5 Insane Celebrity Product Endorsements by Historic Figures
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Ronald Reagan Did Cigarette Ads
President of the United States from 1981-1989. He also enjoyed a filmography comparable to a real-life Troy McClure, starring in such bad films as Cattle Queen of Montana and Bedtime for Bonzo.
SPOILER: They fuck that monkey.
OK, Reagan wasn't in politics yet when he did these ads, but he had to have been thinking about it -- they came out just a couple of years before he started getting into political activism. So what did he endorse? Lots and lots and lots of Chesterfield cigarettes.
"All my nieces and nephews are getting a carton of Chesterfields this year! SMOKE UP, JOHNNY!"
We like how they had to crudely draw a cigarette in his mouth that clearly wasn't there when he posed for the, uh, painting. "What is that, Chesterfield? I'm not putting that shit in my mouth. Just paint one in, Picasso."
Also, just think of how many more kids were able to follow First Lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign thanks to her husband kicking off children's literacy by introducing us to the ABC's of smooth Chesterfield cigarettes:
"Kids, whenever you feel tempted by drugs, just smoke a whole carton of Chesterfields instead."
Did It Work?
Chesterfield's new home at Altria Group Inc., better known as the parent company previously known as Philip Morris Companies Inc., was able to spend more than $107 million on lobbying during the George W. Bush years alone, so they appear to be all right. It's all about making the right friends early.
Bob Dole Advertises for Viagra, and Everything Else
War hero. Former Senate Majority Leader. Referred to himself in the third person. He was Gerald Ford's running mate in the 1976 election, and the Republican nominee for president in 1996. Also, much like Gerald Ford, he had a tendency to fall down on camera.
"Who's the fucking corpse who built this shitty rail?!"
Dole was in his mid-70s when he got out of the politics game, so as a well-to-do, pro-business politician in retirement, he would have had all kinds of options. He could either go the classy route (advertising fine suits, or maybe a line of expensive scotch for the country club Republican market) or appeal to the seniors (advertise for the AARP, or that necklace that lets you call an ambulance when you break a hip).
There are lots of dignified options for a man of his stature, and he surely wasn't hurting for money (after leaving politics he worked in a high-end law firm and hit the lucrative public speaking circuit). The man could pick his opportunities.
"I've got a boner right now."
Viagra. The erectile dysfunction drug. For your penis.
In 1999, at the age of 75, he made what has to be one of the ballsiest endorsement decisions in the history of advertising. Bob Dole took to the cameras and essentially said, "I'm pushing 80, and I don't get the boners like I used to. But trust me, I still like to have naked boner sex with the ladies. Are you picturing me having sex now? No? How about now? Are you picturing my balls?"
"Nice sign. Mind if I fuck it?"
Dole was a funny guy, always willing to make jokes at his own expense. So when he went on a run of advertisements all around that same time, it wasn't clear if he really needed the money (due to some gambling debts or something), or if he just wanted to stay in the public eye, or if he just thought it was hilarious.
Did It Work?
Yes and hell yes. Bob Dole's new career as a commercial spokesman not only put a rocket in addition to some extra money in his pocket, but he eventually got to share a Super Bowl commercial with Britney Spears in 2002 for Pepsi. Sure enough, the commercial included a not-so-subtle reference to how Bob Dole was now the proud owner of a medically induced, rock-hard penis.
Yeah, it's not a Nobel Prize, but at least it's something that both he and the Mrs. can be proud about.
"Laugh all you want. I get more tail at 75 than you do now."
For more bizarre endorsements from famous figures, pick up a copy of Jacopo's book "Go @#$% Yourself!" -- An Ungentlemanly Disagreement, by Filippo Argenti, available in paperback and DRM-free on Kindle.
For more ill-advised endorsements, check out The 5 Most Ridiculous Celebrity Cameos in Japanese Ads and The 5 Most Ill-Advised Celebrity Endorsements Ever.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see racy pictures of Abraham Lincoln.
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