September 25, 2013

Charles Bukowski, pitchman


Charles Bukowski.

Sixteen years after Fred Astaire dueted with a Dirt Devil, and ten years after Jack Kerouac sold khakis for the GAP, it seems advertisers have finally perfected the art of matching pitchman to product. Dewar’s has tapped the brilliant, usually drunk, often hungover Charles Bukowski to sell you Scotch. Sure, he’s been dead since 1994, but his words are immortal, and his love of alcohol legendary.

The ad, “Live True,” uses Bukowski’s poem “so you want to be a writer?” as a narration over images of people doing various (pretty cool) jobs. Open Culture notes:

And if you’re familiar with the poem, you’ll notice that the narration in the commercial is abridged. They’ve removed various lines referring to the writing life, making it so that the narration speaks to a broader audience. Rock climbers. Motorcycle mechanics. Musicians. Journalists. People who aspire — or need to be inspired — to “live true.”

In a 1987 conversation with Sean Penn for Interview Magazine, Bukowski said, “Alcohol is probably one of the greatest things to arrive upon the earth — alongside of me. Yes…these are two of the greatest arrivals upon the surface of the earth. So…we get along. It is ultimately destructive to most people. I’m just one apart from that. I do all of my creative work while I’m intoxicated.” (Presumably, the scotch happens after work for the stone mason and rock climber in the ad.)

Here’s Bukowski’s cameo in the 1987 Mickey Rourke movie “Barfly,” based on Bukowski’s life.

Here’s a small portion of Bukowski’s poem. The Academy of American Poets has it in full here.

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you

in spite of everything,

don’t do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your

heart and your mind and your mouth

and your gut,

don’t do it.

if you have to sit for hours

staring at your computer screen

or hunched over your


searching for words,

don’t do it.

Real men write poetry, and sometimes they hawk Scotch.


Julia Fleischaker is the director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.