He has a guitar named Josephine and a zest for life. Some say he sorely needs a belt; others complain that he’s “creepy.” Still others took the time on Facebook to compliment his new haircut. He lives in Berlin and he’s kind of famous in certain circles – or Kreise – like Germany’s GZSZ, a long-running daily soap opera to which German fans often entreat him to return.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not talking about David Hasselhoff (“The Hoff,” pictured here in all his hairy 80’s glory). I’m talking about Tim Williams. Yes, the Tim Wi—
What? You don’t know who Tim Williams is? Alright, I guess that’s understandable. Either you don’t watch television, don’t live in the U.S. or Germany, or you’ve seen the commercial and you just haven’t cared enough yet to cry out: What is up with the Trivago guy???
This was exactly my reaction when I saw the commercial on TV but especially on Hulu, where it is played umpteen times per show – and trust me, there are many, many shows that feature it. This is also exactly how I found out everything I’m ever going to know about Tim Williams, a.k.a. The Trivago Guy, which is saying a lot, since all I knew about him before was whatever I could glean in one minute of confused viewing. That is, one minute of commercial time, repeated over, and over, and over. I became so impassioned with the mystery of this unusually unkempt actor that, one night while bingeing on season six of The X Files, I grabbed my phone, googled “Trivago guy,” and got three definitive hits in this order: 1) Mommies-in-orbit.com’s “What is up with the Trivago guy?” 2) Tim Williams “official” Facebook page, and 3) Southernplainsphotography.com’s “The Disheveled Trivago Guy.”
It was clear I had my man.
I’ve included the commercial for those who don’t know the man with deep forehead wrinkles and a Miami Vice five o’clock shadow:
Sean Ramsey of Southern Plains Photography used his blog to air peculiarly strong feelings about The Trivago Guy: “so that I can move on with my life. [He] looks like he’s been on a three day party binge, or at least been sitting at a bar with a glass of whiskey two weeks after his wife left him.”
A reader making one of about 250 comments on the site expresses a similar imaginative scenario: “He looks like he just walked onto the set after a night at the strip club; his clothes don’t fit quite right and he was in such a hurry to get there that he forgot his belt, hoping he makes it to the shoot in time so he can pay for his next hit and whiskey bottles he needs to keep up the rugged carefree lifestyle he leads and hopes he can hang on to.”
And hopes he can hang on to?
Another baffled commenter lays it right out there, mincing not one word: “What is this dirty-looking man doing?”
Indeed. A better question might be this: What is it about this “dirty-looking man” that has inspired so many people to write a kind of impromptu, free-verse, not-a-fan fiction so creative and passion-driven that you might hear it on slam poetry open mike night?
Before we get into that, let’s be fair. Not all of us have vilified Tim Williams, a.k.a. The Trivago Guy, a.k.a. The Disheveled Trivago Guy. While, for some of us repeatedly exposed to the commercial, he conjured images of white powdery lines on glass coffee tables and Jack Daniels-fueled rock-bottom benders, others were more satisfied with his appearance. Someone with the Germanic-sounding name J Ehrmantraut commented: “I think he looks like a real person, not a model made up to please everyone. He is also very good looking.”
There were many colorful descriptions running the gamut from “hot and sexy” to “arrogant and ugly,” and ideas proliferated about things one might wish to but can’t possibly know from the commercial, such as whether he has “third-stage gum disease,” bedbugs, or “has just been on a plane for six hours (after being on a three-day bender).” Needless to say, opinions hugely varied. (On a side note, a substantial fraction of self-identified gay-male commenters seemed to be quite smitten with the unshaven jeans-wearing discount-slinger.)
Actually, let’s be really fair. This guy has been called creepy, ugly, arrogant, dirty, sickly, and freakish, among other unnecessarily mean descriptives. Mommies-in-orbit.com suggested he is someone “to keep your daughter far away from” and offered a link for readers to check out “his definitely creepy Facebook page.” So I did, fully prepared to deepen my distaste two- or threefold at least.
I couldn’t. I didn’t see one (not obvious, anyway) prostitute, stripper, whiskey bottle, shot glass, 8-ball, horse whip, crack pipe, or creep. He doesn’t even seem to have creepy friends. (For what it’s worth, in response to one assumedly German person who complained that assumedly American commenters are obsessed with the word “creepy,” I agree – but I’m just quoting the stated facts.) Instead, I saw a proud white-haired man’s son; a man with his own smiling teenage son or nephew; a 48-year-old ex-pat in love with music, Berlin, his guitar . . . and life, man.
Yes, I also saw a guy who posts before-and-after photos of his haircuts and how awesome the number of “likes” on his page is. Yes, I saw lots of selfies from every angle imaginable, and no, he does not look good in a wife-beater. (Sorry, Tim, but not from that angle.) Just like I can’t claim really to know anything about this guy from a one-minute commercial, I still can’t say I know a whole lot from looking on his Facebook page. And I’m probably not going to.
But that’s okay, because I can say this: The commercial used to really bother me, and now it doesn’t. At all.
So, what is it about this guy? Nothing. Again, a better question might be: What is it about those of us who are so bothered by something different, and by a brand ambassador whose appearance is nonhomogeneous to the impossible standard we have been given and come to expect?
I don’t have an answer, except maybe to look deeper. Just, look deeper.
The facts remain. He didn’t have a belt. He was wearing a weirdly colored, too casual ensemble for a TV spokesman, especially for a product that pretty much exists ten times over (think TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotels.com, Yelp, Orbitz, etc.) I thought they didn’t put enough effort into the commercial, and I was sure he didn’t put enough effort into playing the part of The Trivago Guy. I even made up a backstory of my own: his great uncle left him a small trust fund and, consulting no one, he used it to jump on the Dot Com startup bandwagon fifteen years after it had already left the barn, been spooked by a rattlesnake and run off a cliff.
I, too, thought he was creepy. And for that, I am sorry.
But more than that, I have wonderful news.
Just today, I saw two things that let me know there is indeed hope in the world. First, and most shocking: THERE IS A NEW TRIVAGO COMMERCIAL. And guess what . . . he’s wearing a belt!!!
Aaand . . . check this out, if you’re one of the – let’s face it, folks – select American Hulu series-bingers like me confused enough to ask, “What is up with the Trivago Guy?” and actually look for the answer. (Trust me, just check it out. And no, it’s not p-o-r-n.)
It turns out those Germans were right: there’s a LOT more to The Trivago Guy than his questionably designed commercial. He even wears guyliner. So move over, David Hasselhoff, because your day as Germany’s favorite weirdly charming, musically cheeseballish, American B-list (ok C-list) actor is OVER.
As for Tim Williams, who will never read this because I’m fairly certain I know him well enough to say he doesn’t google himself, but just in case: Gruess dich, mein Freund, Der Trivago Typ. Ich wuensche dir, Alles Gute zum Leben. ~