Robin Hood Cream Ale And Other Cheap Beers Of the ’70s

My post on summer cider, and particularly the picture of Errol Flynn in iconic Robin Hood garb, inevitably reminded me of Robin Hood Cream Ale.

The corner grocery store about a block and a half from my college apartment at 101 West 8th Avenue in Columbus specialized in cheap beer.  How surprising in a campus community!  On any given Friday afternoon, a stroll down to the store would find a frenzied press of students of The Ohio State University rushing to buy as much beer — that is, as much dirt-cheap beer — as the wallet could bear.  The store’s stock of foodstuffs consisted of three categories — (1) various forms of beef jerky, (2) Hostess Bakery products like Twinkies, Ho Hos and cupcakes, and (3) beer.  Approximately 99.7 percent of the store’s available footage was devoted to beer.

The ’70s really was the golden hour for cheap beer.  A visit to the corner grocery might find several cases of warm Billy Beer laid in, or Burger Beer, or Blatz, or even a totally generic brew in a white can with the black-stenciled label “BEER.”  Of the various choices, however, the preferred selection was Robin Hood Cream Ale.  A six-pack of 16-ounce cans cost $1.19, which meant that you could properly greet the coming weekend in style for an amount that usually could be cobbled together by carefully checking the sofa cushions.  Unlike, say, Billy Beer, which really was undrinkable except in extremis, Robin Hood had a decent taste.  It also featured a guy who looked like Woodrow the Woodsman lifting a flagon of frothy brew, and a slogan that had “Ye” in it.  What could be classier?

It went down easy on a Friday afternoon as you watched a Star Trek rerun and waited for the Friday night party to begin.

The Follies of Dudism

When we meet The Dude, he’s paying for a carton of milk with a check for 67 cents. A TV behind the cashier shows George W. Bush declaring that Iraq’s aggression toward Kuwait won’t be tolerated. The Dude glances at the President setting the moral ground for a new war, makes a vague expression of disillusionment, and returns to the business of buying milk so he can drink more White Russians.

This is a man who once helped write the Port Huron statement, a manifesto of student activism; who describes his college experience as “occupying various administration buildings and heckling the ROTC.”

In the 1960s, he was a member of the Seattle Seven, a radical group that protested the Vietnam War. In 1991, his greatest political statement is his extreme laziness and apathy. He drinks and smokes weed in his grungy apartment. He bowls with his friends in a league tournament, but he doesn’t even seem to care much about that.

I love The Dude as much as any other fan of The Big Lebowski, but I find it strange that his “philosophy” is celebrated so much these days at the Lebowski Festivals that have sprouted all over the United States and Europe, and by fans who quote him incessantly. The Dude’s decrepit, aimless lifestyle is a tragedy, not an ideal. He represents the sad fate of the spirit of the ’60s.

I used to wonder why the Coen brothers set The Big Lebowski in the early 1990s, a time that isn’t particularly memorable or meaningful, but upon reflection, it’s the perfect setting for The Dude’s troubles. The cultural upheaval of the 1960s that The Dude participated in has become a distant memory after the disillusionment of the 1970s and the conservative Reagan era of the 1980s. Even Reagan’s movement is fading, with George W. Bush as its last, weak figurehead. The Dude is about to watch America settle into the moderate Bill Clinton era. No wonder he spends so much time fogging his brain with weed and White Russians.

It isn’t enough that The Dude’s ideals have been crushed. He is still under attack by the forces of conservatism, greed, nihilism, and yuppieism.

At the beginning of the movie, a pair of toadies invade his humble apartment to collect money they mistakenly believe he has, and piss on the cheap rug that The Dude earnestly insists “really tied the room together.” The man these guys were looking for, the titular “Big Lebowski”, a pompous, patriotic, patrician over-achiever, tricks The Dude into becoming his sucker in a scheme to get rid of his wife. “Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski! The bums lost!” he tells The Dude after screwing him over.

Later, he’s abused and manipulated by Big Lebowski’s yuppie artist daughter, who even steals his seed. Her nihilist friends get their turn at him too, setting his rust bucket car aflame and killing his friend. He can’t even smoke a joint in his bathtub in peace – they break into his apartment, drop an agitated marmot into the tub with him, and rough him up.

Indeed, each of these parties forces their way into The Dude’s apartment at some point, destroys his crappy stuff, and beats him up. He’s defenseless against them. The revolution of the ’60s that once seemed so formidable and terrifying is now as weak and vulnerable as a stoned man in a bathtub. He can’t even get these guys to call him “The Dude”, the name he has chosen for himself because it embodies his hippie philosophy.

Instead of fighting these evil forces, The Dude is content to let them have their way as long as he can keep bowling and mixing his White Russians. If it weren’t for his crazy Vietnam vet buddy Walter, who forces him to try to take advantage of The Big Lebowski, The Dude would have willfully acted as a pawn in their schemes in the hopes that he could return to his comfortable spot at the periphery of society after the dust settled.

I like The Dude, but is he the role model many consider him to be? I don’t think so. The Dude is a rotting leftover of the failed revolution of the 1960s. A once passionate man turned into a chump by conservative America. The Big Lebowski is a dark comedy that, instead of celebrating The Dude, makes fun of him, albeit affectionately. Quote him with caution.

Keeping Things In Perspective


Chelsea Handler adjusted.jpg

I just finished the third of three books written by Chelsea Handler who is a stand up comedian. All of her books were hiliarious and I enjoyed them all.

Her first book titled My Horizontal Life was my favorite. The book consisted of a collection of stories about her one night stands and there was one particular story about her underwear that made me laugh out loud.

She has also written two other books, one titled Are You There Vodka ? Its Me Chelsea that features stories about her drinking and partying and her last book Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang which was released earlier this year details her up bringing by her Mormon mother and her Jewish father.

Chelsea also has a television show that airs on the Entertainment Network at 11 p.m and 12 p.m each week nite, usually the 12 p.m. show is a rerun. I am a big fan of her show and look forward to it each night.

Her show consists of a brief monologue and then a roundtable where she discusses current events with three other comedians. The roundtable is my favorite part of the show and you can check out a couple of clips below.

In a time when almost everything in our daily life seems to be stressing us out a show like this one that makes me laugh helps me keep things in perspective. Life is Good.