Alan Landers

    - Valenda Newell
  • "Just as no man has power over the spirit or can restrain..."
  • "And no resident will say: “I am sick…”Isa 33:24. We can..."
  • "I'd just like to offer my condolences and say that I..."
    - David Alonzi
  • "Alan was a great acting teacher and a great friend. To lose..."
    - Mark Hodos

In the 1960s and '70s, his hunky good looks made Alan Landers the face of Winston cigarettes -- and a Playgirl cover model.

Then heart disease and tobacco-related cancers stole not just his looks, but his life.

''The Winston Man'' -- once the sexy spokesmodel for a product he claimed addicted him in childhood then destroyed him -- died Feb. 27 at his home in Lauderhill. He had filed suit against the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in 1995 and was finally headed to trial next month.

An anti-smoking activist who testified before Congress and spoke internationally for the World Health Organization, Landers was 68. He had a small part in one big movie -- Annie Hall -- and larger parts in several B-movies, and in recent years eeked out a living as an acting coach. Television credits include Ellery Queen and America's Most Wanted.

Since learning he had lung cancer in 1987, Landers had undergone multiple surgeries, the scars from which he would reveal in show-and-tell lectures on the dangers of smoking -- especially to kids.

''I am . . . a two-time survivor of lung cancer, as well as open-heart surgery, emphysema, reconstructed vocal cords and nerve damage,'' he wrote on his website,

``With this background, I chose to come forward in support of a tobacco-free world in the interest of protecting the lives of children and future generations.''

Landers ''loved getting out there and discussing his experience,'' said niece Robin Carns, of Plantation. ``He would rip the shirt off and show all the scars on his back and chest.''

Landers was undergoing a punishing course of chemotherapy and radiation before the trial he had been eagerly anticipating for 13 years.

No longer able to eat, he had had an abdominal feeding tube installed several days before Carns found him dead in his bed.

''He had no money whatsoever,'' said Peggy McCarthy, a fellow activist who founded the Lung Cancer Alliance. The U.S. Army veteran ``was living on Social Security and taught acting -- one-on-one at his home.''

In his lawsuit, Landers claimed that when he became tobacco-addicted at 13, Reynolds was intentionally lying about the health risks of smoking.

In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that smokers had to sue the cigarette manufacturers individually.

Tim Howard, of Tallahassee, one of Landers' lawyers, said he has not decided whether to seek compensatory damages beyond funeral expenses.

Under Florida law, only spouses, children or dependent relatives can collect punitive damages. Landers was single with no children.

''He wanted justice,'' Howard said.

When someone challenged Landers about his personal responsibility in the matter, he would say ''it's one thing for adults to get addicted and try to quit, but as a child, he was not capable of making that decision,'' according to Howard. ``In 1952, there was nothing out there. The first Surgeon General's warning came in 1964.''

Howard figured that Landers ''would have been a sensation'' in court. ``You'd seen him on TV shows . . . and in Playgirl. He had lived large, and the trial would have been large, too.''


At no time was his life larger than his modeling heyday in New York, when Landers -- born Allan Stewart Levine in Brooklyn and raised in Lakeland -- was a swinging bachelor with thick, dark hair and six-pack abs.

Bonwit Teller, a now-defunct Fifth Avenue department store, once used an Alan Landers look-alike mannequin in their main menswear window.

He posed for Vogue, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Menswear, Esquire and Playboy, for Coca-Cola, Tiparillos and Winston.

''I appeared on billboards and in magazine advertisements holding a Winston cigarette urging others, young and old, to smoke,'' he wrote on his website, where the ads appear.

``I was expected to portray smoking as stylish, pleasurable and attractive. I was required to smoke on the set, constant smoking was required to achieve the correct appearance of the cigarette, ash and butt length.

'During this time frame I also promoted Tiparillo small cigars. In television advertisements, my character, dressed in a trench coat utters the rhetorical line, `Should a gentleman offer a Tiparillo to a lady?' ''

Landers left New York for Los Angeles, where he was far more successful as an acting coach than as an actor. He lived for a time with actress Lois Chiles: Dr. Holly Goodhead in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker.

His website says that he coached, among others, Michelle Pfieffer, JoAnne Woodward, Jerry Hall, Ali McGraw, Victoria Principal, George Hamilton, Delta Burke, Valerie Perrine, George Maharis, Robert Carradine, Richard Roundtree and Susan Blakely.

Peggy McCarthy said Landers got caught up in Hollywood's '80s-era cocaine culture and found himself behind bars after trying to rob a restaurant where he once worked.

Ironically, the incident led to his first cancer diagnosis, McCarthy said.

``He developed a hernia, and they sent him to the [Veterans Administration] hospital. They did an X-ray of his abdomen and found cancer. If he hadn't committed the armed robbery, he would have been dead in the '80s.''

After several years in remission, the cancer returned. Again, doctors discovered it by chance, in a CAT scan before surgery for snoring.

'My uncle had that `James Dean' look that women died for,'' Robin Carns said. ``It was so surprising how rapidly the cancer and chemo aged him.''


Toward the end of his life, Landers was in great pain. During an appearance in 2005 on Larry King Live!, he explained that he ``had to get nerve-block shots. I went for six months, I had such pain they had to shoot me up with 30 shots a day, and I had to lie in a vat with ice packs all over my body for like four hours a day. . . It was torture, it was hell on earth when they operated on me.''

He talked about being ``one of the lucky ones. Most Marlboro men are dead, the Camel man, these were friends of mine. They're all dead. Every day I get up, I thank God. Let me go through this day with love in my heart, a sense of humor and a positive attitude.''

As things got worse, ''what kept him going was this case,'' said McCarthy, of Washington state. ``All he could think about was the trial. He wanted his day in court. He wanted to be heard and say to the companies that they were liars.''

R.J. Reynolds did not answer a request for comment.

Landers is survived by one of his three brothers, Jack Landers. A memorial service is planned in Los Angeles.

Published in the Miami Herald from Mar. 9 to Mar. 24, 2009
bullet Models bullet U.S. Army