Robert Norris, the original Marlboro Man that was approached by advertising executives to star in the infamous and iconic ad campaign, has died at the age of 90. Norris portrayed the rugged smoking cowboy for 12 years, including numerous appearances in TV commercials in the U.S. and Europe according to The Daily Mail.
Interestingly enough, Norris never smoked despite his role as a character for the cigarette brand and actually felt it set a bad example for children at the end of his time in the ad campaign.
Norris passed away at his ranch in Colorado Springs on Sunday, leaving behind two sons, two daughters, 13 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
Original 'Marlboro Man' Robert Norris dies at his Colorado ranch at age 90 having NEVER smoked https://t.co/dqc93YJB3R— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) November 8, 2019
The man who would help establish the iconic image for Marlboro cigarettes was focused on being a cowboy as a young boy in Chicago, Illinois. According to The Daily Mail, he was raising horses by the age of 18 and eventually moved to Colorado to purchase Tee Cross Ranches in 1950.
Marlboro, looking for a way to sell their brand popular with women to men, ended up tapping Norris to play the rugged cowboy, cigarette in his lips, after using several actors to portray the cowboy. Chicago advertiser Leo Burnett first thought up the idea of the "Marlboro Man" and Norris would go on to become the first of a long-line in authentic cowboys.
Funny enough, it was a photo alongside legendary movie cowboy John Wayne that earned Norris the initial job offer according to his son in a chat with KKTV. According to him, the advertising executives saw the photo and tracked him down to Tee Cross Ranches.
"They walked out of their car, these guys in their pinstripe suits, and they walked up to Dad and they said, 'How would you like to be in commercials for Marlboro cigarettes?'" Bobby Norris told the outlet. "''Well, I'm kind of busy right now. Why don't you come back next week, and, if you're serious, we'll talk.' They came back the next week."
According to KKTV, the execs shot "2000 pictures" that day when and kicked off his 12 years as the advertising icon. But the moment that ended it came when his children pressed him on smoking cigarettes.
"He always told us kids, 'I don't ever want to see you smoking.' So one of us finally asked, 'If you don't want us smoking, why are you doing cigarette commercials?'" Norris' son said. "He called up Phillip Morris and quit that day."
Norris' wife Jane passed away in 2016 after 65 years of marriage. He also leaves behind a life of animal love and care, including the rescue of an orphaned African elephant named Amy according to The Daily Mail.0comments
"Little Amy, she just didn't grow, and they came to pick them up a year later and they loaded the other four and Dad said, 'How much do you want for this one?"
He adds that his father wrote a check for the elephant right on the spot. Norris' deal for the elephant was also written in the book The Cowboy and his Elephant.