Patrick Reynolds' favorite pose is the one that has him wearing a tight-fitting warm-up jacket and mutilating a cigarette with a come-hither look on his face.
The 35-year-old grandson of tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds and sometime Hollywood actor is in town to push for a ban on cigarette advertising before the House subcommittee on health and the environment. Reynolds has emerged this summer as one of the American Lung Association's most active antismoking crusaders, a semicelebrity whose surname adds considerable gravity and irony to his message.
The four promotional glossies he passes out as part of his antismoking campaign all show variations of the same basic scene: the trim, self-consciously boyish Reynolds staring at the camera as he destroys a smoke. The American Lung Association is so enthusiastic about the pictures that it's already planning a poster.
Reynolds describes his evolution from tobacco heir to Lung Association poster boy as one of conscience: "The hand that once fed me," he'll tell the subcommittee, "is the same hand that has killed many millions of people and will continue to kill millions unless people wake up to the hazards of cigarettes."
He will also testify that he has divested himself of all connection with R.J. Reynolds Inc., including a modest portfolio of company shares. The sale of stock did not make him a rich man, he says; most of the family fortune has been given away, and the current generation of cousins was left only enough money "to guarantee them an income."
Reynolds says his father, a chain-smoking playboy who lived high off the hog with his tobacco money, was the inspiration for his antismoking crusade.
His parents separated when he was 3, and young Patrick did not meet his dad until he was 9. His voice drops as he recalls how "at this moment of anticipation -- the moment I'd longed for on so many occasions -- they showed me into the room and there was an aging man with a sandbag on his chest." The sandbag was to exercise his father's chest muscles, then the treatment for emphysema. Five years later, at age 64, R.J. Reynolds Jr. died from the disease, which was probably caused by his smoking. The day after his death, his fourth wife gave birth to his only daughter.
Patrick Reynolds has been an on-again-off-again smoker, he says, as have most members of his family. He has quit and started again between seven and 10 times, but smoked his last cigarette in 1984.
His antismoking activism comes at a time when his public profile as an actor, television producer and writer is on the rise. He stars as Mandroid -- half-man, half-machine -- in a horror movie, "Eliminators," that was released last week for home video. He is the author of a forthcoming book on his family, which he intends to produce as a television mini-series.
Representatives of the tobacco industry suggest it is no accident that Reynolds' antismoking campaign coincides with the release of his movie. Reynolds, sensitive to the self-promotion charge, says he does not want to talk about his career, though a lengthy account of his recent activities is included in Lung Association press releases.
"I think we should take all that acting stuff out of the bio," he tells two American Lung Association officials who are with him in his hotel room. "I want to make it clear that I'm not getting anything out of this." But the officials talk him out of it. "Think of all the kids watching 'Eliminators' who look up to you," offers one.
Mollified, Reynolds begins to talk about his family -- members of which also founded Reynolds Metals, the company that makes Reynolds Wrap -- and its larger-than-life history. An uncle on his father's side was famous for his association with torch singer Libby Holman, who was accused of his murder. His cousin is Washington socialite Smith Bagley ("a terrific guy and I'm very fond of him"). His mother, Marianne O'Brien, was a 1940s starlet ("a redhead with the personality to match").
And how has this extended family, which includes one brother, four half-brothers and a half-sister, taken to his antismoking efforts?
According to Reynolds, "We've agreed to disagree."