Thunderbird is the crack cocaine of wines. It’s fortified with additional alcohol to get you drunk quicker. If you drink enough of the swill it will turn your tongue black, incinerate your gut and napalm your liver. The Gallo Wine Co. designed their firewater with the ghetto in mind. Their radio ads featured a song with a proto-rap vibe, “What’s the word? / Thunderbird / How’s it sold? / Good and cold / What’s the jive? / Bird’s alive / What’s the price? / Thirty twice.” It is said that…
Ernest Gallo once drove through a tough, inner city neighborhood and pulled over when he saw a bum. When Gallo rolled down his window and called out, “What’s the word?” the immediate answer from the bum was, “Thunderbird.
In a move that seems almost surreal, actor James Mason was recruited by Gallo to pitch its poverty punch. He was given a Rolls Royce as payment. Years later, Mason went on to star as a vicious slave owner in the soft-core blaxploitation potboiler Mandingo. Thunderbird shill to sleazoid slave owner ain’t much of a stretch character wise and probably didn’t earn him any dividends in the karma department.
The first ad in the following video tries to glamorize Thunderbird as a sexy, hip and happening cocktail for young stylish Blacks. The second is Mason trying to keep a straight face as he describes Thunderbird as “not quite like anything I’ve ever tasted.’
Apparently James had never drunk gasoline.