Marathon Fire Chief John Johnson in the latest Verizon commercial.

Throngs of camera-wielding paparazzi were supposedly crowding the entrance to Marathon City Hall Tuesday night, but not to hear about the new Middle Keys hospital tax — they were there to catch a glimpse of budding character actor and Marathon Fire Chief John Johnson.

He made his long-overdue acting debut this past Sunday during Verizon’s new “Enabling Heroes” commercial. His familiar voice is heard over scenes of a car fire and flames bursting out of the side of a brick building.

“Every call is different,” he bellows with the same gusto as a middle-aged Daniel Day Lewis in a Steven Spielberg film. “So the only thing that we can do to make sure that we get there safely and then we leave that scene safely and go home at night, is train, and we train all the time in the fire service.”

Viewers get a two-second view of Johnson, followed by Los Angeles Captain Martin Mullen and Verizon’s Nicki Palmer stressing the importance of communication among first responders.

“I had already told them I have AT&T,” Johnson said, but that didn’t stop the nation’s largest mobile provider from treating him like an A-list celebrity. They first slapped a “slimming” baseball cap atop his flowing white hair, then positioned him infront of a blue screen to give the viewer the illusion they are actually fighting real fires with the affable chief.
Verizon spared no expense.

However, the ad is receiving a chilly reception on YouTube, leading Verizon to disable comments and voting on the video. The video is still being panned in a Reddit discussion.

Despite the lack of commercial success, Johnson’s fame seems to be rising faster than a loaf of pumpernickel bread. Radio shows and big-box retailers are reaching out to Johnson for his boy-next-door looks and sultry vocals. Rumors swirled earlier in the week of him potentially narrating a Netflix documentary about first responders, but neither Netflix norJohnson could comment about the use of his now-trademark voice.

City Manager Chuck Lindsey said he’s scrambling to keep the famed fire chief out of Hollywood.

“My phone’s been ringing off the hook with TV and movie producers wanting more. They can’t get enough of the Johnson,” Lindsey said. “I’m doing everything I can to keep him here; however, his head was already overly inflated. You know … he’s from Boca Raton.”

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