"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 23 December 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CCVIII



If the captains of your industry

have been maligned as sniveling

cheats out to hook schoolkids

on addictive drugs and hand them

a one-way ticket to the

emphysema ward, it helps to hold

onto your sense of humor. Brown

& Williamson Tobacco Corporation

— whose most recent public

pounding was administered in the

box-office dud The Insider

apparently hasn't lost its funny

bone. In what appears to be a

bid to lighten its image, the

company has retooled the

outgoing message on its

toll-free customer service line

[ (800) 578 7453] with a

display of the kind of corporate

nuttiness we haven't seen since

a business executive pulled a GG

Allin routine on an airline

beverage cart a few years back.


The message starts out plainly

enough, with a warning that

those under 21 should hang up.

Then wackiness ensues. "Now that

it's just us," the male voice

says, "there's something that

we, Brown & Williamson Tobacco,

would like to tell you. It may

be a little soon, but, well, it

just feels right. (romantic

music cue) We, the Brown &

Williamson Tobacco Corporation,

are in love with you. Yep, you

heard right; Brown & Williamson

Tobacco is in love. We're a

giant corporation, and you make

us feel like a little kid.


"Thank you, lover."


Then he sends us home with, "By

the way, the other tobacco

companies hate you and think

you're ugly. They told us so.

Now, press 1 to be put on our

mailing list...."


We weren't sure whether to

believe our ears, but a customer

service rep assured us that the

message is indeed legit. "It's

something they wanted to try,"

he said. How far it will go

toward repairing the company's

wheezing, hacking public image

remains to be seen. Not everyone

loves it, the rep said, but some

reaction has been favorable.

Which puts Brown & Williamson

one up on The Insider, if

anyone's keeping track.



Just in time for Christmas comes

a lump of coal from the snowy

lands of the north. Swedish

Minister for Culture Marita

Ulvskog is making it clear that

the kingdom of Sweden will try to

extend its ban on advertising to

children when it takes command

of the European Union next year.

Now, we're all well aware of the

Scandinavian tactic of slipping

home-grown mickeys into the

cocktails of more exciting

societies (Crown Princess

Victoria's official bio notes

ominously that the young

princess is currently "studying

American cultures"). But maybe

this growing form of enforcement

for the under-12 set is

addressing a problem of kind

rather than degree. After all,

what kinds of toys are the

advertisers hawking to the

little tÿkes anyway?

ABBA trading cards? Ingemar

Stenmark action figures?



If there is one reason to be

optimistic about the next

century, it may be the fact that

publishing's sad old dinosaurs

have accelerated their rate of

imitating newer species. We were

delighted and amused by the

cover art for Rolling Stone's

big 2000 issue — almost as

delighted and amused as we were

when we saw it first, in Salon's


infamous TV commercial. Of the

two, the considerably more

nubile Salon relies on wit,

while Rolling Stone, that scabby

old dowager, gets right in our

faces with an eyeful of

unwelcome and unsurprising skin.

We're not fooled. We know only

Salon is truly willing to

surrender the pink.



Last week we wrote that

celebrity Christmas albums

reminded us of a simpler time

when people actually wanted to

hear the cast of Bonanza

singing. It turns out we

underestimated the longevity of

this cultural touchstone. Forty

years after the TV western's

premier, a webmistress has

reproduced the Bonanza Christmas

album online in nearly its



True, several of the show's

episodes were directed by future auteur Robert

Altman, and there was that

surrealist commercial for Chevy

dealers. But apparently, the

14-year run of the long-since-

departed western about a widower

father and his three disparate

sons created an oddly

invulnerable stranglehold on the

pockets of mainstream America,

adaptable to every occasion.


In 1999, they're still giving

tours of the Lake Tahoe ranch

where the show was filmed.

Chamber of Commerce wannabes

claim the Hoss burger is world

famous and offer weddings by the

"Church of the Ponderosa

minister." But while there's

something uniquely Nevada about

this fusion of religion and

televised western, it took the

Internet to spawn the subgenre

of Bonanza Christmas fan

fiction. Sure, it would be easy

to write off these budding

fabulists as the kind of people

who purchase the art of Buddy

Ebsen ("'Chow Line'

limited-edition lithograph is

now ready to ship!"); we prefer

to think of it as TV generation

folk art. In fact, somewhere in

America, there may be a new

Christmas Eve tradition: a

father and his three sons

gathered around the monitor

reading Happy Ponderosa

Christmas, with nary a woman

in sight.

courtesy of theSucksters