Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cigareets and Whiskey

Been a topsy-turvey holiday period (we got the tree up barely a week or so before, Mom fixed cookies just yesterday, we didn't even have a meal together), plus stress and such (though I finally submitted my chapter for the upcoming Kermit Culture anthology of Muppt essays to the editors). Anyway, we'll see if I can blog more in the coming year (certainly stockpiled plenty of subjects and images), maybe even take a stab at this here "daily blogging" fad.

For now, no cigareets, but have some whiskey:

I'm often fascinated by vintage advertising, especially pertaining to products where public perception has changed considerably in the intervening years. In this ad, which appeared in newspapers in November 1936, the first element that stood out, thanks to the text on the coin, is a very clear "Hey, prohibition ended three years ago! Yay for legal booze!" statement. Secondly, I don't trust "Silver Dollar" Brady in his pilgrim outfit and that unnerving grin, carving the turkey with a little too much zeal. He might be trustworthy sober, but no possible good can come from adding quantities of bourbon whiskey to the equation.

I did some further digging on this artifact. "Silver Dollar" Brady, real name Tom Brady, is not actually a pitchman created for the brand. He was a wealthy and reasonably high-profile (and colorful) Dallas racehorse owner and rodeo organizer. He earned his nickname through his passion for silver dollars, amassing a collection of same and, according to newspaper accounts, paying in same (and urging others to do likewise to increase their circulation over all that cumbersome paper money). Clearly Seagram's (the owner of the brand) saw a good thing and hired him as their public face (supposedly there was "79 years of whiskey making experience" behind the product, but I can't find anything on it prior to 1936, shortly before Brady came on board). In the whiskey ads, supposedly penned by Brady, he comes across as a low-rent, thirsty Will Rogers, dispensing homespun wisdom, dropped d's and g's, and of course liquor with equal equanimity.

As for the product, David Shea, an expert on such matters, tells me 90 proof provides "a pretty good kick in the pants."
In 1936 ads in this series, Brady compared Silver Dollar Whiskey to prize-fighters like "Gentleman" Jim Corbett: starts out nice and polite but then doles out a powerful punch. By the fall of 1937, the tactic had changed, focusing on affordability, history, and how it suits everybody." They were also tied to Rogers-esque subjects such as politicians and Congress. Don't worry your head about parties and elections and all that high-falutin' stuff, just get yerself a nice shot of Silver Dollar Whiskey! (Does that thing come in its own glass flask? Certainly what the bottle looks like to me.)

Silver Dollar Whiskey appears to be long gone, though Seagram's is still around.


Kip W said...

I actually have two versions of the song you allude to -- "Cigareets, Whisky and Wild, Wild Women" by Red Ingle and His Natural Seven, and one on a tape of Air Force humor ... by Oscar Brand? I don't recall, but it's "Cigareets, Saki and Wild Wahinen" or some such. I'm too tired to look for it now...

Andrew Leal said...

Yeah, it's been recorded by a lot of folks under different names (often as "Cigareets and Whuskey.")

I'm pretty partial to the version sung by Peter Sellers on "The Muppet Show."