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Ian Wright
Ian Wright

Cowboy Gay Photo

The black-and-white photographs, in simple black frames, adorn the walls of a corner nook at the University of Idaho library in Moscow, Idaho, flanked by open shelves of books. In one, a lasso spins in the air, framing the face of the cowboy doing the twirling as he looks over his shoulder, brow furrowed; in another, the wild white eye of a bull stares squarely at the viewer, dust rising from its hooves as it tries to buck off its rider. A woman in jeans, bent in concentration, grabs the bar of a white metal gate; a square-jawed man, his neck taut, leans toward his companion, in a matching button-down shirt, for a kiss.

cowboy gay photo

Photographer Blake Little captured the images in the late 1980s and early 1990s as he traveled around the West on the gay rodeo circuit. They chronicle the sport and spectacle of the rodeo, but also the sense of community and inclusion it offers its participants. The photographs welcome the viewer into a world that subverts popular notions of what it means to be a cowboy, and a man.

Now, wearing a rainbow-colored tutu, wig, tank top and cowboy boots, he waits his turn to try to direct or drag a steer across a finish line with two teammates as part of a competition known as wild drag racing, a staple of this yearly event at a Las Vegas equestrian facility.

Having been wined and dined by her new gaggle of British gays, Jennifer Coolidge's Tanya is the guest of honor at a party thrown by Quentin (Tom Hollander) at his Palermo palazzo. After partaking in some, uh, party favors with boy toy Niccolò (Stefano Gianino), Tanya stumbles across one of Quentin's personal photos, a snap of two cowboys: a younger Quentin with someone who looks eerily familiar. But who is in the picture?

Photographer Luke Gilford, known for his photo spreads featuring celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Lizzo and Christina Aguilera, has just released his latest project: a photo book centered around the queer rodeos of North America.

The Marlboro Man is a figure that was used in tobacco advertising campaigns for Marlboro cigarettes. In the United States, where the campaign originated, it was used from 1954 to 1999. The Marlboro Man was first conceived by Leo Burnett in 1954. The images initially featured rugged men portrayed in a variety of roles[1] but later primarily featured a rugged cowboy or cowboys in picturesque wild terrain.[2] The ads were originally conceived as a way to popularize filtered cigarettes, which at the time were considered feminine.

The proposed campaign was to use manly figures: sea captains, weightlifters, war correspondents, construction workers, etc. The cowboy was to have been the first in this series.[12] Burnett's inspiration for the exceedingly masculine "Marlboro Man" icon came in 1949 from an issue of Life magazine, whose photograph (shot by Leonard McCombe) and story of Texas cowboy Clarence Hailey Long Jr. caught his attention.[13] Within a year, Marlboro's market share rose from less than 1% to the fourth best-selling brand, convincing Philip Morris to drop the other manly figures and stick with the cowboy.[12] In the mid Fifties, the cowboy image was popularized by actor Paul Birch in 3 page magazine ads and TV ads.

When the new Marlboro Country theme opened in late 1963, the actors utilized as Marlboro Man were replaced, for the most part, with real working cowboys, and the campaign began using Elmer Bernstein's 1960 theme music from The Magnificent Seven. In 1963, at the 6666 Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, they discovered Carl 'Big-un' Bradley. He was the first real cowboy they used, and from then on the lead Marlboro men were real cowboys, rodeo riders, stuntmen".[15][16] Another of this new breed of real cowboys was Max Bryan "Turk" Robinson, of Hugo, Oklahoma, who said he was recruited for the role while at a rodeo simply standing around behind the chutes, as was the custom for cowboys who had not yet ridden their event. It took only a few years for the results to register: By 1972, the new Marlboro Man had so much appeal that Marlboro was catapulted to the top of the tobacco industry.[citation needed]

Initially, cowboy commercials involving the Marlboro Man featured paid models, such as William Thourlby,[17] pretending to carry out cowboy tasks. However, Burnett felt that the commercials lacked authenticity, as it was apparent that the subjects were not real cowboys and did not have the desired rugged look. One of the finest was a non-smoking rodeo cowboy, Max Bryan "Turk" Robinson, who was recruited at a rodeo.[citation needed] Another, Robert Norris, was recruited after it was discovered he was a friend of John Wayne. He also never smoked, and after a twelve-year run as a Marlboro Man, quit the role to avoid badly influencing his children. He died, age 90, in 2019.[18][19]

Leo Burnett was not satisfied with the cowboy actors found. Broadway and MGM movie actor Christian Haren won the role as the first Marlboro Man in the early 1960s as he looked the part. Burnett then came across Darrell Winfield, who worked on a ranch, after a cattle rancher by the name Keith Alexander declined the role because he did not believe in smoking. Leo Burnett's creative director was awed when he first saw Winfield: "I had seen cowboys, but I had never seen one that just really, like, he sort of scared the hell out of me (as he was so much a real cowboy)". Winfield's immediate authenticity led to his 20-year run as the Marlboro Man, which lasted until the late 1980s. Upon Winfield's retirement, Philip Morris reportedly spent $300 million searching for a new Marlboro Man.[20][21]

After appearing as the Marlboro Man in 1987 advertising, former rodeo cowboy Brad Johnson landed a lead role in Steven Spielberg's feature film Always (1989), with Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfuss.[23]

The immediate success of the Marlboro Man campaign led to heavy imitation. Old Golds adopted the tagline marking it a cigarette for "independent thinkers". Chesterfield depicted cowboy and other masculine occupations to match their tagline: "Men of America smoke Chesterfields".[25]

The Cowboy and His Elephant, which is ostensibly a biography of Bob Norris and mainly focuses on his raising an elephant on his ranch, also describes how Norris came to be photographed for Life magazine and become the Marlboro Man for the next twelve years.[34]

The California Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation is pleased to provide this booklet containing a self-contained curriculum for upper elementary and junior high school students to supplement the viewing of "Death in the West." Considered by many to be the most powerful anti-smoking documentary ever made, "Death in the West" contrasts the advertising image of the "Marlboro Man" with the reality of six American cowboys dying of cigarette-related illnesses. The film, produced in England in 1976 and later suppressed by the Philip Morris Company, makers of Marlboro cigarettes, illustrates the intrinsically false nature of cigarette advertising. It makes the Marlboro Man less attractive.The "Death in the West" Curriculum is designed to maximize the educational and emotional impact of seeing the documentary. The curriculum is based on a comprehensive smoking prevention program created and tested by the Risk and Youth: Smoking Project of the Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley. The activities included here were developed in classrooms throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and adapted specifically for use with the airing of "Death in the West" by KRON-TV of San Francisco.

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