Anne Winn and Garrett Brown Are Hams on Wry Sandwiched Between Shows
updated 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/24/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST
With their oddball, sexy rap, Anne Winn and Garrett Brown are the most talked-about couple on radio. Though never identified by name, they star in the popular Molson beer and American Express ads and have achieved a radio miracle: Listeners actually turn up the volume when their commercials come on.
Comparisons with Nichols and May and Stiller and Meara are irresistible, but Winn, 45, and Brown, 43, beg to differ. "I think we're influenced by everyone," states Winn. "I've never been influenced by anyone," shoots back Brown. "So you see," she says, "we're a perfect match." Professionally, that is. In non-radio life, Winn and Brown are married, but not to each other. Nor are they the seductive bons vivants that listeners might expect. He is an attractive, towering type with prematurely white hair, a droll smile and matching humor, who rarely dresses up. She's a tweedy, down-to-earth brunette. They prefer to keep a low profile. "If people have a mental picture of how you look, why disillusion them?" asks Brown. "That's the magic of radio."
Their suggestive sparring matches are recorded in a red-carpeted studio in Garrett's Philadelphia town house. The pair work alone without scripts and frequently have no idea what their first sentence will be. They may record more than a dozen takes, and if they don't find one they like, they splice together bits of their best material.
The zingy pair grew up in Philadelphia. Garrett's dad was a chemist for Du Pont, and Anne's father, George Shaeffer, was a furrier who later went into real estate. Their mothers, says Brown, "were in the style of the period." They stayed home. Brown won a Navy ROTC scholarship to Tufts but quit to become a folksinger. He later sold Volkswagens for a year before getting a job as an advertising copywriter. Winn, too, wound up copywriting after a period of drifting (she went to four colleges and never graduated). In 1967 they met at a Philadelphia ad agency. Later, as a sideline, they began making local radio commercials together. Though they initially flirted with each other, it never came to anything, and they established a platonic partnership.
In 1975 each quit the advertising business for other pursuits. Brown, who had yearned to be an inventor, created the Steadicam, a device that enables cameramen to keep their lenses steady while they are moving. In 1978 he won a special Academy Award for his invention. Anne meanwhile began breeding Thoroughbreds in Pennsylvania's Chester County with her husband, Dick, a real estate developer whom she married in 1969.
Brown and Winn were lured back to radio in 1980 after the Molson people heard a spot they had recorded four years earlier. Today they are among radio's top moneymakers, sharing a seven-figure sum from their two contracts. The American Express deal calls for at least a dozen spots over two years; Molson requires the same.
Their next job is a series of TV spots for Molson in which, as on radio, they will be heard but not seen. They don't do club dates (though their exclusive contracts with Molson and AmEx would allow it), but they have a comedy album in the works. Brown is also involved with directing local commercials for a production company owned by his second wife, Ellen Shire. Anne spends her free time down on the farm.
After years of teamwork, one or the other might be tempted to break out alone—but no. "The fun is the collaboration," explains Winn. "Besides," she adds, "we never fight. In some ways it's better than marriage."