Shake, Stir, Muddle has a heavy heart this week after learning of Gene Wilder’s death.
For those who can do arithmetic and have worked out that being 17 in 1986 meant I was born in 1969, you’ll know that my formative television and movie-viewing years occurred from the mid-70s to mid-80s, an era dominated by Gene Wilder comedies.
Wilder’s list of movie credits is long and many remember his partnership with Richard Pryor first.
But the true Willy Wonka (there can be only one) should also be remembered for his on-screen partnerships with strong female actors – Gilda Radner, Madeleine Kahn and Carol Kane – who were all allowed to be funny on-screen with Wilder.
They didn’t have to settle for just being pretty love interests as is so often the case in Hollywood comedies.
If you’re not familiar with Wilder’s work beyond the chocolate factory, start with Young Frankenstein and enjoy Wilder as well as Madeleine Kahn and Cloris Leachman’s genius Frau Blücher.
You may not be able to immediately place her, but you’d know Leachman from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Malcolm in the Middle, both shows you need to start catching up on now if you haven’t.
(The Mary Tyler Moore Show should also be watched to appreciate the magnificent Betty White as narcissist Sue Ann Nivens – watch this to see them both in action, or better yet, find 26 minutes to watch this classic Sue Ann episode).
But to the great Gene Wilder.
Turns out there’s no natural cocktail to toast Gene Wilder.
Anything with a Willy Wonka theme is full of the sugary crap that I can’t stand in cocktails (note: if it has a popping candy garnish, it’s a dessert with alcohol, not a cocktail).
Wilder played the alcoholic Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles so we could all swig whiskey straight from the bottle but that’s kind of undignified and anti-social.
So what to drink?
Wilder starred in 1984’s The Woman in Red, so we could reach for the Campari and have a Negroni.
There is also an on-theme gin cocktail called Hanky Panky that could go with the 1982 movie of the same name.
But this weekend, I’m going to go with a Frankenstein, which I suspect will be too sweet for me, but I am trying to be open to new experiences.
Speaking of which, since Tuesdays are alcohol-free days for me, I had a mocktail for last night’s toast to Mr Wilder.
Well, not so much a mocktail as a drink that is a blend of things that are not alcohol.
Ok, it was juice.
Although we know drinking fruit juice is about as nutritionally helpful as taping Mars Bars to our arses, vegetable juices are apparently ok. Even store-bought ones.
So I bought a bottle of Wilder-endorsed V8 juice and pulled together a Virgin Mary (aka a Bloody Shame) to tide me over until this weekend’s adventures in apricot brandy.
Here’s to you Gene Wilder, and thanks for the wonderful, whimsical memories and the great big belly laughs.
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