Digit goes Hollywood -- Puppeteer David Rudman gives the finger a piece of the spotlight

We’ve seen him bound in twine, blindfolded with Band-Aids, and sealing sandwich bags with his face. His name is Fingerman, and he does one thing extremely well: closes Ziploc bags. Speaking in a jokey, Bill Murray-inspired voice, Fingerman has quickly become a memorable character who is almost inseparable from the product he pushes, following in the, uh, footsteps of such advertising icons as Morris the Cat and David Leisure’s Joe Isuzu. But 28-year-old David Rudman (the man behind the finger) never has to don sunglasses when he wants to go low-profile: Though his finger is seen by millions, his face is never on camera.

Other places you have not seen Rudman’s face are public television’s Sesame Street (he’s a Muppets puppeteer) and the 1990 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (he operated the animatronics machine for Donatello’s face). For the Fingerman spots, ”we auditioned 50 actors, hand models, and puppeteers,” says Bobbi Gevas, who produced the commercials for the New York-based advertising agency Della Femina McNamee. ”We selected David because he has dexterity and the sense of humor that we needed. On top of that he’s got a nice, straight, thin finger.”

The remarkably enthusiastic Rudman has big plans for Fingerman’s acting career. ”The first thing I want to do is get him out of the kitchen,” he says. ”Maybe we’ll do backyard barbecues, go underwater, take off on African safaris-Fingerman can seal Ziploc bags anywhere, under any conditions. But of course, a movie would be the ultimate.” He wiggles his index finger; his star digit obviously agrees. Then the puppeteer adopts a narrator’s baritone: ”This is the story of Fingerman. He comes from a family of five and was always a bit of a knucklehead. ” Rudman’s voice trails off into a giggle — and Fingerman doubles over with what looks very much like laughter.