Today, I’m introducing a new category of post. It’s what I like to call the Extra Dry Martini Hero. An Extra Dry Martini Hero can be a lot of things, including a person living or dead, or a fictional character that exemplifies Extra Dry Martini qualities. They must have smarts, sass, and not be afraid to speak their mind. Above all, he or she must be a true original, often imitated, never equaled.
To kick off the series, I’d like to nominate the fictional character Auntie Mame (of the film of the same title) as the inaugural EDM hero. Ever since I was young, I’ve loved Mame, and her spot-on portrayal by the incomparable Rosalind Russell. In later years, I discovered the book that the film is based on (penned by Patrick Dennis), and found it just as enjoyable.
Bold, brash, and impulsive, Mame’s sharp tongue is matched only by her big heart. When the death of her brother deposits her ‘only living relative’ – her young nephew Patrick – on the front doorstep of her New York penthouse, Mame quickly instructs him on the finer points of life, including how to make the perfect martini: ‘Always stir, never shake. Bruises the gin.’
Thumbing her nose at convention, Mame gleefully throws a string of outlandish cocktail parties at her Beekman place penthouse, hiring bootleggers during the height of Prohibition, and entertaining foreign dignitaries, famed artists and intellectuals alike.
Her most loathsome adversary is always the insufferable snob, and whether it’s Patrick’s stuffy trustee at the Knickerbocker Bank, or his awful, empty-headed (but thankfully short-lived), fiancée Gloria, Mame always outsmarts the people we love to hate, doing it with such cleverness and grace that those who oppose her don’t have the faintest clue they’ve been outfoxed.
While her Extra Dry Martini stock is certainly helped by the fact that she enjoys a good martini – as young Patrick tells the Knickerbocker Bank trustee, ‘My Auntie Mame says olives take up too much room in such a little drink’ – what really sets Mame apart is her fierce wit and her unflappable joie de vivre. Life is meant to be lived, by God, and as long as she’s around, she’s going to make sure she’s having a grand time. While many of her antics – including redecorating her penthouse as often as she changes her glamorous couture – may be a bit over the top to use as a guidepost for everyday living, she does everything with style and heart, always looking out for the best interests of her ‘little lamb,’ Patrick, and reminding us to ‘live, live, live,’ because ‘life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!’