Let’s go way back. . .not quite Back To The Future. . .but close! No, let’s go back to the infancy of television; a time when radio was still king–newspapers still reported news and not entertainment and actors were insulted by the thought of being in the ‘new medium’. Hard to believe but WAY back when Jack Benny was still doing radio, there was a guy from Cambridge, Massachusetts that happened to play a bum–his real name was Frank Fontaine–forever known in entertainment circles as, “Crazy Guggenheim”!
There were stints on Benny’s radio and television show, The Jackie Gleason Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (see last night for Johnny Carson reference). Frank Fontaine played a bum (named “John L. C. Silvoney”) who asked Benny for a dime for a cup of coffee. The smallest coin Benny had to offer was a fifty-cent piece, so he gave it to him. The story Benny told about this event became a running gag during later shows. Fontaine’s goofy laugh and other voice mannerisms made a hit with the audience, and Benny brought him back for several more radio shows between 1950 and 1952. He also later appeared in several of Benny’s television shows. On The Jackie Gleason Show, he played the character Crazy Guggenheim during Gleason’s “Joe The Bartender” skits. His trademark was a bug-eyed grin and the same silly laugh he had done on Jack Benny’s radio show. At the end of his Guggenheim sketch, he would usually sing a song, demonstrating a surprisingly good singing voice. In 1963, he released the album Songs I Sing on the Jackie Gleason Show, which collected some of these songs and reached number one on Billboard magazine’s Top LP’s chart in 1963. Stan Freberg’s voice characterization for Pete Puma in a 1952 cartoon was based on Fontaine’s character voice. Fontaine received mention in satirist Tom Lehrer’s 1965 song “National Brotherhood Week”, from the album That Was the Year That Was. He also was the voice of Rocky the Rhino in Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book until Disney cut the creature from the picture.
Tonight we opened a 2010 Gouguenheim Malbec Reserve. . .and we couldn’t have been more surprised. For a $14 bottle of wine, there was a LOT of wine in this bottle! Deep purple color with aromas of red fruits, chocolate and coffee beans. Red and black cherry flavors with scents of flower. Very nice fresh oak on the finish, very complex and yet balanced. And, while the finish smoothed out over the life of the bottle, initially it was tart and dry. We suggest that when you buy this wine–we picked it up at Central Market South in Austin–now that Andy the Wine Guy is there–you decanter the wine or open it for 30-45 minutes before serving; a synthetic cork tells us that it needs some time to ‘catch its’ breath’. All this being said, Gouguenheim Malbec is a really, really nice wine–one that was meant for the deck on a slightly cool and windy night–just windy enough to keep the mosquitoes from doing any damage!
Frankie Fontaine passed away in August of 1978 at the very young age of 58. He had just completed a benefit show and accepted a check for $25,000, which he planned to donate for heart research, when he collapsed. He was interred at Oak Grove Cemetery in Medford, Massachusetts, (close to Tufts University) near to his last residence in Winchester, Massachusetts, a substantial house on Highland Avenue that is now the home of Winchester Community Music School. You know, the mark we make in our life is never really known until after we’re gone. Frankie Fontaine made people laugh, but he also made people stop and enjoy the moment. Gouguenheim Malbec Reserve is a wine that Frankie would have been proud to call his own—(our opinion)—and, if you’re looking for a value-priced Malbec with a little bit of age to it, go for this wine. At the price and the vintage, you won’t be disappointed.
Until tomorrow, please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.