By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 09, 1998 12:00 AM

It’s been a long run for the Maytag Man, the lonely repair guy on the TV ads who just sits and waits for the phone to ring because, reputedly, Maytag washing machines never break down. A 34-year run, in fact. But an era is about to end, says the appliance company’s public relations firm, Leo Burnett. No, the Maytag Man, who was first played by actor Tom Pedi and then by character actor Jesse White (from 1968 to 1989), is not about to retire. Instead, he is about to get some company: an apprentice. In ads set to being airing on Monday, Maytag Man, nicknamed Ol’ Lonely (and played by actor Gordon Jump, 71, formerly of “WKRP in Cincinnati”), will be joined by a sidekick (actor Mark Devine, 33). The aide will appear in an advertising campaign titled “Quest for Perfection,” which will feature various appliance innovations throughout 2001. No word on whether or not they’ll wash each other’s clothes.