Monday, August 01, 2016

From the Archives: Monique Luiz, 'Daisy Girl' from controversial 1964 campaign ad, speaks at UVA

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on October 15, 2014. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Monique Luiz, 'Daisy Girl' from controversial 1964 campaign ad, speaks at UVA

On September 7, 1964, Lyndon Johnson's presidential campaign bought time during NBC's “Monday Night at the Movies” for a 60-second ad that showed a little girl plucking the petals off a flower, followed by a nuclear mushroom cloud and an excerpt from one of Johnson's speeches.

Long known as the “Daisy Girl” ad (although the flower was a dandelion, not a daisy), the spot – for which NBC charged $24,000 – was produced by the Madison Avenue firm of Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), which had not previously done political ad-making. It was tremendously controversial and, along with other DDB ads that aired in 1964, changed the style and substance of campaign advertising.

The little girl in the ad was 3-year-old Monique Corzilius, who had earlier appeared in print ads but had not acted on film. (She later went on to perform in commercials for products like Kool Pops and SpaghettiOs.)

Now known as Monique Luiz, the “Daisy Girl” participated in a panel discussion hosted by the University of Virginia Center for Politics on October 15, along with Robert Mann, author of Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics, and veteran journalist Sid Davis, who was a White House correspondent in the early 1960s, covered the 1964 campaign, and was present at President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

Red hair stands out
After the panel, Luiz answered a few questions posed by the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner about her role as the “Daisy Girl” and the reactions to it.

For more than four decades, Luiz did not acknowledge that she was the girl in the ad. In 2009, however, she discovered that another woman was claiming to be her and was trying to capitalize on the TV spot's notoriety. Luiz came forward with documentation that she was the authentic “Daisy Girl” and subsequently was interviewed by Mann for his book, which is how she came to appear at UVA this week.

When she auditioned for the part, neither she nor her parents knew that DDB was making a political ad. She stood out among the many little girls who tried out because of her red hair, and also because her father was persistent.

“I think it was my father who sold them” on the idea “that I could do it,” she recalled. “He pretty much said, 'I can't guarantee anything but she'll try.'”

Listening closely to her in the commercial, one can hear exasperation in little Monique's voice. That was, in part, because the final cut was taken from the 27th take in a long day of filming.

Even after filming, Monique's parents did not know how the footage would be used. They found out by seeing the ad on TV.

Their reaction, as she remembered it, was: “'Oh my gosh, it's Monique! She's in a political ad!'”

After the ad appeared on TV for the first time, and it was repeated on news shows in the days that followed, there was a negative reaction, coming from the general public, causing her grandmother, in particular, to become “very concerned about it.”

As she was growing up, Luiz chose not to reveal her association with the ad, and she ended her modeling career at age 7 or 8, preferring to focus on school and normal girlhood.

“I knew about [the controversy] and I just avoided it. I remember my grandmother saying, 'Don't say you're the Daisy Girl! Don't say you're in that ad!' So I grew up not wanting to talk about it.”

For all the publicity that surrounded the “Daisy Girl” ad, Monique Corzilius was paid just one hundred dollars for appearing in it – which seemed pretty substantial in 1964.

As Luiz recalls now, with a smile, “I remember my parents saying, 'Wow! You made a lot of money.'”

The “Daisy Girl” ad is available in several forms on YouTube. Here is a link to one of them.


UVA Center for Politics commemorates 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates
Larry Sabato discusses Cuccinelli, McAuliffe, Sarvis in 2013 election
Lee Harvey Oswald colleague recalls aftermath of Kennedy assassination
Witness to 1963 Kennedy assassination speaks at Virginia Film Festival
JFK was 'cautious, conservative' says UVA political scientist Larry Sabato

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