Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Unscrupulous Masonic braumeisters in cahoots with Lego: a twisted plot targeting children to get them hooked on beer

Okay, now that I've got your attention with a ridiculous title I can regale you with some more of what one recent reader referred to as "ludicrous nonsense".  We would add "incoherent" to that as well.

Fumer tue

I've always liked the logo for Camel cigarettes.  A chilled out camel in front of some pyramids, facing East, a cluster of palm trees in the background.  Classic.

But every urban folklorist knows that there's another "subliminal" image in the camel's front flank.  One need not even squint to distinguish the form of a man who appears to be holding his schlong, having a wee perhaps....although I've seen it somewhere that it's actually Mae West.  Others assure us that it's Manneken Pis--"Little Man Pee"--a famous sculpture fountain in Brussels.

(The origin of this little piss-ant is cloaked in legend, some involving a lost little boy found the spot, others involving the boy squelching a house fire with his pee or even saving the city by peeing on the fuse of an explosive charge laid by enemies, or again, a little boy pissing on enemies from a tree.)

Flash forward to 1987.  Camel re-brands itself and updates the Camel into a hip dude, shades and baseball cap, cigarette perpetually dangling from the side of his snout.  Joe Camel.  The subliminal messages continue.  Many swear that the snout depicts nothing less than a cock and generous balls.  Others say it's the base of a wang inserted deeply into a vagina.  I guess that's to be expected when a phallic obsession meets an oral fixation.

What concerns us here, however, are not the alleged sexual images in this logo, but the controversy surrounding the use of a cartoon character for marketing cigarettes.  After years of criticism, lawsuits and government pressure, RJ Reynolds stopped the campaign in 1997, denying all the while that they were not targeting children.  However, 

Internal documents produced to the court in Mangini v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, San Francisco Superior Court No. 959516, demonstrated the industry's interest in targeting children as future smokers.  The importance of the youth market was illustrated in a 1974 presentation by RJR's Vice-President of Marketing who explained that the "young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow's cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume - for at least the next 25 years."  A 1974 memo by the R. J. Reynolds Research Department points out that capturing the young adult market is vital because "virtually all [smokers] start by the age of 25" and "most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18."

Boire avec moderation

So, if cigarette companies do it, why not breweries?  And what better way to get into a kid's head than with toys? (See alcopop).

Dig, if you will, the following photograph of a Lego chevalier I purchased recently for my son:

Sir Drinks-a-Lot

Now take a gander at the Kronenbourg beer logo:
Kronenbourg (whose name could translate into "Crown Town" if one wanted to play loose with the etymology) is a pale lager produced by the Kronenbourg brewery based in Strasbourg, founded way back in 1664 by Geronimus Hatt.  Despite the fact that it's almost universally denigrated by people I know, everyone seems to drink it.  Personally, I find a frosty 25cl bottle goes down especially well and when I open my first of the day I gulp it down like Bukowski, tilting my head back and downing it in one long swallow.  Then I crack another.

A bit lower on the respectability scale is "33 Export".  Now, I'm not saying that because the number 33 is present we're looking at Masonic symbolism.  Fact is, however, there are 32 + 1 degrees in the Scottish Rite, so a link exists, if only by "passive" association (meaning I can't help it that Freemasonry pops to mind everytime I see the number 32 or 33).  I thought the name might have something to do with the compass rose sometimes pictured in the logo, but the compass rose only has 32 points.

It occurs to me now that the Sol de Mayo on the Argentine flag also has 32 points and in this bears a resemblance to the compass rose, perhaps suggesting the radiation of its revolutionary ideas in all directions...32 export.  Maybe 33 refers to a mysterious unknown direction?  But seriously, that the sun represent a compass is reinforced by taking a look at the Uruguayan version, which features 16 rays, the four cardinal directions decidedly compass-like.  A compass rose is often depicted in a simplified 16 (or 8) point form.

16-point compass rose:  Tossa del Mar, Catalonia.
Actually, French Wikipedia informs us that the number comes from something more prosaic--the original size of the bottles, 33cl.  Rats, foiled again.
Now, this 33 reminds me of another beer, Rolling Rock.  One mystery of this beer is why "33" is present on the label.  Does it have to do with temperature, the number of words in the little text on the label....or is there something else.  Jesus' age perhaps....or the number of Scottish Rite degrees?  More than a coincidence that early Freemasons met in bars and taverns?

Of course not.  But it is funny.
And none of these things really have anything to do with the other.


  1. "33" is the year Prohibition ended, December 5, 1933.

  2. I gots threes things to says to ya’s:

    1. Googled about a bit and learned that in Vietnam, that "33" beer has changed to "333" (da-da-da).

    2. That link's to a Vietnam Vet discussion board, the topic of beer available in Vietnam, which describes beer being drank like Daurade:
    "It was great to come back after a hard day of slogging thru the paddies and woodlines along Hwy 4, to come "home" to our schoolhouse and find a chilled-down crock of beer and soda. I used to reach way down to the bottom of that crock and grab a couple of nice cold cans of beer and crack them both open with my church key... one hole to vent and a double wide for pouring. I would then "shoot" the first one to slake my thirst, then sip the second one while relaxing and cleaning my machine gun and getting ready for chow."

    3. That sun pic you had looks a lot like the brand photo for Oberon beer, brewed by Bell, one of the premier independent breweries in the U.S. (though a pretty small organization).

    4. Brau Braus, a small Minnesota brewery from a town of 220 people, puts the number 3 prominently and mysteriously on their label.

    5. Here are some funny cig commercials (like the Flintstones)

    6. I heard the same rumor about Rolling Rocks' 33 (prohibition).

  3. Anonymous (HL): I've also heard it's a printer's error referring to the number of letters in the original pledge...or the best temperature for storing beer....RR seems to be keeping it a mystery.

    Gid, great links! When I looked up 33, the brand's life in Vietnam came up a lot. Apparently it's widespread in North Africa and in other African ex-colonies of France. Logical. Quite possibly it was made for export and later became sold domestically? Long ago I remember visiting family in England and my uncle had cases of the stuff he'd buy in Calais. Pop over on the hydrofoil and stock up much more cheaply than in England.

    Anyway, guys on the Vietnam page discuss the very old cans which required a "church key" to open. This was before poptops, when you had to use the little tool to make triangular holes in the lid, one to pour and a carb to aerate. I vaguely remember this kind of set up in my wee years in Hawaii. My dad drank Olympia and would let me make the holes. So you see the genesis of this goes way back!

    Do you recall these kinds of cans? Made of steel I think, with a visible seam?


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