Category:
1970s

Gee Geronimo the Snail

I'm not aware of many famous snails. Gee Geronimo, as far as I know, may be the only one. Back in the 1970s, the Guinness Book of Records declared him to be the world's biggest snail. His owner was Christopher Hudson. Gee Geronimo died in 1976.

Christopher Hudson with Gee Geronimo
source: 1978 Guinness Book of Records



Connellsville Daily Courier - Nov 27, 1976



Hudson was apparently more in love with his snails than he was with his wife.

Honolulu Advertiser - Feb 4, 1977

Posted By: Alex - Wed Sep 15, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Animals, World Records, Marriage, 1970s

Grant’s Negative Incentives

As Grants department store lurched towards bankruptcy in the mid 1970s, its senior management instituted a program to motivate store managers to meet sales goals — with a particular emphasis on trying to get more customers to sign up for credit accounts. This program involved using "negative incentives," which was a euphemism for publicly humiliating managers whose employees didn't meet sales goals. Details from Leadership Theories and Case Studies by Garry Wade McGiboney:

The employee motivation plan was labeled the "Steak and Beans" incentive program. It focused on motivating store managers to meet their sales and credit quotas each month. However, it was based on negative incentives instead of positive motivation. Managers that did not meet their sales and credit quotas received a visit from a regional manager who would gather all of the store employees together and in front of them slam a pie in the face of the store manager for his failure to meet quotas. Other negative incentives included cutting the underperforming store manager's tie in half, requiring managers to push peanuts with their nose across a table, and making managers run backward around the store...

Stories of the company's focus on outrageously negative motivation seemed exaggerated, but court documents from bankruptcy hearings confirmed the stories. At the time, W.T. Grant's bankruptcy was the second largest in business history...

The negative motivation led to store managers threatening and intimidating their store employees to the point that they were giving credit to almost every customer without any effort to discern if the customer had the means to pay the credit card bill. This negative-based practice spiraled out of control and eventually put the company in debt of over $200 million in unsecured credit.



According to newspaper reports from the time, one store manager was forced to walk around a hotel lobby dressed only in a diaper. Another was thrown into a blow-up swimming pool full of ice.

And sometimes these humiliations were forced upon store managers even if their employees met sales goals, because the company executives "believed it would somehow motivate employees if they saw the boss suffer some indignities." So really, whatever the managers did, they were going to be humiliated.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Sep 11, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Business, 1970s

The Death of Pierre Beaumard

1979: To help cure his shyness around women, Pierre Beaumard's therapist had him lie sandwiched between two mattresses. This was meant to simulate the womb. Four people then walked on top of the mattresses to "stamp out his complexes". Beaumard died of suffocation.

I'm skeptical about whether this story is true. For some reason it makes my BS spidey sense tingle. It was definitely reported in papers as legitimate news, but it's been known to happen that reporters will hear an urban legend or joke and then (knowingly or not) put it out on the wire services as a true story. I'm suspicious that's what happened here. I'd believe it more if I could find an original French source, which I can't.

The Santa Clarita Signal - May 27, 1979



The Ottawa Citizen - May 17, 1979

Posted By: Alex - Sun Sep 05, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Death, Psychology, 1970s

What happens when a fly lands on your food

1970 ad for the UK Health Education Council. The text is credited to Charles Saatchi, who was then a young advertising executive (and is now a wealthy art collector).

More info: The Guardian

Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 31, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Food, Insects, Advertising, 1970s

Melvin Belli Drinks Glenfiddich

The ad below, in which trial lawyer Melvin Belli endorsed Glenfiddich scotch, ran in the New York Times and New York Magazine in early 1970. Taken at face value, it doesn't seem like a particularly noteworthy ad. However, it occupies a curious place in legal history.

Before the 1970s, it was illegal for lawyers to advertise their services. So when Belli appeared in this ad, the California State Bar decided he had run afoul of this law — even though he hadn't directly advertised his services. It suspended his license for a year. The California Supreme Court later lowered this to a 30-day suspension — but it didn't dismiss the punishment entirely.

Some high-placed judges felt sympathetic to Belli, which added fuel to the movement to end the 'no advertising' law for lawyers, and by 1977, the Supreme Court had struck down the ban on advertising, saying that it violated the First Amendment. That's why ads for legal services now appear all over the place. Compared to the ads one sees nowadays, Belli's scotch endorsement really seems like no big deal at all.

More info: Belli v. State Bar, "Remember when lawyers couldn't advertise?"

New York Magazine - Mar 2, 1970

Posted By: Alex - Mon Aug 16, 2021 - Comments (5)
Category: Law, Advertising, 1970s

“I thought the Kama Sutra was an Indian restaurant”

Smirnoff ran this ad in the 70s but reportedly pulled it after a few months when its market researchers surveyed customers and discovered that "60 per cent of them thought that the Kama Sutra was indeed an Indian restaurant."

image source: codex



But according to Delia Chiaro in The Language of Jokes, the ad lived on in popular memory, inspiring a genre of "Smirnoff jokes".

In the mid-1970s the Smirnoff vodka company began using the 'before and after' technique to sell its product. The advertising campaign consisted of escapist photographs accompanied by slogans such as I thought the Kama Sutra was an Indian restaurant until I discovered Smirnoff. (The slogan originally had the additional rejoinder The effect is shattering which was eventually banned probably due to the allusion to 'getting smashed'.) The slogan turned out to be the inspiration of the graffitists of the nation as catchphrases such as the following began appearing on walls around the country:

I thought innuendo was an Italian suppository until I discovered Smirnoff.

I thought cirrhosis was a type of cloud until I discovered Smirnoff.


However it was not long before the graffitists began to abandon the formula, first by substituting the word Smirnoff with other items:

I thought Nausea was a novel by Jean-Paul Sartre until I discovered Scrumpy.

Soon, the caption began to move more radically away from the matrix, as more items were changed. In the next example there is no allusion to drink whatsoever:

I used to think I was an atheist until I discovered I was God.

Although Smirnoff jokes are now practically obsolete, the I thought A was B until I discovered C formula has now frozen into the English language as a semi-idiom. Today we can find graffiti (or indeed hear asides) such as:

I used to talk in cliches but now I avoid them like the plague

in which the original matrix is barely recognizable.

Below is another Smirnoff ad from the same series.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 11, 2021 - Comments (5)
Category: Inebriation and Intoxicants, Advertising, 1970s, Jokes

Bailey’s Comets



The Wikipedia page.

According to Mark Arnold's book, Think Pink! The Story of DePatie-Freling Productions, producing the show was a nightmare, due to the massive amount of characters. Not only did the series do extremely poorly in the ratings, it got so costly to produce it nearly broke the studio, curtailing production for that year.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Aug 08, 2021 - Comments (2)
Category: Contests, Races and Other Competitions, Fads, Ineptness, Crudity, Talentlessness, Kitsch, and Bad Art, Sports, Cartoons, 1970s

Mystery Illustration 102

What type of publication is this dramatic illustration from? A true-crime magazine? A government report on urban violence? Publicity for a cop movie?

The answer is here.

Or after the jump.



More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Sat Aug 07, 2021 - Comments (3)
Category: Photography and Photographers, 1970s, Weapons

The Fellowship for Human Happiness

1977: New York Attorney General Lous Lefkowitz ruled that "The Fellowship for Human Happiness" could no longer claim to be a church. It was instead, he decided, a house of prostitution masquerading as a church.

Is there actually a rigorous legal test for determining what counts as a religion versus what doesn't? Or do judges (and Attorney Generals) just make determinations based on whether something feels appropriately religious to them? Google, so far, hasn't been able to supply me with an answer.

Tallahassee Democrat - Feb 10, 1977

Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 04, 2021 - Comments (10)
Category: Religion, 1970s

The Marijuana Sex Experiment

1975: There was a public hoo-ha when details of Dr. Harris Rubin's planned "marijuana sex study" leaked to the press. As described in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Dec 7, 1975):

Harris Rubin, a university psychologist, has proposed a $121,000, two-year, federally financed investigation. He plans to pay adult male volunteers $20 a session to smoke Government-supplied marijuana and watch erotic films while an electronic device attached to their genitals monitors physical reactions. Rubin hopes to learn whether the drug enhances or inhibits sexual activity.

The New Scientist noted that, despite the moral outrage, the purpose of the study was actually to generate anti-marijuana propaganda by demonstrating that marijuana inhibits sexual response. At least, that was the anticipated result. But the experiment was never conducted.

Dr. Harris Rubin of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine at Carbondale



Morton Hunt gives more details in his 1999 book The New Know-Nothings:

Both the subject and the methodology of Rubin's study were catnip to the media. Rubin and his colleagues planned to encircle the penis of each volunteer with a strain gauge transducer and then show him erotic pictures; any resultant engorgement of the member would be accurately measured and recorded. By conducting the experiment with two groups, one given either alcohol or marijuana and the other nothing, Rubin would be able to determine whether either drug increased or decreased sexual arousal, and to what extent.

On July 18, the Bloomington, Illinois, Daily Pantagraph, which had somehow become aware of the study, ran an article about it, and from then on Rubin's project was in trouble. Newspapers in Illinois, St. Louis, Washington, Chicago, and many other cities ran stories about what quickly became known as the "sex-pot study" or "pot-sex study," a topic so interesting that they ran follow-up stories about it for many months. Displaying suitable outrage, the Christian Citizens Lobby, Illinois governor Daniel Walker, a federal prosecutor, and various Illinois state officials all denounced the study, calling it "disgusing," "pornography," "obscene," and "garbage," and threatening to take action against Rubin.

This was mere growling and snapping, but Congress had the teeth wherewith to bite. Senators William Proxmire and Thomas Eagleton, Democrats but sexual conservatives, attacked it, as did Representative Robert Michel, the ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations subcommittee. Although the secretary of HEW and the president's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse defended and supported the project, Michel sought to prevent NIDA from funding the Rubin study by tucking an amendment to that effect in the $12.7 billion-dollar 1976 Supplemental Appropriations Bill for HEW, and Senators Proxmire and Warren Magnuson inserted a similar provision into the Senate's version of the bill. The funding of HEW was so crucial to the national well-being that both houses passed the bill with the anti-Rubin provision intact. President Ford signed it into law on May 31, 1976, keeping the vast Social Security system, NIH, and other essential endeavors going—and cutting off Rubin's minuscule funding and putting an end to his research. Rubin had already gathered the alcohol data and he eventually published his results, but the marijuana study died a-borning.

The Sedalia Democrat - Feb 4, 1976

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 31, 2021 - Comments (6)
Category: Drugs, Smoking and Tobacco, Experiments, 1970s, Moral Panics and Public Hysteria

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