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Swine Dining In Alabama

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What does a beer-swilling pig have to do with walking tours?

Alabama has had its share of eccentrics, and then some. (Selma's Kathryn Tucker Windham has made a career out of chronicling many of them.) Now, one favorite, 19th- century riverboat captain Simp McGhee, is giving Alabama's Bureau of Tourism and Travel some good advertising (and press, too).

McGhee, the story goes, was so crusty that his only drinking buddy was a pig. The tale inspired a restaurant in upstate Decatur and now an ad from Birmingham's Lewis Communications promoting walking tours in business and historic districts.

"A lying, cheating, foul-mouthed riverboat captain with a pig for a drinking buddy. The perfect inspiration for a gourmet restaurant," reads the copy, above a pen-and-ink drawing by freelance illustrator Clint Olson of the swine lapping a cold one. The image here is a detail from the larger ad, which includes blocks of text about Simp and other "unique tales" from the walking tours.

"Our target is an older crowd who likes reading," explains Lewis account supervisor Carlton Wood, who placed the ad (and two others) in community papers. "We went copy-heavy to draw people into the stories, because that's what the walking tours are all about."

Lewis, however, lost the business two weeks ago after a state-mandated review. But the client is giving Wood his due. After the British media got wind of the ad, Wood received an e-mail from a client rep that said: "I told the BBC guy the pig ... was named Carlton."