Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Interview With The HoseMaster of Wine
When did you begin blogging and why?
I think I started my original blog back in 1971, which forced me to invent the Internet in order to publish it for no reason and no money. As an aside, I never wanted to call it the Internet. I wanted to call it Cyberteabagging, but my mother wouldn’t let me. She could be very teste.
No, I first published HoseMaster of Wine in September of 2008. I had stumbled onto wine blogs, and on one of them I noticed the little tab at the top that said “Start Your Own Blog.” Turns out any moron could start a blog, and I had impeccable moron credentials, so I just sat down and started writing jokes about wine and wine appreciation. Only my wife read it, and that was at gunpoint.
I began blogging simply to exercise my long dormant comedy writing genes. It was essentially a cry for help, sort of like Gwyneth Paltrow’s singing. I have no idea why anyone continued to read it. I only know that the joy of coming up with completely stupid jokes returned me to my childhood love of writing comedy. A journey that mattered to me greatly after my Mother died in 2007.
How many times have you “retired” now?
I’m just trying to start a trend. Hoping other wine bloggers will follow suit, make the world safe for originality again.
The first incarnation of HoseMaster lasted six months before I pulled the plug. Someone had to do it, the damned thing was brain dead. Though I do miss the convenience of a feeding tube. I completely deleted the original HoseMaster of Wine from the blogosphere, though it is available in a German language edition on iTunes under LederHosenFuhrer Von Wein. Six weeks later I returned, beginning with the now famous post “I’m Baaaack.” That’s around when my blog started to get infamous. I think I took another hiatus in there somewhere. Then I finally walked away last August. Always give the public what they want.
Where did you begin your wine career?
A better question would be “Why?” I first started actively pursuing wine (in a VW squareback filled with fertilizer and accelerants) around 1975. I think I was the first subscriber to “Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine,” which back then was published on an Etch-A-Sketch. And made more sense. Robert Parker was still an attorney, whose advice one followed at ones own risk. You finish the joke. I landed my sommelier job at Pacific Dining Car in 1987 and was there for 19 years, at which time my ankle bracelet was removed and I published a book entitled, “Secret of a Sommelier,” which consisted of the single line, “We don’t know crap about wine either.”
How did The HoseMaster of Wine come about?
A serious addiction to alcohol.
I don’t know that there’s an answer to this question. I know enough about wine to be dangerous, but I felt that my contribution to the wine discussion would need to be satirical. There’s little humor in the wine blog world, and the wine world in general. There are a lot of bloggers who were told at some point in their lives that they were funny. But, then, someone once told Greta van Susteren cosmetic surgery would make her look better instead of looking like she has a permanent wedgie. The only bloggers that are actually funny don’t honestly know they’re funny--WineHarlots, ChronicNegress, Corks and Caftans jump to mind. I felt a patriotic compulsion to play the Fool, a noble part, and thus the HoseMaster, and my old comic “voice” with a new name, was reborn.
Boxers or Briefs?
Under my briefs.
For when I sneeze while peeing.
You are rather infamous for making fun of wine bloggers but are there any blogs you read and actually like?
Samantha, you know that I read and love your work. It gets tough after that. What you possess singularly among the wine blogs that I’ve read, which are few in that great big used car lot that is wine blogs, is a unique and powerful voice. I know Steve Heimoff eloquently said at the last WBC what I’ve long believed--there are few genuine, compelling voices writing wine blogs. This is not to say you need to be a talented, interesting writer to start a wine blog any more than you need to be talented or interesting to work for Fox News--an expensive toupee and no shame are plenty. But I care very little for opinions expressed in a dull and predictable and boring voice. It’s why I stopped talking to myself and took up jai alai.
This is the question every other blogger skips to, dreading to see their name mentioned. Aside from your blog, Samantha, I do, on occasion, read Alfonso’s blog “On and On and On and On and On and On the Wine Trail in Italy.” Alfonso must have been Dante in a previous life, and is now being punished. But you never know what he’s going to say or how he’s going to say it, and that makes for compelling prose. I can hardly wait to read his English language version. I also read Steve Heimoff’s blog because his is the rare blog that shows actual thought and work put into it. Not by him, but his commenters. But one reads Heimoff for the business end of wine, the tasting and analyzing and folderol--one reads you and Alfonso for the simple joy of writing.
This is like an Oscar speech. Have I left anyone out? Oh no, the orchestra is beginning to play...
Name 2 wine writers whose work makes sense to you.
There is no one currently writing who can carry Gerald Asher’s luggage. Whereas a PR guy like Tom Wark repeatedly, and delusionally, says that this is the Golden Age of wine writing (well, OK, if one believes in showers of the same persuasion), I contend that very little being written now will be referenced even ten years from now, when I’ll be retiring for the 700th time.
There’s journalism, and there’s wine writing; just like there’s literature and there’s opinion pages. There are wonderful journalists I can read--Charlie Olken, Steve Heimoff, Jancis “Here’s to you Mrs.” Robinson, and the guy who writes the Trader Joe’s newsletter. But Gerald Asher writes literature about wine. This is a rare gift.
Unsolicited praise--your posts are often what I’d call literature, too, Samantha. Asher writes from an historical viewpoint, you write from the emotional and visceral viewpoint. Nice bookends.
Does your work make sense to you?
No, because it’s not work, nor do I treat it as work. It’s idle surrender to my twisted subconscious. Bloggers who view blogging as work make it sound like work, and that’s not appealing to readers. They have little energy or originality, and their posts show it transparently. They are tired and their sentences are tired. You can’t wait to get to the end of their posts.
But that’s avoiding the question. I learned early in life that I was no judge of what’s funny to other people. I hate everything I write, and simply cannot be in the same room with anyone who is reading my words. So I don’t care about making sense except in the twisted logic of what satire demands. Comedy is about making sense of a world that makes no sense. That can only lead to less sense, which is what’s funny.
What would you like to see more of in the wine blog world?
Tributes to Don Pardo
More people with intials after their names, like MS, MW, CSET, DOA, MIA, BILF, Jr.
A WBC Award for Blogger Most Often Retired
Links to Sites with Viruses
I’m never going to read a lot of wine blogs. No one does, except other bloggers. And former NFL offensive linemen. Humans have a need to be heard. I think it started with the Elephant Man. Wine bloggers want to be admired and read, but when it’s pointed out that they have little talent or expertise they say, Well, I just write this for my friends, “I AM NOT AN ANIMAL!” Well, no, but you’re ugly as Tuscan Cabernet.
All this to say, it doesn’t matter. Wine blogs will not improve from where they are, nor will they get worse. Sort of like your brother in the padded helmet.
Chest beating about the importance/relevance/power of wine blogs. Shut up. You’re the guy with the bullhorn and the pee-stains shouting the end of the world is coming May 21st. You’re the only one who believes it, and you’re starting to smell.
Have you ever sneezed while peeing?
Only because I’m allergic to priests.
What one parody did you get them most attention for?
I have been told over and over, even very recently by 1WineDoody, that my parody of Alice Feiring made folks cringe. I’m not especially proud of that, though I’m certainly not ashamed. There is a line in satire, with every subject, that when you cross it, it goes from being funny to being horrifying and tasteless and gratuitously cruel. The satirist’s job is to walk up to that line, put all ten toes on it, and, then, just when everyone thinks you’re going to cross it, you pull back. A lot of people expressed to me that they thought I crossed that line in the “Mis(s) Feiring” piece. I got a lot of angry mail, a lot of angry reaction. That kind of attention means you did it right.
Folks who want to be famous for their work, who want public admiration and approval, who want their peers to listen to them, are always comic figures. Alice is, in my eyes, a hugely comic figure, as is Alder Yarrow and STEVE! and Parker and Laube and the outrageous buffoon Gary V. The smart ones know it. The others simply can’t believe they can possibly be the object of scorn.
Do you have a favorite character in the MS Conspiracy?
I have a fondness for Tiny. Which makes no sense to 90% of your readers, Samantha, who wonder who the hell the HoseMaster is and why you’d want to interview him. It’s like watching the arrivals on the Red Carpet at the Oscars and they stick a mic in front of Stephen Baldwin. Who gives a crap what he has to say, and why does he look like Nick Nolte’s mugshot?
Who was the model for Avril Cadavril?
In two years of writing endless stupidity, the name for the coroner in The MS Conspiracy, Avril Cadavril, is the only thing I wrote that still makes me laugh.
If I told you that you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?
I’ll do the jokes here.
Gruner Veltliner is dead, do you feel responsible?
I was a wine blogger, with the same amount of influence as other wine bloggers. My oft-stated dislike for Gruner Veltliner had about as much effect as a 94 point score in “Wine and Spirits” magazine. None.
And it’s far from dead. It just smells that way.
What one piece of advice would you give wine bloggers?
Spend more time in the real world. Step away from the computer, embrace your life, it’s slipping through your fingers while you spend it regurgitating uninspired prose and borrowed thoughts. No one will miss your blog.
Do you ever miss blogging?
Not in a powerful way or I’d go back to it. I do miss being the ringmaster of what was quite a collection of characters in my comments section, but, as I just said, that’s a poor substitute for real life.
But, you know, who wouldn’t miss the long, wasted hours at the keyboard, the nagging feeling you have 24 hours a day that you need to come up with another idea for a post, checking your email every twenty minutes hoping for another comment even though your post has been up for four days, the satisfying feeling of being completely unappreciated for your talent? That stuff’s addictive.
And, anyway, I still write whenever the urge hits me. I just don’t publish most of it. I let a few friends read it, and I file it away under Wasted Time. It’s my life, if Charlie Sheen can waste his, I can waste mine.
Has meeting a fellow blogger ever softened your opinion of them and or their blog?
No. I never confuse the blog with the blogger. A lot of people wanted to meet the HoseMaster, and, believe me, I’m a huge disappointment whether you love me or hate me. So I would never project my feelings about a person’s blog onto the person himself. If I hate a blog, I don’t necessarily hate the person. Even W. Blake Gray. Though I’m thinking of changing my name to H.M.W. Ron Washam.
Did you ever feel bad about anything you wrote or anyone you picked on?
Of course not. I never insulted people for the color of their skin, or their sexual persuasion, or their appearance or their anosmia. I satirized them on the playing field they willingly entered. I had many bloggers asking me to insult them, spoof them, mention their name. I ignored those bozos. Satire is, in my mind, one of the most important weapons in the human arsenal. It has changed the world often and almost always for the better, which is more than one can say for poetry or Sarah Palin. I always took the business of comedy seriously. A lot of people hated the HoseMaster of Wine. I felt bad about that. But never about what I wrote.
Anyone you wish you would have skewered before hanging up your keyboard?
Absolutely. The wine blog world has only gotten more sanctimonious and more unethical since I walked away. There were a lot of easy targets I left behind. And a lot of targets in the wine business I thought about having some fun with. But that would be an alternate universe I’ll leave to Stephen Hawking, whose much funnier than I am, and a better dancer.
Do you think our online love affair bugs the shit out of people?
Yes, I think it’s incredibly obnoxious to most people, and that what you and I found endearing and witty and sexy, everyone else thought was nauseating. So we’re just like Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.
Do you care?
What other people think of us? Surely, you jest.
Given what you know now….would you do it again? (blogging not our love affair)
Of course. Hell, I did it four times. And, you know, it wasn’t easy walking away from all that money.
Have you ever bought a wine because of something you read on a wine blog?
I bought a few wines that you recommended, Samantha. But reading wine blogs for wine recommendations is like taking dating advice from a 14-year-old.
If you owned a winery who would you send samples to?
My urologist, Major League Baseball, and Rush Limbaugh.
What really happened with Tom Wark and Minnie Ennial?
I believe you mean the world famous wine blogger Millie Ennial. Tom, and every other wine public relations professional, has a wee boner for anything Millie Ennial. She, frankly, doesn’t give a damn. She’s all about FaceBook, Twitter, and her miniature chihuahuas which act as her personal vibrators. All the wine pros want into Millie Ennial’s pants. So far, Millie doesn’t even know they’re alive.
If I told you that I think you are one of the most brilliant writers I have ever had the pleasure to read and that meeting you has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received….would you give me a hug?
I was taught to simply say thank you to a compliment, whether I deserved it or not. So thank you, My Gorgeous Samantha. The best thing to come out of HoseMaster of Wine for me was our relationship. I shall be forever grateful to the Cyberteabagging for that. And, yes, of course, you can have a hug. Is that all you want?
I would like to thank my beloved Ron Washam for taking the time to grant me this interview. Sure I had to wait in line behind The Washington Cage Liner and The Temecula Chronicle to get it....that and the secret deal of a French Maid's costume, (for the love of all that is holy Ron, please wash it before returning it this time. I don't mind letting you barrow the damn thing but it took me weeks to get the Cheese Doodle stains out last time) but it was worth the wait.
Stumbling upon that I'm Baccckk post changed much for this, at the time, struggling wine blogger. It changed the way I wanted to write, pushed me to not only keep writing but to explore stepping out of the constraints of "usual" wine blogging and the relationship that began with my laughing my ass off and thinking, "God, who is this guy? I want to know more" has brought me more joy, made me feel more loved and admired than I ever dreamed possible....
Thank you for everything Ron, you sir have changed my life for the better and while I miss The HoseMaster of Wine it was always the mind and man behind it that matters to me.