The Red House

by Brian Clarey


I’ve been singing the song all damn day. At the Red House…. I started getting Facebook posts and strange e-mails last week from friends scattered around the nation, asking me if there really is such a place as High Point, NC.

Yes, I told them. There is. At the Red House…. And they wanted to know: Is it true that in this place called High Point that the races live in harmony — buy furniture at the same store, even — down there in the Deep South?

It’s all true, I said. Except, you know, North Carolina is not the Deep South.

At the Red House… where black people and white people buy furniture.

And what of this Red House, they asked. Is it true?

Can it be real?

Oh yes, it’s real. Down at the Red House Furniture & Appliance, just off Main Street, the phones have been ringing off the hook for the past two weeks, ever since a pair of popular internet videographers shot a 90-second commercial for the store promoting racial equality and harmony, with that very catchy jingle.

Store employee Richard Pina — AKA “Big Head,” who is black and likes pumping iron and pumping furniture into peoples homes — is on the phone right now with a guy from Atlanta who just watched the spot on YouTube, where it has garnered more than 600,000 looks.

“Did you like it?” Pina asks. He listens, smiles, then gives the thumbs up. The spot was commissioned by MicroBilt, a risk management company that provides credit reports for the Red House and small business just like it all over the US. They hired the team of Rhett and Link, who have been making short films for the internet for the past two years. They call themselves internetainers.

Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal both hail from Buies Creek, just outside Fuquay Varina, and have been friends since first grade.

“We make a living by making internet videos,” Neal says over the phone from Ohio, where he and his partner performed a concert in the living room of a lucky contestwinner. “We’ve made over 200 videos, posted more than 20 millionviews…. It was kind of a departure for us. But we like localcommercials. And as an art form, the craziest are usually the mostsuccessful.”

Sothey went a little crazy, barnstorming through downtown High Point tomake the spot for the Red House, and also for another concern down theroad, TDM Auto Sales, where the 60-second ad featured an employee whois a former gynecologist from Cuba.

“Truth is stranger than fiction,” Neal says. “At least, it’s more entertaining than fiction.”

Atthe Red House…. Sorry. It’s just that the song is still stuck in myhead. At the Red House, Neal says they took some time to meet theemployees, learn what the store was about.

“BigHead said, ‘We’re like the Rainbow Coalition — we got white and blackpeople shopping and working here,’” Neal remembers. “We just looked ateach other. [We said,] ‘These guys have a sense of humor. Let’s take itto the extreme.’” Johnny Hill, AKA 10-Gauge, has been working at theRed House for 18 years. And though he likes the commercials, he doesn’tfind them all that funny.

“It doesn’t hit us how funny it is,” he says. “It’s like me telling a joke you already heard. That’s how it seems to us.”

I remind him that, in the “making of” video (which has so far gotten 36,000 YouTube views), McLaughlin compares him to DeNiro.

“Yeah,” he says. “I don’t even know who DeNiro is. I don’t watch much television.”

DownMain Street at the TDM Auto Sales lot, Rudy Fuentes, who really was agynecologist in his native Cuba, tells of his harrowing journey by boatto Puerto Rico.

“Therewas 27 persons,” he says. “There was a lot of women, and themenstruation, and the sharks smell the blood. And a lot of poeple wasvomiting, and they follow that.”

“ForRudy, we just rolled the camera and fed him some lines,” Neal says.“Like, ‘Hey Rudy, why don’t you say, “I want to Freedomize thisExplorer.”’” TDM’s phone hasn’t been ringing quite as often as the oneover at the Red House, where black people and white people buyfurniture — they commercial has yet to break 200,000 hits, but it’sgetting there. And they’ve managed to do somethign the Red Househasn’t: make a sale. A customer called to buy the motorcycle featuredin the commercial.

TheRed House, though, is a perfect storm — a catchy jingle, funnycharacters, and a hot-button issue. Pina says that while the commercialis racial, it’s not racist, echoing a sentiment expressed by McLaughlinon yet another YouTube clip.

“Theonly people who have bad things to say are the comments on YouTube,”Pina says. “I haven’t had nobody out of thousands of calls.”

“Ithink it’s bizarre, it’s a spectacle,” Neal says. You get that initialreaction: ‘I can’t believe people are saying this stuff, and I don’tknow how to react.’ “At the same time, It’s humanity — these are realpeople.

If you goto the Red House, TDM Aurto, you’ll see that they are the real deal. Ithink it really comes across. It’s crazy yet strangely real.”

Rudy Fuentes, ofTDM Auto Sales in High Point, used his experience as a gynecologist inCuba as fodder for his internet commercial. (file photo)

Left to right, the columist with Johnny “10-Gauge” Hill and Richard“Big Head” Pina at the Red House in High Point, shortly after theirinternet commercial went viral. (file photo)