THE GLOVE ARE OFF
Goerlitz, Former Winston Man, shares the stinky truth
By Corey Noles
David Goerlitz pulls no punches.
The ultimate man’s man in the 1980’s, Goerlitz still comes across with that same edgy bluntness, but in a kind way. Now 66, he has traded in his trademark Winstons (he actually preferred Marlboro, shhh), for a slim vape.
He doesn’t give a damn about clouds and thinks the industry is oversaturated with products and juice manufacturers, but he believes it’s worth saving.
Goerlitz recently sat down with VAPE Magazine between whirlwind trips to premiere’s for Director Aaron Biebert’s documentary, A Billion Lives. As this article was written, he was home in Pennsylvania after trips to Miami, Los Angeles and New York City. This morning he leaves for a three-week international tour that begins in India with stops in several countries, including Estonia.
While the trips keep him busy, there’s far more to Goerlitz’s story than just being an emblazoned member of both sides of the war on (and for) tobacco over three decades.
VM: So, David, let’s start from the beginning. Where are you from? Tell us a little about you growing up.
DG: Well, I’m the youngest of 3 boys from a baptist preacher. We moved 14 times in 6 years and every state we went to was different.
My personality was always very outgoing. I was the class clown in high school. I figured I was better off making them laugh with me than at me.
I got married at 20 and were still married 46 years later.
In 1977-78 I lost a lot of weight — about 75 pounds. I was never athletic. I was never into sports. I was more into theater and places where I could play characters. I decided acting would never be a money maker for me because of my size, so I got a regular job.
But by the time I was 29, I was unhappy. Not with my wife, but with having not taken the initiative to move forward and make something of myself.
It wasn’t until I lost the weight on my own without pills or doctors that I found a new me under that flab. I found a strong chin, blue eyes and high cheek bones, so it was suggested I try modeling.
I was able to get a modeling agency to back me in Philadelphia and that’s when it started coming together.
VM: How and when did you start smoking?
DG: I started smoking at 13. Being the son of a preacher it was kind of odd that three loyal Baptist preachers would be smokers, but we did.
My friends and brothers smoked, so I decided to. As a fat kid, I thought it was something that would make me feel grown up, mature and responsible. That’s what the ads told us we should feel. It was the closest thing I could do to make me feel that way about myself. It was a different time. Older students had a smoking area at school even. I remember teachers taking hits off of our cigarettes in the bathroom because there wasn’t time to go to the teachers lounge.
No one put a gun to my head, I did it willingly.
Heck, You could smoke anywhere — even theaters and the back rows of an airplane.
VM: How many years did you smoke?
DG: From the time I was 13 til 1988 when I quit. I quit publicly on the Great American Smoke Out for my kids. I wasn’t successful so I hid it. I’d come in from the bar with cologne, mouthwash and toothpaste to disguise it.
VM: Were you a Winston smoker.
DG: No. I smoked Marlboros. I only smoked Winston when I was around them. Tobacco is tobacco. It goes to
the highest bidder at the brokerage house, the difference is the additives.
VM: How did the Winston Man deal come together?
DG: I had agents in NY and Philadelphia. From 1964-1979, the Winston campaign was all construction workers because it was a male cigarette. The women had their own already. I went on an audition call in 1980. I was one of 937 who auditioned and one of 6 to get a callback.
They didn’t want people who had done mouthwash or toothpaste ads, because at the time those were considered conflicting.
I won and got the lead role. I worked for them for almost 7-½ years. The money was great. It paid $100,000 a year for 26 days work. I was featured in 42-44 different ads that ran. Unfortunately, my target was kids. If they don’t get you between 13 and 19, they’re not going to get you for the most part.
VM: At what point did you decide to quit smoking?
DG: November 18, 1988 was the Great American Smoke Out. I promised my kids, particularly my son Kevin, that I would quit smoking.
He was begging me. I quit that day and did an event with the American Cancer Society making it public. I was scared to death. We didn’t have Zyban and Chantix and Nicorette gum. It was either cold turkey or keep smoking.
It lasted a month until a neighbor told me he’d found my dog dead in the road. I went straight out to buy cigarettes. So I cheated, then I quit, then I cheated, then I quit, then I cheated. That went on over and over until finally, it took.
Had I had something like vaping to go to, I think it would have been easier. The ability to cut back slowly and at my own pace would have made a huge difference.
Now somebody is trying to take that right away from millions of smokers and that pisses me off.
VM: You were very involved with the anti-smoking movement after you quit smoking and left RJ Reynolds. Who all were you working for after the transition?
DG: I was working for the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the World Health Organization, the CDC, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and eventually, the Truth Initiative.
VM: That reads like a list of the enemies of vaping.
DG: If you read the credits to A Billion Lives, all of those organizations refused to be interviewed. In 2004- 2005, they became as corrupt as the tobacco companies. They tried to script me and wanted me to say things that just weren’t true.
Every year, tobacco companies would spend another $14 billion to replace those who quit and die every day. Those replacements are kids.
I asked Dale Zane, an executive with RJ Reynolds during a shoot at the top of Mt. Evans why they didn’t smoke and was told “We don’t smoke the stuff, we reserve that for young, poor, black, stupid.” Dale Zane, an executive with RJ Reynolds. I testified about that to Congress.
VM: I understand the decision to quit smoking, but when did you decide to get involved in the antismoking movement?
DG: It took two days. When I quit smoking publicly, I got a lot of media attention. That was a great win for the ACS. I have to say, in 1988 and 1989, the movement was reasonable. People were dying of lung cancer. The ACS did strong funding drives and they were becoming a multi-million dollar organization. The salaries were growing, but not enough money was going into research.
Then I began noticing the same
things with ALS, then AHS, then the CDC.
It was about that time I was approached by Matt Myers from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
He wanted all the dirt I could give on RJ Reynolds marketing campaign. His partner was Mitch Zeller, the current head of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products.
With millions quitting smoking because of vaping, if public health was the true goal, vaping should have been celebrated by these organizations. But it wasn’t. Because the game is all about money.
Then the taxes came. It was supposed to be all for the children and antismoking education. With that in mind I became very exposed. I started getting death threats from the tobacco companies. My car caught on fire. My tags were stolen, so I would get stopped by police. They were trying to get me to shut up.
In 1989, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop began his push for a smoke free class of 2000. They put a lot of money into preventing cigarette companies from marketing to children. I was being paid by all of them to go out and tell the truth about the tobacco companies.
Within a year, the tobacco companies are in cahoots with the ACS, AHS, and ALS to come up with the master settlement agreement. The money was supposed to allow the states to do their own anti-smoking campaigns, but the money never went to that.
VM: Is that when you started to distance yourself from the anti-tobacco movement?
DG: They wanted me to shut up, because I was pissing everyone off. Everybody knows smoking kills and that tobacco companies targeted kids.
That’s one of the things I never understood when vaping came around. With millions quitting smoking because of vaping, if public health was the true goal, vaping should have been celebrated by these organizations. But it wasn’t. Because the game is all about money.
VM: When did you start vaping and how were you turned on to it?
DG: In 2006, I started hearing about the electronic cigarette. By 2007, things were starting to happen with it. You could mimic smoking, inhale a vapor with propylene glycol and glycerine. You got the hit of nicotine, but without the issues created by smoking.
NJoy sued the FDA for blocking shipments of electronic cigarettes being shipped into the country. The judge said the FDA cannot regulate and control because they had not been regulated as a cessation device or a tobacco product.
From there it just started growing. Then it wasn’t long before all the vaping groups started forming because it was working. But at the same time, tobacco was hounding the government to start regulating it.
VM: I believe you told me once that vaping wasn’t a lifestyle for you, just something to keep you from smoking. Can you expand on that a bit?
DG: Unfortunately, the market has become very oversaturated. Smokers don’t necessarily want to quit and join a fraternity, smokers just want to quit. They need something to help them quit. They don’t want 7,000 flavors and hundreds of different mods. They just want it to work. They might graduate into something bigger, but it’s a process.
It’s important that we don’t forget about what smokers need.
In 2013-14, that’s when it got really big. If you look at my websites, I said then the jig is up. The die has been cast. They’re gonna ban it, take it away and give it back to the tobacco companies. The vaping community has about three years before we’re shut down if we don’t do something big and do it quick.
VM: Have you been involved with any companies or organizations in the vape industry outside of A Billion Lives?
DG: I have been trying to find a place in the vaping community for six years, but I’m too politically incorrect. You’ve got all these groups who are trying to do the right thing, but they’re not playing their game, The other side is playing nice and we’re trying to and that’s an uphill battle.
VM: Do you feel like A Billion Lives is helping to bring positive attention to the vaping industry?
DG: It’s being seen in many theaters. Its not going to be a blockbuster like Star Wars. It’s going to be like Super Size Me. It will raise the level of awareness. The difference between obesity and smoking is that we still see smokers as lepers and a waste of society. At least with obesity, people try to get fit. At least with that there are positive attitudes people are trying to change.
Vaping is to cigarettes what Slim Fast is to cheeseburgers. It’s a healthier option. But Slim Fast doesn’t get the mess that vapor does. Supplements aren’t even regulated by the FDA.
If [the government] isn’t going to believe these people who are doctors, lawyers and experts in their fields, we’re going to struggle.
The movie is only one resource. We need more. This all has to be exposed and not just to vapers. To everyone.