At about this time two years ago I introduced our audience to one Harry “Hack” Halloran, better known as the Marlboro Man. (https://ale81inn.com/2018/12/07/marlboro-man/) For those of you who are new, Hack Halloran’s story may most succinctly be summed up thus: here is a man who, after suffering the heavy boot of New York City’s regulatory regime, embarked upon a personal crusade on the marathon circuit. With the sponsorship of Phillip-Morris. There is a bit more nuance to the tale, but there is the meat of it. His is hardly the first enterprise to be born of the absurd and thuggish rules and regulations instituted by New York City. Why just ask Eric Garner…..oh, wait. You can’t. Because he is dead. That is, however, another story…
At the occasion of our initial meeting I had been dispatched to report on a marathon in Columbus, Ohio. It was a solicitation of the pre-fab horseshit that is in favor with the editors of so many publications these days. A chimpanzee with an old IBM Selectric could probably master the kind of pablum they are looking for, but thankfully there are not a lot of apes clamoring to enter the field of journalism. Even apes can see that this is a field already crowded with hairy, thick browed simpletons given to masturbation and playing with their own feces. With one notable exception of a recent opening at The New Yorker, there just isn’t room for any of them to break in. After my encounter with Hack I was resolved to indulge in some honest reporting on my own.
It is not my intent to lionize the man. Hack Halloran is not a role model. He is often rude, loud and by the standards of polite society, utterly uncouth. I can not say with certainty what Hack Halloran’s politics are, but given the caricature typically ascribed to the “Trump voter” by our legacy media it would be safe to at least say that Hack fits their profile. His devotion to four inch sticks of tobacco stuffed into a filtered tube as mass produced by the Phillip-Morris corporation is, in itself, nothing inspiring. Truth be told it is actually a little sad. Hack Halloran doesn’t want to be a role model and he certainly isn’t looking for anyone’s pity. Besides those beloved red and white packs emblazoned with the Marlboro logo there is only one other thing Hack is adamant about and it is this: freedom of choice.
In recent years it has become a common practice in the banking industry for preferred clients to be provided the services of a “private banker”. The benchmarks set as the qualifiers for this distinction vary from one institution to another, though we may rest assured that in every instance these are determined by a criteria that is mostly beneficial to the bank itself. Altruism is hardly a virtue one might assign to the field of banking. Some of you may be surprised to learn that this model has migrated into other market sectors, not the least of which is one Phillip-Morris Corporation.
Hack Halloran has been a member in good standing of Phillip-Morris’ esteemed Black Lung Club for over thirty years. The Black Lung Club is attended by a dedicated team of twelve tobacco acquisition specialists, assigned to provide top level, personalized services to it’s most prestigious members. Amidst this elite team Hack Halloran has attained a legendary status, akin to EF Hutton’s one time cred in personal finance: when Hack Halloran talks Phillip-Morris listens. Before converting to a digital platform Halloran’s folder at Phillip-Morris took up no less than two full sized file cabinets. There is no common toll free number for Black Lung members. They each have a dedicated line and Hack’s is preset on speed dial. When that caller ID lights up on the big screen in the Black Lung Club war room you should see those specialists scrambling to take that call. Calls like this recent one:
Phillip-Morris, Black Lung member services. How may we help you today, Mr. Halloran?
Jenna? Is that you? I talked with you the last time, didn’t I?
That’s right, Mr. Halloran. Last Friday, it says here on your file…
It was Friday! Yeah, I bet ya’ll got about ever’thing you’d ever need about me in there.
It is a fairly sizable file, Mr. Halloran. Dating all the way back to 1987…
Yeah, that sounds about right. Ya’ll were runnin’ that lighter promo back then. Remember that one?
I’m sorry, I don’t Mr. Halloran. I wasn’t even born yet.
Ya wasn’t? Hell, I probably still got some o’ them lighters down in the basement. Ya want one?
No, but thank you Mr. Halloran. How may we help you today?
Hey! How ’bout one o’ them sweet Marlboro racing jackets?
Heh-heh…..no, that’s alright Mr. Halloran. Was there something we could help you with today?
Help me? Ah, heck no. No, I was callin’ hopin’ that maybe I could help ya’ll. This whole covid thing has kinda fucked up that whole marathon thing, ya know?
Yes, it’s put the damper on a lot of things this year…
Yeah, boy ain’t that the truth! After that last thing we done up in Boston I was all ready to hit the ground runnin’ in 2020, but here we are. Ya know what I’m sayin’?
Yes Mr. Halloran, I do. So…you were going to help us somehow?
Right,right…..Jenna I don’t mean to be presumptive about this, but ya think ya might be able to get the boys on the board in on this? I mean, I’d hate to have to run through all this more’n once. Know what I’m sayin’?
Of course Mr. Halloran! Could you please hold the line for a few moments while I patch in to the board room?
Sure, sure sweetheart. Ya’ll do what ya gotta do. I’ll be right here.
As it turns out there was indeed a dedicated line reserved directly to the board room of Phillip-Morris. This was hardly the first time that Hack had an exclusive audience with the board. In the waning months of 1999, amid the Y2K panic, Hack had managed to deliver an impassioned plea before the board to secure a twelve semi truck load order. A personal order. His motivation was not profit. Hack was convinced that the Y2K threat was real, that it would be the end of the world as known to that point. Calculating roughly sixty years of life left it would require one semi load of Marlboros every five years to sustain his personal use. To be honest I can not say how that occasion was resolved, but it marked the first of a number of times that Hack has addressed the Phillip-Morris board. These occasions have come to be embraced by the board with great and sincere enthusiasm.
After Hack was placed on hold he was treated to a continuing loop of the old Marlboro television commercials, which stopped airing the year before he was born. Elmer Bernstein’s Theme from the Magnificent Seven, interspersed with the invitation to “come on up to Marlboro country”. Though he had not been alive to witness these in his own life he was still filled with a sense of nostalgia. His thoughts wandered to some modern day production. He could picture it easily. Marlboro: The Movie, with Hack himself on horseback in the starring role. While Hack entertained his western daydream the board room was suddenly abuzz with anticipation at the announcement that he was on the line.
Alright Mr. Halloran. I’ve patched you through to our board room, but before I go, shall we send you another book of 10$ off of a carton coupons?
Sure thing, Jenna. Thanks! I was gettin’ a little low on them coupons.
Very good Mr. Halloran. Talk again next week?
You bet. Thanks again!
Alright Mr. Halloran. The board is ready for you now. Buh-bye!
There was no audible click with the transfer. Suddenly he was just live with the board.
Hack! How the hell are ya? This here’s JB, along with JR,RJ,BJ,BB and Raytard…
Well heya fellas! Thanks for takin’ my call. It’s always an honor.
Likewise Hack! So whyncha tell us what’s on your mind today friend?
Well, listen fellas….first of all I want to apologize again for not gettin’ out there this year. I know ya’ll put up one hell of a lot of money in all that merchandise…
No need of that Hack. It simply can’t be helped.
No, I reckon it can’t and that’s kinda what I got on my mind. Ya’ll got a few minutes?
Of course!! For you Hack? Always!
Ok. Well first off I just don’t see where any of this whole virus silliness is gonna end, so I think we can just cut bait on this whole marathon marketing deal. We gotta find some way, somehow, to capitalize on this whole Covid thing.
Do not let Hack’s apparent lack of sophistication fool you. The man knows how to play a room. He paused here, noting the low murmuring coming through on the speaker. He had their attention.
We got all these damn Mayors and Governors, health commissioners goin’ apeshit on civil liberties. You got one half of the country up in arms and the other half just shrugs. Well ya know what? It ain’t nothin’ new. For the past twenty-five years they been able to tell private establishments that they may not permit smoking on their premises. They been able to tell us again and again, “Ya’ll can’t smoke here, Ya’ll can’t smoke there” and now ya got some of these assholes think they can start tellin’ us we can’t smoke in our own homes. And all the while they keep rakin’ up all them tax dollars. If they been able to get away with all that horse shit then there ain’t nothin’ gonna stop ’em from carryin’ on with this mask nonsense.
This was just like fishing. You cast out your line, make a splash and then slowly tease it back towards the shore, waiting for the first nibble.
Erm,ahem….Hack? JR here. What ya’ll proposin’ here?
The Marlboro face mask: Prevent Covid, Smoke Marlboro. Huh? I tell ya fellas, it’s a can’t miss.
Hack? BB here…uh, listen…I just love the way ya’ll think, but I don’t think our legal department would wanna open us to those claims. Maybe we could do just a simple mask with the Marlboro logo on it. What ya’ll think about that?
Uh, Hack? This is Raytard. I work pretty closely with our legal department and I agree that the prevent Covid thing is a non starter. I do think the Marlboro logo would fly though…..
Mr. Halloran, this is BJ….would these masks have holes to insert our product?
Well BJ I hadn’t thought of that, but I think it could work. Good suggestion!
Hack? Raytard again….that hole thing wouldn’t go. They could say that it is not an approved mask. You know, what with the hole in it….
With all due respect,uh, Mr…..Raytard? Can I call ya Raytard?
I think the hole in the mask helps to drive the true point home. These masks are worthless anyway. It don’t matter whether they got a hole in ’em or not. Know what I’m sayin’?
JB, as well as the other board members, were liking what they had heard so far, but JB decided that he needed to corral this conference before Hack got back up on his soapbox.
Gentlemen, gentlemen…..please! Let’s have some order. Now what Hack here is telling us is all true. We all know it. We just can’t say it. Publicly. Now, with that in mind….I am officially tabling a motion before this board for the commencement of the Phillip-Morris Marlboro face mask promotion. JR? Can I get you to second this motion?
Gladly! I second the motion before the board.
Very well. A voice vote then: all in favor say Aye….
AYE! (x 6)
The motion passes unanimously! Hack we will get to work on this right away. We have a sweat sh……er, vendor in Vietnam that can get right on this. We should have 500,000 masks ready for shipment before Christmas!
That’s great fellas! It truly is. Geez I love workin’ with ya’ll.
Well Hack I think I can confidently speak for the other board members in saying that we love working with you too. Your persistence is an inspiration to us all!
Well there it is folks. Human butt plugs that occupy elected office all across this great country will continue to wipe their asses with the US Constitution for the foreseeable future, and they will do so with relative impunity. Keep an eye out at your favorite tobacco retailer in the coming weeks. Those Marlboro masks will start hitting those shelves. If you must wear a mask then there is no better mask than this. Phillip-Morris desperately needs this boost in advertising during these difficult times and, by extension, so do your local and state taxing authorities. It’s going to require a lot of sin tax to make up all the shortfalls in sales tax stemming from these lockdowns. Wear these masks with pride and in good conscience. You’re not setting a bad example. You’re doing your patriotic duty.
Keep Calm and Smoke On
Ford Wenty report end, 24 November 2020