Friday, December 21, 2007


"It's the Dean Martin Christmas Show! Tonight's special guest - Joey Heatherton! Also on tonight's show - Dom DeLuise and The Golddiggers!"

"Ho, ho, ho, this is your ol' pal Dino wishing you all a very merry Christmas. Later on, we'll have the beautiful Golddiggers out here to help me perform some of your favorite Christmas songs. But first, let's see who our mystery guest is behind our special Christmas go-go bead curtain!"

"Why it's Mr. Sean Connery! C'mon over Sean, and I'll mix you a vodka martini - shaken not stirred."

"Ya' know Sean, you and I are in the same line
of work now. In my latest picture, I play a suave,
hard-livin', hard-lovin' super spy like yourself."

"With all due respect Dean, I think James Bond
kick your alcoholic as - say, I think there's
someone under this bar."

"It's the Men from U.N.C.L.E.!"

"Open channel D - we've just uncovered a spy ring.
There's two more coming through
the window right now!"

"Holy quadruple agent! Be careful, Batman,
they have more gadgets than you do!"

"Never fear, old chum. I'll fend them
off with my Explosive Christmas Bat-balls!"

"Hey, you two get outta here! You're not even on this network! In fact, everyone clear out! This bar is getting too crowded!"

"I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, things got a little outta hand for a moment. Let's slow things back down with some nice Christmas carols, sung with my good friend, Miss Joey Heatherton. Say, where is Miss Heatherton anyway?"

"She's down here with me. Say Dean,
where are you hiding the scotch?"

"Frank, you're not supposed to be
on this show until next week! I think
we need to take a commercial break!"


Monday, December 17, 2007


"Jingle bells, Batman smells, Ro - oh hi, Dr. Evil here. Just putting up some Christmas decorations around the ol' Evil Sanctuary."

"I know, people think I've mellowed over the years. Why, just the other day, my neighbor Clive Arno said, 'Ev, why don't you unleash earthquakes or bring monsters to Earth through dimensional gateways like you used to?'"

"Well sir, I have to confess that I've found a new way to channel my sinister urges while also reconnecting with my inner child."


Friday, December 14, 2007


This is the last of the Christmas Coca-Cola ads that I managed to save from a bunch of old National Geographics my father donated to the Goodwill. This one I found almost a little disturbing in its composition. On the bottom, you have well-scrubbed, toe-headed children in their footy pajamas diving into a pile of Christmas gifts. The girl, perhaps more thoughtful than the avaricious male, looks up worshipfully at the God-like apparition of Santa hovering overhead. She is clearly offering her thanks to the almighty gift-giver. In a subliminal way, Santa is a golden idol to which children pray for their material desires.

Don't get me wrong; I love the idea of Santa as this jolly old man who generously gives toys to all the good girls and boys. I just find his omnipotent positioning in the ad a little strange. It's especially weird when he, in this exalted position, is selling us Coca-Cola. It's like, "God said you must drink Coke!"

Having said all that, this ad is still a great example of an idyllic Christmas image specially designed to elicit the warm fuzzies. I think it's a real shame that magazine advertising nowadays doesn't use more artwork rather than just photos. Perhaps advertisers are worried about truth in advertising laws, or maybe it's simply cheaper to use photographs than hire commercial artists, but beautifully painted images can evoke so much more than a photograph ever can. And if you Photoshop an image to heighten its dramatic effect, everyone knows it's been altered. With paintings and drawings, you allow the artist the creative license to seduce you. I missing seeing ads like this.

I'll probably be offering up more old ads in future posts. I know I've drifted away from the toy theme a bit, but don't worry, I'll have my action figure friends back in the next post.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Another Christmas Coca-Cola ad from the back of an old National Geographic, dated December 1951. It still amazes me how cleverly Coca-Cola inserted their product into our collective unconscious as a symbol of Christmas. Here you have an iconic version of Santa Claus, sitting at his desk with his book of all the boys and girls who've been naughty and nice. Although the book only says, "Good Boys and Girls," we all know exactly what this means. Santa also has a globe nearby, so we know he's cross-checking the list with their locations (GPS hadn't been invented yet).

It's a classic Christmas concept, and inserted in the middle of this traditional image, we see Santa gripping that tantalizing Coke bottle. I mentioned in my previous post about how seductive gripping those 6 oz. bottles is. The effect must still work because I saw six-packs on sale at my local Target just the other day. The whole concept is tied together with the catch phrase: "Drink about being good!" Just incredible. I'll take this kind of advertising over hip-hop dancers in Santa hats any day. Never fails to make me feel that warm, Christmas glow, even in the middle of July.

Next time...Christmas 1952.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Here's another wonderful Coca-Cola ad that I swiped off the back of a National Geographic from 1950. As I mentioned in my last post, an old uncle dumped a bunch of National Geographic magazines on my family in the 1970s and they sat neglected in our basement for years. I used to read through them, but I mainly loved to look at the advertisements. By the time I was 14, I had gotten into the habit of taking household junk to the flea market and selling it for extra cash. My dad said I could take the Nat. Geo.'s to the flea market, but a friend told me that those things were so plentiful, no one would give me a penny for them. Finally, my father decided to drop them off at the Goodwill. Before he piled them in the trunk of his car, however, I ripped the back covers off about a dozen or so of the mags so I could save those amazing Coca-Cola ads. As you can see, I still have them to this day.

While this is not one of my absolute favorites, it does have the essential elements that makes one of these holiday ads so attractive. Of course, you have the iconic image of Santa looming at the top of the page, holding another icon of American marketing: the six-ounce glass Coca-Cola bottle. What has made those bottles so attractive over the decades is the feel of that scalloped bottle in your hand, the curves perfectly designed to provide maximum grip. Santa holding the bottle is a subliminal come-on.

Beneath the God-like image of Santa, we see to children excitedly loading up the refrigerator with colas to quench the thirst of our traveling gift-giver and possibly bribe him out of more presents. Taking the well-known tradition of kids leaving cookies and milk for Santa into leaving Coca-Colas is a brilliant twist. In this post-war world of rising consumerism, Coca-Cola insinuates itself into the collective unconscious of holiday traditions. The image speaks to everything Americans aspired to in 1950: two healthy, well-scrubbed and thoughtful children, modern conveniences like the refrigerator, and the ability to afford all the comforts a family would ice cold Coca-Cola in the easy-to-carry six-pack container. Even though the country was not fully on the road to prosperity, and a nasty conflict in Korea had just begun, Americans kept their eyes on that future they had dreamed of since the Depression, and it was very nearly at hand.

As a pre-teen boy sitting on the floor of his basement in a very different world over 25 years later, I wanted to experience that dream as well. I wanted to live in that world that really only existed in a Coca-Cola ad. Fortunately, I was too naive to know that then.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I've finally found some time to create a post for this blog!

I know it looks like Frankenstein and Dracula dragged me off to some horrible fate, but I actually was tied up all month participating in this year's November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). Just like last year, participants attempt to write at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. By the end of the month, you must upload your manuscript to their site for an official word counting. If you meet the required word count by midnight November 30th, you win! Not that you really win anything other than bragging rights, but it's a great form of motivation if you are having writer's block and an opportunity to network with other writers who are struggling with a shared challenge.

For the second year in a row, I am proud to say I succeeded in banging out over 50,000 words during the previous month and winning my little icon, displayed to the right. I think I also have created the rough workings for a new novel, so that's pretty good too. Sooner or later, I'm bound to stumble onto something a publisher might like.

Anyway, it's now December and I'm scrambling to take care of all the little details I neglected over the past month (e.g., taking the car in for an oil change, getting my annual physical, etc.) along with Christmas shopping and other preparations for the coming holiday season. I'm also preparing a special action figure-related Christmas post which I hope will come out as well as I imagine it will. So in the meantime, I thought I'd share some images over the next couple weeks that always gave me that warm Christmas feeling as a kid.

In the early 70s, one of my uncles unloaded a huge pile of National Geographics on us, most of them dated from the late 40s and early 50s. I don't know why my Dad accepted them because they took up valuable storage space in our 3 bedroom row home, but I enjoyed occasionally flipping through them on dreary, rainy days when I couldn't play outside. I know what you're thinking, but the pictures of the topless African tribeswomen were not an attraction for me. What I really loved were the advertisements! These full page, glossy ads were so meticulously painted, evoking a world more lovely and exciting than reality. I especially loved the Coca-Cola ads on the back covers, and none were better at eliciting a sense of heightened fantasy and wonder than the Christmas ads. Here's one from 1948:

These ads, created by commercial artist Haddon Sundblom, were so strongly associated with our modern concept of Santa Claus that he was often incorrectly credited with inventing the 20th century Santa look. While he may not have invented the red suit and jolly appearance, he certainly rendered it in such a realistic way that one develops a sense that this figure is the definitive article. This particular ad also features a pixie character that appeared in other, non-holiday Coca-Cola ads. I assume he's supposed to represent Jack Frost, as in a frosty, cold Coca-Cola, but he's especially effective in these commercials for the holiday season of the solstice.

What I loved about these ads as a kid was the pristine rendering of everything in the picture. All the items in the refrigerator are so neatly arranged and the packaging wondrously bright and colorful. The toys in Santa's bag look so inviting. And, of course, the curvaceous Coca-Cola bottles glisten invitingly. You can just taste that cold, sweet liquid by gazing at those fluid soldiers standing at attention on the refrigerator rack.

Reality in the 70s was sloppy: everyone's hair was long; clothes were loud with big, floppy lapels and collars; crime and drug abuse was rampant; and polite behavior and common courtesy were considered passe'. Even as a grader schooler, I sensed that we had lost something from the era before my birth. These images from the past made that all too clear. Sure, the world wasn't as perfect as the artist portrayed it. But the mere fact that commercial illustrators aspired to present us with an immaculate reality showed a certain virtue in itself, I think.

Next time I'll post the Christmas 1950 ad and offer more of my pointless pontificating. I hope these images provide some holiday cheer!