Max Koch Uncorked

Wine-soaked adventures through a twisted life…

Herzog Holiday Weekend Film-Fest With Pairings

Everything was going fine last weekend (President’s Day Weekend) until I suffered a terrible and VERY awkward spill in my Pilates class on Saturday morning. The fall wrenched my back out pretty sucky-like and so I was on pain killers and ice for most of the weekend. 

BUT THAT DIDN’T STOP ME FROM GOING TO A CIDER AND MEAD TASTING AT VENDOME WINE & SPIRITS!

By the way, do you know the difference between a cider and a mead? Well, mead comes from honey, like a honey wine, and cider is mead, I mean MADE from apples, usually…but also pears and pineapples, too, if your taste buds are ambitious. 

It’s okay. I get little confused myself…

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Jack is the beer, cider, and mead expert over at Vendome and he is just awesome. His zeal for the suds (and LEGOS) is off-the-charts enthuisiatic and so I asked him what a good German beer would be to pair with a 3-day festival of Werner Herzog films. At first he looked very confused, and so I explained that on holiday weekends – or any weekend the mood strikes us – the wife and I will switch off curating a little festival of films featuring a particular theme or actor/actress or director. So my turn was up and I chose Herzog mainly because I know my wife gets freaked out by vampire stuff and I’ve just been DYING to share his version of Nosferatu the Vampyre with her, because I know she’d appreciate it and not get too scared. (Okay, she was a little creeped out, but actually wound up enjoying the film very much. Personally, I think it’s one of Herzog’s greatest works.)

Jack pointed me in the direction of the Flensburger Pilsener from Flensburg in the Bundesland of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. This was a very crisp, refreshing lager that went great with Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, which is the story of a maniac in a white linen suit and Gary Busey hair – played by Herzog muse, Klaus Kinski, also Count Dracula – who goes a little mad in the Amazonian jungle trying to move a steamboat over a mountain to get to the rubber trees on the other side so he could then exploit them and make his fortune. At first, we were weary of the TWO HOUR AND THIRTY SEVEN MINUTE running time, but we actually wound up being very intrigued by it. Believe me, the Flensberger helped.

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The third Herzog I chose was his documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams which is currently streaming on Netflix. This one was a bit of a struggle to get through, because A.) I’m claustrophobic, and B.) Poor Werner was kind of limited in his ability to document his journey through the tight and slight Chauvet Cave in southern France, which contains the oldest human-painted images yet discovered. He was also working with a group of scientists and historians who weren’t exactly as colorful a character as, say, his best fiend, Klaus Kinski. But we did enjoy some meads with that one, including the cherry and Hops-infused Dwarf Invasion from the B. Nektar Meadery. I mean, I DO have a life-long obsession with Little People so that just worked out fine.

WINE PAIRINGS: Gosh, here I am going on about ciders and meads and beers and I forgot all about the Fangria we paired with Nosferatu. That was one we’d picked up at the Vampire Vineyards Tasting Room & Lounge back in 2014. It’s Sangria, of course, with just a bit more BITE. And it’s completely captivating. Just make sure it’s very-well chilled…much like the dense banks of fog that engulf Count Dracula’s castle on any given moonless night.

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Here’s to Herzog! And Happy Jack at Vendome!


An Immigrant A Day

UPDATE: Today I chose to delete this Instragram account and cease the project. It was a lot of work and the follower count seemed to stall early on at 65. But I did get 28 immigrants drawn and it lasted exactly a month, so that I feel pretty good about. I will continue to support immigration and diversity in any way I can. Now on to other projects. 

How’s 2017 treating everyone so far???

(crickets)

Yeah, me, too. I tell ya, I had NO idea the world would change THIS drastically in such a short amount of time.  I mean, so much for me cutting down my DRINKING.

If you go on Facebook nowadays, you really can’t seem to escape very angry people on your friends list posting links and retweeting tweets concerning the current U.S. president, his executive orders, and his administrative picks. Listen, far be it from me to tell you what you should be thinking or feeling, but…in my estimation, there is a newfound sense of dread and DOOM in the air, and it is NOT appearing to relent anytime soon.

So what can we do besides getting REALLY pissed off and protesting? Well, I decided what I was gonna do – since I don’t care much for crowds – is start a 2nd Instagram account called An Immigrant A Day. Essentially, drawing real people (and even a few made up ones) who’s stories affected me in simple (and sometimes more powerful) ways.

See, I don’t really have a beef with people from other lands and cultures coming into this country to make a rich and fulfilling life for themselves. It’s what we should all be about. The problem is, that’s now becoming less and less of an option for many folks abroad who have the American Dream in their hearts, as the U.S. seems to be turning into a very sore and bitter and angry and judgmental place…one that has not been very welcoming of such people these past few weeks. Or even of the people from other countries who already live here. Shame.

Anyway, you grasp what I’m squawkin’. I’m not gonna waste time preaching to you.

But as for me, since I’m not a real poster of politically-themed things on social media, I thought was a good idea to pick ONE aspect of these troubling times to comment on, in only the most appropriate way I knew how. So if you don’t mind, I would appreciate it very much if you clicked the pic below and followed my “An Immigrant A Day” Instagram. I’m learning a LOT about these fine examples of humanity. (Wait, “fine examples of humanity??” Can you believe this is ME talking?? Must be yet another sign of old age-slash-resignation…)

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WINE PAIRING: Do like I did, and take a half hour explore what are sure to be some very deletable Mexican Wines from Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe region. The “Del Viko” Tinto already looks very tantalizing…


My 2016 Year-End Wrap-Up

Pop a neck brace on, cuz I’m about to give you some WHIPLASH!

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All in all, it was another year of frustration, set-backs, neglected goals…and, okay, maybe a few bursts of good fortune. I can also declare 2016 THE most nightmarish year of my lifetime, personally, for politics. Remember those Republican debates…?

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Also, I’ve never seen so many folks get so bummed out by the death of a pop star. I mean, of ALL celeb-types who perished in 2016, it seems to me like David Bowie’s demise was the most catastrophic. I dug Bowie, wasn’t a major fan, LOVED his acting roles, but his chameleon-like visages were utterly inescapable on social media. And it’s STILL going. And how come, suddenly, anyone famous who dies post-Bowie has to now get “Bowie-ized” in a graphic or meme?  This trend bewilders and (nearly) offends me.

Uh…maybe Carrie Fisher didn’t like David Bowie’s music…?

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As for ol’ Max Koch himself, 2016 was the year I took things up a notch by FINALLY breaking down and getting new headshots, my first in several years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I apply this only to myself – a face is a necessary evil. If you look around at all the beautiful faces you see in your daily life, mine…just ain’t one of ’em. And that’s okay! I know I have MAJOR physical flaws, but, at this point in my life, I have learned to embrace them. If not continue to strive to improve upon them.

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Yeah, if you think you’re some kind of actor living in Los Angeles…you NEED these. It’s unavoidable. And I hate that about ’em. And why? Because you AGE! And you look little to nothing like you did 5, 6, years ago. So you gotta stay on top of these insipid tools of the trade. (Okay, I just panicked a little that I’m going to turn 47 next year…)

My real goal is to get on-camera work in crappy, low-budget horror movies. Seriously, if I could just be the next Bill Moseley, I think I’d be very, very happy. 

Speaking of acting, I still manage to remain employed from time to time. You always hear me on the radio, but most notably, 2016 was the year Motiongate Dubai opened. I voice Master Mantis all over the DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda attractions over there. I was also Mantis for the 2016 Wix Superbowl campaign and voiced 3 characters for Nickelodeon’s first-ever official animated TV movie, Albert (I can die happy knowing I played a deflating cactus.) I also went out for the Dana Carvey “First Impressions” show that didn’t go so well , and, as usual, wound up in some pretty big rooms for callbacks–“JUST CAST ME, DAMN IT!! I SWEAR YOU WON’T REGRET IT!!!”

Sorry. Lost my mind for a second there.

Let’s see, what else. Oh! My documentary “Gramps: Beneath the Surface” finally came to Vimeo, in celebration of its 10-year anniversary, so now you can watch that for free – and I REALLY hope that you do.

This past Fall, I also started filming a portrait of mine (and Kevin Spacey’s) most-influential high school drama teacher, Robert Carrelli, which I hope to have out on Vimeo by Spring of 2017. THAT has been an extremely rewarding experience as Carrelli has been a major mentor in my life. He’s 86 years-old now and just as vibrant and hilarious as ever. Here he is channeling The Godfather, quite naturally…

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Even though I also celebrated 10 years on YouTube, I’ve slowed down a bit on making videos simply because they take so much time and care and the audience for my stuff continues to dwindle significantly. But I did make the effort to squeeze in a 2016 “Halloween Hellshow”, featuring Jack Nicholson, the Sopranos, and a farting zombie toy…and “A Very RAY DONOVAN Christmas”, where I satirically take on the characters featured in my current favorite family crime series. 

2016 was a crazy year for travel, too. While I suffered the tortures of the damned in Key West, I could NOT have benefitted more from my experience visiting Washington, DC with a duck puppet on my hand the whole time. Seeing those “Exorcist steps” in Georgetown alone was not only one of the highlights of my 2016 but of my whole, entire life. 

Let’s see, what else happened? Well, I had my first colonoscopy. THAT was fun. I also got to “space out” at JPL, say goodbye to The Cutting Room Movie Podcast and hello to Magazine Podcast with my Cousin Lorenzo, and, holy shit, wouldn’t you know it, got to even hold my first-ever CHINCHILLA! 

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The year has been winding down peacefully as I reflect on what was and what is to be. One of the fun little holiday ideas my wife and I conjured up was to sadistically subject ourselves to a bunch of REALLY SHITTY Christmas movies we’d never seen before. Well, we only managed to get through 3: “Christmas With the Kranks” with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, “Surviving Christmas” with James Gandolfini and Ben Affleck, and – gasp – “Deck the Halls” with Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick. Turns out, we kinda actually LIKED the one with Gandolfini. He was GREAT. Well, he was always great. I mean, you SO believed how badly he wanted to whack Ben Affleck with a snow shovel. Man, I miss that dude…

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Hey, speaking of Afflecks, SAG Awards screeners have started to arrive and I can’t even tell you how much I got out of this “Manchester by the Sea” which stars Ben’s brother, Casey. If you’re into “grief porn” like me, I highly recommend you check this one out. 

Listen, death has been a real punishing theme of 2016. And that’s why I really wanna make sure I keep living as hard as I can in the new year. Of course, I will drink wine and watch movies and snuggle with my pugs. Sure, I’ll hang out with my brilliant, beautiful wife and awesome-ass friends. You bet I’ll fly out to Grapevine, TX to celebrate my ridiculously-lovable nephew’s 2nd birthday. But I will also work even THRICE as hard to entertain people and try to make a difference out there. 

It’s funny. The older ya get, the more fearful you are of not leaving behind some kind of legacy. I frankly don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I have plans to enact, books to draw, movies to make, and hummingbirds to feed.

WINE PAIRING: I’ll be popping a bottle of Champagne Pommery, and once again toasting the Central Coastline…counting my luckies. Happy New Year, my friends.


“Gramps: Beneath the Surface” Now on Vimeo

“In 2006, filmmakers Max Koch and The Counselor went deep into the California desert to spend a weekend with Max’s step-grandfather, Dick Surface. Armed only with a $300 Sony Handi-cam, a lot of beer, and the desire to capture a bit of Dick’s desert life-style, they ended up delving deeper into Dick’s psyche than expected. Drawn into Dick’s routine, they got a glimpse into his world – his family and friends, his joys and regrets, and his often controversial views and positions. But as the camera kept rolling, long misunderstandings came to light and family secrets were uncovered, forever changing Max’s understanding of his family, and his relationship with Dick. Now, on the occasion of the 10-Year Anniversary of this fateful weekend, Max and The Counselor invite you to grab a cold one and head back out to California City to really get to know “Gramps: Beneath the Surface.”

WINE PAIRING: Uh-oh, in honor of Gramps, it will have to be his favorite beverage at the time…Coors Light! (I know, I know…sacrilege! But sometimes you must acknowledge The Silver Bullet! Even in a wine-centric blog…)

To watch the doc in its entirety, click the pic below and GO:

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An unused drawing I did for the doc back in 2006. My Grandpa Bill taught me how to fish using Planter’s cheese balls as bait.


Thankful for Custom Shelving

Thanksgiving. I love it more and more every year. I’m thankful for a lot of things…but, let’s face it, it’s always more fun to assess what I do have than what I don’t. 

Yeah. Thankful for a lotta things. Family. Friends. My pugs. Work. Wine. Good documentaries and horror films. The ocean. Halloween and All Things October.

But today, you gotta permit me to get a little vapid and materialistic here and publicly declare my thankfulness for the custom shelving units we had installed in my office. I must tell you…I’ve never been more organized in my life. EVERYTHING has a place and it’s never been that way for me before. 

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In the nearly 7 years we’ve lived here in the condo, the custom shelving is only the first serious upgrade we’ve done. Sure, I’d love a hot tub or a fully-wired sound system all through the house, but custom shelves in my workspace were, like, an emergency. So we hired a guy named Chris who was very cool and easy to work with. He even loved punk rock and Nitro Circus. I’d blast Black Flag for him while he worked and we’d sing the praises of BMX badass Jolene Van Vugt during a break or whatever.

Chris did a beautiful job. And I had SO MUCH FUN getting rid of crap and keeping the stuff I knew I could never part with. My wife thinks I’m some kind of mild hoarder or something. I just have a LOT of books and Blu Rays. Okay, and odd artifacts as well.

All of the cabinets have a purpose. For example, this one is specifically for my grab-and-go video making items. I’m shooting a few different little projects as of this writing, so getting the gear together is now the least daunting it’s ever been.

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Yeah, man, EVERYTHING has a place. It’s good for the brain. All my shit is in order. There’s a really swell energy flow in here now, too. Next up, I gotta figure out what I wanna hang on the walls.

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I even have room for my glo-in-the-dark zombie collection!

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I don’t know where I get the hope these days, but as I wind down the year and enact a plan for 2017, I get excited. Mainly thinking about how my custom shelves (and desk) are going to serve me creatively in the new year.

Oh, and I almost forgot: I am thankful to YOU for reading this nonsense! Have a beautiful Thanksgiving.

WINE PAIRING: On the subject of shelving, I was thinking of a rockin’ “top shelf” title to suggest for your table this Thursday. And then I got curious and typed “Top Shelf Winery” and look what I found: TopShelf Winery in British Columbia! Wines dedicated to HOCKEY lovers. Listen, I’m no sport-o but I was instantly intrigued…

 

 


Magazine Podcast

Man. I’ve been podcasting for so long, it used to be called internet radio. It’s crazy…but it’s also my business, radio, so it makes cyclical sense that I once again find myself behind a microphone in a cool, dark studio…shootin’ the shit and havin’ a ball with people I enjoy jibber-jabbering with. It’s SO fun to just be “Max Koch” sometimes, no matter how hard the dude can get on my nerves whenever I listen back.

So after so many years of “Max Koch’s Mimosa” and “The Cutting Room Movie Podcast” and my own upcoming “Max Koch Uncorked” show, I’m pleased to introduce “Magazine”, a podcast my Cousin Lorenzo has created–and invited me to join him on. We are having a super-fun time and the first 4 episodes are now available for download. Lorenzo’s a great guy who I’ve known since I was a prepubescent! He’s also very funny and mellow and musical and so it’s no wonder he and The Counselor always got on so well. And speaking of The Counselor, he’s sure to join us in the studio one of these damn days, the busy bastard.

So click the pic of Lorenzo and me below and GO. And if you like it, please feel free to follow our Soundcloud page for more eps. Lorenzo’s also working on getting the thing to iTunes as I type this.

WINE PAIRING: I’ve brought a few bottles of wine into the studio but wouldn’t you know it, it was Fess Parker’s Frontier Red that Cousin Lorenzo has so far responded to the most enthusiastically. It’s an unbeatable blend from multiple Golden State appellations that retails for less than ten bucks! Perfect for a “free podcasts only” budget.

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New Video: “Max Koch’s HALLOWEEN HELLSHOW 2016”

Well, it looks like I just “dropped” my latest Hellshow on YouTube! Now, listen, I’ve made a LOT of Halloween videos over the years, and honestly, I had NO idea I was gonna even gonna bother with one this year – I had skipped 2015 cuz views were so down – but sometimes inspiration brutally bludgeons you over the head. Only my wife really knew what the hell was going on during the DAYS I spent making this monstrosity.

Without giving too much away, let’s just say a dear ol’ buddy I’ve known for 30 years reached out to me to alert me to the existence of a VERY SPECIAL animated figure that lights up and does dirty, terrible things when you press a button on it’s little arm. It’s stupid as hell…but I was so blown away by the nonsensical-ness of this thing that I immediately ordered him to pick it up for me as I disembarked on this latest YouTube video journey. I actually had so much fun that I think I’m at a place where I’m ready make videos and NOT sweat their fate. All I know how to do is stay freaky, creative, and mad.

So click the pick of the little ghoul reading the “Deadly Dispatch” below and GO! And please don’t hesitate to share and lemme know what you think.

WINE PAIRING: Did I say freaky? You bet your bag of candy I did! Pour a few slugs of the Freakshow Cab outta Lodi into a sexy skull goblet while you’re watchin’ this thing. And don’t forget to turn out the lights!
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#WienerWeekend

So this past weekend was “Wiener Weekend” at the Condo in the Sky.  Now mind you, I didn’t come up with that, my wife did.  What began as me excitedly exclaiming, “honey! The new film by Todd Solondz has come to Amazon Prime!”, soon turned into a 3-day party involving brats, beers, wiener-dogs, roasts, and, well…failed candidate for NYC mayor, Anthony Weiner, and his wiener.

See, sometimes ya gotta get creative in a marriage.  Especially if you’ve been together for almost a quarter of a century like we have.  Things can get stagnant.  And so if you attach a weekend of fun activities to a really inspired premise and through-line, well…it can only help remind you that you chose your partner wisely.

Friday night was Comedy Central’s Roast of Rob Lowe, who, let’s face it, has a fairly well-documented reputation for being a real weenie.  I love these roasts because they can be downright brutal, some say mean-spirited, but that doesn’t bother me when it comes to soft targets like Ann Coulter, who, for some CRAZY reason, was one of the members of the dais.  Turns out she was just there to shill her new book about why Trump should be our next president.  Ann took so many hits, I almost started to feel sorry for her.  But when it was over, I treated myself to a crash course in Coulter’s controversies (Google search) and no longer felt sorry but sad.  How anyone can think and speak the way she does is beyond my comprehension.  But it was truly fascinating to skim the countless verbal offenses she’s guilty of. Man, I hope that woman finds peace.  Hate must take a LOT of energy. That said,

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As for the roast itself, it was a riot and we were howling all the way through. I gotta say, I think that Pete Davidson kid from SNL is pretty damn hilarious and I look forward to seeing his new show on Comedy Central.  I also couldn’t be happier watching Ralph “Johnny Cade” Macchio sufficiently crunch the nuts of his longtime “greaser” pal compatriot, Rob “Sodapop Curtis” Lowe (these are all character references from Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders”, in case you’re confused).

Saturday morning found us going from a Pilates class to – WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT??? – a (very spontaneous) Pumpkin Beer tasting at our most favorite local liquor store, Vendome Wine & Spirits! Pumpkin Beer tasting?? I LOVE Pumpkin Beers and tasting them!!

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Yes, I am most definitely one of these idiots who loves that time of year when pumpkin shows up in every damn thing. And MOST of these beers, ales, and ciders were absolutely delicious. I stuck my nose so deep in my glass and just INHALED the scents of falling leaves, candy corn, rubber masks, Michael Myers, scarecrows, hayrides, corn mazes, my own Dark Harvest drawings…you name it.  We had SO much fun. Wound up talking to some very eccentric beer nerds, too.  It was cool to bust out of our comfort zone. Wine tastings? ALL the time. Pumpkin BEER ones??  Hardly ever. 

Saturday supper was the newly-opened Dog Haus, just up the street from us. Described as a Southern California “craft casual hot dog concept”, the joint is just to die for.  I mean, I start to salivate the second I step through the doors to survey my options.  As it turns out, I’ve grown to be most fond of The Fonz: spicy Italian sausage, pastrami, melted mozzarella.  I KNOW.  SO decadent. But it was Wiener Weekend, man, what’d you expect I was gonna order?

Believe me, ain’t easy having a Dog Haus within walking distance.  That sure as hell ain’t gonna support the work I’ve been doing in Pilates these days. No, no, Dog Haus ALWAYS has to wind up being a special occasion-type deal. Or I may as well just give it all up and become a professional butt of fat jokes.  No thank you.

So with our wieners in tow, we made our way back home to quickly visit with some dear ones who dropped by for a quick visit. Then we busted open a bunch of our newly-acquired pumpkin beers (utilizing our frosted mugs) and ambitiously took in Todd Solondz’s latest cinematic masterpiece of pain, Wiener-Dog, currently streaming on Amazon Prime. You remember his 1995 film Welcome to the Dollhouse with Heather Matarazzo in the role of Wiener-Dog?  Well, this time she is embodied by one of my very favorite “newer” actresses, Greta Gerwig. 

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Listen, no joke. I can barely bring myself to recommend this film, it’s so depressing. Of course, that’s what I LOVED about it. Oh, I’m just crazy about Solondz. But if you think a movie about a little wiener dog bouncing from situation to circumstance and the effect she has on the lives of varying broken souls and misfits is going to warm your hearts and make you wanna rush out to the pound to rescue one? You must be thinking of another movie. And don’t get me STARTED on Danny DeVito as a washed-up former screenwriter turned disrespected college film professor named – brace yourself – Dave Schmerz.  

Yeesh.  One of his greatest, glum-iest performances of all.

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The film ends in a shocking and profoundly upsetting way.  One which we weren’t expecting. Uh, like, at ALL. But it worked…for me.

Just do this: heed caution if you choose to proceed with Wiener-Dog.  Especially if you’re an animal freak like me. The spoiler-abundant customer reviews on Amazon are hilarious.  Like, WHAT were this people thinking showing this movie to their KIDS?!  It’s Todd Solondz!  Not Beethoven Poops A Buncha Legos He Ate, Part 2!  Maybe they were expecting THIS type of wiener dog movie…?

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No idea.

Sunday, I man-scaped the region of my body containing my own personal wiener and we closed the frank-centric festivities with Josh Kriegman and Elyse Sternberg’s 2016 documentary, Weiner, a very provocative peek inside Anthony Weiner’s 2013 failed campaign to become the new mayor of New York City.  I’ve lost count of how many times the former congressman has sexted his sin-pipe out to the world, causing all kinds of problems for not only him but his family, but I will say that he came across to me as a very passionate guy who truly cares about making healthy, beneficial changes in the world. He just can’t seem to get a grip on this very odd compulsion he has to ruinously flirt with gross gals he never even winds up copulating with, much to the detriment of his marriage.  Evidently, he and his wife, Hillary Clinton’s vice chairwoman, Huma Abedin, are officially on the outs.  I hope they find peace, too.

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LOOK!! EVERYONE JUST NEEDS TO CHILL OUT AND DRINK PUMPKIN BEER AND THROW THEIR DAMN OWN WIENER WEEKENDS, DUDE!!!  LISTEN TO THE MAX HERE, I KNOW THINGS!!!

WINE PAIRING: In honor of all the fantastic pumpkin beers I sampled, I’m going to go with the Avery Brewing Company’s Rumpkin Ale Brew with Pumpkin and Spices. Aged in RUM barrels!  At 17.5% Alc by Vol, his stuff’s so good, you’ll wanna whip out your wiener and dance a jig ‘neath the next Harvest Moon! (Which, uh, just so happens to be September 16th, the opening day of Blair Witch, wahoo!)


Another Winter in a Summer Town

Something happened last night that made no sense. Something that is going to take me a while to figure out.

I’ve done a ton of theater in my life but I’ve never enjoyed GOING to theater. Especially musicals. It just never works out. EVER!

My wife, however, lives for the theater. She was a professional musical theatre performer who still takes dancing, singing, and improv lessons when she’s not leading 10 people in her corporate job. So, for respite, she will buy Pantages season tickets and go see shows alone because she feels bad dragging me to them. I mean, SO selfless of her, yes, but I do feel guilty sometimes.

Which is why I really had no problem with her coming to me about AHMANSON Theatre season tickets. She very politely asked if I would be interested in joining her for a run of productions and I agreed to do so. One ONE condition: That there would be MUCH wine.

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Deal. 

WIFE: One of the shows is the musical based on Grey Gardens.

ME: Grey Gardens?? I love that documentary! I own that one on Criterion.

WIFE: I know and that’s great, but this is a musical based on the Bouvier-Beales.

ME: Huh…? But I HATE musicals.

WIFE: Well…not Jesus Christ Superstar. You like that one. West Side Story?

ME: Honey…

WIFE: Fine. I’ll just cancel the subscription. 

ME: No, no! I’m – grrrrr – I’m in. Let’s do it. What else we got?

WIFE: Well, there’s an Arthur Miller play…there’s Fun Home, which I know you own the graphic novel of and were curious about–

ME: Musical, too, right?

WIFE: Yes.

ME: Kill me. EVERYTHING has to become a musical now, I guess. Go on.

WIFE: Another musical based on…uh…

ME: WHAT.

WIFE: A musical based on Amélie, that annoying French film you hated. 

ME: WHAT??? Amélie the MUSICAL???? NNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

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Grey Gardens, in case you don’t know, and according to Wikipedia, “is a 1975 American documentary film by Albert and David Maysles. The film depicts the everyday lives of two reclusive, formerly upper class women, a mother and daughter both named Edith Beale, who lived in poverty at Grey Gardens, a derelict mansion at 3 West End Road in the wealthy Georgica Pond neighborhood of East Hampton, New York.” 

They were also two women related to Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, who were, by the time the doc was made, living in squalor, in a total mess of a mansion with no plumbing and lots of fleas and cats, as American Royalty exiles. 

Grey Gardens: The Musical stars veteran actress Betty Buckley as old Edith Bouvier-Beale and Rachel York – a performer I know nothing about – as BOTH young Edith and, in the second act, her outrageously-eccentric daughter (and virtually-imprisoned mad woman) Edie. This performance…blew…my…face off. Talk about CHANNELING. I don’t understand how someone could be this spot on, not only in mannerisms, voice, and body, but…spirit. I was astounded. It WAS Little Edie from the documentary right up there on stage!

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It wasn’t a very large ensemble at all. Mainly the two lead ladies and the rest of the actors in multiple roles. Act 1 takes place in the glorious, hopeful, well-provided for past, while Act 2 takes place in the inevitably bleak and ruinous future. I was so unsure how they were going to pull off the actual Hoarders-like FILTH of Grey Gardens on stage, but the set and art and prop design people did an absolutely extraordinary job. There’s SO much to look at onstage BESIDES the humans.

Best of all…I didn’t mind the songs. Did you read that?? It’s a musical and I didn’t mind the musical numbers! They made sense to me because the two Ediths fancied themselves singer/performers, even though they were total amateurs. So when they broke out in song, I understood WHY. Not to mention the fact that the writers of this thing paid VERY close attention to the source material, the documentary. Like, there’s a whole number based on the elder Edith wooing Jerry the Dimbulb Delivery Boy with her cobs of corn that she boils near her bedside. It’s called “Jerry Likes My Corn” and it’s both super-hilarious and SUPER-sad. Buckley killed that one.

However, NOTHING prepared me for Little Edie’s “Another Winter in a Summer Town” at the end. (It’s so funny. These reference clips from YouTube I’m using here from the original Broadway cast album don’t seem or sound NEARLY as powerful and profound or dark as they did last night with the cast I saw. In fact, they actually sound REALLY musical theatre-y. Which just goes to show, this stuff is meant to be seen live? The emotions tend to range? Different productions just sound…different? I dunno.)

The point is, both my wife and I were blubbering wrecks during the song. Trust me, we both have a coupla pretty crazy-in-their-own-way mothers that we wish we could be more in sync with, so we deeply related. As it is, I also just “celebrated” my 46th birthday this past Monday and it has been a slew of very introspective, where-am-I-going, time-is-running-out, I’ve-got-to-DO-something-with-my-life types of days. Hence the whole theme of “well, here it is, winter again and everyone’s gone and I’m stuck here, rotting away and losing my mind in a town that’s only alive in the summer.” It’s a pretty debilitating metaphor for age and creativity, I think.

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WINE PAIRING: The GOOD news is: YOU CAN DRINK INSIDE THE AHMANSON NOW! Oh, yeah, they give you little cups with lids and straws so you can take your wine inside the space while you watch the shows. PERFECT for my deal with Nic on this season subscription. And if you go down to the first-level bar and see Scott, tell him Max sent ya. He’s really cool and wears an EYEPATCH. A legit one, too! He totally set me up with pre-paid beverages that I collected during intermission. Look, he even put a little sign out for me, which I saved!

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Hey, I LIKE going to the theatre now!


Happy Anniversary, YouTube!

Ten years today, YouTube, baby!

You n’ me?

Ten long, short, up, down, happy, sad, crazy, mad years.

Why it only seems like yesterday – July 21, 2006, to be exact – that a female friend of mine told me I should “sign up for YouTube” (“for what, like, online classes?”) and film myself doing my impressions. “Hey, hey, what’m I, some low-rent Rich Little wannabe? These ain’t impressions that I do here, lady. There are channelings.  I’m an ARTIST.  Me, I try to BECOME these guys.”

“Yeah, yeah, just get it done”, she’d say.

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My channel, Bowlerhat – or Bowler Hat Productions, named in honor of Alex’s derby in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” – became my wonderland. My most favorite form of creative expression.  I took risks. And once the Tony Soprano stuff hit, I took even MORE risks. And hits.  It got to the point that if I wanted to make something totally different over there…say, a video of a puppet trying to talk Gary Busey into taking a shit because he was constipated, while Nick Nolte is banging on the bathroom door outside…well, then, damn it, I was gonna do it.

Over time, making all those videos almost plunged me into madness. I got so method actor-y about them. I’ll never forget walking over to 7-11 and buying 15 types of bubble gum Al Pacino could sample for “Tony Soprano Stages an INTERVENTION.”

YouTube gave me an instant audience. It always brought me a lotta haters, which I wasn’t at ALL ready for. And soon I was even making $$$ from YouTube once they came at me about being a partner. But I think I’m making much less with them these days as I’ve gone from hundreds of thousands of views on stuff…to maybe a few hundred even.

And there’s where you start do wonder:  Is it over? Do I suck? Or am I just TOO out there, too experimental? Does nobody even CARE anymore? Maybe it’s that I’m too old? Or is it because I don’t do Tony Soprano enough. But even when I do do Tony Soprano, the views just aren’t what they’ve been in the past. 

I DON’T KNOW THE FORMULA BECAUSE THE FORMULA IS ALWAYS CHANGING. 

Listen. Just know that YouTube’s been good to me. It has brought me TONS of work. And most of it legitimate. I got to work with Sopranos cast members on various projects.  I got to play Mickey Rourke on a late-night talk show.  I even got flown to Long Island once for a weekend of shooting videos and they put me up in this super-fancy corporate hotel that I never wanted to leave.  The gig? Channel Pacino, Nicholson, and De Niro in an office setting. How much fun was THAT? I still thank Pete Sussi, the guy who found me on YouTube and put all that together, to this day.  They even scored me a SAG contract, that’s how much it meant that we work together.

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I’m proud of my little YouTube legacy. It will all be good fodder and footage for the Max Koch documentary someone makes when I die. (Oh, I totally believe that my true fame will be posthumous!)

When I started this blog, I opened a second channel for videos more related to wine and travel. I get a lot of very kind comments over there. All in all…I have enjoyed this run very much. And I most definitely plan to keep going.

Oh! Almost forgot. I made a quick, little new video in honor of the anni. Just click this pic below of the YouTube logo and GO:

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WINE PAIRING: A.J. Soprano would be proud! I’m bustin’ out the Cristal!  Hey!!! Happy Anniversary!!! (Aw, crap, half the bottle fizzled out…this stuff’s expensive…)