What is required to earn the title, “The Johnny Appleseed of” something? Well, there appears to be more than one way to earn the honorific. You could be the first person to introduce an object or idea, but if you are not the first, you still might earn the title by becoming the most important or most evangelical promoter of that object or idea. A recent article in the New York Times declared Conquistador Hernando de Soto to be “the Johnny Appleseed of pigs” because during his reign of terror through the American southeast he released Old World swine into the region, which proliferated rapidly, wreaked much environmental destruction, but ultimately helped to cement pork as “the other white meat.” He clearly earned the title, but I would prefer to put a more positive spin on it by calling him “The Johnny Appleseed of Bacon.”
Many other notable figures of recent history had “the Johnny Appleseed of” honorific bestowed upon them. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Freeway” Ricky Ross, “the Johnny Appleseed of Crack Cocaine.”
In the early 1980s, Ross oversaw a crack cocaine empire from a few properties along Los Angeles’ Harbor freeway. the empire was so vast that he claimed to have sold $3 million worth of the drug in a single day. Ross seems worthy of the Johnny Appleseed title because at its height, his empire appeared to be responsible not just for most of the crack in southern California, but most of it distributed in the Midwest, Texas, Louisiana, and the Carolinas. Perhaps fittingly, Ross once claimed that the original Johnny Appleseed’s old haunt of Ohio was his most lucrative market. Convicted in 1996 after trying to purchase 100 kilos of crack from a Federal agent, Ross eventually had his sentenced reduced to twenty years, and was released after fifteen for being a model prisoner.
Alfred Matthew Hubbard, “The Johnny Appleseed of LSD.”
Ross was not the first evangelizer of drug use to earn the Johnny Appleseed moniker.
Alfred Matthew Hubbard, once a “barefoot boy from Kentucky,” moved west, became a small time inventor with an entrepreneurial spirit, and found his calling distributing hallucinogenic drugs. He was said to have turned more than six thousand people on to the acid trip. He also distributed magic mushrooms and mescaline, all of which he carried around with him Johnny Appleseed style–in a leather satchel strung over his shoulder. One Beverly Hills psychiatrist recalled that “we waited for him like a little old lady waits for the Sears-Roebuck catalog.” Also known as Captain Trips, in his appearance the crewcut-wearing Hubbard didn’t quite fit the stereotype of the beatnik or hippy. Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary were two of his customers and champions, though the latter once commented that he had the appearance of a “carpetbagger con man.”
Thomas Bendelow, “The Johnny Appleseed of Golf”
It isn’t just drug dealers who develop an evangelical zeal for their favored mode of recreation. Scottish-American Thomas Bendelow’s passion for golf certainly matched that of Ross’s and Hubbard’s for illicit substances. Bendelow was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, to a family of pie makers. Which was an appropriate occupation for the Bendelow family, because they were also well known for their religious pie-ty. Thomas migrated to America, where he first taught golf, and eventually began to design golf courses. Soon Bendelow was designing golf courses across the nation, and his courses became known for both their “naturalistic” and “sporty” designs. By the time he died in 1936, Bendelow had designed over 600 golf courses.
Michael Roizen, the Johnny Appleseed of the Male Orgasm
Ohio might be called “the Johnny Appleseed of Johnny Appleseeds,” as it has played a central role in the careers of so many Johnny Appleseeds. It might also be called “the Johnny Appleseed of Presidential birthplaces” because it appears that all of the nation’s most obscure Presidents were born there. But I digress. Michael Roizen, the chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic has accomplished many things in his life, so perhaps it isn’t really fair to saddle him with the title “the Johnny Appleseed of the Male Orgasm.” But that is what Men’s Health Magazine has called him, because of his efforts to promote the idea that men should have more of them–at least three a week–if they want to live long, happy, healthy lives.
The United States of America, The Johnny Appleseed of Nuclear Weapons
This last one is so important, it could not belong to a single person, but only to a whole nation. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the title belongs not to one President, but to every one from Harry S Truman to Barack Obama, and to all the people who voted for them. I chose to illustrate this last one with an image of the Statue of Liberty, because, frankly, there is clear gender bias going on in the bestowal of Johnny Appleseed honorifics.
So, what are you the Johnny Appleseed of?