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The Suburbanite
  • Ronald McDonald enjoys life in spotlight

  • The collared shirt, sometimes paired with vest and tie, is far from the clown attire one would associate with Ronald McDonald.
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  • The collared shirt, sometimes paired with vest and tie, is far from the clown attire one would associate with Ronald McDonald.
    The name may be all a retired University of Akron administrator shares with the McDonald’s restaurant chain character introduced in 1963, but it was enough to land him a spot in a national Taco Bell commercial for a new breakfast menu.  
    Technically, the Jackson Township resident had the name first. He was about 12 when the character debuted.
    “Prior to that, my name had no notoriety,” he said. “And then after that, you know, kids will be kids.”
    McDonald, 62, usually goes by Ron but said most people still make the connection. Classmates used to snicker during school roll calls, a campus security officer once asked to see his real ID, and cashiers often commented on his name before customers could swipe their own credit cards.
    As a university administrator, McDonald learned to use his name to his advantage. It became an attention-grabbing opening for presentations and workshops.  
    “I’d say, ‘You know, it’s been mostly a positive experience, I just can’t order pizzas or use credit cards,'" he said.
    CALIFORNIA CALLS
    McDonald also has received prank calls from people asking for a Big Mac and fries. So when a Los Angeles casting agency called in mid-February, he thought it was a joke. They couldn’t tell him much about the project, except that Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris was involved.
    McDonald and his wife, Carol, researched the casting and advertising agencies until they were convinced the project was real. Although some family members remained concerned for his welfare, he boarded a plane to Los Angeles on March 11 — still with no knowledge of the company or nature of the work.
    A person called that evening to tell him he would be picked up early the next morning, the day McDonald learned he would be involved in a national Taco Bell ad.
    “I thought it was either a commercial or some kind of documentary, and I never imagined that it was Taco Bell,” he said.
    There were five other McDonalds in his film group, and the agencies housed them in the same West Hollywood hotel, “which was very confusing for the hotel staff,” he said. Taco Bell hired 25 Ronald McDonalds in total.
    It was the first time most had ever met another Ronald McDonald or appeared on television. “Ronald Akron,” as he was referred to on set, said it allowed him to talk with others from across the nation.
    “Many of them had similar experiences,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - After a full day of filming, McDonald flew back to Ohio on March 13. The commercials began airing Thursday.
    McDonald can be seen taking a bite out of Taco Bell’s waffle taco, wearing a collared shirt, vest and tie, in a room not unlike his beige-colored living room in Jackson Township. He describes the “really, really good” bacon and ends the commercial with a smile.
    RECOGNITION      
    But McDonald said the best part of the experience came after the commercial aired. The University of Akron mentioned the commercial in a newsletter, which sparked numerous messages and calls from former co-workers and students.
    A friend wrote to tell him he was on television in Illinois and his young, great-nephew exclaimed, “Mommy, uncle Ron is in the TV!” when he saw the commercial.
    “It’s just been so much fun, just all the interaction that I’ve had from this experience,” McDonald said. “My family’s having fun with it.”