By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
Folks living in Tar Heel state may have seen that cheesy announcer, Gameshow Gary, on commercials touting the North Carolina Education Lottery. And people around Charlotte may have seen that goofy burglar being beat up by Panthers football players in a home security commercial.
The actor playing both roles just happens to be Catawba College Alumnus Brian Lafontaine '92. Come the end of October, Lafontaine is moving to New York, hopefully to take his acting career to the next level. For the past two years, he's traveled back and forth between Charlotte and the Big Apple.
"It's time to make the move on a full-time basis," he says.
This move never would have happened had he not driven his Ford Granada down from Rhode Island to Catawba in the summer of '88. Lafontaine arrived at campus on a golf scholarship. Back then, the program was in its infancy.
Lafontaine knew he'd never make the PGA circuit, but was attempting to "finagle his way" into a career as a country club golf professional.
His sophomore year, coaches brought in stronger players — and Lafontaine suddenly found himself with nothing to do. He got involved with student activities, and Erskine White, then assistant dean of students and coordinator of student activities, eventually made him the house emcee for college events.
"You're funny," White told him one night. "Have you thought about doing stand-up comedy?"
Lafontaine opened for a visiting comedian, and did comedy the rest of his time at Catawba. His senior year, he performed before about 150 classmates in a senior showcase — 35 minutes of original material.
"I had just as many people rooting for me as against me," Lafontaine remembers. By the end, everyone was applauding.
Lafontaine became a part of the college comedy circuit. As that market was winding down, he started doing regional theatre in Charlotte. He got an agent, with whom he's been ever since.
"I'm able to support myself solely as an actor," he says, adding, "you have to be able to do everything." That includes everything from television and film work to commercials and voice-overs and corporate training videos. He's appeared in the HBO series, "From the Earth to the Moon," as well as "Dawson's Creek" and "One Tree Hill."
Now he's ready to see what else he can accomplish.
"I know I can carry a much greater responsibility in telling a story," Lafontaine says. "I want to make sure I don't have any regrets."
And Catawba has been a part of Lafontaine's opportunities.
"Catawba was very integral in how my career ended up the way it did," he says. "It certainly gave me an awful lot of opportunities to do things I'd never considered."
Brian's brother, Kevin, is also a Catawba alumnus, a member of the class of 2002.
For more on Brian Lafontaine, visit his Web site at www.brianlafontaine.com.