The Marlboro Man & The Cowboy From San FernandoMonday, August 02, 2010
Leo Burnett (1891-1971) founded the advertising agency that carried his name as well as the "Chicago School" of advertising. In Burnett's ads, visual, meaningful images were emphasized over text-filled explanations of the product's features. Burnett and his agency were responsible for the creation of such famous product icons as the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Marlboro Man. The Marlboro Man was one of Burnett's most famous advertising icons. When first introduced, in 1955, filter cigarettes were considered unmanly, intended for a female consumer. By using the manliest man, a tattooed cowboy astride a horse, filter Marlboros became viewed as a very masculine product by consumers. Burnett changed the way filter cigarettes were marketed and Marlboros became the best selling cigarettes on the market. By the end of the 1950s, the Leo Burnett Company was billing over $100 million annually.
Lee is one tough cowboy even though I never saw him ride a horse. He looked more like a man more comfortable riding a Harley hog. But he had to be a cowboy. After all he was smoking Marlboros, he had tattoos and he was handling cattle. In fact he was handling cattle on foot. He was outside a pen where steers where being funneled into a chute and up into a waiting cattle truck. The steers were afraid and not cooperative. Lee and a few other men jumped up and down and made loud noises (Lee’s sounded like loud and wet farts) and wildly gesticulated with their arms. A few of the cowboys used Mexican bullwhips called chicotes and without really touching the steers at all they made loud cracking noises. I approached Lee and in Spanish I told him, “You must be practicing so that someday you can scare your grandkids.” He looked at me, deadpan, and replied, “I’m already a grandfather.” I then told him, “You must notice that my granddaughter is in Mike East’s truck and she isn’t all that happy. She’s rezongando.” “What’s rezongando?” Lee asked.
I told him it was Spanish for complain and a complainer like Rebecca would be called a rezongona. He looked at me and immediately went over to a mounted cowboy (probably my age of 68) who was wearing a crisp starched shirt and said loudly, “Hermenegildo what’s rezongar?” Hermenegildo Sanchez, who hails from San Fernando, Mexico, between Tampico and Matamoros, confirmed my definition. I was surprised as the verb rezongar is more of an Argentine Spanish one that a Mexican one.
I watched how Hermenegildo rode his horse with ease. He looked to me like the real cowboy even though he did not have any tattoos or smoked. It was later that Michael East confirmed my suspicion by telling me that Hermenegildo is one of a dying breed of real cowboys who can really ride. There are fewer and fewer of his ilk now.