Yesterday, friends started passing rumors about COVID vaccinations opening to over-65s here in Tucson. The county health department website, however, said shots were still restricted to over-75s only, and we decided the rumors were false. Later, on 6 o’clock local news, the county announced that folks over 70 can start getting shots next Monday. No doubt the pending announcement was behind the morning’s rumors. I haven’t heard and don’t know one way or the other, but I bet the earlier rumors prompted a whole bunch of over-65s to head downtown.

It’s been hard being patient while people who need the vaccine worse than we do get theirs, especially with all the stories of health care workers and seniors resisting it. Like, if they don’t want it, open vaccinations up to those who do, am I right? Anyway, things are starting to look up, and that’s good because the pressure to start visiting friends and family again is strong. And getting stronger. And not just coming from Donna. I want to start taking road trips again too!

While you’re waiting for your vaccination, check out these Camel cigarette ads from the 1950s (featuring test pilot Skeets Coleman and the one & only Convair XFY Pogo).

Man, those were the days! People knew cigarettes caused cancer, but cigarette advertising was everywhere, always in your face. The most popular sitcom of the era, I Love Lucy, was sponsored by Philip Morris. In those days, sponsorship meant total integration with the product. Lucy & Desi didn’t just smoke Pall Malls in the ads, they smoked ’em in nearly every scene of the show itself, as did Fred & Ethel. If you thought those test pilot Camel ads were outrageous, check out these!

Not sure if it’s still there, but Sirius/XM used to have a comedy channel with radio serials from the 1930s and 40s … Fibber McGee & Molly, Our Miss Brooks, stuff like that … and they included the period commercials. As bad as television advertising is today, the advertising on those old radio serials and early TV sitcoms like I Love Lucy was ten times as obnoxious. Fibber McGee & Molly, for example, was sponsored by Johnson Wax, and not only were all the commercials pitches for Johnson Wax products, frequent mentions of those products were written right into the script. As in Fibber talking with Molly: “What’s Fred doing out there?” “Oh, he’s waxing his car with Johnson Wax!” You think I’m kidding? I’m not.

The Philip Morris bellhop, who makes frequent appearances in the I Love Lucy video, was nearly as famous as Lucy & Desi. True story: he came to my school in Illinois in 1953. They called all us kids out for a special recess. The bellhop drove up in a little Crosley, jumped out in his uniform and cap, shouted “Call for Philip Morris,” and handed out sample packs of cigarettes for us to take home to our moms and dads. I did, but only because I was a 2nd grader and didn’t know any better. The packs he gave to the older kids, the 5th & 6th graders, probably never made it home. But I’ve told this story before. My point is, regular people didn’t twice about such things (not that no one did … a movement to ban cigarette advertising from radio and TV began in the 1950s and achieved its goal in 1970).

Is anyone thinking twice about today’s prescription drug advertising, and is there a movement to ban it? Pharmaceutical ads have become as ubiquitous as the cigarette ads of yore. I can’t bear to sit through them (or advertising in general, but especially those). Do people really go to their doctors and ask if Azlumidab or whatever is right for them? Do doctors feel pressured to prescribe brand name “as seen on TV” drugs over cheaper generics? Apparently, the only countries where such ads are legal are New Zealand and the United States. What do other countries know that we don’t?

What I do know is I love streaming TV without ads, and would pay to have more of it.

p.s. The Convair XFY Pogo was an early hack at a vertical takeoff & landing fighter that could operate from the decks of small ships, a precursor to the Harrier family of VTOL fighters and the Marines’ F-35B. It must have been a bitch to land … so all props to Skeet Coleman, and smoke ’em if you got ’em … never mind the elaborate crew ladder rig necessary to climb in or out. I’d need a cigarette too, after flying something like that.

© 2021, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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