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?
Whatever you might think of Edward Snowden, you can keep to yourself; this is a booze blog, after all. But in reading a recent New York Times story about his flight from Hong Kong, I found a funny tidbit.
You see, when a group of lawyers arrived to advise Snowden in Hong Kong, he asked them to stash their phones in the refrigerator. According to Adam Harvey, a designer specializing in countersurveillance, it seems that the materials in the fridge walls serve as a Faraday cage, a space that can disrupt radio communication.
For the drinker with something to hide, however, there’s a better solution:
Another household object that functions similarly, Mr. Harvey has learned through his research into cellphone data transmission, is a stainless steel martini shaker.
“It’s a perfect Faraday cage – it will block all radio signals unless you decide you need to pour yourself a martini,” he said. Although this sounds like a plot point in a James Bond movie, Mr. Harvey has actually done extensive tests on the shaker in the process of developing a surveillance-blocking cellphone case called the OFF Pocket.
Now that’s cool. Most of serious cocktail geeks probably have four of those damn, otherwise-useless things cluttering our barware. At least they’re useful for something.
Y‘know, for a couple of years now, I’ve been increasingly dissatisfied with Google Reader. It seemed clunky, visually unappealing, and in sore need of a redesign and an upgrade. I kept wondering why Google didn’t invest any resources in updating it.
Well, a few months ago, we learned why, when Google announced it would be shutting down Reader, as of July 1 of this year.
Hey, July 1 is moving very quickly in our direction, so if you’re a Reader junkie, and you haven’t made plans to switch, now’s the time. I’d hate to lose any readers of ADoB or my work on Drinks, just because Google’s giving up on Reader.
I am one of the millions — yes, millions — who’ve switched to Feedly. Migrating your full Reader feedlist is eeeeeeeeeasy. Go to cloud.feedly.com to get started.
I don’t have any financial interest in Feedly or anything. I simply like and recommend the service. The nice thing is, they opened their API to other developers. I happen to like Feedly’s web interface, but I’m no fan of their iOS app. No problem. Feedly’s API powers Newsify, which I use on my phone. My feeds stay synced between services, no problem.
Trust me: it’s easier to switch now, no matter what service you migrate to, than it will be in early July.
Oh yeah, there’s a blog here.
Anyway, I’ll be at Manhattan Cocktail Classic this weekend, and an ancillary event or two. I’m not going out for everything possible because I have a kid and a pregnant wife and not a lot of money for childcare and ticketed events. As it is, Jen’s taking off Tuesday afternoon so I can do the Expo, which means I’m skipping Monday’s events and hopefully submitting a writeup of the weekend to Serious Eats.
Tonight, 6pm – 10pm, Speed Rack Finals, Element Nightclub, 225 E. Houston.
Tomorrow, 9pm – 1am, MCC Gala, NYPL.
Saturday, 11:00am – 7:30pm, Industry Invitational, Andaz Hotel, 485 5th Ave
Sunday, 11:00am – 7:30pm, Industry Invitational, Andaz Hotel, 485 5th Ave
Tuesday, 3:30 – 5:00, Indie Spirits Expo, Penn Club, 30 W. 44th St.
Now for something a little different. If you know anything about the history of American whiskey, you probably know that for about four decades, from the Forties through the Eighties, it went through a dark period in which the most popular brands were blended whiskeys. It’s not unfair to say that most of these blends tasted like whiskey-flavored vodka because that, in essence, is what they were — mainly grain alcohol with a small amount of straight whiskey added for flavor.
The American palate wanted a smooth, unchallenging spirit, and that’s what the blends provided.
But the trend toward blends started with Prohibition, when some of the only whiskeys available were blends imported illegally from Canada and Scotland. Marketers of straight bourbons and ryes tried to regain a foothold post-Repeal, but the Second World War put the kibosh on that, as most distilleries were repurposed for making grain alcohol for the war effort.
Today’s ads feature two straights and two blends, and it’s interesting to look at how they’re marketed. But enough talk.
[LIFE; April 18, 1938]
Yes, this is the entirety of the ad. I love its simple elegance. You wanna see it in context of its original page? Sure you do.
Peat, the fuel that adds smoke to scotch, is a non-renewable resource. But what are the odds of its running out? Slate takes a look.
In modern times, Four Roses does indeed make a helluva great old-fashioned. Too bad the blasphemy pictured here isn’t an old-fashioned.
[LIFE, of course; April 11, 1938]
I wouldn’t normally return to a subject this soon, but this ad is funny. I’m amused by the idea that the wifey would be embarrassed by a husband who can’t mix a cocktail to save his own damn life. (I don’t have a larger size than this, but go look at it on the Google Books site, and you can blow it up as big as you please.)
Here’s a list of their bottled cocktail range: