In 1987 Estée Lauder introduced a new fragrance for men called Metropolis. The Encyclopedia of World Perfumes provides the following “olfactive description” for the fragrance:
Sage Lavender Basil Mandarine Spicy (Clove, Cinnamon) Neroli Sandalwood Patchouli Vetiver Mossy Ambery
In 1988, Metropolis won a Fragrance Foundation Recognition Award, often referred to as “The FiFi” (no, I am not making this up), and it is still considered by many to be one of the best men’s fragrances ever produced.
I loved that cologne. It was my cologne. Everyone who knew me associated the smell of Metropolis with me. It’s not that I reeked of the stuff, but people loved the smell of Metropolis and, by association, they loved me, too.
But, today, if you were to go to an Estée Lauder counter and ask for Metropolis, the personal aesthetic consultants behind the counter would most likely stare at you blankly and offer to hose you down with either Lauder Pleasures for Men or the new Lauder Intuition for Men. I doubt that most of them have even heard of Metropolis.
Why? Because Liza Minelli killed it years ago. Over a decade ago, Estée Lauder spent an obscene amount of money to advertise Metropolis with a series of ill-conceived television ads that (if memory serves) featured Liza Minelli in all her sequined glory, ballroom dancing with various anonymous, tuxedoed hunks as she intoned the wonders of Metropolis.
It bombed…big time. It was one of the most disastrous advertising campaigns in history. Most experts look back and say that the problem was that they never made it clear that Metropolis was a men’s fragrance. I would contest that it wouldn’t have mattered if they did.
Q. How many men are going to buy a cologne because Liza Minelli tells them that it’s fabulous? Let me rephrase that: How many straight men are going to buy a cologne because Liza Minelli tells them that it’s fabulous?
A. None. (OK, I bought it, but I started wearing it before I saw the commercials.)
Q. How many gay men are going to buy a cologne because Liza Minelli tells them that it’s fabulous?
A. Blessed few…at least not in 1988. After all, we’re not talking about the 1972 Cabaret Liza here. We’re talking about the 1988 Rent-A-Cop/Arthur 2: On The Rocks Liza.
And this is well after Calvin Klein’s Obsession ads had fundamentally changed fragrance advertising. It’s hard to imagine what the folks at Estée Lauder could have been thinking? But, it doesn’t matter now. Metropolis is gone. It’s gone and I’ve searched the world for over a decade without finding anything to fill the void.
It’s no wonder no one loves me. Damn that woman…