Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Marlboro Man

Wayne McClaren, the ruggedly handsome cowboy in Marlboro advertising in the 1970's, died of lung cancer on this day in 1992. He was 51. He'd been a rodeo cowboy, a movie and TV actor of bit parts, and a model for the cigarette company's dream version of American individualism. He smoked a pack and a half a day.

At age 49 he was diagnosed with cancer. Shortly afterwards he began campaigning publicly against cigarettes. In response, Philip Morris denied McClaren had ever appeared in their advertising. They later backed off this claim and simply denied he'd been "the Marlboro Cowboy."

McClaren wasn't the only Marlboro Cowboy to die of lung cancer. David McClean, a more frequent face in Marlboro's advertising in the early sixties, died of the disease in 1995. There's no record of how many Marlboro Cowboys died of emphysema or heart disease or other forms of cancer connected with cigarette smoking. Nor should anyone infer that spokesmodels for other brands of cigarettes were immune to diseases related to smoking.

Wayne McClaren appears once in A Book of Ages.

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