He sees him-Lloyd J. Harris, a virtual unknown from Berkeley, Calif., is attacking the multi-million-dollar Lever Bros. Co., makers of Signal Mouthwash and other, less controversial, products.
Acting alone, Harris, who is to garlic what Linus Pauling is to Vitamin C, has gone after Signal mouthwash, which went on the supermarkets shelfs in July, because Signal's ads claim it rids users of bad odors caused by garlic.
Already a no-odor-barred debate was televised in New York city between Harris and a Signal spokesman. And Harris has announced a nationwide boycott of Signal by people who feel strongly about garlic.
But it is a quiet, little boycott, based more on principle than on product. And the mushrooming feud between Harris and Signal has elevated Signal, which already is one of the top three mouthwashes (next to Listerine and Scope) into the public's eye, if not mouth.
The seminal influence occurred four years ago when Lever Bros. paid consumers to eat and smell. Research teams found that garlic was the worst offender of all bad odors.
As a result, Signal, which smells like mint and looks like Prell, was designed to overcome the aftereffects of garlic, onion and othr strong-smelling foods.
While Lever Bros. was test marketing the product last April, a little bottle of Signal was tossed on the doorstep of Harris' Berkeley home. And thus begun the great, nationwide debate pitting lovers of garlic against the Signal gargling set.
Harris, who downs garlics the way Bruce Jenner does Wheaties, is author of the famed "The Book of Garlic: The incredible story of Allium Sativum as magic bulb, potent madicine and unrivalled culinary herb and stinking rose of mirth."
He also puts on the "Garlic Times," an annual newsletter delivered to all members of the Lovers of the Stinking Rose, an organization dedicated to the appreciation and proliferation of garlic. Harris is founder and sole active member.
So it was with great anxiety that Harris read Signal's copy addressed to Occupant:
"Clinical tests show Lever Bros.' new mouthwash works even against odors as strong as onion and garlic."
There were other offensive things said about garlic, and a chart and exclamation point as well.
Harris, who favors breakfasts of eggs boiled in garlic water and garlic spread "mushed on toast," responded with angry words.
He wrote Lever Bros. ordering the company "to cease from demeaning garlic or we will boycott Signal."
Shortly after the second issue of the "Garlic Times" announcing the Signal boycott went to press, Harris heard from Lever Bros., a company obviously not made up of garlicky poltroons. After a background check on Harris who also is a book publisher, Allan Kalmus of Kalmus Corp., which does public relations for Lever Bros., invited Harris to New York for a confrontation.
Scooping up his homemade garlic turban with the garlic cloves that unsnap, Harris flew east in July where he met his garlic foes at Lever Bros. skyscraper, a green building on Park Ave., "the color," says Harris, "of Signal mouthwash."
Speaking for the beleaguered Signal, Lewis Cancro, a development manager at the company's Edgewater, N.J., research center, said, "It's not the after taste we want to kill, its that murderous aftersmell."
Harris held to the position he outlined in the "Garlic Times".
"Not only is (Signal's) claim questionable, but it suggests further that garlic and onion odor are socially undesirable, a view that LSR (Lovers of the Stinking Rose) cannot let go unchallenged.
"In this age of sophisticated culinary taste, the lingering odor of grlic and onions on one's breath is a sign of cultivation. The ruin of any outstanding French, Chinese or Italian meal would be to kill the fragrant aftertaste with a commercial mouthwash."
Harris recommended that those seriously concerned with garlic odor submerge themselves in a tubfull of Signal - because garlic odor comes not only from the mouth but also from the skin - or simply socialize with other garlic lovers and fanciers.
With WNBC News Center 4 recording the event, Harris smelled a small breaker filled with the essence of 100,000 garlic cloves.
Signal executives then swished the dreaded Signal into the garlic potion.
Shriveling his nose at the newfound odor, Harris reacted. "Yak," he said, or something to that effect, complaining it had a chemically mouthwashy scent.
"We don't argue his point that it's extremely healthy for you to eat garlic," says Kalmus, who smells clean even over the phone. "Lloyd J. Harris, head garlic head, certainly has done more research than anybody."
The underlying premise of Signal's stance is that the more garlic Americans eat, the more they will reach for Signal.
Since the odorous debate, Harris has returned to his Berkeley Hill home where he lives among with his garlic braids, garlic-shaped pipe, garlic necklace, pickled garlic from China, plastic garlic from who-knows where, garlic salt shakers, scraper and garlic poster.
If, as Harris contends, there is a new garlic wave hitting the nation, Harris most assuredly is the spiritual, if not actual, head.
Chez Panisse, one of the finest restaurants in California, holds a garlic festival each summer. Last year, one of the expensive dinners included Harris' ice-cream sundae garlic topping.
A fine French restaurant in Truckee, Calif., La Vielle Maison, serves only dishes spiced with garlic. The menu includes "Soupe Lloyd Harris."
And in Gilroy, Calif., the hip radio station KFAT reminds listeners that "Gilroy is the garlic capital of the world." It also runs the "Garlic Press" show which KFAT's Jeremy Lansman
With a knowing grin, he says, garlic pride.
While biting into a garlic frittata, Harris lists with pride garlic health tips. The little clove, he says, combats colds, flu, cholesterol and athlete's foot.
With a knowingigrin, he says, garlic is an aphrodisiac. Others, of course, would argue that chewing garlic is itself a fullproof contraceptive.
In his book, Harris describes medical research on garlic as well as less scientific "garliciana," garlic in modern times, garlic in literature and women in the garlic movement.
Meanwhile, the boycott of Signal is progressing. Kalmus claims it is "too early to tell" what effect the boycott will-have on Signal.
But neither side is complaining. They have a growing symbiotic relationship. Through his pronouncements, Harris will help make Signal into a bathroom word. And Signal in turn, Harris hopes, will help the garlic minority "rise up aginst" the tyranny of what he says is the sweet smelling, but sterilized, majority.