Famous for 15 Minutes: 1974-1994
As a 12-year-old on Long island, John Moschitta could rip through the "To be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet in 19 seconds. As a grown-up, he was the 586-words-a-minute star of Federal Express ads that ran from 1981 until 1983. "I went from obscurity to being on magazine covers," says Moschitta, 39, whose flourishing career in commercials includes spots for Minute Rice and, most recently, Micro Machines toys. "I don't mind being 86 years old and having to say 'PeterPiperpickeda-peckofpickledpeppers.' "
Remember all the lacy lingerie, the sexy poses and the heavy-breathing songs like "Nasty Girl"? Remember Vanity? Denise Matthews does. "I hated everything about me," says Matthews, 35, who reverted to her given name last year after trading in her bustier for a Bible. Her showbiz career took off when Prince made her head of the Vanity 6 pop group in 1982. Later she posed for Playboy and acted in such nonblockbusters as Action Jackson and The Last Dragon. Now she's a Christian evangelist and Bible student in Sunnyvale, Calif. "Every day I wake up and say, 'Good Morning, Jesus,' " she says. "I never want to be that person again, that Vanity."
Bagel Boy Rob Camilletti
He is the most beautiful man I have ever seen," said Cher when she spotted 22-year-old Rob Camilletti dancing at Manhattan's Heartbreak club on her 40th birthday in 1986. That was the start of a three-year romance between the actress-singer and the bartender-bagelmaker. The two are still friends, and Camilletti is still tending bar—as co-owner of L.A.'s hip Creek Alley. He really wants to act full-time, but says, "I'm bartending because my acting career sucks."
Sometimes all it takes is tight jeans and a bare chest. Those ingredients, plus a rap song called "Rico Suave," made Gerardo Mejia—minus his surname—a shooting star just two years ago. Saturday Night Live's Dennis Miller announced that Puerto Rico was changing its name to "Puerto Rico Suave," and Madonna reportedly left a semi-obscene message on Gerardo's answering machine. The shirtless one hasn't had a hit since, but he has a role in A Million to Juan, a comedy that was shot last year. These days, Gerardo, 28, has trimmed the mane of black hair and settled down with his girlfriend, model Kathy Eicher, and their 1-year-old daughter, Bianca. And though the doting dad designed the polka-dot motif nursery himself, he still isn't quite ready to put his shirt back on. "There's still a lot of that Rico Suave in me," he says.
Falling Woman Edith Fore
The gentle grandmother fell down a lot in 1990. "I fell in my garden, in the house, taking my grandson to school," she said. But when she announced, "I've fallen and I can't get up" in a TV commercial for LifeCall, a medic-alert system, the phrase became part of the culture. Fore, 78, lives in a suburb of Camden, N.J., with her daughter and three grandsons, and still subscribes to the service that made her famous (now called the Response Companies). The $500 she made from the LifeCall commercial was the extent of her TV earnings. Thanks to improved health, she doesn't fall down anymore.
Burger Meister "Herb"
Beginning in late 1985, Burger King ran ads centered on a balding nerd named Herb. The ill-conceived campaign did nothing for burger sales but a lot for Jon Menick, the actor who played Herb. He moved on to do ads for Arby's, Mazda and, he says, "every bank in the world." Now 43, he is trying to break into voice acting. "In cartoons," he says, "I can even play a stud."
She's Rula Lenska
Alberto VO5 dubbed her an "international star," but when she said, "I'm Rooo-la Lenzzz-ka," America said, "Rula Who?" The 46-year-old Polish-British actress briefly became a cult figure for her hair-product ads. Now living in the English countryside with her second husband, she keeps busy on British TV, but never lived up to her initial billing. Now, she says, "I'm Rula Lenska. Please give me a job."
Mall Flower Tiffany
At 15, Tiffany was singing in the malls of Middle America. At 16, she became a certified star when Tiffany, her 1987 debut album, went platinum. Within a year, after moving in with her grandmother and a bitter court fight with her mother, she began a battle with drugs. Now, drug free and born-again, 22-year-old Tiffany Darwish is married to makeup artist Junior Garcia and the mother of 18-month-old Elijah. "All my life I've wanted to get married and have a baby," she says. "That's where my focus is." She also has an album, Dreams Never Die. Don't look for it at your local mall though; it's being released only in overseas markets.
Unrapped Vanilla Ice
What does a rapper do when nobody buys his rap anymore? Vanilla Ice forsook airwaves for real waves to become a personal water-craft racer, ranked sixth nationally in his class. His 1990 single "Ice Ice Baby" was the first rap song to hit No. 1 on Billboard's pop chart; his first album, To the Extreme, sold 10 million copies. By 1991, though, his career had melted. While he has a new CD planned for 1994, Ice says, don't like this big celebrity life and being locked up indoors."
Saturday Night Sexpot Donna Pescow
Donna Pescow was 22 in 1977 when she played Annette, the sad little sex object who loses John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. "The phones started ringing with offers," she says. "I thought they were crank calls." Her only success on the big screen landed her the title role in TV's Angie from 1978 to 1980. "I used to say I had the Evelyn Wood career—speed success," says Pescow, who finished the '80s in Out of This World, a syndicated sitcom. Yet she believes the career letdown that followed "was the best thing that ever happened because it made me grow up." Married to ad exec Arnold Zelonka and the mother of 4-year-old Jack, she's looking for projects. "I'll work until I'm in a walker," Pescow says. "Then I'll do parts that require walkers."
Disco Diva Karen Lynn Gorney
She lit up the dance floor in the climactic scene with Travolta, but now Karen Lynn Gorney—who played the upwardly mobile Stephanie Mangano in Saturday Night Fever—remembers the experience as "about not getting enough rest." That hasn't been a problem for Gorney, unfortunately. She was written out of the sequel, Stayin' Alive (as was Pescow), and since then has concentrated on music—singing, for instance, at actor Wilford Brimley's annual charity benefit in Salt Lake City. She also continues to act Off-Broadway and in regional theater, playing the lead in a 1992 all-female production of Doctor Faustus in Middlebury, Vt. Looking back on Fever, she says, "It was a great movie. I'm proud of it."