My Father’s Timeless Seagram’s Ads

By David Weiner

It’s interesting. When I think of Playboy magazine, I think of four things: the naked women, the Gahan Wilson comics, the articles, and the ads. But when Hugh Hefner died in September of 2017, my thoughts went straight to my dad.

My dad, Joel D. Weiner, worked at The Seagram Company in marketing in the late ’70s and early ’80s, rising to the position of executive vice president. Among a variety of tasks that he was responsible for (both arduous and fun, such as awarding the winning trophy in a Seagram’s sponsored polo match at Madison Square Garden), my dad oversaw the trio of Crown Royal ads pictured below, as well as many others for the company’s spirits brands. 

For that last one (“Thousands of years from now, they’ll know this was a society of good taste.”), my dad told me that my passion for all things King Tut helped to inspire that particular ad. Tut’s tour in the late ’70s captured the imagination of many, and the ancient Egyptian “boy king” placed firmly in the cultural zeitgeist of the time — even spawning a memorable hit single for Steve Martin.

These ads for Crown Royal, and so many similar ones (Seagram’s 7, Seagram’s Gin, Meyers’s Rum, Seagram’s Wine Coolers, Seagram’s V.O., The Glenlivet, etc.), were targeted to the adult consumer, so naturally they would land prime real estate within the pages of Esquire, Playboy, Penthouse, Oui, and other “classy” men’s magazines. I sure as heck didn’t find Seagram’s whiskey ads in Starlog and Famous Monsters of Filmland.

Having ads in these men’s magazines was a great excuse for my dad to stack them in massive piles in my parents’ bedroom on a shelf/rack under the big color television. In plain sight. I’ll be honest: It was a real thrill for me to sift through the pile of Playboys and seek out the advertising work that my dad was proud of. And I am proud of them to this day.

Oh, and the photos of naked ladies sure were an added bonus.

My dad was among the latter-day “Mad Men” in New York City in marketing and advertising (see his work with Vincent Price for Monster Vitamins) as he climbed the corporate ladder to the executive VP ranks. He also built a great friendship with Christie Hefner, Hef’s daughter who ran the business side of the Playboy empire. Even after my dad moved on to work as executive vice president of marketing for Kraft in Chicago, which did not advertise in the pages of Playboy, he still was close with Christie (platonically) and would happily advise her big decisions over lunch. 

I never did get the hook-up to the Playboy mansion, though. Drat.

As is the way with big business, both Playboy Enterprises and The Seagram Company ultimately grew too big, and then each iconic brand collapsed under their own weight and they became shadows of their respective former glories.

The more I think of it, it is a bit ironic that Hugh Hefner would die exactly one month after my dad. Life is strange.


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