In 2004, the daughter of the late great Bill “The Giant” Grubb was casually browsing in a bookstore across the street from the New York Public Library when suddenly she saw her father, looking out from the past, grinning handsomely up at her from an Anne Taintor magnet.
It had been a while since she’d seen an image of father modeling, but in his hay day, Bill was practically everywhere. Bill’s children were used to seeing their father in public places grinning, shaving, or handsomely looking at his watch. Known as ‘The Giant’ for his remarkable stature, Bill had a busy modeling career after the war, his All-American good looks ensuring he had no shortage of work. His ads included Hamilton Watches and Brylcreem, one of the first-ever televised ads for shaving cream, and a huge cigarette ad in Times Square (those were the days), which puffed actual smoke. His son, Brendan, recalls sitting in the subway, seeing his father in a policeman’s rain jacket in ads plastered throughout the car.
Bill even tried out his whole family in the modeling world. In 1947 the whole Grubb family was featured in a five-page color spread in Look Magazine called “The American Family Goes Barbecuing”. Needless to say, the family enjoyed lounging and cooking while being photographed as a way to make a living. And why not? They were the embodiment of the 1950’s mainstream American ideal. Bill was a member of the Elks and Knights of Columbus, and loved to fish and cook. Eileen was a housewife. And over the course of their marriage, they had nine children – six boys, three girls, and, eventually, 27 grandkids and 17 great grandkids.
Bill himself didn’t come from such ideal beginnings. Born in 1920 in Brooklyn, Bill was raised by a hard working single mother. At age 19, Bill was working at the Heinz booth at the 1939 World’s Fair (made famous in the Hitchcock film, Mr. and Mrs. Smith); when he met a gorgeous young woman, Eileen, who was working at the Sperry Rand booth. One thing led to another, and the couple married in 1942. Bill served during the war, were he trained pilots in Arizona. Having yet to find his calling, but blessed with great looks, The Giant started his modeling career.
Bill’s modeling tapered off after he joined the NYPD in 1950. He started out in the Police Athletic League -what we’d now call Community Outreach- was promoted to being a detective in Chinatown, and, as his career settled, was stationed as a detective in Astoria, Queens. Bill sadly passed away of a massive heart attack in 1971, at the age of 51. No doubt influenced by the long shadow of their giant father, three of Bill’s children later became police officers and later detectives, two with the NYPD and one with the Miami PD. His widow, Eileen is 91, and, according to Brendan, “still spunky.”
The advertisement in which Bill appeared also featured Taintorette Susann Shaw Connelly.