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Commencement speaker Jay McInerney ’76 debuts today as the Wall Street Journal’s wine columnist.  He leads off with a doozy of an anecdote:

My first experience with a sparkling pink wine took place on a blanket on the lawn at Tanglewood in the company of a girl named Joan Coughlin. The Who were onstage performing “Tommy” and the warm summer air was perfumed with incense and cannabis smoke. The wine in question, Cold Duck, was, I discovered much later, composed of two parts New York State sparkling wine and one part California bulk red wine. I eventually learned to turn up my nose at Cold Duck, but I think my fond memories of that evening may have something to do with my abiding enthusiasm for rosé Champagne.

1)  The Who played at least twice at Tanglewood, in 1969 and 1970, which is in the right time frame.  McInerney may even have picked up one of these sharp pins while at the show.  Fun fact: a concert by the Who was apparently once a musically and culturally valuable experience.

2) Cold Duck is highly suspicious stuff.  Avoid if at all possible.

The rest of the column is a paean to expensive pink bubbly, especially the Dom Pérignon Rosé, which is apparently the “911 Turbo” of the wine world.  (Hip reference!)  Read the whole thing if you like creepy Julianne Moore name drops and doctor dissing.  More commentary from Gawker here.

McInerney will also be blogging about wine for the WSJ here, if you’re interested.


Eph Booze Mafia

This may well be the most important [non hoops-related] post I ever contribute to Ephblog … a summary of Ephs who are accomplished / newsmakers in the delicate art of creating, marketing and discussing beer, wine and spirits.   I was amazed by how many Ephs turned up in the world of alcohol after a quick Google search, and I imagine I have omitted many.  Might we someday speak of the Eph Booze Mafia?  Were the Williams alumni office to sponsor an event featuring, for example, a panel of distinguished Ephs in the wine industry (and, it goes with out saying, they’d bring samples), I am confident it would be enormously popular — and maybe even teach undergrads to focus a bit less on alcohol content and a bit more on quality.  [Ironically, so far as I am aware, Purple Cow Vineyards lacks any Williams affiliation].

  • Karen and Brice Hoskin (both class of 1990) are looking to bring their award winning Montanya Rum to the Berkshires.  Read reviews of Montanya here and here.
  • Mike Rabiner ’03 and Blake Morgan ’04 recently organized the Cincinnati Beerfest.
  • Current students Tim Marrs ’11 and T. Sam Jensen ’11 are off to an early start in pursuing their brewing ambitions.  Note to Tim and Sam: there is an awesome, currently vacant North Adams venue perfectly suited to a brew pub.  Tim, Sam and other aspiring brewmeisters can even learn their craft during Winter Study.  Ahh, to be in college.  Tim and Sam may want to chat with Pete Kirkwood ’99, owner of ShawneeCraft Brewing Co., who has received acclaim for his fledgling brewing efforts, as well as Christopher Ericson ’93, owner and head brewer at the similarly-esteemed Lake Placid Pub and Brewery.  Ericson’s Ubu Ale is apparently one of Bill Clinton’s favorites.
  • The list of Ephs in the wine industry is particularly voluminous, and particularly impressive.  Selim Zilkha ’46 (yes, that Selim Zilkha) owns the Laetitia Vineyard & Winery.  Graham Wehmeier ’99 is a winemaker at Merryvale Vinyard.  Tim Snider ’92 is the General Manager of the Fess Parker winery.  Eric Dahlberg ’85 is the President and Founder of Winesecrets, a wine filtration company.  Sam Landis ’98 helps run Vynecrest Vinyards.  Tom May ’56 owns, with his wife, Martha’s Vinyard.  George Vare ’58 owns (or owned, the website seems to be defunct) Vare Vinyards, and was the co-founder of Luna Vinyards.  Tad Drouet ’90 is an instructor at the Sommelier Society of America.  Eric Hagyard ’06 is an assistant winemaker at Pott Wine (the interview with Eric is particularly interesting).  Jason Haas ’95 is the General Manager of the Tablas Creek Vineyard.  Tom Geniesse ’86 owns Bottlerocket Wine in Manhattan, while Mei Ying So ’93 owns the Artisan Wine Shop in Beacon, New York.  W. Reed Foster ’54 is the President of the Coalition for Free Trade, which advocates direct-to-consumer wine shipments (now who in good conscience can oppose that)?  Reed co-founded Ravenswood Winery (the one with the “no wimpy wines” slogan).   
  • Of course, the most prominent Eph in the alcohol industry is Edgar Bronfman ’50, formerly President and CEO of Seagrams.  Sam Bronfman ’75, formerly a Seagrams executive, now runs Bacchus Capital Management.
  • Last but not least, Commencement speaker Jay McInerney ’76, who has been called the best wine writer in America, has published two books on wine (Bacchus and Me and A Hedonist in the Cellar), and was recently named the new wine critic for the Wall Street Journal.
  • A few additions since this was first posted: Chris Sweatman ’00 is an operations manager at Harpoon Brewery, and Bryan Baird ’89 runs Baird Brewing Company in Japan.  Connor O’Rourke ’97 sells wine via Candid WinesJill Bernheimer ’93 runs wine club and retailer Domaine 547
  • In sum: the sheer amount of, ummm, first-hand knowledge of alcohol collectively gathered on the Williams campus has sparked some truly stellar careers.  Good thing that consumption of Beast, Natty Light, Miller High Life, Mad Dog 20/20, wine-in-a-box and “Ephman” brand spirits did not prejudice the now-discerning palates of this talented group of Ephs.

Commencement Line-up …

… alums Jay McInerney as commencement speaker, Martha Coakley as baccalaureate speaker.

A few thoughts … I have long advocated having, all things being equal, Ephs deliver these speeches.  They are far more likely to tailor their speeches to Williams in particular, and to have something of relevance and potential resonance to impart to undergrads, as opposed to the typically trite, platitudinous, recycled commencement address (I’ve sat through or read quite a few at various institutions, and it always amazes me how uniformly bad they are).  That being said, last year’s speaker, despite being an Eph, didn’t exactly light the science quad on fire, and I find McInerney to be an odd choice.  I am guessing he will, at the very least, be charming / funny / entertaining, but it seems like Williams could have found an alum who is a bit more, errr, current.  For example, if choosing a writer, why not Bethany McLean, author of The Smartest Guys in the Room (and no, I don’t just say that because she is gorgeous) … like McInerney, smart and well-spoken, but her areas of expertise would CERTAINLY be of a lot more interest / relevance to current undergrads.  As a general rule, if someone has recently appeared on both Colbert and The Daily Show, they are likely to resonate with college kids.  Coakley, on the other hand, I think is a brilliant choice.  Everyone knows who she is, and she almost certainly will have something compelling to say about both success and failure.  As for the honorary degrees, great call honoring local luminary Stephanie Wilson (the theme, if there is one this year, seems to be Berkshire County natives, as both Coakley and McInerney also hail from the region).

The undergrads seem less than excited by McInerney as well.  A few interesting tidbits from this thread.  First, the list of speakers at small liberal arts colleges (notable exception: Maddow) shows just how hard of a time Williams and its peers appear to have in drawing big-name speakers for commencements.  Second, I thought the comment about Coakley and the Guadino Option was brilliant … (speaking of which, I think the Gaudino Option itself is a great idea).


Everyone Goes to White Castle

Change is coming to Williams in 2009!  Or, rather, wafting in.  Come January 20, marijuana will be effectively legalized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Berkshire County DA David Capeless admits as much to the NYT today, in the process of bitching about the insuperable enforcement challenges presented by the recently-passed decriminalization measure.

To recap: anyone caught with an ounce or less of weed will owe nothing more than a $100 civil fine.  No arrest.  No criminal record.  No criminal anything.  But it gets better!

A complicating factor, said Mr. Capeless, the district attorney in Berkshire County, is that state law bans the police from demanding identification for civil infractions.

“Not only do you not have to identify yourself,” he said, “but it would appear from a strict reading that people can get a citation, walk away, never pay a fine and have no repercussion.”

That’s one way to hit Johnny Lawman where it hurts.  A further complication affects Williams less than, say, MCLA in nearby North Adams.

Mr. Capeless said that in particular the department needed to address a clause in the new law that said neither the state nor its “political subdivisions or their respective agencies” could impose “any form of penalty, sanction or disqualification” on anyone found with an ounce or less of marijuana.

“It appears to say that you get a $100 fine and they can’t do anything else to you,” he said. “Can a police officer caught with marijuana several times get to keep his job and not be disciplined in any fashion? Can public high schools punish kids for smoking cigarettes but not for having pot?”

Either way, pot-smoking Ephs are likely to feel a lot more comfortable by the end of Winter Study.

The decriminalization measure passed about 65-35 back on Election Day.


Not Very Chivalrous

Maureen Dowd disses Jay McInerney ’76.

Even in confessing to preening, [John] Edwards was preening. His diagnosis of narcissism was weirdly narcissistic, or was it self-narcissistic? Given his diagnosis, I’m sure his H.M.O. would pay.

The creepiest part of his creepy confession was when he stressed to Woodruff that he cheated on Elizabeth in 2006 when her cancer was in remission. His infidelity was oncologically correct.

So narcissist walks into a New York bar and meets a legendarily wacky former Gotham party girl — whose ’80s exploits were chronicled in a novel by her former boyfriend Jay McInerney because the behavior of her and her friends “intrigued and appalled me.” When you appall Jay McInerney, you know you’re in trouble.

Cheap shot! McInerney deserves better.

One of Rielle Hunter’s old boyfriends did everything but call John Edwards a bum Saturday.

“To say that he slept with her but he wasn’t in love with her – that’s not very chivalrous,” said “Bright Lights, Big City” author Jay McInerney, who dated Hunter in the late 1980s. “He’s trying to distance himself from her.”

“I don’t feel my questions have been answered with regard to Edwards,” McInerney told the Daily News in an exclusive interview. “It was a half-assed confession.”



Nothing to See Here, Folks, Move Along Now, Thanks, ‘Preciate It, Etc.

Former lover of former lover of Eph admits to being former lover. News at 11.

Always trust content from the National Enquirer.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike…



So, yeah, David Kane was right all along. For previous discussion, see here and here. In other news, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) still stalks Senate bathrooms, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) still enjoys wearing adult diapers during his visits to DC-area brothels, and the US government still authorizes torture. But let’s just go ahead and crucify former Senator John Edwards right now for all the laws he’s been breaking, I guess?


Frantic Spiritual Seeking

Most famous ex-girlfriend of an Eph? Rielle Hunter. Recall our previous discussions here. Hunter’s website was removed from the web and scrubbed from Google, but nothing ever really disappears in our never-forget electronic world. Go here for your Williams connection, an interview of Hunter by Jay McInerney ’76


After years of frantic spiritual seeking, actress Rielle Hunter says she literally woke up enlightened on May 4, 2004. Now she plans to bring the light, free of charge, to all those who are open to it. Distant ex and esteemed novelist McInerney has a few questions.

The way I remember it, I first met Rielle Hunter in a nightclub called Nells in early 1987, although the circumstances of our first meeting seem to be in dispute (see below). In my defense I can only say that events of that decade are not always as clearly etched in memory as we might wish, and neither of us was living a very sober or reflective life back then. At that time Rielle’s name was Lisa Druck, and when she wasn’t out at nightclubs she was taking acting classes. We dated for only a few months, but in that period I spent a lot of time with Lisa and her friends, whose behavior intrigued and appalled me to such an extent that I ended up basing a novel on the experience. The novel was called Story of My Life, and it was narrated in the first person from the point of view of an ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious 20-year-old who was, shall we say, inspired by Lisa. I certainly thought of Alison Poole as a sympathetic and ultimately endearing character. One of her most striking traits was her obsession with truth-telling and her horror of being lied to, something that I certainly took directly from Lisa. When Lisa moved to Calfornia and got married I lost track of her, though I was reminded of her whenever someone would ask me, at book signings and lectures, what I imagined happened to Alison Poole after the book ended — whether I saw her as turning her life around or not. Through the grapevine I picked up occasional reports from the West Coast. I heard that Lisa had changed her name to Rielle, that she’d gotten divorced, and that she was increasingly engaged in various spiritual quests which she attempted to explain to me when I finally ran into her; all I could tell for certain was that she was a far happier person than I remembered. Recently she returned to Manhattan and one sunny afternoon in Washington Square Park, attempted to enlighten me on the subject of her own enlightenment.

JM: It’s kind of weird to me because I wrote this book that was partly based on you and your friends…

RH: What do you mean partly?

JM: Well, I mean partly. It’s a novel. I freely made up when I needed to.

RH: You did freely make up but so much of it was real.

JM: Yeah it’s not necessarily a great thing to be close to a fiction writer. For me you’re a little bit frozen in time, a little bit Alison Poole, the 21-year-old party girl in that book who runs around New York going to night clubs, doing drugs, and abusing credit cards. And I’m sure that your life wasn’t that simple or that extreme or that wasteable.

RH: When I reread it, I was amazed by the character’s need for truth.

JM: That was a theme in the book.

RH: And that’s definitely a theme in my life — seeker of truth.The book is dark and sad and it’s hilarious. It’s all of those.

Just like EphBlog!



Was it just 9 months ago that I pointed out that Jay McInerney’s ’76 former girlfriend Rielle Hunter was in the news? Was it just 7 months ago that I passed on the story of Hunter’s love child with with former Democratic Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards? Indeed it was! My reward was comments like:

No need to do Drudge’s dirty work for him, David. That story has already been pulled from the site after the woman apparently denied that the baby was Edwards’.

This is trash. The story never had a leg to stand on. Why do you keep trying to keep it alive?

Ephs everywhere thank you for making EphBlog part of a shameless home-stretch smear attempt against the Edwards campaign.

But, alas, I was right. Always trust content from EphBlog.


Story of My Baby

Was it just two months ago that I brought the name Rielle Hunter to your attention, dear readers? Indeed, it was. Hope you were paying attention! Now the ex-girlfriend of Jay McInerney ’76, and inspiration for his book, Story of My Life, is accused by being pregnant with presidential candidate John Edwards’ love child.

Time for McInerney to write the sequel . . .


Old Girlfriends

Think you are the coolest Eph? Depends on the metric. For example, is one of your ex-girlfriends accused of having an affair with presidential candidate John Edwards? No? Then you are not as cool as Jay McInerney ’76.

On the deleted pages, the 44-year-old Hunter (formerly known as Lisa Druck) discusses her former hard partying days, her search for enlightenment, and her issues with drugs and debt. There is a 2005 interview she did with one-time boyfriend Jay McInerney, in which the celebrated novelist reveals that Hunter was the basis for Alison Poole, the main character of his book, Story of My Life.

“It was narrated in the first person,” McInerney writes in the intro to the interview, “from the point of view of an ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious 20-year old who was, shall we say, inspired by Lisa [aka Rielle].”

Or perhaps having ex-girlfriends in the news is not a good metric for coolness . . .


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