Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- Ronald McDonald lives off McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers.
He's good with children. He has an easy laugh. And he's enjoying his gig as a paid spokesman for a fast-food giant — just not the one you think.
"I found out it was Taco Bell the Thursday morning of the shoot," McDonald said. "It was all very quiet."
McDonald is one of 25 real-life Ronald McDonalds from around the country featured in a series of television and web ads promoting Taco Bell's new breakfast menu, which launched Thursday. In his commercial the Fort Myers McDonald — though Taco Bell mistakenly spells it "Fort Meyers" — joins McDonalds from Vero Beach; Worcester, Mass.; Easton, Md.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Memphis, Tenn. in extolling the virtues of Taco Bell's A.M. Crunchwrap.
Fort Myers' Ronald's big line: "The hash browns are crispy."
A few weeks ago the 53-year-old semi-retiree was just any-old Ronald McDonald. "I go by Ron," he pointed out. "I worked mainly in transportation."
In February a talent agency found McDonald through his LinkedIn account. The agency emailed asking if he'd be interested in doing a commercial for a national company. They sent him a nondisclosure agreement and set up a Skype interview. Two weeks later McDonald was on a Los Angeles set, Crunchwrap in hand.
Taco Bell gathered 25 guys coast-to-coast, whose real names just happen to be Ronald McDonald.
For much of McDonald's life, his moniker, handed down to him by his father, Ronald McDonald Sr., brought him little more than childhood teasing and some decent name recognition. A newspaper in Sheboygan, Wis., once ran his picture next to that of his red-haired counterpart saying one of the men had been hired as a new transit director, "which brought a few laughs," McDonald smiled.
But this latest gig is of another scale.
The campaign prompted a hefty response from McDonald's, which is countering with free cups of coffee during breakfast hours through April 13. Ron McDonald's Taco Bell ad had more than 94,000 YouTube views as of Monday.
"For three days my phone, my text messages — social media just lit up," McDonald said. "It's been a lot of fun."