The Parrot and the Igloo Notes

Wall of Flesh

214   three hundred trials: Brandt, Cigarette Century, Chapter Ten, “Nicotine Is the Product.”


214   industry had never paid a nickel: David Margolick, “Tobacco Its Middle Name, Law Firm Thrives, For Now,” The New York Times, November 20, 1992. “The industry has yet to pay out a dime in damages, settlements or court costs . . .”

Alix M. Freedman, Laurie P. Cohen, “Smoke and Mirrors: How Cigarette Makers Keep Health Question ‘Open’ Year After Year,” The Wall Street Journal, February 11, 1993. “Tobacco companies have never paid a dime in product liability claims.”


214   It used the number: Also to rally and rev up the squad. This is from Philip Morris CEO’s Annual “Dear Shareholder” letter, February 24, 1995. “Defending Our Company . . . Although these new cases pose difficult challenges, we should ultimately prevail in them, just as we have been successful in other types of cases over the last forty years. It is important to note here that the tobacco industry has never lost or paid to settle a case.”


214      an undefeated record: Pringle, Cornered, Chapter One: “A Novel Observation,” 14.

Dan Zegart, Civil Warriors: The Legal Siege On the Tobacco Industry, Random House, 2001. 85. “The wall of flesh was the massing of lawyers to intimidate the other side.”

In Sixty Minutes’ “Tobacco on Trial,” January 3, 1988, Mike Wallace asks a plaintiff’s attorney, “Why do the tobacco companies need so many lawyers?”

“Because they want to impress everyone with the Wall of Flesh,” the lawyer replies. “The sheer number of human bodies that they’re willing to throw at these cases, to impress the courts, to intimidate the lawyers; and to intimidate our clients in thinking that they’re invincible.”

The wall would remain impenetrable—legally invincible—for another decade.


214      America’s leading packaged good: Roger Rosenblatt, The New York Times Magazine, “How Do Tobacco Executives Live With Themselves?”, March 20, 1994.

“My case in point is Philip Morris, the largest tobacco company in America and the largest consumer-products company in the world, owner of Kraft General Foods, Jacobs Suchard and Miller beer and maker of Marlboro, the best-selling cigarette in America and the best-selling packaged product in the world. The connection of the company to the American economy is so deep and secure that if one were to remove Philip Morris without first finding something equally valuable to fill the hole, much of the country would cave in.”

Other facts, from Professor Katherine West’s admired Marlboro history project at the University of Virginia.


The phenomenon is extraordinary. Marlboro, a virtually unknown brand in 1955, has steadily increased sales for the past forty years. By December 1975, in just twenty years, Marlboro was named the “top selling brand in the United States and the all-time best-seller in the world” (Philip Morris History 20). In 1989, Marlboro was ‘America’s best seller by far, with one fourth of all cigarette sales’, Philip Morris held 43% of the domestic market, and made $4.6 billion from tobacco sales—nearly two thirds of the company’s total profits (US News and World Report March 5, 1990, 57). Marlboro remains today “the world’s most profitable brand of non-durable consumer good, surpassing even Coca-Cola.” (The Economist April 21, 1990, 84). In a company that owns popular brands such as General Foods, Kraft, Oscar Mayer and Miller Brewing, Marlboro cigarettes provide an astounding majority of Philip Morris, Inc. earnings.

Katherine M. West, “The Marlboro Man: The Making of an American Image,” American Studies at the University of Virginia.

Accessed 6-12-22.


Per Kiplinger Finance, Philip Morris became the world’s most valuable company in 1992. And reigned for one year, as second-hand smoke legislation began to nibble away at the industry.

Philip Morris Companies Incorporated Annual Report 1989. 7.

Accessed 6-12-22.


214      The Marlboro Man: In 1999, Advertising Age named the Marlboro Man the great trademark of the century. Beating out the Energizer Bunny, Michelin Man, Pillsbury doughboy, even the friendly and ubiquitous Ronald McDonald.

Dottie Enrico, “Top 10 Advertising Icons,” Advertising Age: The Advertising Century, March 29, 1999.


214      “the spirit of an alienated country”: John Marchese, “A Rough Ride,” The New York Times, September 13, 1992.


214      the red tip wouldn’t show: This was called a “beauty tip.”


214      “Mild as May”: Another early slogan that might have lifted cowboy brows and narrowed ranch eyes: “A Cherry Tip For Your Red Ruby Lips.”

Nicholas Kochan, Ed., The World’s Greatest Brands, Macmillan Business 1996. 103.


215      “the cigarette with”: Elspeth H. Brown, “Sissies Versus Macho Men: Marketing a ‘Cigarette With Balls,’” in Regina Lee Blaszczyk, Ed., Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers, University of Pennsylvania Press 2008. 194.


215      “A tea room smoke”: James B. Twitchell, “The Marlboro Man: The Perfect Campaign,” in Marcia Stubbs, Sylvan Barnet, William E. Cain, Eds., The Little Brown Reader, 11th Edition, Pearson Education, 2009.


215      “new Marlboro wasn’t this kind”: Leo Burnett, “The Marlboro Story: How One of America’s Most Popular Filter Cigarettes Got That Way,” Special Advertising Supplement, The New Yorker, November 15, 1958.

Burnett goes on, without much practical self-consciousness, “The new Marlboro wasn’t this kind of a cigarette at all. It had a flavor you could get hold of and roll around in your mouth. There was nothing sissy about it.”


215      “Follow any man”: Burnett, “The Marlboro Story.”


215      “The filter works good”: Not a monologue for elevators and board meetings. It’s like Nick Adams or Jacob Barnes working long and fine hours to win a Clio. “Man-sized taste of honest tobacco comes full through. Smooth-drawing filter feels right in your mouth.”


215      “Cab driver”: “Sissies Versus Macho Men: Marketing a ‘Cigarette With Balls,’” in Blaszczyk, Ed., Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008. 200.


215      Sales climbed 5,000 percent: Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies, Part Four “A Thief in the Night,” 251.

In 1955, when Philip Morris introduced the Marlboro Man, its most successful smoking icon to date, sales of the brand shot up by a dazzling 5,000 percent over eight months. Marlboro promised a nearly erotic celebration of tobacco and machismo.”

It’s cause for further appreciation, of the performance of Clarence Cook Little and Hill & Knowlton, and the power of that useful word “Research.” Mukherjee continues, “By the early 1960s, the gross annual sale of cigarettes in America peaked at nearly $5 billion, a number unparalleled in the history of tobacco. On average, Americans were consuming nearly four thousand cigarettes per year or about eleven cigarettes per day—nearly one for every waking hour.”


215      our planetary number one: 1972 and 1975, Marlboro became the world and then the American top seed.


216      Philip Morris agreed: John J. O’Connor, “Marlboro ‘Sandbagged’ by U.K. Show Mixing Ads, ‘Cowboys’ With Cancer,” Advertising Age, November 15, 1976.


216      “I thought to be a man”: Death in the West: The Marlboro Story, Thames Television Ltd., 1976.


216      “Sand-bagged and double-crossed”: Advertising Age, “Marlboro ‘Sandbagged’ by U.K. Show Mixing Ads, ‘Cowboys’ With Cancer.”


216      “most effective attack ever”: Kluger, Ashes to Ashes, Chapter 14, “The Heights of Arrogance,” 472. This was the American Cancer Society. Kluger ranks it “the best piece of antismoking advocacy ever fashioned.”

Even forty years later—Gavin Hayes, “The Dirty Story of How Big Tobacco Was Brought Down to Size,” November 5, 2018—Vice was still calling the documentary “remorseless.”


216      Two cowboys: Bard Lindeman, “ ‘Death in the West’: Marlboro Man’s Image Suffers In Film Held Up in Litigation By Philip Morris.” Knight-Ridder Newspapers, February 19, 1977.


216      “I got to spitting blood”: Death in the West, Thames TV, 1976.


217      “He stated that he”: Shook, Hardy, and Bacon, “Personal Interview of M.S. (Junior) Farris,” October 19, 1976, Conducted by David W. Shinn & Bernard V. O’Neill, Oklahoma City Stockyards, OK City, OK. Bates No 2501007649-2501007652.


217      “To be destroyed”: Philip Morris, “Film Footage Allocation—’Death in the West,’” December 5, 1979. Bates No 2024978801. “To be destroyed with the exception of one copy of program.”


217      Three of the remaining cowboys: Advertising Age, “Marlboro ‘Sandbagged’”.


217      The film never aired: Ashes to Ashes, Kluger, Chapter 14; “The Heights of Arrogance.” 472. “ ‘60 Minutes’ could not legally buy the rights to Death in the West, and so the best piece of antismoking advocacy ever fashioned was, for the time being, effectively silenced by the aggrieved party.”


217      prohibitive: As a for-instance. Allan Brandt, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, was called to testify in the biggest of the tobacco suits, its grand finale. Brandt had the data: he was working on The Cigarette Century.

Professor Brandt would be a witness in that largest suit—brought by the Department of Justice. He aimed at the heart of the uncertainty question. The proof angle: How much? When to stop? “Did it make sense to attempt to protect the blood supply prior to the identification of human immunodeficiency virus? Does the doubt of a few scientists that HIV is the cause of AIDS mean that we should wait for ‘proof?’ I wanted to show,” the professor writes, “that the industry claims of ‘not proven’ were explicitly designed to serve the companies’ financial interests.” He adds, “And that this approach—’doubt is our product’—cost millions of lives.”

Brandt continues, “My testimony focused on the state of knowledge in medicine in the 1950s and 1960s, the character of industry denials, and the intensive public relations activity in the area of industry-sponsored research—all critical themes of this book. I understood that my claims would be subject to aggressive and hostile questions from the industry defense counsel.” The evening before his court appearance, he reviewed the situation with attorneys. Towards the end of the night, Sharon Eubanks, “the DOJ attorney who was directing the tobacco litigation team,” stopped in. “She asked me if I understood what would happen during the cross-examination,” Brandt writes. “I assured her that I realized that the industry lawyers would try to make me look as bad as possible. ‘No,’ she responded. ‘That’s not it. They want to destroy you and leave you in a pool of blood.’” Brandt, The Cigarette Century, 500.

The Parrot and the Igloo by David Lipsky