Monday, September 19, 2016

Wine Critics in Hell Act 4

Act One is here   
Act Two is here   
Act Three is here

Our four dead wine critics, Parker, Laube, Suckling and Kramer, are listlessly hanging around in Hell, which appears to be a natural wine bar in Lodi. Alice Feiring is sitting at the bar deep in conversation with Laube, who is visibly inebriated, while she sips from a bottomless glass of natural rosé. There is a Stranger sitting alone in the corner who listens intently to everyone’s conversations. Everyone appears to be waiting for someone.

Laube: (drunkenly) I don’t know what I’m doing here with these idiots, Alice. I’m a lot more influential than any of them. I ran California! If I said a wine was 95 points, then, goddamit, it was going to get somewhere around 95 points. Give or take. I mean, there were other factors, weren’t there, Alice? I’m not to blame for that. There’s always other factors…(he drifts off).

Feiring: (consoling him) Oh, Jimmy, you did your best. And isn’t it better to be here in this sort of Hell than the one of your own making? I mean, Honey, you stayed at Wine Spectator for all those years. You had the courage to stay, not go out and try to make something of yourself like other wine critics. You were dependable, like a morning bowel movement. You had no aspirations to be better! I admire that. Get a big paycheck and just phone it in? Why, that’s inspiring! You gave the best years of your life to that magazine, and what do you have to show for it? Why, you’re a household name, like washrag, or doormat!

Laube: And I wrote a book! Don’t forget that. I wrote a goddam wine book.

Feiring: Why, yes, yes, you did, Jimmy. (a long pause) When was that?

Laube: I don’t remember. Maybe 1989? But it was a helluva book. It was about Cabernet.

Feiring: It sounds fascinating. Did it have numbers, Jimmy? Say some numbers to me, Jimmy. I love when you say numbers to me in that whiskey-laden voice of yours. It’s sexy. Tell me, Honey, what sort of a number would you give me?

Parker: One for the nearest shrink would be good.

Laube: (looking Feiring over) I’d have to taste you first.

(Feiring slaps him. His moustache flies across the bar. Parker rushes over and grabs Feiring’s wrist, which is poised to strike again. The bartender hands Laube his moustache back, which is now covered in peanut shells. Laube puts it in his glass of wine, wrings it out in the glass, and puts it back on his face. He then sips the wine, and his eyebrows show approval.) 

Parker: Leave him alone, Feiring. What’s he ever done to you? Laube’s like tsunami debris—he was washed up years ago.

Kramer: Look who’s talking about being washed up. The Great Robert Parker! That’s rich! We’re all here in this Godforsaken Lodi Hell because our opinions stopped mattering, because we’re dead to the world. Sure, we used to be somebodies. Our scores could make or break people. Our pronouncements carried weight. But not recently. Not right before we ended up in this Hell Hole. We were reduced to being just more internet wine chatter, the old fucks trying to talk over the party noise. A bunch of weary old men with fading senses trying to pretend the party ain’t going anywhere without us. Well, we didn’t leave the party, but the party sure left us. We’re not respected critics anymore, we’re just a string of numbers with initials after them. Like a goddam electronic wine ticker tape. 94RP, 93WS, 94WE 92CG… It’s pathetic. When we started, Gentlemen, we turned fine wines into a bull market. We taught people to love great wines with our tireless palates, our considered opinions, and our easy-to-use numbers. The wine business owes us! Now, it’s a bull-shit market, and we’re just a bunch of tired wine critics trying to hang on to past glories. We’re wine critics in hell. We’re great men. We even tried to pass the wine reviewing torch to a younger generation, but it was too late, there was no torch. Consumers blew out the damned torch. We had our day. But we stayed at the party way too long.

Suckling: Oh shut up, Kramer. Hell is listening to you pontificate. Do I have to go through eternity listening to you? Making Sense of Whinging? (to bartender) Christ, this crappy Grüner Veltliner isn’t even making me drunk! (the bartender shrugs, Suckling is clearly stating the obvious) Jesus, we have to drink this shit forever and it doesn’t even get us drunk? How come Laube’s drunk?

Laube: (slurring his words) I’m not sunk, Druckling. Uh, druk, Sunkling. I need a nap. (He puts his head down on the bar. Feiring breaks free from Parker and rushes over to see to him, caressing his head as Laube dozes on the bar.)

Feiring: Oh, Jimmy, I’m sorry I struck you. You’re the only kind one. I don’t know what got into me… (turning to the rest) You leave Jimmy alone! Can’t you see he’s miserable? You’re horrible people, all of you. You’re not even sweet enough to be Extra Dry. And you’re certainly not Natural. Why, you’re Bruts! Tasteless, cruel Bruts. You’re Veuve Clicquot! All of You! You're Yellow!

Parker: Oh, Alice, nobody here gives a Grande Dame what you think. Nobody cared when you were alive either. You only spoke for the fringe wine lovers. The ones who don’t enjoy wine, but see wine as some sort of symbol. Sure, lots of people bought my 100 Point wines to feel better about themselves. But is that any different from buying natural wines because they’re more authentic? Yeah, we fuck up the planet, ruin the environment, but we can feel OK about ourselves because we drink wines that are natural! Oh, we’re such thoughtful and engaged people. We don’t drink any of that terrible crap that wasn’t farmed biodynamically! Why, how can I enjoy a wine that wasn’t made properly?! We’ve raped the Earth, but if we’re really nice to this fifteen acres, all will be forgiven. It’s bullshit.

(The Stranger starts to laugh. He’s laughing quietly to himself at first, but then his laughter builds and he seems downright giddy. Everyone stops and stares at him.)

Stranger: (gaining his composure) Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just enjoying the show. Wonderful stuff. Why, this couldn’t have worked out any better if I’d planned it. Oh, wait, I did plan it. I have to say, the five of you are so much fun to watch. And we’re just getting started! But, I don’t know, does it seem a little…uncrowded in here?

(The door opens and in walks Antonio Galloni.)

Galloni: (to the bartender) Hey, where’s the men’s room? I need to drain my Tanzer.


Mark Rader said...

A riot, as usual. Of course you realize...this means war! Oops! Sorry, that is my favorite Bugs Bunny line. I MEANT to say that you have single-handedly changed my whole approach to enjoying wines. You came along just in time, Stranger

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey, you're the old theater producer, what do you say? Let's rent a barn and put on a show! Start casting "Wine Critics in Hell." I'll play the Stranger. My specialty. I'm thinking James Corden as Parker, and maybe Carol Kane as Alice Feiring. Thoughts?

My favorite Bugs Bunny line? "What a maroon!" Trump stole it from Bugs.

Steve Lay said...

Extremely funny! Unfortunately,tone and context are on point.

Alex Krause said...

oh please put on a show! Maybe HMW can get his new sugar daddy to play himself in it, too! Thank you HMW for making this fresh hell a little more bearable. you're the only critic worth his salt.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I'm a little bit too smitten with my play. Maybe I'll try my hand at some Edward Albee next Act. Though I'm probably not good enough, it might be fun to try. Thanks for the kind words, and for being a common tater.

I doubt Parker wants to play himself, though maybe I can get him to play Kramer... Thanks, Alex, and thanks for chiming in.

Mark Rader said...

How could I have forgotten "What a maroon," especially at the height of this political season. Why, I probably have an opportunity to use it twenty times a day. I love your casting suggestions, especially Carol Kane in the role of Alice Feiring. She can do anything. Kane, I mean; not Feiring. We should consider John Houseman for the part of Robert Parker. I know that Houseman is long dead, but that shouldn't matter, should it? And how about our pal Bill Lucking in the role of James Laube? I saw him in a snippet of an old "Star Trek" episode as an alien, painted green, sporting horns. Is that Laube or what!

Yessir, you're on to something here. Do you think we can take it to Broadway? Should we try to make it into a musical?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Lucking might be more of a Suckling part--just from the names. "And featuring Lucking as Suckling." My kind of Playbill.

Probably not a musical. Judging by their wine criticism, they don't know shit about harmony.

After watching the Emmys (for a few minutes) last night, now I'm thinking Louie Anderson as either Parker, or, in a dress, as Feiring... That could work.

Charlie Olken said...

When the last wine critic leaves the room, and whether or not the swinging door hits him in the ass, who will be there to say "That's all folks"?

Now we know. It will be HMW.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy,
No one leaves wine critic Hell alive, or a natural wine bar in Lodi alive, either. I might play the Stranger in the soon to be on Broadway production, watch out "Hamilton," but I ain't the Stranger. I don't know who is, but I'll figure it out eventually.

I may ask you to play Harvey Steiman.

Marcia Macomber said...

Love it! Mean it!

Magnificent timing. Albee would be wonderful. (Just as long as you don't go for Neil Simon. He's not nearly biting enough. Perhaps "Who's Afraid of Jancis Robinson?" ...Just off the cuff.)

Awaiting Act 5!

Charlie Olken said...

That would be Hell.

Unknown said...

HMW you are the man when it comes to satire about the biz I have worked within for over 30 years. I even remember when WS had humor and would put out the April Fool's issues.
Thanks for AM chuckle. Keep it up!

Thomas said...

Make Suckling the star and you can title it Inferno.

I know it's a stretch, and you probably have to follow what Suckling does to get it (perish the thought), but what's theater if it isn't a seventh-inning stretch? Oh wait: that's another sport.

In any case, if you can make a musical out of Les Misreable and the Hunchback Of Notre Dame it's a certainty this musical will pan.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marcia Love,
I was thinking more like "Who's Afraid of Virginie Boone?" Which is a good question. Thanks, Love, as always.

Yup. Kinda the point.

Thanks, Phil. I remember the April Fool's issues, too. Now they have one every six weeks.

If it's a musical, it would have to be rap, like "Hamilton." Word.

Thomas said...

OK, Ron. Let's work on the script--let me see if I can find my drum machine.

Unknown said...

I dig the wine critics in hell, glad to see you're still writing it. Also glad to see that my gruner didn't lose it's placement

redmond barry said...

Alec Baldwin would be good as Parker. Perhaps Richard Gere as Laube. Cate Blanchett as Fiering. Wallace Shawn for Kramer. Perhaps Ed Begley Jr as Suckling. The Stranger , of course, has to be Meryl Streep. I like Timothy Olyphant for the bartender, who ends the horror with a shotgun. There ought to be a role for Jason Alexander.