– By William Cooper
Who is the Marlboro Man? I wanted to pull up a stump, kick off my boots, and spin a yarn out here in the back 40 that explained to our younger listeners the origins and the meaningfulness of this mythical figure. In researching him, however, I discovered that his advertisements were still running in 1999, making his story relatively recent and not appealingly old-tymey at all. Then I realized that 1999 was actually 17 years ago, and I had to go have a drink or three to recover. I’ve returned now, a bit dizzier, to tell you that the Marlboro Man was a chain-smoking cowboy who sold Marlboro cigarettes, of all things, in campaigns beginning in 1954 and spanning the next 45 years. He was a rugged, hard-working westerner who paused in the midst of his wrangling, or not-being-fenced-inning, or general poking of cows to suck down the cool, refreshing taste of a nice smoke and then probably start a bush fire or two with his discarded, smoldering butts.
Despite the obvious and chilling outcome, a 300 percent rise in profits for Phillip Morris, the campaign also managed to completely enthrall a young, Man-With-No-Name-obsessed boy and got him thinking about hitching his wagon to a star and heading out west. That boy was, of course, me and when I finally did so, my wagon was a sedan, the star was a continuous supply of fast food and the west was the hippie northwest. Manly!
On a particular summer trip when I was a kid, we traveled off the main roads, as my father was wont to do, and passed a sign pointing to the township of Marlboro, Ohio. I imagined that there was a cowboy just over the horizon, tanning his rawhide, while staring steely-eyed out on the prairie of Flavor Country. We didn’t take the exit. My father had more important things to do, and ignored my protestations, and so I was left to ponder the unknown.
Turns out, Marlboro is a tiny township in Ohio with no cowboys, despite the alluring, but sadly irrelevant connotations. You just can’t trust place names to accurately describe what you might find there.
Except for Licking County of course. That’s a whole other thing.
In this episode, we ponder modern “manliness”. But first, when it comes to weather, William runs hot and cold and hot.. and cold and finally looks for help underwater. Too bad he picked a fight with his inner narrator. I always win. Go drink a lady, William. Meanwhile, Scott throws up his arms and hulks out with grass grumpiness. We discover that Prince has returned to our galaxyhood and is dancing around a dwarf with his Princely berries on display. If only somebody would freeze us so we could be that cool! William updates the index on his Aldnoah review, which only makes Scott hunger for more content. Awkwardness and Discomfort is on the menu, but he can’t get a good latch on any of it. It’s a high-intrigue endurance contest of murder and boobs that may be warping William’s already-malleable brain. The word of the week is “manly” or maybe it is “useful”. Whatever the case, we go on a rip-roaring, gender-role-exploring, philosophical adventure together. After some reluctant screws, William ends up at the hardware store with his spurs clicking and ready for M4, 20-gauge fun with cabinets full of confusion and unknown dimensions. It’s as disorienting as a baseball to the chest! Scott has Wild Ass Guesses, a cunning approach, and his own rules for success. That’s why they give him multiple degrees in Things. We can’t ford a mountain pass or knit a canoe, but we CAN claim this nerdy, outlying subclass as our new model. Expand, Abandon, Eliminate! In the 700 years since 1970, at last we’ve become useful, and just in time too. Steve Martin stops by to end our segment, as with checks colliding, we wonder aloud who is paying whom in this friendship anyway. Music in Rearview flows from one thing into the same thing as we begin Episode 1 of our Special Products Series, sponsored by Malboro Country. Elmer Bernstein brings us every style of music about the number 7, if every style is one style and every song is the same song. Steak is what’s for dinner, and for some reason, xylophones are what’s for the Wild West. As the sun goes down over the horizon, we get our long little doggies and ride off with Clint and Burt to a confused ending. Yee haw! Grab your Langstrom 7-inch gangly wrench and head for the nearest Sprocket, Pardner!