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
     Category: Law | Advertising | 1970s

When I read the headline and the first sentence I thought "Marvin"? , wasn´t his name Melvin? Then I read the newspaper article.
Posted by F.U.D in Stockholm on 08/16/21 at 06:36 AM
Whenever I see Belli mentioned, I first remember him for being in the old Star Trek episode, playing the role of "Gorgan, the Friendly Angel".
Posted by Fritz on 08/16/21 at 07:13 AM
F.U.D. -- It said 'Melvin' in bold print, but my mind kept seeing 'Marvin'. Fixed it now. Thanks for the heads up!
Posted by Alex on 08/16/21 at 12:32 PM
I remember a story that had to do with a Scots family where a fire took place on the grounds of the distillery. The barn was described as "erupting in a haze of blue alcoholic fog" when it burned out of control. Every time I go to a tour of a distillery during my travels, I keep that in mind.
Posted by KDP on 08/16/21 at 03:44 PM
Of course, the argument in the case is bunkum. Yes, single malts are gorgeous, but the reason for blends is a. consistency and b. combining, not lessening, the various qualities of the constituents. IOW, the same reason you make curries with garam masala, not with pure cumin.

Also, Glenfiddich is a very ordinary single malt indeed. Try the Balvenie, or Talisker, or Aberlour (careful with the A'bunadh!), or Oban. Or if you want an interesting blended Scotch, Shackleton.
Posted by Richard Bos on 08/21/21 at 06:41 AM
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