Do these people look normal? I think so. Do they look as if they're genuinely having a great time? Sure! Why? We'll get to that.

It rained again! So we know it’s possible. The skies haven’t lost the knack. The last few weeks you’d see rain on the forecast, seven days out, which made you wonder: really. Really. There’s a big slow storm coming up, and it’s not going to wander off, or lose its mojo, or otherwise disappoint. And it would always disappoint. You’d see rain on the forecast for the evening, and the sun would set and the stars wink out from a cloudless sky. Hey, though, 30 percent chance over night! Thirty percent means nothing.

Then it rains in the morning, stern and steady, and huzzah, the forecast says it’s going to rain all day. But it stops at noon. The forecast says don’t worry, it’ll be back at 3. But it doesn’t.

Hmm, I think I have a column here, one that will probably irritate anyone who knows anything about weather. Anyway, the first rain was good summer rain, with all the associated humidity. Then it got cold, an autumn presage, and no one liked it at all. Feels English. Gives me a pang for the days. I’d be there now, if I could. I’ve no reason. But I’d give anything to fly to Boston again, pick up Daughter, and head back. That was when, April? Everything great was stretching ahead. Now all of a sudden we’re in the chute, grabbing for handrails, but one of the defining elements of a chute is the absence of handrails.

You can brace yourself, but there’s a lot rushing down the tube.

What am I talking about

Oh, just the sense that this is the last real week of summer. That thing about the great solid Gibraltar of August always feels true towards the end of July - you know, Late July - but falls apart the first cloudy cool day when you create a slug for your next column at it’s the fargin’ 14th, already.

Well, enough of this. If it’s the last good week of summer, let’s enjoy it.

Working on a subsite which will be worth it, so no, I'm not going to ruin it here. Just preview it. Thesis: There is something wrong in the Newport ads of the 70s and 80s. In all of them. People have collected them and posted them and made fun of them, but they don't get the truth: These are  deeply askew, warped, or perverse. Laughing happy people have been the mainstay of cigarette ads since the start, but this is different. These are not happy people.

These are the damned.

Here’s a mild example.

At first glance  her expression is about as close as they get to genuine happiness in these ads, but the more you look at it the more it seems there's no happiness there at all. If her eyes were open, it would be an expression of terror, perhaps. She may be surrounding to madness. Who wouldn’t? The man is wearing . . . the face of a snowman? How can such a thing exist? A snowman’s face is part of a dense packed ball, it’s not a mask, unless you carve it off somehow for some reason and put it over your own face for some reason, and in the process you become like no snowman ever looks.

The more you look at him, the more evil seems to gather in that mask. The more you look at her, you think the camera caught her the moment she was sniped in the spine.

It’s just off. Here’s the thing: it’s intentional. The entire campaign was intentionally constructed to create a mood of unease, and I don’t know why. Because it stood out? Well, it did that. Because it played on notions of sex and death? There’s no sex in these ads. They are resolutely unerotic.

This might be as close as they got to “sexy.” She’s got the look for 1985. We’ll get to her in a second. Look at him, his expression, how what seems to be amusement or delight curdles as you regard it, as if he is seeing something for the first time and cannot process what he is seeing. At first impression, it’s “oh what fun we are having you zany gal” but soon it’s “hey ha ha what are you doing I don’t get it.”

And neither do we, because what is she doing? Licking off some ice cream, of course! In a fun and spontaneous way because she is alive with pleasure. But her finger and her lips looks like some old obscene gesture from a remote part of Sicily. The more you look at her, the more it seems as if some guardian demon has interceded and is going to drag her back to hell, and this is the gentlest way he can assure her silence and compliance. She, upon feeling the finger in her swollen lips, knows exactly what it means, and closes her eyes in acceptance.


Their hands, transformed into tentacles, summon a third hand. He knew this would happen. He knew she would be transported, at first, while her right hand fingers begin to extend and contort.

He studies her reaction with a calculating, remote expression, while maintaining the basics of a Pleasure Smile.

The full site may, or may not, appear next year. It won't be the first gathering of Newport ads, but I hope to provide the most authoritative exploration of their remarkable oddness.



No, I didn't forget about these. Sorry. There's something cool here, though.

We'll be brief; it's nothing special. Fun but inconsequential.

The impoverished murdered art dealers can be found on page C16.

Police seek “Falcon,” even though they’ve had seven instances of him being resolutely on the side of the law, without any of the ol’ “gentleman bandit gone straight” in his past.

A daring murder!

“Well-known amateur sleuth.” That’s what these society crime-solvers were: sleuths. They weren’t detectives; that would be too official, too hard-boiled. They were devil-may-care about the whole thing. Dabblers. Sleuthers.

Well, it’s off to Mehico, because reasons, as they say. I think a lot of these programmers had their Western stint and a Mexico jaunt, just like all sci-fi computer games have an ice planet and a desert planet. We get some local color:

I thought, is that some famous Mexican sister act? Hah: no. First one played “the Second Ugh” in the Falcon and the Coeds movie. The other one? First Ugh. I saw that movie and cannot remember either, but it was quite forgettable.

Its sole redeeming feature is a “twist” concerning a cliched Mexican guide, which you see coming a mile away, but it’s nice. The interesting thing is this:

It’s a festival of rear-projection. No one ever went to Mexico for the filming. But:

Some of the Latin American exterior footage that is seen behind the opening credits, and which is inter-cut with the studio-shot scenes and projected behind the cast in some sequences, is rumored but unconfirmed to have come from Orson Welles' never-completed and Brazilian-located RKO documentary "It's All True."


The American Airlines plane depicting The Falcon and Barbara flying to Mexico is a 1937 Douglas DC-3A, registration NC17338, named "Flagship Philadelphia". It was with various subsequent airlines and under other registration numbers, and was still flying when it was destroyed on the ground in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Hugo on September 18, 1989.

It takes real aviation nerds to care about this stuff. Okay:

And a picture of it a few years before it was lost. When was the last time you saw a fairly recent picture of a plane from a 1940s movie? I had no idea they kept track of these things, but now I'm not surprised that they do. You'd want to know how many hours on that airframe, I gather.




That'll do! See you around.




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