The most famous car in history
When car enthusiasts and the public think of the pink Cadillac they think of Elvis, Bruce Springsteen, Sugar Ray Robinson, Aretha Franklin and of course Mary Kay Cosmetics.
The first pink Cadillac came at the hands of boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson. Legend says that Sugar Ray and his manager were at the Hialeah race track in Florida famous for the flock of live pink flamingos that called the racetracks infield home.
Sugar Ray commented to his manager that the brilliant color of pink would make a great color on a new Cadillac. His manager thought he was crazy and brushed it off. Sugar Ray on his return home to New York found a necktie with the same brilliant hue as those Hialeah flamingos.
Sugar Ray walked into the Cadillac dealership in the Bronx and purchased a 1950 Cadillac Eldorado that had a rose color tint. Sugar Ray took the car and the tie to a well known body shop and told the owner to match the color of the tie and he did.
Sugar Ray loved that car and it was famously parked nightly at his club in Harlem “Sugar Ray’s.” Life magazine did a big picture spread on Sugar Ray and his pink Cadillac.
Elvis sees the Life magazine spread and records a single called "Baby, Let’s Play House." The lyrics include: "Well, you may go to college. You may go to school. You may have a pink Cadillac. But don’t you be nobody’s fool."
Soon after Elvis buys a 1955 blue Cadillac and has it painted pink. In September of 1956 Elvis buys another Cadillac, has it painted pink and gives it to his mom. Elvis would go on to own two more “pink Cadillacs.”
General Motors did in fact make a pink Cadillac in 1956 but the official listed color was a rose hue. That color was good enough for Elvis and Sugar Ray fans. The most photographed was the iconic 1959 big finned pink Cadillac.
That 1959 was never in any color schemes from General Motors and it turns out, the paint job was so good that car enthusiasts insisted that it was GM who did the colors. Many years later it was determined that GM had nothing to do with that.
It was Mary Kay Ash the successful makeup maven and owner of Mary Kay Cosmetics that kept the pink Cadillac in the forefront of the public eye. In 1967 Mary Kay purchased her first Cadillac and had the dealer paint it the same color as the hot pink lipstick and eyeliner in her purse.
In 1969 she awarded the top five sales women in the company a 1970 pink Cadillac Coupe DeVille and the start of the Mary Kay Career Car program was started. In 2020 a total of over 25,000 women have qualified for a pink Cadillac in the Mary Kay Career Car Program since its inception.
Bruce Springsteen had a love affair with a pink Cadillac and has stated that there were a couple of meanings of the song but he definitely had Elvis in mind while writing the song and specifically pointed out the Elvis lyrics posted above in the Elvis song Baby, Let’s Play House.
Bruce was reluctant to lend the song to a female artist because he felt that it was a manly reference in driving around and the pursuit of female companionship. But Natalie Cole recorded it in 1987 and in 1988 it hit top five in the pop charts, a big hit for her.
The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin also gets a nod as a pink Cadillac enthusiast. Her song Freeway to Love includes "we're going riding on the freeway of love in my pink Cadillac". In an ironic twist it’s the E-Street Band's own Clarence Clemons wailing on the sax in that song.
It was a big hit for Aretha climbing to number three on the charts in 1985. Aretha had such a fondness for the car and the song that in August of 2018 more than 100 pink Cadillacs lined the streets of Detroit and were part of the procession to bring Aretha to her final resting place.
You won’t find another specific car painted a specific color that has had a bigger impact in history then the pink Cadillac. See you down the road.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.