Star of Stage, Screen, and CD
When Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated the T-2000 in Terminator 2, he blew him
off with a "Hasta la vista, baby" and a Zippo® lighter. Michael Douglas's Zippo
lighter ignited a hundred-dollar bill to make a fiery point in Black Rain. A Zippo lighter
served as the penultimate weapon in Bruce Willis's one-man war on terrorism
in Die Hard, and worked so well that he used it again in Die Harder. And it was
a Zippo windproof lighter that provided a hair-raising escape from a certain and horrible demise
for Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Zippo lighters have an entertainment resume and career longevity that a superstar
would envy. They were de rigeur for film noir heroes of the '30s and '40s, as
much a part of the costume as the trench coat and fedora. American GIs have been
equipped with Zippo lighters both on and off screen since the early days of World War
II. The familiar shape and distinctive click are as instantly recognizable as
Groucho's moustache, the Duke's drawl, or Julia Roberts' smile.
Zippo's rise to prominence during World War II is reflected by the large number
of films that feature Zippo lighters, both those made during that period and
afterward. Whether it's Donna Reed lighting Montgomery Clift's cigarette in From
Here to Eternity or Errol Flynn wielding his Zippo lighter with characteristically suave
leading-man style in Objective Burma, a Zippo lighter provides an instant air
of authenticity. Director George Stevens was captured using his Zippo windproof lighter during
the making of his documentary D-Day to Berlin. In 1945, Vincent Minelli's The
Clock used a lighter to bring Judy Garland and Robert Walker together for a
whirlwind courtship. The dialogue indicates that the lighter is one made by Zippo, but
the shortage of civilian Zippos forced the use of a stand-in.
The military connection extends through films about the Korean War and Vietnam.
It was a Zippo lighter that linked Karl Malden and Richard Widmark in Sergeant Terror, while Gregory
Peck counted on his Zippo lighter for moral support in Pork Chop Hill.
The Green Berets, starring John Wayne, was extremely popular. So is the camouflage
model the Duke used - it's one of Zippo's most sought-after collectibles. Apocalypse
Now director Francis Ford Coppola set the haunting tone of his film in the opening
scenes with Martin Sheen's Colt revolver and a Zippo lighter.
Sometimes a theme song sets the tone for a film. A Zippo lighter was literally
instrumental in creating the mood for Lethal Weapon II, starring Mel Gibson and
Danny Glover. Working on the song that eventually became "It's Probably Me",
singer/songwriter Eric Clapton absentmindedly clicked his Zippo lighter in creative
cogitation. The rhythmic sound finally captured his attention and provided
the inspiration for the staccato melody. The Zippo lighter also plays a part in the
music video as it clicks in time with, and becomes part of, the musical background.
An innovative group of British performers have completed the Zippo windproof lighter's transformation
to musical instrument. In "STOMP", the eight-person troupe combines percussion,
dance, and unlikely objects to produce amusing and infectious musical numbers,
one of which is performed entirely with Zippo lighters. Co-founder Luke Creswell explains
the genesis of the Zippo number: "I was in Glasgow for a big outdoor extravaganza.
Everyone in the bars I went to did tricks with their Zippo lighters. . . Fans of Zippo
lighters know they have a distinctive ping when they're opened - and I started thinking of
that." "STOMP" has been an enormous success in the United Kingdom and Off Broadway.
Meanwhile, Zippo fans need only tune in their TV or rent a movie from the video store
to catch the Zippo windproof lighter in performance. Whether setting spooky events in motion in
Hocus Pocus with Bette Midler or providing a clue to Gerard Depardieu's character
in Green Card, the Zippo lighter fills its role with unobtrusive professionalism. It holds
its own with, and never upstages, such luminaries as Robert DeNiro (Midnight Run),
Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn (Bird on a Wire), and Chevy Chase (Fletch). In films as
diverse as The Thomas Crown Affair, Jurassic Park, The Right Stuff, JFK, and Top Gun,
the Zippo lighter has proven its versatility and enduring appeal. But then, reliable
performance is a Zippo hallmark.