Verizon Wireless's "Can you hear me now?" slogan brought a curious kind of fame into the life of Paul Marcarelli, the carrier's "Test Man" spokesperson.

After a nine-year stint as the "Verizon guy," as he is informally known, Marcarelli is finally opening up about his time in the spotlight as the face of Big Red.

His silence, he told The Atlantic, was more or less required as part of his contract with Verizon. Since the company has informed him that the curtain will soon fall on the "Test Man" character, Marcarelli now feels comfortable speaking about the role.

Before signing on as "Test Man" in 2001, Marcarelli had been a struggling actor sharing an apartment with his boyfriend and another actor friend. By 2002, he was appearing onstage at a pro football halftime show and reciting Verizon's tagline in front of a crowd of 85,000. "Up to that point," Marcarelli told The Atlantic, "I hadn't played to a house larger than 99 seats."

But this celebrity would have some painful effects on Marcarelli's personal life.

According to The Atlantic, "A few months ago, he attended his grandmother's funeral. As her body was being lowered into the ground, he heard the hushed voice of a family friend: "Can you hear me now?"

Marcarelli also recounted several incidents in which neighborhood youths drove by his house and yelled homophobic taunts. Once he considered filing a police report, but changed his mind because he was unsure about exposing himself as Verizon's "Test Man."

"I definitely think that my reticence to have any kind of persona outside of this job was that I didn't want to be put in a position to have to answer any uncomfortable question that would affect my income stream," he told The Atlantic.

As his time with Verizon winds down, Marcarelli is distancing himself from his "Verizon Guy" persona by promoting personal creative projects and even ditching his signature black glasses.

Visit The Atlantic to read more about Marcarelli's take on life in and out of Verizon's spotlight. To watch one of Verizon's early "Test Man" commercials starring Marcarelli, see the video (below).

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