The King of the Dudes abides

4 Aug

In the old days on Broadway you were served not cocktails, but a snootful of stuff that burned and you learned to take it. If anyone like Oscar Wilde had come into a bar in the old days, he would have started a riot. It wasn’t his clothes that would have done this, but his accent and gestures. […] I have been so hymned as the King of the Dudes that I think I should stand up for myself and my generation. We dressed as we pleased. Well, so did Oscar! He wore a velvet coat, a frilly shirt, a large sunflower, knickers, and, arriving in New York, announced that he was “disappointed” in the Atlantic Ocean. He went right on talking that way, but he did it among women. They didn’t seem to mind him, and, if you look back, you will see that it was he who started the vogue for what has now become the cocktail bar where men aren’t wanted unless they behave as girls do.

***

It was about this time that I introduced cocktails into America. This was at Delmonico’s, which at that time stretched through from New to Broad Street. The more I drank cocktails the less I thought of them, so I told our champagne agent Mr. Du Vivier . . . that he should import a dry champagne. Wright Sandford and I each promised to take five hundred cases. Up to then we had been drinking sweet champagne in America, but a dry one cured me completely of my liking for cocktails . . .

— E. Berry Wall, Neither Pest nor Puritan: The Memoirs of E. Berry Wall (New York: Dial Press, 1940), pp. 5, 111.

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