Not My Style
By JOHN CROSBY `We asked Peter Sellers to say what he believes has that indefinable something called "style." These are his answers. My wife. A red Lam- borghini Miura. El Cordobes. Private Eye magazine (my goodness!). Habit Rouge de Guerlain (what is it?). Elmarit R f/2.8 135 mm (what?). The music of Antonio Carlos Jobim (who?). . .
There was quite a lot more, but I didn't dare read on. Obviously Sellers was just going to go on throwing things at me that I don't own —like red Lamborghini Miuras—or hadn't heard of, like Antonio Carlos what's-his-name. An ad like that can depress me for days. Obviously I'm not a fit customer for those razor blades or, in fact, anybody else's razor blades.
It's no good going around saying to yourself as I did: 'Style is a man who does not appear in lousy movies like What's New, Pussycat? Style is a man who does not put his wife in ads about style. Style is a man who doesn't sell out to the advertising industry for sordid profit.'
I remember when advertising consisted mostly of talking about the product—our soap washes cleaner than his soap—that sort of thing. Now it's all about the customer, with the clear impli- cation that I don't measure up. The girl in the Parker pen ads looks right at me and says: `The rich are different from you and me.' Well, I know. Do you have to rub it in? Of course the rich are different. They all drive red Lam- borghini Miuras and sit around listening to the music of Antonio Carlos something-or-other, and they're all kinder, more truthful, more upright and, above all, they have more money than I have and I hate 'em.
The snootiest ads of all are the booze ads. 'As the leading and original vodka, discreet Smirnoff moves in the highest circles.' One would feel pushy drinking the stuff, wouldn't one? A fellow doesn't want to push in uninvited to the highest circles—all those fellows with their red Lamborghinis--does one?
Take Seagers—`a very distinguished gin.' The way I look at it, a man would feel uncomfortable getting drunk on a gin that is all that dis- tinguished. I'd feel the bottle looking at me coldly: 'Look at that ape. Can't even hold the stuff. How did a distinguished gin like me get mixed up with white trash like him?'
I tell you, they're taking all the fun out of drinking, these liquor ads. When they're not
sneering at me, they're sneering at my friends. `Rehabilitate your barbaric friends. Offer them the world's most civilised drink,' says Harvey's
Bristol Cream sherry. It won't work, Harvey. My barbaric friends get even more barbaric under the influence of alcohol, including yours. Every time 1 start to try civilising them with your sherry, they start breaking things.
What the advertising industry is trying to do, if I understand it correctly, is to define the kind of customer they find acceptable. They don't want their products falling into just anybody's hands. For instance, this ad from the New Yorker: 'There is a kind of woman who enjoys reading Sartre, but who is secretly in love with James Bond. For this woman there is a certain kind of store: Peck and Peck.'
Well, now look here, Peck and Peck, it seems to me you are laying down very narrow limits for your clientele. Some other store is going to come along with an ad: 'There is a certain kind of woman who is made sick to her stomach by Jean-Paul Sartre and who loathes James Bond movies. For that woman our twelfth-floor boutique is just the ticket.' Or an even smarter ad-man will come along with: 'All those women who never heard of Jean-Paul Sartre and who think existentialism is some kind of disease will find everything they need in our bargain basement.'
You see, this kind of thing can cut both ways. Obviously I'm unfit to mingle with the Smirnoff customers, but I'm not sure I want to mingle with some of the people who buy these products. Take this ad, for example: 'Man comes in. Buys half-pint of Chivas. Two weeks later another half-pint. Week and a half later, phones. Asks owner to deliver half-pint. Owner curious. Goes himself. Ordinary apartment, ordinary furniture. Guy's got something extraordinary, though. Half a gallon bottle of Chivas Regal. Keeps it full with half-pints. Guy's got some- thing else. Class.'
Class, my eye! The guy's nuts. Candidate for the funny farm. Stay well away from him.
I don't like to take a strong moral line, but what is Madison Avenue hinting at in another ad from the New Yorker for men's coats? There's a man and a blonde girl nuzzling each other in a forest. About fifty yards away, peep- ing at them from behind a tree, is another girl. What is she doing there, Madison Avenue? A voyeuse? The man's wife, perhaps? Well, we don't want people like that in our house, do we?
Some of these people I just feel sorry for. 1 just want to help them—especially that mixed-up kid who keeps waking up and longing for After Eights. 'Charles thinks I've gone off my head,' says the girl in this ad. 'I was crashing about the other night, trying to find a Thin Mint, and he came surging down the stairs with a poker, bent on felling a burglar. Jolly brave of him, I thought—but look here, Cynthia, d'you think these cravings mean anything? I simply daren't ask Mummy. She'll go all broody and bootee- orientated . . . don't just sit there munching After Eights. Advise me!'
Okay, honey, lie down on the couch there and free associate your mind. Tell me, how have you and Charles been getting on lately? You realise that poker is a clear homosexual symbol. No wonder you're gorging yourself on After Eights when Charles is the only alternative. How do you feel in general about a man who owns a red Lamborghini Miura? You do? Well, ob- viously you need a more virile type in your life. Move over, honey, we'll discuss it. What pretty blue eyes you have...