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80 years of Vintage Celebrity Ads • • •

It takes more than talent to have a long career in Hollywood, and our beloved stars of past and present have turned to many a lucrative endorsement deal to pump up their incomes and their images. Selling everything from fur coats to furniture to face cream, many of these ads have shaped our popular culture and influenced trends for decades. 

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Ads According to Ava

Inspired by a marathon of Ava Gardner movies - I present to you the advertising stylings of Hollywood's favorite non-Elizabeth-Taylor-brunette. That face was good enough to woo loverboy Frank Sinatra and seduce scores of men in the movies and the movie theaters. She put her fame to good use endorseing a variety of products primarily in the 1950s.

Lustre-Creme lured Ava for a 1953 Shampoo ad putting her among the ranks of a parade of Lustre-Creme coiffed starlets. This ad coincided with the release of her MGM film Mogumbo. Also in 1953 Max Factor recruited Ava to endorse their Face Powder with a tie in to her Knights of the Round Table movie. According to Ava, Max Factor face powder,

Keeps your make up so perfectly matt for hours. Gives your complexion that fascinating look of perfection. 

I'll ignore the odd grammar and phrasing (and questionable, ok WRONG, spelling) and just say that I don't remember the fur and diamonds from the movie, but Ava's face does look fascinatingly mattE and perfect.  

Ava branched out of the cosmetics industry with endorsements of Wilton Cigarettes in 1950 and Cameo Stockings in 1953. This ad for Wilton is from Argentina - my crude translation indicates that it refers to her as the Star of The Great Sinner by MGM. I presume the rest tells me how  smooth and healthy Wilton cigarettes are and how they will make me look and smell super glamorous. That's what they usually say anyways. Feel free to translate and tell me all about it in the comments. Meanwhile, I love this 1953 ad for Cameo stockings. I quote,

Keep that soft misty glamour right down to your toes. Ava Gardner and dozens of other MM stars know that shiny stockings pick up ugly highlights, make lovely legs look unshapely. That's why MGM stars wear Bur-Mil Cameo stocking on the screen and off. Cameo's exclusive Face Powder Finish glamorizes their legs with permanently soft silky dullness.

Now that's some copywriting! Shiny stocking make your legs look bumpy and unshapely while ours make them look soft, misty, glamorous AND dull! Quite a promise! What is "soft, misty glamour" anyways? Misty and legs don't seem to really belong together as a concept.

This last ad from 1990 by Krizia perfume for Dillards features a beautiful photo of Ava as a young girl. Who knows if she or her estate authorized it... but it was too precious not to share.  


The most urbane man in show business sells you some stuff, extra classy stuff! 

James Mason, oh how I love thee... that voice, that polish, that sophistication... he had all three in spades. Naturally a man like this could only endorse the best of the best. Enter Mr Mason, a spokesman that could embody upper-crust refinement and elegance with ease. The 1960s found him looking dashing while shilling for Studebaker and Heublein Cocktails

I can almost hear James delivering the tagline "Most people can't make a Martini as good as this  and I wish they wouldn't try!" from this 1960s Heublein ad. Okay, I've watched enough TCM that I actually can hear him reading that line like he's saying it in my head right now. Spooky. Anyone else think the photo in the ad looks like a painting? Anyways, I digress... these pre-mixed cocktails must've been fabulous - the copywriter keeps telling me they do it better than me after all.

If you don't mix perfect cocktails, why mix at all? Pour them right from the Heublein bottle! You'll serve better tasting cocktails than most people make. Heublein commands the choicest liquors from private stocks, ? and mixes with professional accuracy. You pour a perfect cocktail every time. Choose your favorites from eleven popular varieties. Each one full strength, delicious and completely ready to serve. All the liquor's in the bottle. Just pour  on the rocks.

Well, I'll get busy doing that right after I take out my 1961 Gran Turismo Studebaker Hawk - with 4-speed gearbox - out for an afternoon spin in the California countryside. I AM channeling James Mason, right? 

James Mason has Hawk Number 12. Mr. Mason has added a Hawk to his collection of exemplary motor cars which includes a Rolls Royce and an Alvis from great Britain. His reason is that The Hawk prescribes motoring pleasure as no other American car can. Think of its powerful V-8 engine,its smooth 4-speed gearbox, its contoured bucket seats and best of all, its soul-satisfying performance and controllability. 

This is motoring in the modern manner: High average cruising speeds in the Continental Gran Turismo fashion, with luxurious accommodations for five. Every Hawk has its owner's name and the car number engraved on a special instrument panel plaque. Visit your Studebaker Dealer and place your order now. 

I love the description of a car as "soul-satisfying". It doesn't have to say anything specific... yet makes you think you NEED the hunk a junk. Don't you want to satisfy your soul with luxury? Yeah, me too.


Olympic Ad Fever!

It's that time again - your bi-bi-annual (yeah, I made it up) time for the endless barrage of Summer Olympic advertising and promotion. Now that we're able to live stream the Olympics 24/7 - there are more and more and more opportunities for the Olympians to make a buck. Expect a steady stream of athletic endorsements this fall - it's an Olympic tradition after all. Here's a sampling of Olympians, and Joe Namath, schlepping everything sporty from deodorant to sneakers.

First up is Mark Spitz, the hunky mustachioed speedswimmer strutting his stuff in this French ad for Arena swimsuits. He's gonna show us what "goes into" one of those suits - okay, maybe just what goes into "making" one. Either way, that is one swanky seventies swimsuit. I can totally see Jack Tripper rockin' that at the beach. lol.

On to the 1976 Olympics - Joe Namath teamed up with Brut 33 Deodorant to help you cash in on Olympic fever... that's right, I said YOU! Evidently you could win up to $33,000 for in one of 1333 prizes awarded for guessing how many medals the USofA would win. What if more than 1333 people guessed it right? This sounds like a scam.... or maybe I'm just jaded from 30+ years of scams. Either way, one could still score some groovy Olympic swag like a beach towel, calculator (with AC adaptor!) or binoculars. 

The eighties ushered in a new era of Olympic favorites like figure skater Tai Babilonia, and gymnasts Cathy RigbyBart Conner and Mary Lou Retton. Cashing in on her fame from the 1980 Olympics, Cathy Rigby reached out to her preteen fans to help them learn about dealing with their pesky periods. I was 12 in 1982 - and I remember these ads vividly. I remember thinking what a crock of crap they were - really, maxi pads in a leotard? I don't think so! In this series of Stayfree Maxi-Pad ads, Ms. Rigby shares gems of her experience and insight such as, "When you wear leotards in front of a million people, you want protection you can trust", "Some women never have to think twice about menstrual odor", and the classic "Right now I need all the comfort I can get." You're a lot of help lady, really!



In 1985, pint-sized Mary Lou promised the "Built to win" merits of Pony sneakers by ensuring "There's no such thing as a graceful loser." So, I guess Pony is trying to say that the shoes are graceful, and since there is no such thing as a graceful loser, it's ensured you can't lose in these shoes? I'll buy it I guess. They're all kinds of 80s aerobic ugly though. BTW, graceful isn't exactly the word I'd use to describe Mary Lou - powerful, fast, compact, and bouncy all sound a little more accurate. 

While Ms. Retton was worrying about her feet, and Ms. Rigby was all caught up with her bodily functions,  Bart Conners and Tai Babilonia were showing off the good stuff. Figure skater Tai flashes her blue-jeaned behind in this Lee Jeans ad from 1980something. Man, those pink tights and high heels look ridiculous with those ankle-length high waisted jeans. Don't get me wrong... I had those jeans... but I was most likely wearing them with those ugly Ponys from above.

To represent the more masculine gender, in 1988, Bart Conner decided to skip the accessories altogether and get straight to the foundation of his success, his true blue American Jockey underwear. Go USA! According to Bart, and I quote,

Men don't have to be tall dark and handsome to enjoy the comforts of Jockey underwear. They can also be short, blonde and suave.

Well, alrighty then. You better hope you're suave if you plan on pulling off that look, boys... 

The 1990s brought us much cooler advertising like these spots from Ray Ban sunglasses. In 1996, super speed freak (wait, that doesn't sound right) Michael Johnson leads this pack of fleet footed, Ray Banned athletes including track and field superstars the likes of Jackee Joyner Kersee, Gwen Torrence and Dan O'Brien. High end photography, cool product, and superhuman sports stars = winning combination. "Take a good look" and see for yourselves. 


Vidal Sassoon is so good it works even if you don't have hair. I swear.

These 1985 ads for Vidal Sassoon hair care products are a trip down minor-celebrity lane with a detour down Andy Warhol Grand Boulevard. Vidal gathered together the most random group of 80s personalities to hawk his mane-taming wares.

Whoever the copywriter was for this campaign has an obvious love puns, puns and more puns. The puns are a little out of control. Like pun pie with irony meringue on top. The creme of this campaign crop is the bald stage actor, Geoffrey Holder endorsing Vidal Sassoon's stuff by ironically stating that "If I had hair, I'd use Vidal Sassoon for men."  Ha, ha, get it? He doesn't have hair. It gets funnier from here folks... Next— Andy Warhol extols the fashionable virtues of "Vidal Sassoon Natural Control Hairspray for men— the art of style." While actor Tony Roberts exclaims "Vidal Sassoon Shampoo. Nothing performs like it." 1984 Olympic gymnast Mitch Gaylord gets in on the action and shares, "Vidal Sassoon Finishing Rinse— I give it a perfect '10'." And perhaps the most obscure of this foursome, new wave band Animotion's Bill Wadhams muses "I wish I could control my fans the way Vidal Sassoon Grooming Gel for men controls my hair."

This is just one year before Andy died during routine gall bladder surgery - he's looking healthy and that hair is lookin' fierce. I guess Vidal is looking fierce too - because if you don't look good, we don't look good... Vidal Sassoon. For reals.


Feelin' 7-up?

I guess 7-up is the go-to drink of 1980s sports superstars, who knew?! In 1984, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Magic Johnson and Sugar Ray Leonard teamed up to represent their respective sports (baseball, basketball and boxing if you don't know) with a soda pop and a smile - 7-up style. Not much to say about this ad, because there's actually nothing to it, except it reminds me of a swim-meet trip I took when I was about 9. We went to a Kansas City Royals game and I got to meet George Brett after the game. He gave me a hat and signed it. I was very impressed with my 9 year old self. I still have that hat, too, somewhere... 


Andy does Japan for TDK

1980 found TDK teaming up with Andy Warhol in these Japanese print ads. I have no idea what they're all about - and what on earth the cast of Cats has to do with Andy and his bass drum... but I'm sure everything from a brass band to a broadway show sounded great on those TDK cassette tapes. They encompassed a rainbow of sound perhaps? 

Regardless of what these are about, Andy looks appropriately avant garde and just wacky enough to keep us guessing. The 1980s were a particularly prolific time for Andy and his commercial endorsements. He even did an episode or two of Love Boat! Andy, Andy everywhere.


Anna Nicole sure loved her animals.

Anna Nicole Smith
may be best known for being a hot mess, but her heart was always in the right place. Right behind those big old boobs. I kid I kid, but seriously folks, Anna summoned her best Marilyn mojo in these two different spots for Peta.

I'm not sure what years these were done, but I assume the above one was done some time after the other one. I'm basing that opinion on absolutely no real information so, whatever.  Either way, these two pics are some of the best taken of the bombshell... obviously she was inspired by the love of her pretty pooches.

I will leave you by refraining from any comment on the headline "Genteleman Prefer fur-free Blondes." I don't want to hear anything about anything that gentleman prefer fur-free.