From the Vault: The Caddyshack Effect

I was flipping through my Amazon streaming options last night while having a cocktail, when I passed by Caddyshack in the queue—one of my all time favorite movies. Then I paused for a minute while my brain began to sputter and work its way out from the haze of booze I was clouding it with. Didn't I write a blog post or something about Caddyshack some time ago? 

Yes, I did! After searching for the piece and re-reading it, I realized that it concerned a subject even more relevant today than it was when I originally wrote it back in 2013: drinking should be fun! Yet it's amazing how angry it makes some people. After experiencing the lack of pretense at this year's Brandyfest, I left Bar Agricole on a complete high; relieved in the knowledge that there are tons of people out there who don't view drinking purely as an analytical exercise (I also played a round of golf this past week with a sweet-natured grandfather and his young grandson who were far more laid back than the folks I usually get paired with, and was grateful for their company). "The Caddyshack Effect", as I called it, has been rolling its way through K&L for the past two years and it's only gaining more steam. That pleases me a great deal. I'm all about having fun. It's the core from which all of my intentions and desires originate, and I'm thankful that other like-minded shoppers are finding our store and joining in with our celebratory style. The more we can have fun with this hobby we like to call "drinking", the more it actually becomes a hobby and less of a competition, less of a measuring stick, and less of a frustration for people who clearly are not having a good time with it. Let's revisit an old blog post from the vault, shall we? 


December 18, 2013

My co-workers and I were discussing Caddyshack at work the other day—how much we enjoy the scene where Bill Murray tells his story of caddying for the Dalai Lama—so I couldn't help but press "play" last night when I noticed the film was available to watch on Comcast's free movie list. While the performances by Chevy Chase and Bill Murray have gone on to be legendary among fans of the genre, it's the dichotomy of Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight that I have grown to appreciate. Knight's portrayal of Judge Smails—the pedantic, elitist, classist, nit-picky, cheap, hot-tempered, insecure know-it-all of Bushwood Estates—is so well done that I can't help but laugh out loud every time I watch it. Working in the wine and spirits industry you encounter a lot of similar personalities and Judge Smails is the epitome of that type. To see Rodney Dangerfield come in and mock that mentality right to its face creates what are, to me, the ultimate feel-good moments of Caddyshack.

When I first started working at K&L I was way too over the top for many of my co-workers. I was loud, outspoken, carefree, and I didn't care about letting people know if I liked something—i.e. showing emotion or enthusiasm. That's a big no-no in the wine and spirits world. You're supposed to be tempered, reserved, studious, and guarded. That way you'll appear more knowledgeable and people will take you seriously. My views were completely the opposite, however. In my opinion, if you were open, not too serious, fun, and generally positive you could help people who may have been a bit nervous about the wine experience feel comfortable. Respect would come later based on whether you gave them good advise or not (if you didn't, they wouldn't come back). Most people are weary of walking into a fancy booze store and making a selection for themselves. I definitely wanted to be more like Rodney Dangerfield's Al Czervik; using humor to make the whole experience a party that everyone could be invited to and making sure we weren't catering purely to Bushwood members.

As you watch the film you can see Dangerfield simply getting off on Knight's anger. The madder Judge Smails gets, the funnier Dangerfield thinks it is. That's because the more angry Knight becomes, the more he reveals what an utter asshole he is, embarrassing himself in front of his counterparts. I have to admit I have a bit of the same desire inside of me. The more uptight and rigid a person is about wine or spirits, the more I want to loosen them up. I can't help but be drawn into the opportunity.

And Czervik can't either. Dangerfield's carefree character continuously antagonizes Knight's stuffy temperament and it drives the poor guy mad. While Judge Smails is out on the fairway trying to impress his golfing buddies (after moving the ball around with his foot), Al Czervik is drinking beer out of the mini-keg in his golf bag and blasting the radio. While Smails wants to have a structured dinner with proper attire and civilized conversation, Dangerfield turns it into a rock and roll dance floor. What ultimately sends Smails through the roof is the idea that a man like Czervik would be accepted at Bushwood by the other golfers. That's where most of his anxiety stems from, in my opinion.

But there are people out there who enjoy wine and spirits (and golf) who don't want to be lectured. They don't want to feel small. They don't want to argue about little details or compete with one another. They're too busy enjoying themselves—or at least they're trying to without their own version of Ted Knight telling them what they can and cannot do with their own bottle of whiskey. And that's where I feel the new generation of drinkers will take the hobby. We're seeing edgier labels, bolder flavors, and less conservative approaches to single malt marketing. Younger aficionados care less about having the proper glassware and more about having fun with their new pastime. I see it in the store every day and it makes me very, very happy. They're not reading "The Ten Best Whiskies" list, they're not reading blogs, and they're not chasing points or trophy bottles; they're simply asking questions and taking chances.

That type of behavior makes people like Judge Smails very angry. As a judge, he wants respect for the rules. As an elitist, he wants his superior understanding and acceptance of those rules to make him important. The fact that someone would just not care about his ideals is beyond him. Yet, it's happening in the whisky world right now and, while it's making the professorial-minded a bit uncomfortable, it's putting a smile on my face.

That's the Caddyshack effect: fun changing the face of rigidity. It makes for a funny movie and even funnier whisky encounters, if you find antagonizing that type of person amusing. Which I do.


In postscript, today I'm probably most amused by the conversation between Chevy Chase's Ty Webb and Judge Smails. 

Judge Smails asks: "Ty, what did you shoot today?"

Ty immediately recognizes Smails's insecurity, and replies: "Oh Judge, I don't keep score."

The judge is confused, and then asks: "Then how do you measure yourself against other golfers?"

"By height," he says. That's such a great answer. I'll remember that when someone asks me how I select my whiskey.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll