June 28th, 2013
A couple of years ago, I talked to Robert Klara, a writer for Adweek.com, about old bourbon advertising, and the shifting perceptions of bourbon over the generations. I enjoyed our telephone conversation, and I appreciated that Klara made me look smart in the subsequent article. I’ve followed his work on and off since then, and so when I saw AdWeek’s insightful and intelligent look at the subtle history of gay themes in advertising, I was unsurprised to see that Mr. Klara had written it.
Klara describes how, in much of the advertising from the middle of the previous century, gay themes are subtext; they’re closeted, if you will, obvious to a gay consumer, but easy to overlook by straight ones — and, more to the point, by straight executives at the brands in question.
“It’s all in the eye of the beholder,” says Bruce H. Joffe, professor of communications at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., and author of A Hint of Homosexuality?: “Gay” and Homoerotic Imagery in American Print Advertising. “A straight person who looked at these ads in Time or Life magazines would just turn the page and not think anything, but someone with a gay sensitivity would say, ‘Oh my God, look at that!’”
Here’s an example, not mentioned in the Adweek.com article, but culled from own collection of booze ads. This is for Hiram Walker ran in the June 27, 1938, issue of LIFE:
The fellow in the blue smoking jacket and ascot seems to be taking in the view, yes?
March 22nd, 2013
Damon Runyan, newspaperman, author. Covered baseball for many years, and entered the writers wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967. Wikipedia lists 20 of his stories that became motion pictures; the most famous of these is probably Guys and Dolls.
My favorite lyric from the title song of that film, incidentally, is found in only certain recordings, such as at 1:24 in the Bobby Darin rendition:
When you see a mouse
Hurry, scurry out of the house
And she runs 20 blocks for cigars and rye
Oddly, Runyan’s Wikipedia entry indicates that he quit drinking altogether by 1920, some 18 years before this ad ran. I wonder what the truth of it is.
[LIFE; March 21, 1938]
February 22nd, 2013
Life; February 21, 1938.
Love all the detail about the botanicals in the gin. A quick Google search isn’t turning up anything on Jimmy Corosu. The Peoria distillery closed in 1981; it now makes ethanol for ADM. Peoria, incidentally, was apparently once a powerhouse in whiskeymaking, with access to abundant crops of corn and barley. (This, incidentally, is why I keep up this ad project. I never know when a bit of research into a brand will uncover nuggets of cool booze history.)
August 31st, 2012
A hodgepodge, from Life‘s issue of August 30, 1937:
(Another Norman Rockwell ad. I keep meaning to do a specific post on Schenley’s history. Another time.)
(Burnett’s is still around; the brand, today, is owned by Heaven Hill.)
(If you need me to tell you that Myers is still around, you don’t drink enough.)
August 24th, 2012
Both from the August 23, 1937, issue of Life magazine:
Wait, what does that say?
“rich, full flavor” Oh, so gin is supposed to be richly flavored. Got it.
Gin is supposed to blend, to disappear into the drink. You shouldn’t actually taste gin when you have a gin cocktail! (We’ve seen this before, of course.)
August 10th, 2012
From the August 9, 1937, issue of Life:
Blow that mother up:
Have a recipe:
Egg white! Ramos Fizz! Can you imagine that running in a mainstream magazine today?
August 3rd, 2012
From the August 2, 1937, issue of Life comes this unintentionally goofy ad.
To read the text more easily, click through to here and here to see an enlarged version on Flickr.
July 6th, 2012
Love this Gordon’s ad. Love love love love. Life mag, July 5, 1937.
First, I love the stem glass, especially the stem, but also the bowl. The other glassware, the ice bucket, the martini pitcher. All lovely, and all items I now covet. I love that the martini has a bit of color to it, perhaps from the vermouth that was used.
Here’s the text, if you want to read it:
But I also really love the bottle. Let’s look at that in fancy giant size.
Check out the detail! The weird cap with the wire-twist enclosure. The juniper berries. The boar’s head. The words NEW JERSEY embossed on the bottle side. And, of course, the proof: 94.4. (If Wikipedia is accurate, bottlings sold in continental Europe are sold at 94.6, or 47.3% abv.)
Some hot stuff here, folks. These are the gems that keep me coming back to this feature.
June 29th, 2012
From the June 28, 1937, issue of Life comes this one rule for staying cool in the hot, hot summer:
Add a sea lion to your bath.
The text on this bizarre ad isn’t interesting, but if you want to read it, click through and read it.
June 22nd, 2012
Interesting message in these ads: the gin in a mixed drink shouldn’t taste like gin. First up, one from the June 14, 1937, issue of Life magazine:
Next, a week later, June 21, 1937:
The text in these is tricky to read. Here’s the first:
And the second: