Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Spud Cigarettes Make You 'Mouth Happy'"

Once upon a time, one could walk into one's friendly neighborhood tobacco retailer and pronounce proudly, "I'd like a pack of Spuds."

Spud brand cigarettes were the first menthol cigarette, developed by Lloyd "Spud" Hughes. "Spud" Hughes patented his menthol process in 1925 and began selling them door-to-door in the Ohio valley.

Woodford Fitch Axton, a Kentucky colonel, of the Axton-Fisher Tobacco Company of Louisville, Kentucky, saw that it was good, purchasing the name and patent from Mr. "Spud," in 1926, and by 1932 Spud cigarettes were the fifth best-selling cigarette in the United States. Spuds are now gone, and mostly forgotten.

It is no longer 1932. Currently your humble reporter is collaborating with author (and 33rd degree honorary Transylvania Gentleman) Nick Tosches on a graphic novel titled Spud Crazy. Personally, I had never heard of Spud cigarettes until after embarking upon illustrating Spud Crazy.

To be working on Spud Crazy and then discovering Spud cigarettes and then realizing that a Kentucky-based company brought them to prominence provides a sort of minor hum, a rumbling along lines in the ether where coincidences don't seem like coincidences, even if the big picture is fuzzy and inscrutable. I imagine the band in the nightclub scene of SC would be called the "Spud Imperials."

The New York to Kentucky telegram across time and space inherent in the Spud connection is furthered when NY-based punk/literary/art icon Richard Hell, originally from Kentucky, gets on board to write an introduction to a forthcoming publication of Spud Crazy, and the out-of-focus connections linger, like some subliminal remaining odor of Spud smoke hanging around since 1937.

Personally, I don't believe that there's too much to be made of this whole Spud thing. Just to know that with an awareness of the once (and future?) Spud brand, life starts to feel like a Devo song. Nobody around here comprehends my potato.

In personal correspondence with this reporter following a discussion of Spud cigarettes, Nick Tosches stated, "Known scientific fact: smoking Spuds actually prevents cancer."


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