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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Friday, December 23, 2016


"The barkeep has murdered this martini!
 He's bruised the gin and muddled the olive!"

                      Cary Grant

It's Friday yet again, and that means it's time for the Friday martini!

This week a bit different, however. This little gem will be included in the book, but here's a preview.

Most drinkers, those who drink for enjoyment and not for sport, are specific when it comes to how they like their preferred beverage. I have a friend who demands his Rob Roy be served very specifically. When I'm drinking a martini on my own I will make my preferences known. (When shooting entries for CHASING MARTINIS I will basically see what the bartender recommends and drink it their way...)

This last week I was at lunch with two close friends who told me a brilliant anecdote regarding one of my favorite actors, Cary Grant, and the ever-fascinating Howard Hughes.  My friend is essentially unimpeachable when it comes to Mr. Grant, so I regard this as a true story.

As you might know, at one point Howard Hughes was involved in filmmaking and, like many filmmakers, would often pre-screen his films. It is a chance for a director to gauge the audience response to specific scenes, after which he would return to the studio and edit appropriately.

On one occasion Cary Grant was with him. This is the story:

Many years ago, in the heyday of Hollywood, Howard Hughes and Cary Grant developed a "bromance" that extended to a mutual appreciation for a well-made martini. Grant, of course, was well known for his love of the drink, being quite specific in his criticism of anything less than a perfect martini.

One evening they found themselves at the State Theater in Long Beach after a prescreening of one of Hughes' upcoming films. After the show they searched around for a place to get a drink, settling upon the Saratoga Bar on Pine Avenue, named for the Navy's aircraft carrier which used to homeport at Long Beach Naval Station in the post-war years.

Downtown Long Beach, at the time, was a rough around the edges Navy town, and the Saratoga Bar was very much in keeping with that setting. Hughes and Grant entered and sat down at the bar. Only a couple of other patrons were in the room. Grant, iwth his mellifluous British accent, ordered a martini.

The bartender, given more towards serving beer, rum, scotch and bourbon, scoffed and asked in a disbelieving voice "What is a martini?".

According to the legend, Hughes offered to demonstrate and slid a hundred dollar bill across the bar. The bartender pocketed the bill and stepped aside as Hughes mixed up the first attempt at the drink.  Hughes, naturally, was no bartender and despite having consumed many martinis over the years wasn't quite sure what proportion the ingredients should be, nor was he terribly sure of the mixing process (this was a bar that probably didn't have a shaker...). In essence, he was making it up as he went along. Trial and error.

Grant tasted it and made a frown. Not yet. Hughes tried it himself and was similarly unimpressed. So he tried again. The second round, of course, was to neither of their satisfaction. Nor was the third...

And so it went for some time until both Hughes and Grant were completely plastered, at which point the car was summoned and they headed back to Hollywood to sleep off their martini-making evening. My friend isn't sure if they ever got it right -- Grant was too far gone to know whether the last few hit the mark. As far as he knew, none of them was any better than just half-assed.

Years later Cary Grant related the story to my friend, labeling it the Making of the Half-Assed Martini.

And while it's a true story, I prefer calling it a Legend.

BTW - In researching a photo of Mr Grant I ran across this page. You might enjoy.


1 comment:

  1. Mr G would be so happy to have you repeat his story in such a wonderful light...TT, you are the best storyteller...and your lens is only matched by your ability to spin a super subject.