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Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet"

Luckies green were pre WWII. Luckies red and white were introduced in 1942 after "Lucky Strike green goes to war." They were thought to be more "female friendly." (American Tobacco Co.)

We think there are a lot of con men around today but they are probably a small group compared to the guys who were in the advertising and promotion business of the 1920s.

That decade wasn’t called “The Roaring ‘20s” for nothing. It was a post WWI party for ten years that contributed greatly to the worst Depression in the history of the United States. Every night was party night and Prohibition only added to the fun with the characters it wrought. It also was the first decade of commercial radio which spawned a new generation of con artists with what we would consider today as outlandish advertising.

The number one guy in that group and probably the most successful was the head of the American Tobacco Company, George Washington Hill. Flamboyant and brilliant only begins to describe this guy who would ride to his Fifth Avenue office daily in a limo decorated with Lucky Strike cigarette packages.

Hill took over the company from his father in 1926 and was totally sold on radio as an advertising tool. Until radio, advertising was done in print but in 1928, Hill dropped all print ads and replaced them with a radio show called the “Lucky Strike Dance Hour.” Within two months, sales of Lucky Strike cigarettes went up 47%.

One day Hill looked out his limo window and saw two women standing at a bus stop. One was overweight and chewing gum. The other was thin and beautiful and smoking a cigarette. A light bulb lit in Hill’s head: women smokers were considered modern and daring in the 1920s but there were still millions of women who didn’t smoke. However, like today, most women were very conscious of their weight. That was the group Hill went after with his slogan, “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.” The candy makers were livid but sales of Lucky Strikes shot up again.

Other gimmicks like “It’s Toasted” and “LS/MFT” (Lucky Strike means fine tobacco) sold plenty of Lucky Strikes but probably his most creative idea was early in WWII when he was told that the green ink on the Lucky Strike package had to be discontinued because the chromium in the ink was needed for the production of tanks.

Hill was never one to pass up an opportunity to peddle more Luckies, so he redesigned the package to be white with a red and black bull’s eye. At the same time, he advertised that the discontinued green package was helping the troops and that “Lucky Strike green has gone to war.” It was a brilliant patriotic line that sold a lot of cigarettes but many people also thought it was just another way to sell more Luckies as Hill wanted a newly designed package anyway to lure more women to smoking.

He may have been a con artist but no one can doubt the success of George Washington Hill as a superb salesman and a true character from yesterday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Common sense, political correctness

Common sense can’t be learned. You either walk out into the rain or you take an umbrella. Those who do the former are the same people who think it makes perfect sense to type messages to their friends on a cell phone while driving a car. They will always do it (unless they are killed in the process) and the non umbrella users will always get soaked. Neither party “gets it.”

The latest person to join the list is a car salesman in Chicago who wore a Green Bay Packers tie to work Monday after the Chicago Bears lost to the Packers the day before in the NFC Conference Championship Game. The car dealer is a sponsor of Bears’ games and most of his customers are huge Bears’ fans so what was this guy thinking? I know what his boss was thinking after he probably blinked a few times in disbelief while looking at the dreaded Packers tie: “You’re outta here!” The guy probably crossed the street on a red light as he was headed to the bus stop afterward.

The insanity of political correctness: So, here we go with the latest example of jumping to conclusions.

Congresswoman Giffords was shot by an insane guy working on his own and suddenly any kind of terminology concerning weapons is becoming politically incorrect. The other day I saw a wimp talking head on CNN named John King apologize because a guest used one of these now forbidden terms.

King’s guest was a guy named Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association, whatever that is. Shaw used the term “in the crosshairs” while he and King discussed the mayoral race in Chicago.

A few minutes later, King was apologizing for the dreaded “in the crosshairs” term just like the politically correct little liberal he is. Watch this (0.24) if you would like a good laugh.

Based on CNN’s attitude, I guess Target Stores better change their name, Steve Nash better stop taking “shots” at the basket, you can’t collect sea “shells”, and during elections there will no longer be “battleground” states. Let’s not forget those “bullets” used in typing to indicate certain important items, no one should be the “butt” of jokes since rifles have butts, and whatever you do, don’t put an ink “cartridge” in your printer.

This is what we have to put up with today, folks. Don’t allow it, use those supposed offending terms daily plus the many others that accompany them. We still have free speech in this country and I defy any politically correct group to try and change that.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'm wondering.....

Handsome fellow, huh? Javelinas won't usually bother you unless they are provoked. It's good to have a couple rocks handy just in case.

Why are people who live near the desert in the Phoenix area surprised when they encounter snakes, javelinas, coyotes, etc.?

The Scottsdale Republic reported recently that some guy who is a ten year resident, and his daughter, were walking near the desert in Scottsdale when they met some javelinas. They were scared out of their wits as they jumped somebody’s fence and called the police. The police? I wonder what they expected the police to do other than tell them not to worry about it. There is no word yet as to whether the javelinas were arrested and charged with living in their natural habitat.

It reminds me of a couple of years ago when I was doing a story for the Republic about the Scottsdale Fire Department. One of the firemen told me it is not unusual for them to get calls from hikers who wanted to report a snake sighting while they were on their hike and would the fire department please remove the offending reptile? Snakes in the desert? How dare they live there!

Also in the Republic last week: Advice on how to be a better business writer.

This is a subject that strikes close to home for me. When I got out of college and went looking for a job, I must have had the longest resume in history. I was stoked up to find work and wanted every prospective employer to know all about how great I was. Little did I know that most of the junk I had on there was worthless and would never be read. A friend who knew about these things told me something that I have never forgotten: keep it simple! He was right; those who interview people have more to do than read resumes the length of a Tolstoy novel.

I found that simplicity was also more desirable in making sales presentations. Make presentations brief, stay relevant, and don’t try to show off your $1.98 vocabulary. You won’t impress anyone by using “aggregate” when “total” will do the job.

Speaking of jobs, the current feeling that if you have been unemployed for a while, it hurts your chances of being hired, may not be true. Some companies are only hiring those who have been unemployed rather than those who are employed and just want to change jobs. They feel that the unemployed will show a better appreciation and not have unrealistic expectations. However, it is usually important to have a good explanation as to WHY you have been unemployed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Honey West is gone

The late Leslie Nielsen with Ann Francis in "Forbidden Planet" (1956)

One of my all time movie heartthrob babes left us this week when Ann Francis died. When I was a kid, my friends and I drooled over any film Ann was in whether it was Glenn Ford’s wife in “Blackboard Jungle” (1955) or the gorgeous daughter of Walter Pidgeon in “Forbidden Planet” (1956).

Her most popular years were the 50’s although one of my favorite roles from her was a “Twilight Zone” episode from 1960 where she played a mannequin trapped in a department store.

In 1965-66 she won a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of “Honey West”, a female private detective, on television. Ann Francis was 80. I will miss her!

I recently saw the ballet film “Black Swan”. As a man, I’m not the type of demographic that the makers of ballet films expect to see in their audience. But, my wife wanted to see it plus I like Natalie Portman from other films and heard she plays an Oscar nominating role in the film.

Although it’s a decent film, it doesn’t match “The Red Shoes” (1948) as a great film about the ballet. Nothing ever will as that film stands by itself. “Black Swan” also contains the typical gratuitous sex scene that we have come to expect from modern films. I usually refer to it as the “obligatory f--- scene” because you know it is coming at some time.

This time it was a lesbian scene that Portman herself said was the “hook” used to get an audience. It’s too bad modern film makers feel they have to incorporate those scenes but they are in the business of making money and that’s what gets butts in the seats. Personally, I like my sex and violence at home but, hey, I guess that’s just me.

I still like the old films the best. They didn’t need sex scenes to draw an audience. The other night I watched “The Sting” (1973) and enjoyed it as much as ever. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were big with the ladies at that time but that film was a huge hit without any gratuitous sex scenes. Imagine that: a film getting by on pure acting and a good story! What will they think of next?

If you would like to leave a comment or read some of the 32 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for The Arizona Republic newspaper in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Steam engines and cabooses

I enjoy the 24 hour showing of “A Christmas Story” (1983) every year on TBS. They start the loop at 9:00 Christmas Eve night and it runs continuously until 9:00 Christmas night. It takes place in the 1940s and brings back some nostalgic memories like Ralphie having to put a bar of Lifebuoy soap in his mouth as punishment for uttering the infamous “F” word when he and his dad were changing a flat tire.

In one scene there is the background sound of an old steam driven locomotive going down the tracks with its whistle blowing as it makes its way through the night. I grew up in southwest Ohio and can identify with that steam engine. They were still operating in the early 1950’s before diesels took over and we lived close enough to the railroad tracks that I could hear them late into the night. I would lay in bed next to my window on rainy nights and think about the romance of working on the railroad. To a ten year old kid it seemed like a really cool job.

A freight train never went through a crossing where I didn’t wave at the engineer and the other crew members who worked on the train. All of us kids respected those guys as trains were a really big deal. I loved movies involving trains like Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” (1939) where George and Lenny hop a freight train during the Depression years. The trains were the major form of transportation for the hobos of that era.

During the early ‘50s, before our brains had matured enough to know danger, my friends and I would “hop” freight trains and ride them several miles before jumping off. This was really stupid but when you were 13 or 14 in those days, it was great fun. Never mind that we could have been easily killed or that many times we had to ride a lot farther than we wanted because the thing was going too fast to jump off!

The caboose was always intriguing to me. Unless you are a certain age, you probably don’t remember cabooses. They were separate cars attached to the back of the freight trains that were used as living quarters for the train crew. Many times they were decorated with pictures and posters and many had a cast iron stove used for heat and cooking. The stoves usually had a lip on the edge of the surface to keep cooking and coffee pots from sliding off. Those guys thought of everything!

By the 1980’s, cabooses had outlived their use as railroads were looking for ways to reduce labor costs and materials. They were replaced by a FREDs (Flashing Rear End Device). A FRED could be attached to the rear of the train to detect the train's air brake pressure and report any problems back to the locomotive. It did other duties too which used to be done by crews.

Cabooses are gone now but to a lot of us they were a big part of growing up in a friendlier, simpler time.

If you would like to leave a comment or read other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus. Jim McAllister writes for The Arizona Republic in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Hello, 2011!

One of the political victories of 2010 has to be the failure of the DREAM Act. It was nothing but semi-disguised amnesty in the form of a plea to help illegal immigrant children up to age 35 who were brought to the U. S. as babies to gain a path to citizenship.

Up to age 35? Now, that is funny! It’s ridiculous when we are expected to cater to kids (kids?) who are illegal and have parents who are also illegal all of whom are living illegally in the U. S. Somehow, I didn’t see the kids wanting to serve two years in our military or do two years of college. As simple as this would have been for them, this would have been a great dodge. How about a bill sending the parents and kids back to Mexico and letting them start over the right way?

The bill was an attempt to gain votes from the Latino community in the next election and nothing else. Defeating it was the right thing to do. Seal the border; then we can talk some more.

I don’t see the big deal about “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. Gays have been in the military for a long time. When I was serving Uncle Sam for four years in the 1960’s, we had at least ten gay guys in our barracks. One of them was a roommate of mine and he knew that I knew he was gay. However, neither he nor any of the other gay guys had confrontations about their sexual preferences that I ever heard of. They went their way and we went ours, no big deal.

Now, a can of worms has been opened with the repeal of DADT. Why they didn’t let sleeping dogs lie on this, I will never know unless it is just another typical attempt by this government to endorse a certain lifestyle in their never ending push for votes. I wonder how Clinton feels about his legislation from 1993 being repealed by Obama.

Anyway, 2011 is upon us so Que sera, sera. It will have to go a long way to beat the events of 2010.

Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic in Scottsdale, AZ. To leave a comment or read the 39 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not receive a virus.