“For something to be funny, the audience has to be in a position to sense the truth of it. It has to be primed. Satire can crystallize what’s already in the air, but it can’t really put it there.”--Garry Trudeau
Friday, July 31, 2009
The Year of the HoseMaster
In August of 2008 an unemployed sommelier (OK, that's redundant) decided to start a blog. Looking back nearly a year later, this still seems like a really stupid idea. I think I've written about 80 posts--that's nearly a dozen jokes! I've insulted virtually everyone in the wine business one way or another, and done the best I can to slap around a few bloggers as well. There are a lot of overinflated egos in the wine biz, and I'm just the prick to puncture them. Originally, I thought I should do the blog anonymously. But anonymity and blogging go hand in hand anyway, and once I'd decided to call it HoseMaster of Wine, well, there went anonymity--I've been the Hosemaster for about 25 years now and a lot of people know it. Besides, I despise the folks in the biz who decide to post anonymously, like they have something to lose. Usually all they have to lose is their credibility, which was imaginary in the first place.
In its first incarnation, HoseMaster of Wine featured a lot of photos of naked women, tasteful, but definitely naked. When it first came to me to do it, I was very curious to see what sort of reactions I would get. I personally loved the mix of wine blogging and nudity. Hell, I'm mostly nude when I write the posts. Which would explain why they're so sticky. And why I write standing up... The reactions were kind of amazing. They ranged from "Why is he doing it?" all the way to "Why is he doing it?" I just thought it was funny. There is something inherently funny about nudity. It may be erotic, but it's also just funny. We have this cultural notion of beauty, the kind of youthfulness and perfection of the girls in the photos I displayed, but when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we have to laugh. I'm the guy who tries to hold up the mirror to the wine biz. I can't tell you how many women have laughed when I was naked in front of them. Virtually the entire auditorium.
What actually happened was I started getting really weird comments that I had to delete. Sexual stuff, weird spam--and that was just Tom Wark. Then I got slapped by Google with an adult warning page when you clicked on HoseMaster of Wine, and that sealed the deal for me. I pulled the plug. And then the Murphy-Goode Merlot really hit the fan. I started getting lots of emails from people I didn't know who loved my brand of stupidity (trademarked, by the way) and irreverence begging me not to stop. Not to stop with my plan to quit, that is. And almost everyone mentioned the nudies, almost everyone loved the naked girls, people signed on just to see what pinup I had selected. Strange, really. One has the sense that wine lovers are sexually retarded, but having proof is a bit discouraging.
I restarted HoseMaster of Wine six weeks later. Only this time I put a big sign on my computer, just like the one Kirstie Alley has on her Scientologist refrigerator (What's a Scientologist have in his refrigerator? L. Ron Hubbard's head) that says, "NO CHEESECAKE!" Only I obeyed mine. I sure didn't miss surfing the net for nudes, however. Yikes, that was an education. I once made the mistake of doing a search for "naked girl with a baseball bat." I'm begging you, don't go there. Honestly, one should never put a Louisville Slugger in her Pujols. I learned quickly how to avoid the worst kinds of sites; and it's amazing my computer never got a virus. It did, however, get a couple of STD's. So, please, if you're reading HoseMaster, and you're not already, wear a condom or a mouth guard or your usual Saran Wrap--just to be safe.
For me, the strangest thing about writing a blog has been the general lack of response. I have a few regular commenters (My Gorgeous Sam, I am so in love with you), and I am flattered that they stop by (Charlie Olken, Puff Daddy, founder of the rag that I have been consulting since I first started loving wine? How cool is that?), but mostly I just fling this crap out into the Cyberspace and have no idea where it goes or who is reading it. Very strange, really. When I was young and wrote a humor column for the weekly college newspaper (I graduated from the school that Obama just couldn't quite hack--Occidental College) I would get instant feedback on the day my work was published, much of it critical, much of it threatening, much of it angry, but if you're writing satire and you don't make anyone angry you're just performing the Heimoff Maneuver. You grab them from behind and give them a gentle hug. Doesn't save them, but it feels so yummy. By the way, for the record, I pretty much hate everything I write, so I tend to agree with those who don't find me funny--I think they're the smart ones. But it's strange to deliver jokes and get very little response. It's like being Jay Mohr. That's blogging though. The attention barking of lonely poodles.
My original idea was to write about wines, you know, review them, rate them, wait for UPS to deliver free samples then sell them online to monetize my blog. How monumentally stupid are wineries who send wines to the pinheads who blog? Of course, it's no surprise wineries and their marketing people do stupid stuff, this is a given in the wine business. But catering to bloggers, whose credentials are that they can type, is astounding to me. I think I've received all of about three bottles since I started. Marketing people are stupid, but not stupid enough to send free wine to a guy with actual knowledge and somewhat educated opinions. Nor do I solicit samples; nor do I want them. When I have lampooned some poorly made wines, just written what I felt was an apt, if derogatory, description, I've usually received private emails from those wineries either griping about my words, or asking me to visit them and retry their wines. I usually don't respond.
Eventually, HoseMaster morphed into the piece of garbage it is today. A way for me to rail and vent and spew and regurgitate all the useless opinions I have about wine and the people who make it their hobby or passion or business. I decided after a year of doing this I would step out of character for a minute, drop my HoseMaster pants, and share a bit about the strange experience that is writing this blog. There's so much more. The strange people who have passed through and then vanished. The friends I've made along the way (Tom Wark and Gorgeous Sam and Bruce Patch and on and on...) So much that I could never have anticipated.
But that's it for now. Back to being the HoseMaster. I hate that guy.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"...With sometimes crude analogies and occasional droppings of f-bombs, Washam cleverly uses satire to expose the underbelly of the wine business. It's often hilarious stuff as long as you're not the one being lampooned. Washam takes no prisoners in skewering all that is silly, stupid, frustrating and pretentious about wine, and his favorite targets are other bloggers and writers. No one is immune."
--Linda Murphy in "Vineyard and Winery Management"
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity." --JancisRobinson.com
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."
--Reign of Terroir
Robert (Joseph) was/is funny unlike HoseMaster who wasn't/isn't.