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Darrell Winfield, real cowboy who played a Marlboro Man, dies at 85

Darrell Winfield, who played a Marlboro Man in ads, dies at 85

Darrell Winfield, one of the most recognizable Marlboro Men who roamed the countryside of the western United States, appearing in ads for the cigarette brand, has died. He was 85.

Winfield, whose rugged good looks, flinty blue eyes and reddish mustache were central to one of the most successful ad campaigns of the 20th century, died Monday at his home in Riverton, Wyo., according to a statement from the Davis Funeral Home. No cause was given.

Part of a rotating band of men in spurs and Stetsons who built a macho image around Marlboro’s filtered cigarettes, Winfield at one point was appearing in more than 8 in 10 Marlboro Men ads.

Unlike some of the other Marlboro Men -- a group that included a California firefighter, a former pro football star and a Mississippi man who owned a fence company -- Winfield had been a cowboy his entire life.

A friend described him to the Los Angeles Times in 1975 as a "man's man." He worked on his ranch every day.

“You could look at the different cowboys that we’ve used and you could argue that they were all the Marlboro man,” a Philip Morris spokesman told the New York Times in 1992. “But Darrell is really the Marlboro man.”

Little was revealed about Winfield's personal life or those of the other cowboys, part of the mystique of the Marlboro Man.

"No one knows if he is single, married or swings," John Benson, a vice president of the Leo Burnett agency, told the Los Angeles Times in 1975. "We don't show his home. We don't tell anything about the guy, not even his name or where he lives."

Darrell Hugh Winfield was born July 30, 1929, in Little Kansas, Okla., to Marion and Dapalean Winfield, the oldest of six children. His family moved to California when he was 6, and Winfield grew up in Hanford, a small town in the Central Valley.

He married Lennie Spring in 1948, and they had six children.

In 1968, he moved his family to Pinedale, Wyo. He was working as a ranch hand on the Quarter Circle 5 Ranch there when he was spotted by photographers from the Chicago-based Leo Burnett Advertising Agency, which was working with Philip Morris.

The ad agency spent more than two decades crafting the Marlboro Man image, largely based around Winfield, until 1998, when a settlement between tobacco companies and state governments banned the use of humans or cartoons in American tobacco advertisements.

In an interview with The Times in 1975, Winfield said the ad agency "doesn't want any phony baloney stuff."

"The image they try to portray is more that of ... a kind of rugged individual," Winfield said. "It makes us a little more mysterious, but maybe that's not the right word. It's as close to authentic as they can make it."

In a 1986 interview with Scott Ellsworth, then a historian for the Smithsonian Institution, Winfield said he wore his own clothes in the shoots, and often provided many of the cattle and horses that appeared in the images.

He never wore makeup, he said, except to hide the occasional scratch on his face. Asked what life might have been like if he hadn’t become the Marlboro Man, Winfield answered plainly: Life would have basically been the same.

Winfield's survivors include his wife, Lennie; his son, Brian Winfield; daughters Janet Mendes, Nancy Eppler, Lisa Saunders, Debi Walters and Darlene Raymond; his brother, Ray Winfield; as well as grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

7:42 p.m.: This story has been updated with background and quotes from Winfield.

This story was originally published at 6:40 p.m.

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