All you had to do was look at the label and it was right there in maroon letters on a parchment ground: “Especially for the Deep South.” There was a time, and that time stretched as late as the 80s (the 1980s, not the 1880s) when you literally could not purchase this bourbon anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line. It wasn’t just legend, it was fact, and woe betide the distributor who tried cross it. History does indeed record at least a half-dozen skirmishes between bootlegging agents of rogue distributors and hastily mustered irregulars determined to defend the distillery’s wishes at any cost in border towns like Delmar, Maryland and Cheat Lake, WV.
Speaking of the label, it was a wordy one, making this bourbon a great drink for college students because along with your hooch, you’d also receive a brief history lesson, reprinted here in full:
“The rebel yell, one of the most enduring legends of the war between the states, was infused with passion, commitment, and honor. Those same qualities are what make Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey the true taste to embody our country’s storied history. Fourteen years prior to the great battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, the first bottle of Rebel Yell was produced. Its heritage still lives on to this day.”
At the time, I was “able” to drink an entire bottle of this over the course of a weekend–half on Friday night, half on Saturday night. Rather than fuss with the expense and maintenance of a glass or even a red Solo cup, I seem to remember walking around various dorm mixers and parties with a bottle of this in one hand and a chilled can of Coke from the laundry room vending machine in the other. I would basically take a swig of bourbon and then chase it with Coke, repeating as necessary until incoherent and unable to stand. I believe the medical term for this type of behavior is “Acute Assholism.”
These days, the geographic embargoes seem to have been lifted as I recently had no trouble at all purchasing a bottle in the liberal, heathen West Coast city of San Francisco, and for only $14 to boot! Thankfully, this time around I managed to consume this tasty throwback to the past in a much more civilized manner.
By 1982 Cadillac had spent roughly 80 years building and then polishing its brand into one of the most respected around. “The Standard of the World” they called themselves and for a long time they could still utter such lofty proclamations and actually keep a straight face. It was true a few chinks in the ol’ crest and wreath had started to appear during the 70s in regards to that always important little thing called “reliability” but the marque was still producing some larger-than-life, desirable cars in that decade. 70s Eldorado Convertible, anyone? Yes, please–Bum Phillips had six of them. It all went horribly wrong, though, in 1982, when a bunch of automotive apostates at GM decided to urinate on the grave of Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac’s grave by “designing” and then offering for sale an object they called the Cadillac Cimarron. It sounded like something you’d sprinkle on buttered toast, but lots of fine automobiles have had weird names. The only problem was that the Cimarron fell about 100 miles short of being a fine automobile.
Let’s see, a four cylinder engine in a Cadillac? Seems weird. A body that looks distinctly like a Cavalier? Even weirder, huh? Wait a minute, isn’t that…no, it couldn’t be…but shit, look at it. Hell, it IS a Cavalier! For just shy of twice the price of a Cavalier, the lucky consumer would receive pretty much the exact same auto with some pretty badges screwed onto the hood and trunk and leather seats cut from the hides of diseased, USDA Grade Z bovines. Oh, and “courtesy lights”–mustn’t forget those. Not exactly the bargain of the century and even die-hard GM loyalists with questionable taste saw through this little scam. Nobody bought it, and the one guy I used to work with who did, (albeit in used form ten years after the fact) was a total tool and would have still been such even if he had somehow wound up behind the wheel of a 1969 Lamborghini Miura. Water finds its own level, as they say.
The Cimarron helped start a downward spiral for a once venerated brand that’s only been reversed in the last five or ten years, although I must add, GM’s decision to remove the DUCKS (they’re actually called merlettes but no sane person would know that) from the Cadillac crest earlier this year was absolute fucking bullshit. I don’t know any other way to say it.
This fad swept through the high school halls and shopping malls of the 80s like a bad virus. It was an epidemic that left school administrators scrambling to re-write dress codes and parents wringing their hands in outright consternation at just “what” their little Johnny had become.
Now, in those days you couldn’t just saunter up to your local Piercing Pagoda with a coupla cans of Milwaukee’s Best in ya for courage and say “Pierce my ear, por favor.” You had to pick the right ear to get pierced and the right ear in the 80s was the left ear. That meant you were straight. If you got your other ear pierced there was going to be trouble at school before the first bell even rang, regardless if you liked guys or not. Actually, in most places it really didn’t matter which ear you had pierced—the sight of a traditionally female piece of jewelry pinned into the flesh of a male classmate was bound to enrage some poor lunkhead, or group of lunkheads, and a few names were going to get called at the very least, most of them beginning with the letters “F” or “Q.” If you had really bad luck, you’d get your nice Captain Morgan-inspired gold hoop ripped right out. Such was the tenor of the times.
Things simmered down pretty quickly, however, as more and more guys started sporting them and MTV certainly helped mainstream the look with its endless imagery of pop stars of every musical genre and sexual persuasion jumping around in music videos with all sorts of things dangling from all sorts of places. Nowadays, the crazy kids somehow contrive to insert plastic or wooden discs the diameter of 90s sensation POGS into their lobes, so a little quarter-carat cubic zirconia in the left ear of the 1984 Prom King doesn’t seem so quite so outrageous, does it?
Was that REALLY Felix Unger in those tight jeans with the dirty knees and black bandana in the right back pocket, buying drinks for all the rent boys and doing poppers down in the last stall on the left??
Well, not quite.
Love, Sidney may have been “about” a gay man, but this was a refined gay man, like the two dudes from Frasier, and since this was 1981 and not the Twenty-Teens his homosexuality was only ever alluded to for maybe 11 seconds total over the course of 44 episodes. There was no shrieking along with the On A Clear Day You Can See Forever soundtrack LP or catty, arch barbs about Swoosie Kurtz’s latest denim pantsuit or buff, sexually-confused construction workers tiptoeing out of Sidney’s bedroom at dawn. At least I don’t think there was. Surely you’ll forgive me for not sitting down for a long weekend with the VHS box set to find out.
Let’s just call this a quite forgettable early 80s sitcom about a kind man who provides shelter for a single mom and her little daughter that garnered plenty of publicity for a “twist” that never really materialized once the show actually started and leave it at that. I think Tony Randall would have wanted it that way.
In the late 90s Red Bull kicked down the fence on the Austrian farm where it had been scientifically-engineered and rampaged across the globe, creating in its wake a multi-billion dollar “energy drink” business that has left sodas with names like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and 7-Up looking like hapless old fuddy-duddies. In today’s world these once eminent soft drinks are now regarded as a kind of home remedy to give to grandpa and grandma when the old folks start complaining about their digestion. What many people don’t realize, however, is that if Red Bull and the like could be said to have a grandfather, it would be a heavily-caffeinated soda released in 1985 by the tiny American beverage company Wet Planet. That product was called Jolt Cola.
For a while, I was actually afraid to drink this stuff. Cocaine, ecstasy and Black Beauties I was fine with. Jolt Cola—hmmm, that could be dangerous! I blame this trepidation on the power of the media, who couldn’t write the horror stories fast enough: Jolt-binging college students collapsing dead in their study carrels as their overworked hearts came apart like sopping wet piñatas; pre-teens who’d guzzled the stuff steering their BMX bikes head-on into oncoming cement mixers after falling victim to angel dust-like hallucinations; ghetto youths wilding through suburban shopping plazas in search of Jolt Cola six-packs they had no intention of paying for.
When I finally did take a few tentative sips I wasn’t much of a fan (my favorite cult sodas—Crystal Pepsi and Josta Cola—are both children of the 90s) but Jolt had a memorable run. It featured heavily in the popular culture of the time, often mentioned as the drink of choice for computer hackers, and I’m also pretty sure it was the primary medicine used by Dr. Oliver Sacks in the movie Awakenings to help bring those narcoleptics or whatever they were back to life. So you see, there is good and bad in everything!