An interesting story about one of the very first “Marlboro Man,” who actually never smoked a single cigarette. He died last week at the age of 90. It’s a neat story.
Bob Norris was approached by Philip Morris ad executives (I imagine Don Draper out of “Mad Men” in his grey suit out in the high plains…) in the 1950s while he was talking to John Wayne outside of a ranch in Colorado. It’s debatable whether he was the first-ever Marlboro Men, but he had a nice run of 12 years of being in magazine ads and billboards in the 1950s.
Here’s a neat story of why Morris quit doing the ad campaign, even though it made him a lot of money. One of his kids got old enough to ask him about “If you don’t approve of us smoking, why are you in cigarette ads.” Norris claimed he quit modeling as the Marlboro Man the day after that.
Bob Norris might have had the longest life of the several real-life cowboys who played Marlboro Men over the decades. Six of them — SIX — died of tobacco-related illnesses, including one who died at the age of 52 from lung cancer. Three others died of lung cancer, one at the age of 72 and the other at 73, and a third died of COPD. So many Marlboro Men died of smoking that Marlboros became known as “Cowboy Killers.”
So Norris outlived them all. Unfortunately, for 12 years, he didn’t really think about the morality of what he was doing (back in his day, few people gave much thought to the morality of cigarettes, frankly) but he came around. And that’s what’s important.