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Monday, March 30, 2015

Forgotten Cigarette Brands Part II


If there is one post on this blog that has gotten indisputably the most views of all, it is the Forgotten Cigarette Brands post, scoring nearly 27,000 views (and the most comments ever) in the two years it's been published.

For those who enjoyed that post, I'm happy to inform you I've only scratched the surface. It's a smoker's goldmine out there and I had been planning some sequels.

So back to the cigarette aisle of yesteryear.......

Magna (Late 1980s) - Magna as I remember was pretty harsh tasting discount brand (we used to call it "Magma") targeted to young men. They were the brand you bought when you didn't have enough to buy Marlboro or Camel. But didn't want to be seen with a generic brand cigarette.

Mapleton (1970s?) - This one was a "flavoured" cigarette, blending maple and rum with tobacco to give it a taste I shudder to think. This wouldn't be the only one - or the most extreme. There was also...

Twist (1970s) Twist was - brace yourself, a LEMON flavored MENTHOL. Gives "pucker up" a brand new meaning.

Cambridge (1980s) Cambridge was a discount brand that tasted like a Merit clone. I actually liked Cambridge. But they vanished by the early '90s.

Now (1980s) A low tar brand.

Bucks (1990s) was a '90s discount brand. Not the greatest smoke. But it worked when you needed the nicotine.....

Free (Early 1980s) - To quote Dorothy Parker "What fresh hell is THIS?"A NON-TOBACCO cigarette? Yup, Free was the brand you sought when Carlton was simply too much. I tried a Free back in 1981 and I gagged. I mean upchuck gagged. They were the worst EVER. Free didn't last long (obviously), first, they were horrible. Second, they got shoplifted a lot by unsuspecting smokers ("But officer, it says it's 'Free'!" If I were a cop, I'd have let the shoplifter go and let karma do it's job.) And having no nicotine and questionable ingredients was a total buzzkill. And finally, you could legally sell these to kids, as it contained no tobacco and nicotine (therefore, no warning label either.) This upset a lot of parents. And Free vanished.

Go To Hell! (1983) - Go To Hell! (There, that settles it) was a novelty brand for pissed off smokers. In the early '80s, legislation in more and more states began limiting where you could or could not smoke. Up to then, it wasn't uncommon to see ashtrays in stores, hotels, beauty salons, city buses, airplanes, restaurants and virtually everywhere - even in doctor's officers and hospitals, you saw smokers everywhere happily puffing away. Well the non smokers began putting the kibosh on that in earnest. Starting with airplanes and little by little, the stores, buses, hotels, hospitals, everywhere became off-limits to the cigarette puffers, first in designated areas, and finally outdoors, then 25 feet away from building doors/windows. Then the restaurants and bars fell and today, it's against most apartment leases to smoke inside your own home. Well in 1983, some big tobacco companies smokers weren't going to take it. And they rebelled with a campaign for smokers to begin demanding their rights. And nothing brings about a friendly, intelligent, civil discourse like "Go To Hell!". Unfortunately for the smokers, the tide was turning irrevocably and now it's getting nearly impossible to smoke anywhere (In Seattle, they've recently began banning smoking in public parks.) Even though smokers are running out of places to smoke, I don't think tobacco will ever be made illegal. We're slowly ending one black market over one plant (marijuana) and quite successfully. We don't need to be creating another.

Campaign Cigarettes - Yes, you could even vote with your lungs as late as 1988. Even at that time, these weren't anything new, they were used in campaigns going back to Eisenhower/Stevenson. Nixon also freely handed them to his campaign workers.

More to come.....

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Where's The Beef?"

It all started with a fairly run of the mill TV commercial for national fast food chain Wendy's....

....that turned three words into the national catch phrase of 1984. And launched a tiny octogenarian lady named Clara Peller into viral superstardom.

This wasn't Clara Peller's only commercial. She starred in a few others prior to the Wendy's ads.

The Wendy's commercial debuted on January 10, 1984 and instantly caught on nationwide. Leading to several sequels to the original Wendy's commercial and a simply massive merchandising blitz.

She also had a small radio hit, which sampled her "Where's The Beef" phrase. Copies of the single were sold at Wendy's.

"Where's The Beef" Coyote McCloud feat. Clara Peller (1984)

The "Where's The Beef" commercials and product tie-ins made millions for Wendy's and brought them out of a deep sales slump. According to Wendy's, Clara Peller made $500,000 from the commercials, a number Clara Peller herself had disputed.

It even became a political comeback when former vice President and Democratic challenger to President Reagan, Walter Mondale used this line against his Democratic primary challenger Gary Hart.

However, the "Where's The Beef" mania didn't last long. (Oversaturation, as you can clearly see here, has a way of doing that.) But Clara Peller thought her Wendy's contract allowed her to do commercials for other products that didn't directly compete with Wendy's, such as Prego spaghetti sauce. Not so. Lawyers for Wendy's insisted "Where's the beef" meant ONLY Wendy's hamburgers and she was released from her contract.

She went on to use variants of the line in movies, TV and other commercials. But with no mention of the word "beef".

Here's a clip from the movie "Moving Violations", where she stars opposite Nedra Volz ("Different Strokes")

Clara Peller died on August 11, 1987, a week after her 85th birthday.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Controla-Tone (1955)

The Controla-Tone was an early do-it-yourself TV remote control, The Controla-Tone was a TV volume controller that worked by the user first removing the back of the TV set and connecting the lead wires of Controla-Tone to the speaker leads. The user could then control the volume output through a small knob on the Controla-Tone unit from his/her easy chair.

It only worked for sound. The Controla-Tone did not power on/off, change channels or adjust picture. It could also work for radio.

Not much else is known about The Controla-Tone Co. of Tacoma, WA other than this is believed to be their only product. It was advertised in the June 1955 issue of Popular Mechanics.

Although initial sales were good, TVs with dedicated remotes that could do far more than control volume were lowering in price and becoming increasingly affordable to the average consumer, making the Controla-Tone pretty much doomed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

1970s Magnavox Drum Console Stereo

These are very rare today, Magnavox Drum Consoles were designed to blend in as an end table as well as match the popular octagon shaped living room furniture of that time.