No Room for Pretense

It was perhaps the greatest mistake any sommelier has ever made. A scruffy man walked into his establishment, sporting a giant beard and contrary to the rules of the establishment, and open necked shirt with no tie. The man explained to the sommelier that he absolutely hated wearing a tie, but that he loved fine food and wine, and if he were allowed to dine there without a tie, he would eat at the restaurant every single lunch time without fail. Without even thinking, the establishment held snobbery above loyalty and turned the man away.

The man was in fact a certain Bill Gaines, to those of you who don’t know, the founder of Mad Magazine, who besides having an unquenchable penchant for obscure humor and satire, was at the same time a ferocious gastronome and connoisseur of fine wine. The little restaurant that turned down Mr. Gaines’ patronage due to his inability to conform is now closed down whilst Mad’s offices continue to thrive from their headquarters on Madison Avenue.

Bill Gaines had many peculiarities. He would plan his trips to the office and his trips to restaurants so that he would always walk down hill. On his return he would take a cab. His Manhattan apartment had one of the largest cellars known to man, and he spent vast sums of money procuring wine from all around the world and eating at fine restaurants.

I remember growing up loving Mad Magazine, and sitting in my room laughing out loud as I poured over the weekly edition. Thus, as I have always resisted being over formal or pretentious, I was delighted to find this anecdote about Bill Gaines, which just goes to show that there needn’t ever be anything snobbish in the appreciation of a fine glass of wine.

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