Tahoe in 1975 where he managed the Sierra Health Club and was head of security for Barney’s Casino as well as a security guard at Bill’s Casino. He most recently worked for the Hornblower Tahoe Queen in public relations.
Lisa Backes, who worked at Bill’s Casino with Hoskins in the 1990s said, “He was a really kind person. He used to have annual pool parties at a motel he was managing and invited everyone staying there as well as all his friends. He was a real ‘people person.’
Another good friend, Jerry Oldenkamp, said,” Bob’s fair and sometimes firm nature were always tempered by his basic honesty. People naturally liked Bob and seemed to sense his ability to relate to others.
“In recent months he had developed a heart condition that resulted in the installation of a pacemaker. We have all lost a true, honest and very good man and friend. His 74 years were well-spent and were always in the pursuit of goodness and fairness.”
Hoskins’ niece Sandi Wiele said, “He was a sweet man and I loved his little-boy-like qualities. He loved people, animals, and even plants and he had a good heart.
The family is planning memorial services at a later date.
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