Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 8: Celebrities Love Coke

Paul Newman Coke!

Frankly, if we send Paul Newman to your store and you still can’t sell any Coke, then what you’ve got there is a failure to communicate.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

Atlanta is home to a few major companies with international reach and historical impact. Among them, Coca-Cola may be the largest and/or oldest. The World of Coca-Cola, the official museum for the 133-year-old drink, contains a selection of artifacts bearing the likenesses of actors and sports stars who either were paid to star in Coke ads or whose tours and activities were sponsored by Coke. When your company has been around long enough for your products to become certified Americana, it’s only a matter of time until famous folks see benefits in doing business with you.

Raquel Welch!

Coke were one of the two major co-sponsors of actress Raquel Welch’s 1970 variety special Raquel! No sequel ever materialized.

Football synergy!

Plenty of sports stars have done Coke ads, most famously Pittsburgh Steelers legendary defensive tackle “Mean Joe” Greene.

Mean Joe Greene ad!

If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, there’s a display case showing the commercial on a loop, or of course there’s always YouTube.

Eddie Fisher and Red Grange!

Other past Coke pitchmen include Red Grange from the Chicago Bears and Carrie Fisher’s dad.

Wallace Beery!

Academy Award Winner Wallace Beery was far back enough to have worked with Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, and child star Dean Stockwell. (I’ve only seen him in the Best Picture winner Grand Hotel.) Lupe Velez dates back to the days of cabaret and vaudeville. They have one other thing in common: the Wikipedia summaries of their respective controversies are disturbingly lengthy.

Gandhi Oscar!

From 1982 to 1989 the Coca-Cola Company owned Columbia Pictures, during which time they won Best Picture for Gandhi. This is an authorized duplicate of the actual Oscar handed to producer/director Sir Richard Attenborough.

(Fun foreshadowing: this wasn’t the only Best Picture Oscar statuette we saw on this vacation.)

Dasani Fest Guitar!

Musical events sponsored by Coke have included at least one Elton John tour and the 2005 Dasani Fest in St. Louis, whence came this guitar autographed by Kelly Clarkson, Gavin DeGraw, Joss Stone, Atlanta musician Michael Tolcher, and the guys from Better Than Ezra.

Jewel's guitar!

When the company introduced Tab Energy in 2006, promotional tie-ins included “lounge” concerts at various radio stations across America. Jewel performed at one and then signed this guitar.

Coke Santa montage!


Olympic torches!

Coke has been a major sponsor of the Olympics since 1928. These are some of the actual Olympic torches that were carried on long relays before the opening ceremonies.

Max Headroom New Coke!

My generation has fond nostalgia for the pretend-A.I. character Max Headroom and his assorted TV antics. We’re less fond of that time he shilled for New Coke.

(Younger readers may know next to zilch about Max Headroom apart from his fleeting cameo in the Black Mirror episode “San Junipero” or Eminem’s homage to him in the video for “Rap God”. Back in our day he did ads, he bounced around MTV, he had his own talk show, and for a time he was a main component in an eponymous ABC sci-fi series about a future where giant corporations were the villains. And aren’t we glad that dystopia never came to pass.)

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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