Today is International Women’s Day.
This is a huge day for some white blokes who lament the good old days of beheading unsatisfactory wives to complain about how they don’t get a day. You do actually, 19 November is International Men’s Day, but please, don’t let that get in the way of a good rant.
But on International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate a coupla kick-arse Marys who should be thanked for their lifetime work.
As they say on Survivor, first things first. The cocktail.
The Mary Pickford is a rum-based cocktail that, like so many other rum cocktails – the Mojito, the Daiquiri, the Cuba Libre – was invented in Cuba aka the Paris of the Caribbean during Prohibition.
In 1928, a fellow named Basil Woon, who clearly knew how to spend his time wisely, penned “When it’s cocktail time in Cuba”, describing the country as “a land where personal liberty and climate are blended in just the right setting of beauty and romance.”
Who wouldn’t want to go there? Everyone who had the coin headed south for a break and some booze, including the biggest stars in the world.
It obviously became quite a scene, with good bartenders from all over the world heading there, including Fred Kaufman, the Brit who likely created the Mary Pickford.
Imagine you’re a bartender and in walk Jay-Z and Beyoncé and she asks you to make her a cocktail.
Now multiply that by about 1000.
In 1920, Mary Pickford walked into the Hotel Nacional de Cuba with husband Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin and asked for a cocktail. Fred delivered.
You’ve likely heard of Dougie and Chuck, but Mary? Well back in the day, she was about the most famous woman in the world. And she used that fame to establish a legacy that you probably benefit from a couple of times a week.
Born in Canada, Mary was known as American’s Sweetheart and was a massive star of
She didn’t do as well with talkies (she completely underestimated the impact of sound in movies, claiming that “adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo” – yeah, whoops) but shook off her poor judgement and with Fairbanks and Chaplin established United Artists in 1919.
Yes, that United Artists, bringer of such joy as Skyfall, Hot Tub Time Machine and Survivor.
Pickford, Fairbanks and Chaplin set up United Artists to gain greater control of their careers from Studios in response to what they felt was unfair control exercised by over them. It was a massive move in an industry where actors hadn’t even been credited for their work just a few years earlier.
Mary and Doug were big news though.
When they honeymooned in Europe in 1920, there were near-riots as people tried to see them.
They had a house in Hollywood called Pickfair and had amazing dinner parties in their 16 year marriage – get invited and you might expect to exchange witticisms with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Noël Coward, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt and of course Fairbanks’ bestie, neighbour and perennial third-wheel Chaplin.
Pickfair (also the inspiration for Krusty the Klown’s house Schtickfair – genius) was demolished in 1990 by dickhead actress, singer and hair product enthusiast Pia Zadora – winner of the Razzies “worst new talent for the decade of the 1980s – apparently because of termites, a claim met with wide scepticism, something that was referenced by Blondie and Iggy Pop in 1990’s Well, did you evah?.
Zadora later changed her story and claimed that the house had been haunted by a former lover of Fairbanks.
An extraordinary coincidence that this landed her flagging career a gig on an episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories. Hmmm.
Mary and Doug were also among the 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927 (an initiative of the Studios, so pragmatism seemed to overcome any lingering resentment there), the same year they were also the first to put their hand prints in cement at Mann’s Chinese Theatre.
That’s what I said, big deals.
Sadly Pickford died an alcoholic in 1979, so might have been a good time to change the name of the cocktail but it remains in the IBA official list of cocktails – sitting alongside the Dry Martini in the category “The Unforgettables”.
This sweet, pink offering is made up of white rum, pineapple juice (fresh, please), grenadine and maraschino liqueur.
You’ll probably get Bacardi unless you ask otherwise, but I humbly suggest that with so many superior offerings available, it is time we moved on from our misplaced loyalty to the bat-logoed turpentine which is no longer even Cuban so that justification is gone (to be fair, not Bacardi’s fault, they were driven out of Castor’s Cuba and assets seized – we covered this is more detail HERE).
Go to a good rum bar like Sydney’s Lobo Plantation and ask the bartender for a white rum recommendation.
1806 in Melbourne is going a bit rogue and making Mary Pickfords with whisked egg whites – I haven’t tried that their offering but we know that SSM loves a good egg white cocktail and I can highly recommend their other offerings so I’d say go for it.
Melbourne often leads the way in Australia, just as they are with crossing signals which seems to have a whole lot of dickheads up in arms this week.
Ya know, sometimes addressing the little things is what brings about the big changes.
Like our next Mary.
When you raise your glass tonight, I suggest quoting from 1997’s under-rated cinematic masterpiece “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” (please can we have more of Alan Cumming and Janeane Garofalo in the same movie?) and loudly claiming “I’m the Mary.”
This is, of course a reference to Mary Tyler Moore.
Some 50 years after Mary Pickford got her signature cocktail, Mary Tyler Moore kicked off a seven season run of a sitcom that starred an unmarried career woman aged 30. What was notable about this was that she was smart, happy and successful WITHOUT a husband or children. She wasn’t a widow, she was single by choice, having left her fiancé and moved to Minneapolis and started her job as a junior television executive.
Seems astonishing that this could have been so astonishing when it first aired, the day
before my first birthday. But it was.
Mary asked for equal pay. Mary stayed out all night on a date. Mary used birth-control pills. Phyllis’ brother was gay.
These were big issues in the 1970s and by using humour and pathos, the show managed to gently shift some attitudes.
Mary with her fabulous pants-suits and turning the world on with her smile, showed a generation of girls that being single and having a career needn’t be a consolation prize.
It’s you girl and you should know it.
If you grew up with Mary, you had a new normal.
You also had the brilliant Sue-Ann Nivens (hands-down best television character ever created – go to THIS POST where we covered her work, watch the clip and tell me I’m wrong?), Rhoda Morgenstern, Lou Grant, Ted Baxter, Georgette Baxter, Murray Slaughter and Phyllis Lindstrom (and the ever-off-screen Lars). Great characters and actors all.
And it is still hilarious and relevant.
So on IWD, thank you, Mary Pickford for using your fame to create a new role for women in Hollywood (and for the enduring charitable legacy you created), thank you Mary Tyler Moore and Mary Richards for gently creating positive options for young women, thank you Dame Mary Gilmore for fighting for the disadvantaged, thank you Mary Wollstonecraft for being the original suffragette, thank you Mary J Blige…
Today, J’suis Mary.