Editorial: Vermont’s Most Interesting Man

Saturday, March 19, 2016
Who knew the “Most Interesting Man in the World’’ was from Vermont?

No, it’s not Bernie Sanders, though he’s proving to be of more than passing interest to Democratic voters. The Most Interesting Man, or so it’s claimed, is a character played by a TV pitchman for Dos Equis beer: Jonathan Goldsmith, a veteran actor who lives in the Manchester, Vt., area. The highly successful campaign, which launched 10 years ago, is bidding farewell to the character in style: a finale in which he blasts off on a one-way voyage to Mars. “His only regret is that he has no regrets,’’ says the authoritative-sounding narrator (who also does PBS Frontline documentaries). The actor, who has had a remarkable late-career run, is regret-free as well. “I feel terrific, I really do,’’ he told The Associated Press. “I’ve had a great time.”

In case you’ve missed the campaign, the Most Interesting Man is refined and handsome, a mature risk-taker with a salt-and-pepper beard who could have hung with Hemingway. Faux grainy film shows him running with the bulls in Pamplona, or cliff diving in an exotic locale. The narrator declares that he’s so interesting that “at art galleries, they let him touch the art,’’ or “sharks have a week dedicated to him.”

Although the image cuts against the grain of most beer advertising — think pool parties with ab-tastic young men and bikinied young women — it’s been a triumph. Dog Equis’ sales have nearly tripled since 2007. A mature pitchman surprisingly appealed to the youthful demographic that ad buyers crave — viewers over 40 are consigned to ads for pricey pharmaceuticals.

Men have traditionally aged well in Hollywood. George Clooney’s career blossomed with a touch of gray, and Harrison Ford, at 77, is planning for another Indiana Jones movie, it was announced this week. Women, it is often observed, long to see mature actresses treated similarly. Maggie Smith portrayed the Most Interesting Dowager in the World on Downton Abbey, but that’s entirely different. PBS, for the moment, does not hawk beer.

At 77, Goldsmith probably couldn’t have continued much longer in the role; even legends must someday rest on their laurels. Advertising Age reports that the campaign is going to get a makeover with a new Most Interesting Man, and it sounds very much like a youth movement is in the offing. Company officials are using phrases like “a fresh take on things,” “something a bit more contemporary’’ and “more active.’’ They want to “align the ads better with the brand’s new sponsorship of the College Football Playoff.” It’s hard to contemplate how college could be aligned any more closely with beer, but presumably the marketers will be up to the job.

But what about the allure of age and wisdom? One might conclude that the World’s Most Interesting Man earned the title because he had put youthful excess behind him. The character did fascinating things, as opposed to engaging in binge drinking, which, when combined with adventures such as running with bulls, can lead to bloody wounds. We suppose that each generation has to learn that lesson.

At least in the case of the Most Interesting Man in the World, youth for once was not served, although beer was. Like many good things, it was fun while it lasted.