Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"He had two brothers: Jimbo and Placebo"

I don't know why, but I thought today to tell you about a product that made a huge impact on America in the late 1940s - early 1950s.

It was called "Hadacol," and it was sold as medicine, to people who were easily taken in by loud rallies with bright colors, cacophonous music, and a parade of famous people.

I've never lived in another country. I wonder if it's a worldwide trait, that people will believe anything if enough singers and actors tell them to.

Hadacol was whipped up by Dudley J. LeBlanc, a colorful Louisiana state senator and businessman who had received vitamin treatment from his doctor for a foot problem. He figured that by mixing five vitamins and four minerals in a solution of 12% alcohol "as a preservative," it would sell like, well, like alcohol, especially in the dry counties where the sale of booze is limited by law to the town bootlegger and his cousins, the mayor and the chief of police.

A masterful promoter can sell bad things to good people, and that's what LeBlanc was. He used to sell a headache remedy called Happy Day, which was shut down, along with his other product Dixie Dew Cough Syrup, by the Food and Drug Admin. on some very unhappy day for him. So he took the "HA" and the "DA" from that product, "CO" for "company," and "L" for LeBlanc, to name his new elixir.

Always the wit, LeBlanc, when asked about the name, would come back with, "Well, I hadda' call it something!"  And when Groucho Marx asked him what Hadacol was good for, LeBlanc said, "Last year, for me, it was good for about five million dollars."
Image result for hank and audrey williams
Hank and Audrey

LeBlanc hired major stars to go on the road with a real medicine show to sell this spurious product, and sponsored a radio show called "The Health and Happiness Hour," starring Hank Williams, Sr, to convince the easily duped that Hadacol would cure high blood pressure, ulcers, strokes, asthma, arthritis, diabetes, pneumonia, anemia, cancer, epilepsy, gall stones, heart trouble and hay fever.  Check out the video that goes with this recording of Hank's insufferable, atonal wife Audrey singing "What Put The Pep in Grandma?" to see the advertising.

But when the FDA got involved and spread the word about foul-tasting Hadacol being nothing but a placebo, and when the American Medical Association came out with this: "It is hoped that no doctor will be uncritical enough to join in the promotion of Hadacol. It is difficult to imagine how one could do himself or his profession greater harm from the standpoint of the abuse of the trust of a patient suffering from any condition. Hadacol is not a specific medication. It is not even a specific preventive measure," the Hadacol fad faded faster than the Macarena, Livestrong bracelets and FarmVille, and people had to look for other ways to introduce C9H16O2 * into their bloodstream.

Of course, this was long ago in an America before we learned to read and discern good from bad for ourselves, when movie stars could fool us into spending good money to get a temporary high that really cured nothing.

Loud assemblages with blaring bands and a yelping, caterwauling master of ceremonies could never sell us something that was really bad for us today, that's for sure.

* whisky

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