I’m Singing the Blues, Brother: I went to Woodman’s West tonight, but failed to get Dan Ackroyd’s autograph on a Crystal Head vodka bottle

March 26, 2009

Dan Ackroyd signing Crystal Head Vodka bottles at Woodman's West

Dan Ackroyd signing Crystal Head Vodka bottles at Woodman’s West

There are many things I’ll do for Himself, but buying a bottle of vodka in a crystal bottle shaped like a human skull is not one of them. Firstly, he doesn’t drink; so he’d probably keep the silly thing in his cabinet of curiosities, hoping its value would one day outpace inflation. Secondly, if he did decide to take a nip or two, he’d undoubtedly use the ensuing inebriation as yet another excuse for his occasional failure to hit the rim.

There are many things I have done for Himself, including standing in long lines to obtain autographs of famous, semi-famous, and “whatever happened to?” people, despite the fact I do not share his predilection for celebrity signatures. For instance, I went to a Madison Mallards game last summer and stood in line in order to get Himself an autographed photo of Jerry Mather (a.k.a. Beaver Cleaver).

Jerry Mather signing a baseball cap at a Madison Mallard's game in 2008

Jerry Mather signing a baseball cap at a Madison Mallard’s game in 2008

And I drove to Shorewood to buy him a copy of “The Enchantress of Florence,” then stood in line to have the book autographed by Sir Salman Rushdie, who was apparently in the midst of a pissing match with fellow author (and wine columnist), Malcolm Gluck about which man could sign his name the most times in an hour (a.k.a. “My signing rate is rate is bigger than yours.”). Sir Salman inscribed the book to Himself, but refused any additional requests for personalization, lest he lose momentum.

But I digress, for this post is not about size, stamina, and/or accuracy. It’s about Dan Ackroyd’s visit to Woodman’s West this evening and why I failed to return home with the Canadian-born Ghostbuster’s autograph.

Woodman’s is the grocery store you visit when you want 24 rolls of soft, absorbent, first manufactured in Wisconsin 81 years ago, toilet paper at a reasonable price; Mexican Coca-Cola (made with pure cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup); and a pound of Bob’s Red Mill almond meal flour (to make that Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake you read about in Bon Appetit) for several dollars less than you’d pay at Whole Foods. The chic people who shop at Whole Foods do not shop at Woodman’s unless they’re incognito or in need of late-night munchies.

Woodman’s also features a huge liquor store, filled with those small bottles of cheap (but decidedly un-chic) bottles of whiskey. It does not, to the best of my knowledge, host wine and cheese tastings. I never venture into Woodman’s liquor store unless I’m looking for some exotic wine or liquor necessary for preparing a chic recipe whilst holding the line on cost.

It was from the decidedly chic (and now defunct) Madison Verve weekly newsletter that I learned one of the Blues Brothers would be at Woodman’s liquor store today from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. I marked the date on my calendar, fully intending to battle the traffic in the Woodman’s parking lot and to stand in line to secure Ackroyd’s autograph for Himself’s collection.

Alas, I had something else to do, and I didn’t arrive at Woodman’s until 6:30 p.m. I soon discovered the line for autographs was “closed;” but I could still purchase a “pre-signed” bottle of Crystal Head Vodka. No, thank you. But I will take some photos – and not with my cell phone, thank you very much.

Ackroyd was seated at a table by the checkout aisles, a minder on one side and a flack on the other. He was wearing shades, a black baseball cap with a Winnipeg Police Service emblem, a dark shirt with a Crystal Head Vodka logo, and a bright blue and white necktie. His shirtsleeves were rolled up and his left hand was ink-stained from the large, felt tip pen he was using to sign crystal skulls.

There were also a lot of bottles of Orangina on the table, but I didn’t see him signing any of them. I would have purchased a bottle of Orangina if he’d been willing to autograph it; but I figured that ruse wouldn’t work, since he looked as cranky as Himself looks in some photos you’ll never see on Facebook or Flickr.

I took a couple of available light photographs, but even with the ASA pushed to 800, it was clear they weren’t going to be as good as those shots people were taking on their cell phones. Adopting an unaccustomed air of devil-may-care insouciance, I switched on the flash, shoved closer and took a series of shots, none of which show Ackroyd smiling.

Dan Ackroyd and entourage at Woodman's West (taken in available light)

Dan Ackroyd and entourage at Woodman’s West (taken in available light)

As I was leaving, Ackroyd was neglecting his public and talking on a cell telephone. It sounded as if he’d had trouble with a rental car, because he kept telling the person on the other end he didn’t drop off the car where he was supposed to drop off the car because the engine light was on. If he’d autographed a bottle of Orangina for me, I would have told him he should have checked the gas cap before doing anything rash like dropping a rental car off at the wrong place. The last time my engine light came on, I paid $85 for a diagnostic test to find out that I hadn’t screwed my gas cap on tightly enough.

Dan Ackroyd, "...the engine light was on."

Dan Ackroyd, “…the engine light was on.”

Of course, if I’d read my Madison Verve newsletter more carefully, I might still have been able to secure Himself an Ackroyd autograph. When I started looking for links for this blog post, I discovered there was to be a “Private Tasting of Crystal Head with Dan Ackroyd” for Madison Verve subscribers at an “undisclosed location” from 9:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. tonight. Oh well, perhaps someone younger and more chic, someone who reads party invitations more carefully, will attend that event and write about it. They’ll get the Breakfast Link in Dane101 and I won’t even get breakfast in bed.

SMarty March 26, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Something about Dan Ackroyd and Jerry Mather signing autographs like this makes me sad. Apparently since neither of them is smiling in the photos, it makes them sad too.

Rich March 31, 2009 at 2:00 pm

I agree with SMarty. They look a bit pathetic. Washed up actors aren’t the the most inspiring I’m afraid.

Nadine April 1, 2009 at 5:31 am

They may look sad and pathetic, but I’m told these kinds of gigs can be very profitable. Maybe that makes them happy after the crowds are gone.

Peggy McGilligan December 21, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Dan Ackroyd did an interview, during which he acknowledged his particular quirk about having to have some type of police paraphernalia or other on his person. There's a name for the condition, but it escapes me. As far as I'm concerned, Ackroyd always turns in a good performance. So, I wonder if you noticed Dan's cap? It bears the distinctive crest of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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