The Chaparral Mocks L&M, 1960

Chaparral's real and fake L&M ads

Less Tar, More Tasteless: Back covers from January and February 1960.

College students will parody almost anything, but you can flip though hundreds of old campus humor magazines without finding a fake cigarette ad. You’ll find hundreds of real ones, though: From the 1920s until 1963, tobacco companies were the biggest national advertisers in U.S. college media. According to scholar Elizabeth Crisp Crawford, in the early ’60s “nearly 2,000 college publications, mainly newspapers, received nearly 50 percent of their advertising revenue from the tobacco industry.”*

The proportion was likely higher for humor magazines: Even the shoddiest campus chuckle-sheet typically had a four-color, full-page cigarette ad on its back cover, and a fat book like the Yale Record might run several more inside. The revenue from one such ad often covered an issue’s entire production cost. In return, prudent editors stifled the urge to crack jokes about cancer sticks. This quid pro quo normally went unspoken, but on the rare occasions it was violated Big Tobacco’s minions on Mad Ave. weren’t shy about reminding the kids who signed the checks. The only unusual feature of this 1960 dust-up involving L&M and the Stanford Chaparral is that the latter made it public.

L&M debuted in 1953 as Liggett & Myers’ entry in the fast-growing filter-cigarette category. The Surgeon General’s report was still a decade away, but already there was growing evidence linking smoking to lung cancer. The industry’s response was a flurry of filtered and mentholated brands pitched as “milder,” “cleaner” and “cooler” than traditional smokes; if customers assumed they were also safer, so much the better. By the late ’50s, the Big Three advertisers of previous decades — Chesterfield, Camel and Lucky Strike — had given way to L&M, Winston (born 1954), Salem (b. 1956) and a rebranded Marlboro (b. 1924 as a “woman’s cigarette,” butched-up in 1955).

Real and fake Marlboro ads.

Marlboro ads from 1935 and 1955; spoofs from Nov. 1957 Cal Pelican and April 1956 Mad.

L&M’s first Chaparral ad ran on the February 1959 back cover, a spot it held on six of the next eight issues. College Magazines, Incorporated, the New York agency that placed national ads in most campuses, normally supplied a fresh pitch every month, whether the product changed or not, but the January 1960 Chaparral reprinted the L&M ad from December. The “L&N” parody appeared in February, and in March editor Ray Funkhouser received a very unhappy letter from a College Mags account manager named Philip Knowles.

College Magazines' letter

May 1960, page 3.

Knowles’ letter was published in the May 1960 issue. It packs so much sarcasm, condescension, realpolitik and bare-knuckle intimidation into a few hundred words that it deserves to be read in toto, but the highlight is surely the righteous disapproval of tasteless louts who “think remarks about cancer are funny.” In reply, the editors brazenly pled guilty as charged, then insinuated College Mags’ indignation had more to do with money than morality.

The kids had the last word in the argument, but Big Tobacco got the last laugh, just as Knowles predicted. The January 1960 Chaparral was the last to carry a real cigarette ad; for the rest of the school year, the usual back-cover client was local merchant Gleim Jewelers. In 1963, Big Tobacco “voluntarily” stopped advertising in campus publications as part of a last-ditch effort to head off federal legislation; the move failed to assuage the Feds but put the hurt on college newspapers and killed most of the humor titles. The Chaparral managed to survive, barely, but was never again as fat and profitable as it was in the ’50s. L&M, meanwhile, fell from 15 percent of the U.S. market in 1960 to less than 1 percent today, but in 2012 was the fourth biggest brand worldwide; it now spends almost all its advertising dollars overseas. — VCR

_______________________
* Elizabeth Crisp Crawford, Tobacco Goes to College: Cigarette Advertising in Student Media, 1920-1980, (McFarland & Co., 2014), p. 34. Most of the book is a detailed study of one newspaper, The Orange and White at the University of Tennessee. Crawford barely mentions college humor mags, but their rise and fall correlates perfectly with the ebb and flow of cigarette ads in the O&W: Both took off in the ’20s, held on through the Depression, dipped during World War II, came back strong in the late ’40s and flourished in the ’50s.

Stanford Chaparral Parodies, 1915-2008.

Covers of five Stanford parodies

Clockwise: Parodies of the Stanford Sequoia (1915), horror pulps (1941), Saturday Evening Post (1954), Look (1955) and Ladies’ Home Journal (1951).

The Stanford Chaparral was the first successful college humor magazine outside the Ivy League. Recent grad Everett W. Smith and senior Bristow Adams put out the first issue in October 1899; they also gave the magazine its mascot:  a middle-aged jester in Harold Lloyd glasses called “the Old Boy.” In 1905, Judge’s Monthly listed the Chaparral and its nearby rival the California Pelican (b. 1901) among the best-known college magazines. Both remained fixtures of Top Ten polls for sixty years.

Another "new costume": 1967's "Groin."

Another “new costume”: 1967 “Groin.”

Other magazines envied the Chaparral for its plentiful advertising, professional appearance and frequent parody issues. In the April 1903 “woman’s edition,” the all-female staff briefly parodied the Ladies’ Home Journal and the campus literary magazine, the Sequoia. What may be the first issue-length parody was another Sequoia, dubbed the “Squaller,” in January 1915. “Chappie has secured a new costume,” the Daily Palo Alto wrote, as if introducing readers to an unfamiliar concept. “It is the business suit of the Sequoia. The new garments, exterior and interior, are to the exact style and cut of those of his red-jacketed companion, for his whole get-up will be a jocose though satirical impersonation.”

Cover of 1961 Layboy.

1961 “Layboy.”

The golden age for Chaparral parodies was the 1950s, which was also the heyday of Life, Look, the Saturday Evening Post, Holiday and other large-format, lushly illustrated sitting ducks. The Chaparral couldn’t match their production values, but it came closer than most college mags, especially in “Lurk” (Look) and the “Saturday Evening Pile” (the Post). The most notorious parody was 1961’s “Layboy,” a mock Playboy that got editor Brad Efron suspended and the Chaparral shut down for the rest of the year. The unluckiest was a 1981 spoof of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sunday magazine, Datebook. Playing off the popularity of Dallas, “Datebook’s” cover asked “Who Shot RR?” over a photo of President Reagan in a cowboy hat. The magazine went on sale at 9 a.m. local time on Monday, March 30, one hour before Reagan was shot for real in Washington, D.C.

Cover of 1981 Datebook parody.

“Datebook,” in Joey Green’s
Hellbent on Insanity 
(Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1982).

Like most campus mags, the Chaparral sputtered and stalled in the 1960s. Unlike them, it kept going, though its claim to be “the nation’s second oldest continually published humor magazine” (after the Lampoon) is a stretch: In addition to the 1961 “Layboy” hiatus, the Chaparral abandoned humor for radical politics in the Nixon era, and in the ’80s it sometimes appeared only once or twice a year. The Chaparral last made national news in 2004, when its outside-the-box parody of “A Pile of Paper” —  bills, restaurant menus, lottery tickets, etc. — was written up in The New Yorker. More recent sightings are scarce. The magazine’s Twitter account has been dormant for two years, and the most recent issue on its website, stanfordchaparral.com, is dated Sept. 2005.

This list includes all the Chaparral parodies I know of, including those of other campus publications, but it’s far from complete. I’ve used dots (….) to show the longer gaps and would appreciate help filling them. Most of the info comes from the Stanford Daily archive (online here), The Stanford Chaparral Inaugural Century (Stanford Chaparral, 1999) and my own collection.

Stanford Chaparral Parodies, 1915-2008:

The Stanford Sequoia (“The Stanford Squaller”), January 1915.
….
Judge (“Judge Bathing Girl Number”), May 1925.
Vanity Fair, January 1926.
College Humor (“College Rumor”), March 1928.
Various publications (“Parody Number”), June 1928.
Various publications (“Magazine Parody”), March 1929.
True Love / True Confessions (“True Love Confessions”), March 1930.
The Quad (“The Quid”), June 1930 [Stanford yearbook]
Typical 19th-century magazine (“The Family Gazette”), February 1931.
The American Weekly (“…Weakly”), March 1932.
The Quad (“The Quid”), June 1931.
The American Weekly (“…Weakly”), March 1932.
Various campus publications, May 1934.
The Quad (“The Quid”), June 1935.
The Stanford Daily (“…Doily”), in May 1938.
Typical pulp magazine (“Horror Chaparral”), January 1941.
Various campus publications (“Minor Publications Number”), June 1942.
Life (“Like”), May 1943.
Esquire (“Chappie”), May 1945.
The American Weekly (“…Weakly”), in May 1946.
San Francisco Call-Bulletin (“Drofnats Bull-Calletin”), in May 1946.
Typical pulp magazine (“Pithy Pulp”), January 1947.
Vogue (“Vague”), March 1949.
Fortune (“Fawchun”), March 1950.
Ladies’ Home Journal (“Ladies Prone Journal”), March 1951.
The American Weekly (“…Weakly”), in May 1951.
Life (“Lite”), March 12, 1952.
The Stanford Daily (“…Dilly”), in May 1952.
Modern Screen (“Maudlin Screen”), March 1953.
Saturday Evening Post (“Saturday Evening Pile”), March 10, 1954.
Look (“Lurk”), March 9, 1955.
Life (“Li_e”), March 14, 1956.
Holiday (“Hodilay”), April 1957.
The Stanford Daily (“The Stanfraud Daily”), February 5, 1958.
Sports Illustrated (“Sports Frustrated”), April 30, 1958.
True (“Tube”), April 1959.
Saturday Evening Post (“Wednesday Morning Pile”), April 27, 1960.
Playboy (“Layboy”), May 1961.
The Stanford Daily, May 18, 1962.
This Week (“Dis Week”), June 1963.
Campus Voice (“Pompous Voice”), November 1963 [local magazine].
The Stanford Daily, April 1965.
Playboy (“Layboy”), June 1965.
Typical men’s adventure magazine (“Groin”), May 1967.
Time, May 1968 [mostly non-parody content].
Campus Report, March 1973 [Stanford faculty and staff weekly].
The Stanford Daily, Nov. 23, 1974 [distributed at Cal game].
The Stanford Daily (“Stanford Daily Wednesday”), April 7, 1976.
Highlights for Children, in November 1978.
Time [from 1984], in November 1979.
Datebook, Spring 1981 [S.F. Chronicle Sunday magazine].
Us (“Blame Us”), in June 1981.
….
The Stanford Daily, June 6, 1990.
The Stanford Daily, March 10, 1994.
San Francisco Chronicle, February 1998.
Typical lifestyle magazine (“Magazine”), March 1999.
National Geographic, April 2002.
“A Pile of Paper,” Spring 2004 [just that].
Typical thriller novel (“Mystery Thriller”), May 2008.
Stanford Daily Magazine, May 2017.
Various campus publications, June 2018  — VCR

(Updated June 12, 2021)