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I'm Your Best Friend!  Get Lucky!
Written May 15, 2014


The scene is an elegant skyscraper at 1250 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.  It’s a few minutes past 8:00 pm, and a party is starting.

The hostess welcomes two guests who have arrived separately.  She hasn’t yet had the opportunity to greet them or to introduce them to each other.  “Oh, how do you do?” she gushes.  “I’m so glad you could come.   Betty, this is Mr. Forbes.  Miss Betty Rogers.”

With no apparent enthusiasm, Miss Rogers and Mr. Forbes murmur “How do you do?”

The hostess assures the couple that they’ll get along just fine.  “Now, I know you’ll have so much to talk about!   Oh, there’s Mrs. Fletcher!   Oh, Mrs. Fletcher, so delighted you could come....”

Mr. Forbes, an athletic young man, glances nervously at Betty and attempts to start a conversation.  “Uh, lovely weather we’re having.”  “Yes,” she responds gravely.  “Yes.  Lovely weather.”  There’s an awkward silence.

Betty suggests another topic.  “Uh, I — I suppose you play tennis?”  “No,” he answers.  “Oh,” she responds.

More nervous silence.  He’s a little desperate.  “Mind if I smoke?” he asks, withdrawing a pack from his jacket pocket.  “Not at all,” she answers automatically.

He offers her one of his cigarettes.  “Will you have one?”  She looks at the pack.  When she notices his brand is Lucky Strike, her mood instantly changes. 

“Oh, good!” she chirps.  “You smoke Luckies!   Thanks, I will have one.”  He strikes a match for her.  She takes a puff.  She has lit up, literally and figuratively.

“Y’know,” he observes, “you’re different when you smile.”

“Am I?” she laughs.  “Well, you’re different when you’re smoking.”

Leaning closer, he confesses, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you ever since I came into this party.”

“And I’ve wanted to talk to you, too,” she responds.  “But when we were introduced, we said such silly things!”

He agrees.  “Wasting moments on the weather!”  He inhales, exhales slowly, and chuckles.  “Funny how you can talk over a cigarette.   You know what this one is saying to me now?”

“No, what?”

He gives voice to the smoldering stick.  “‘When strangers meet, I break the ice!   I’m your best friend!  I am your Lucky Strike!’”

A voice-over announcer breaks in.  “Do you know what your Lucky Strike would say if it could talk?”

We find out.  ~

Mr. Butts croons, “Are you lonely?   Let my  f~r~i~e~n~d~l~y  smoke bring you companionship.

“Are you restless?   Let my  s~o~o~t~h~i~n~g  smoke bring you relief.

“I’m your best friend!  I am your Lucky Strike.”

“And,” the announcer explains, “I’ll tell you why your Lucky Strike is a better friend than others.   It is made of center leaves only.  No sharp, undeveloped top leaves and no grimy, over-developed bottom leaves are used in Luckies.   Only the expensive center leaves — fragrant, and rich in flavor.  No finer tobaccos are grown than those used in Luckies.”

Mr. Butts repeats, “I’m your best friend!  I am your Lucky Strike.  Try me.  I’ll never let you down.”

Yes, folks, it’s Saturday night, April 20, 1935, and we’ve been listening to cigarette advertising.  Commercials like this would be on the air for another 35 years.  Then it became obvious that cigarettes were a health hazard, and the ads were banned by the federal government.  The percentage of Americans who smoke gradually dropped.  It’s now down to 17.8%.

The program was The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, originating from the Rockefeller Center studios of WEAF radio, the flagship station of the National Broadcasting Company’s Red Network.  It was broadcast live from 8 to 9 pm Eastern time.

After the theme song, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” Lennie Hayton’s house band and vocalists performed the most popular songs of the week.  “We don’t pick ’em, but we play ’em.  From north, south, east and west, Lucky Strike takes your verdict of just which songs you like best.  We check the songs you dance to; we check the sales of the records you buy, and the sheet music you play.  We check the numbers of requests to have played at night clubs and hotels, and the tunes you hear over the air.  And then, knowing your preferences, we bring you the 15 Hits of the Week in Lucky Strike’s Hit Parade.”

A website has archived NBC’s 1935 radio continuity, or scripts, from which I’ve lifted the above copy.  I’ve actually combined two commercials and inserted the character Mr. Butts from the comic strip Doonesbury.

Two decades later, my family watched Your Hit Parade on television.  On TV, the show was only half an hour, and half as many songs were featured.  However, each was dramatized with scenery and costumes.  Here's a link.  

The Lucky Strike billboard at the beginning, with a man rattling on unintelligibly and then calling “Sold American,” represented an auctioneer selling a high-quality consignment of leaves to the American Tobacco Company.

I recall a couple of comments from my family during the show.  When the song “Tammy” was covered, my uncle asked whether Debbie Reynolds had been the original artist.  And when a dramatization required a singer to perform while lying flat on his back, my mother remarked on how difficult that would be.

I’d forgotten that in those days a jukebox was called an “automatic coin machine,” but I do remember details like the harp arpeggio as each song was introduced.  And I remember pretty Dorothy Collins, not to mention Snooky Lanson.  Snooky! 



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