It's always a little hard to see your heroes sell out. Most of us know we're getting old the day some rebellious rock song we liked as a kid gets used as the jingle in a shoe commercial. Or when Dr. Dre turns up in an ad selling us Dr. Pepper.
But selling out is an age-old tradition, and some icons from your history books were doing it long before musicians and athletes perfected the art ...
#5. Pope Leo XIII Advertised Cocaine-Laced Drinks
This was the first pope of the mass-communication era -- he was the first to have his voice recorded and his image captured on video. He served from February 20, 1878 to July 20, 1903.
Via Wikimedia Commons
Here he is, totally not expecting the Spanish Inquisition.
Vin Mariani was a cocaine-laced wine and a predecessor to Coca-Cola, developed by a French chemist who struck it rich after realizing there might be some money in the coca business. The surprisingly addictive drink attracted admirers/junkies such as Ulysses S. Grant, Queen Victoria, William McKinley, Jules Verne, Thomas Edison, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson and a not-so-shocking-in-hindsight Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
As for Pope "Hollywood" Leo XIII, his addiction was so complete that he awarded the Mariani Company a Vatican gold medal "in recognition of benefits received from the use of Mariani's tonic" (i.e., for getting His Holiness coked out of his mind for a spiritual high not even found in faith).
"Jesus saved my soul, but coke saves my parties."
The Pope allowed his name and face to be featured on a Vin Mariani advertisement and, in a gesture of the recently defined dogma of Papal infallibility, reportedly carried a flask of the sweet stuff under his robes at all times. You know, for baptisms.
"This town is like a great big pussy ... just waiting to get fucked."
Did It Work?
Better than anyone could have guessed. Pope Leo XIII ended up becoming the oldest pope in history and the third longest serving. Also, that whole Coca-Cola industry still seems to be doing pretty well.
#4. Mikhail Gorbachev for Louis Vuitton and ... Pizza Hut
Nobel Peace Prize winner. Destroyer of walls. Time magazine's Man of the Year for 1987 and Man of the Decade for the 1980s.
Though we like to think that Rocky IV helped make this feat possible.
It turns out that Gorbachev, the Nobel Prize laureate and dignified statesman who helped drag Russia into the modern world, was not one to turn down an endorsement opportunity.
First, you have his recent ad for Louis Vuitton travel bags ...
It's where he keeps his spare birthmarks.
... in which Gorbachev joins the ranks of Vuitton spokespeople like Madonna, Uma Thurman and Keith Richards. Yes, in the ad he's driving past the Berlin Wall. He's all, "That's right, I did that. Me and my Louis Vuitton here."
Oh, and you see that magazine poking out of the top of the bag? Apparently it's a conspicuously placed message about Alexander Litvinenko, the ex-spy Vladimir Putin is accused of having killed. OK, so maybe you figure Gorby took the Vuitton money just so he could get that little jab in at Putin.
But then you look back to 1997, and a certain Pizza Hut commercial that reminded the world that, for all of Russia's economic troubles, at least they now have good, American pizza.
Did It Work?
The Russian Federation is indeed the proud owner of at least one Pizza Hut franchise, so there's that. As for Gorbachev's legacy as a whole, Vladimir Putin and the Modern Warfare series have convinced us that we shouldn't go all "Mission Accomplished" on declaring Russia to be a freedom-loving friend of the West.
As for Gorbachev himself, this ad he cut for what appears to be a German train company sure makes it look like the man could use some extra cash:
Come on, guys! He won Man of the Decade! He helped kill communism, and the best capitalism can do for the guy is make him advertise pizza and expensive purses?
#3. Theodore Roosevelt Sold Fox Shotguns
He was the 26th President of the United States. A Nobel Prize laureate. An arm-wrestling champ. The type of man you could have killed a plate of wings with before they were even out of the fryer.
He invented the Panama Canal so the Atlantic and Pacific oceans could have sex while he watched. He killed more animals than a fast food chain, fathered six children that we know about and was reportedly bulletproof on account of what we can only speculate was the world's first adamantium skeleton.
"Doctor, there's like six other bullets already in here. They're ... reproducing."
There was really only one product this man could have loaned his face to: A goddamn shotgun.
This ad alone was legal tender.
While countless companies cashed in on whatever they could slap TR's trademarked grin onto, only one succeeded at actually obtaining his official endorsement: the Fox Gun Company, for a 12-bore FE-grade double-barreled shotgun they built specially for the man while he was still president.
"You can tell the army their services are no longer needed."
TR would later describe the buckshot launcher as "the most beautiful gun I have ever seen," and even plugged it in an article for Scribner's Magazine: "I had a Fox No. 12 shotgun; no better gun was ever made." Whether he was on safari or fighting Bigfoot with the scattergun remains up to interpretation. Just ask "Sharpwriter," who made this amazing chunk of awesome:
Did It Work?
Let's put it this way: If you were to ask us "Can we kill a zombie-bear with it?" we would have to answer "Yes." Because we believe what Teddy Roosevelt tells us. We have seen that "big stick" he always spoke of, and it is a goddamn boomstick.