What Little Mikey from the Life Cereal Ad Is up to Now
John Gilchrist starred as the cute round-faced three-year-old in a 1970s cereal commercial which ran for years, but contrary to popular “folklore” he is very much alive.
The Life cereal commercial got filmed in 1971 and aired nationally until 1986. John played the picky eater named Mikey and starred alongside his two real-life brothers, Mike, and Tom who belted out the catchphrase “Mikey Likes It” after little Mikey, without saying a word, dug into a bowl of Life cereal.
Due to the success of the first commercial, Quaker Oats (the company that makes Life cereal) tried sequels to push sales, but the most curious part of John’s story was his rumored death.
"The folklore is that I ate Pop Rocks, the exploding candies, and I drank a soda and my stomach blew up," he recalled the urban legend.
During a playground baseball game in the late 1970s, John’s mother summoned him and said that a concerned friend called her in tears and expressed sadness about John’s death to which she replied, “He just came home from school!”
The Gilchrists landed in the commercial business quite haphazardly. A friend of John’s parents (Pat and Tom) told them during a Long Island vacation in the late 1960s that their 7 freckle-faced children are adorable enough to be on camera.
The Life cereal commercial became the third in a career that included about 250. While the Life commercial became the most memorable, he didn’t let it define him as a person as he told Newsday, "It's who I am, but it's only a part of who I am; I have a lot of great things in my life."
While at Iona College, John started moving away from acting. He worked in ad sales where he started in radio, including a short time at ESPN. By 2012 John became the director of media sales for MSG Networks. He primarily negotiated with advertisers on television ads but has since retired and now lives in the family’s present home in Crestwood, New York.
However, the search for the new face of Life cereal is underway. Earlier this year the Quaker Oats Company announced their nationwide contest in finding the next young face for their advertising campaign.
Auditions ran at five nationwide Walmart locations until April 27 after which the finalists received a trip to Los Angeles in May to audition for the part in person.
While in the spirit of throwback commercials, the famed actor, Tom Selleck began his career acting on television ads more or less at the same time as John’s entry into the industry.
In Tom Selleck's first ad which came out in the late 1960s, he promoted Safeguard Soap and became the man every woman wanted to be around as he smelled so fresh.