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The Vodka Wars


Miu over at A Socialite's Life has been following a bitter battle between the owners of 42 Below vodka, a New Zealand brand, and Brite Bar in Chelsea. Getting ugly press are a number of emails back and forth between the vodka company's president James Dale (no relation to the Boy Scout) and Brite Bar owner John Libonati. Miu got ahold of a few of the emails to Libonati which don't paint a very pretty picture of 42 Below's president:

Hello Fuckface,

if you are suggesting that we are anti gay then speak to my fuckin hand you fool. At least of four of the people on our team are gay and one of our best accounts in NYC in Lucky Chengs. PERHAPS YOU AER A REDNECK HOMOPHOBE WHO WANTS TO FEEL IMPORANT. WE WOULD NEVER LET YOUR SORRY ARSE HIPPE SHIT FCUK BAR CARRY 42 BELOW ANYWAY. So there dickhead.

No regards
USA Company President doing very well thanks
James D

At issue is this video, which Libonati says panders to the gay community with offensive stereotypes. For that reason he is refusing to stock 42 Below's vodka. Towleroad sees it doing about the same level of pandering and stereotyping that Queer Eye does, like a Jib-Jab video aimed at gays. While the script, read on its own, might be considered offensive, the images tell a more tongue-in-cheek story. I do agree with Miu, however that we should never be at war over vodka. Imho, both these guys should probably sit down and have a drink.

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  1. I'm sorry but that video was hysterical.
    Someone's had their sense of humor removed.

    Posted by: Jcloud | Apr 1, 2005 12:03:30 PM

  2. I agree. Pretty F#$%ing funny.

    Posted by: Digger | Apr 1, 2005 12:37:01 PM

  3. What a silly little fight over a non-offensive, though not particularly funny, video advert.

    Posted by: cafegogo | Apr 1, 2005 1:02:31 PM

  4. I agree with the bar owner - don't stock it. Does the world at large get to return to using blatant slurs like 'fag' and 'queer', to our faces no less, just because it's supposed to be funny? If the company produced Malt Liquor, would it solicit the African American dollar with the same tactic? I really don't think so. It's one thing if Queen Latifah makes "Beauty Shop'and Ice Cube makes "Next Friday", it's another when some white, straight New Zealand dude does it.

    Posted by: Ken | Apr 1, 2005 1:27:24 PM

  5. Oh, I don't know, Ken - I think you're being a bit touchy-feely politically-correct.

    "Queer," et al in the right context is not offensive (to me), just as "Nigger" isn't necessarily offensive when used as slang between two black people.

    By your reasoning, I can no longer greet a gay friend by crying out across 6th avenue, "Hey, bitch! You're hair's on fire!" because it might offend someone's delicate sensibilities. Lighten up.

    This is not to say that I found the video all that great. Mediocre, at best, but I wasn't offended.

    Posted by: cafegogo | Apr 1, 2005 6:16:57 PM

  6. Cafegogo, I don't think that's what Ken is saying. What you shout out to a friend is not the same as corporate advertising.
    Are you suggesting that they are using the word "fag" affectionately? Because it's what we fags call each other?
    I'm not so sure. What have they done to be our friend, that they can call us that?

    Posted by: Toby | Apr 1, 2005 6:45:36 PM

  7. Sorry, that is funny. Its self-effacing, honest in an age of absolute moral and political correctness; what a relief it is to see something actually funny and arch. As for the power of words, doesn't anyone realize its only by confining them, bestoiling upon them the power of shame, that they get any power. I don't how many times I called Andy a fag, and he never flinched. He moved, but he did not flinch. Just stop it. There are so many more important, creatively interesting issues to ponder than a beer maker and his bar keeper fighting over a low-budget, silly, engaging little ad.

    Posted by: Randy Dunbar | Apr 1, 2005 7:51:36 PM

  8. Phew. thank you Randy. A voice of sanity. Ya big 'mo! ;)

    Posted by: cafegogo | Apr 1, 2005 8:18:08 PM

  9. HeLLO. It's satire. They are calling attention to what every other brand does (Miller beer ads anyone?) in the name of 'diversity' and 'tolerance'. PLEASE. It's all about selling alcohol and these New Zealand dudes are just cheekily admitting to that. This Brite bar owner is obviously a completely humorless stiff. What a surprise he runs a bar in Chelsea!

    Posted by: Seth | Apr 1, 2005 8:27:14 PM

  10. the real issue is if the vodka is any good. do we know?

    now, with that said, I think it is quite refreshing for a company to simply come out state that they simply want the gay dollar. The rest of them do it in not so direct ways (sponsoring prides, ads in the advocate), but deep down that is all any of the want. Our money.

    Good for them.

    Posted by: Bradford Shellhammer | Apr 1, 2005 10:31:12 PM

  11. geez...the vid is SATIRE of stereotypes. You'd have to be an idiot not to get that. A lot of gay men have lost their sense of humor, it seems.

    Posted by: ryan | Apr 2, 2005 10:48:34 AM

  12. Maybe you're right & I'm just being over-sensitive. Would be nice to see a company go after gay dollars without using the same ol' standard set of pop culture references. But I guess that's a lot to ask from a vodka commercial.

    Posted by: toby | Apr 2, 2005 10:50:32 AM

  13. Nigger. Dumb Nigger. Stupid Nigger. Lazy Nigger. Ugly Nigger. Nigger Lover. Nigglet. Jungle Bunny. Reggin. Jigaboo. Coon. Dumb Coon. Stupid Coon. Lazy Coon. Ugly Coon. Sambo. Kaffir. Yard Ape. Naga. Popolo. Porch Monkey. Spear Chucker. Spook. Antique Farm Equipment. Mississippi Blue Lip. Whale Turd. Dinge. Dinge Queen. Prairie Nigger. Red Nigger. Gook. Dink. Chink. Slant Eyes. Chale. Bamboo Coon. Wog. Yellow Monkey. Zipperhead. Rice. Rice Queen. Kike. Hebe. Yid. Beaner. Spic. Spicaboo. Berry Picker. Border Nigger. Chilango. Wetback. Maldito Bori. Mexicoon. Towel Head. Rag Head. Sand Nigger. Desert Nigger. Dune Nigger.... Nigger walks into a bar with a Kike, a Spic, and Gook. All order a 42 Below Vodka. Faggot bartender says, "That'll be $6 each. Nigger says, "Do y'all take food stamps?"

    Hold on. Stop the music. WHY AREN'T YOU LAUGHING? Too Politically Correct? No sense of humor? Don’t understand satire? Not sophisticated enough? An idiot? OK. How about: This Nigger survives a lynching. Hires himself a Kike lawyer.... Anything?

    Posted by: Leland | Apr 2, 2005 1:10:21 PM

  14. Again, Leland, it's context, intent. Sigh. Some people will never get it.

    Posted by: cafegogo | Apr 2, 2005 1:37:35 PM

  15. Cafegogo, how do you know their intent? It's one thing for gays or black or whomever else to mock themselves publicly or privately. This is a corporation telling a fag joke publicly. That's the wrong context you stupid fuck.
    And if "everyone gets it" then there would be no joke. Ye olde difference between laughing with and being laughed at. "Nigger jokes" aren't funny to anyone who's not racist. Neither are fag jokes.

    Posted by: Leland | Apr 2, 2005 2:10:09 PM

  16. Leland, Leland, Leland, as Ryan says so succinctly above, "The vid is a SATIRE of stereotypes. You'd have to be an idiot not to get that." That is the their intent, Leland, okay? Satire. Duh. You big 'mo! :)

    Posted by: cafegogo | Apr 2, 2005 5:21:37 PM

  17. cafegogo -- please tell us where this fairyland is so we can all emigrate and live happily ever after. And please post the hours of Peppermint Bay. I don't want to miss seeing the bons bons play. Thanks. You're swell!

    Posted by: lolly | Apr 3, 2005 3:18:59 PM

  18. I think you all missed the point. If the vodka company didn't agree with Mr. Libonati's criticism, they should have simply said "Sorry you didn't like our ad." Addressing him as "Fuckface" was completely out of line, and says more about the company than the advert ever did. I will pass on 42 Below vodka.

    Posted by: Cligo | Apr 4, 2005 3:34:27 PM

  19. I laughed my arse off at this ad but I can see why some people don't get it. It's got that very dry, ironic, self-effacing Kiwi sense of humour that may not translate well in cultures where the joke has to be spelled out in big letters.

    Some people just take themselves far too seriously. Loosen up and drink some vodka ffs.

    Posted by: Piglet | Apr 5, 2005 10:30:27 AM

  20. I'm a straight woman who loves gay men. And humans in general.

    Slurs are fucking slurs people. period. I have an excellent sense of humor and when Gay are granted every single fucking right I have just because I happen to fuck the opposite sex Then I'll be fine with videos and marketing like this. But the fact is it's offensive when gays are still treated like second class citizens in many many ways.

    And in any case, calling someone a fag or queer is Just like calling a black man a nigger. Period.

    So start acting like rational adults please. Fight for justice for your gay friends and lovers.

    I mean really, racial slurs are just shitty.

    Posted by: Joe Mama | Apr 8, 2005 12:23:37 AM

  21. Hi, I work for 42 Below in Australia. I have neat hair, work out regularly and go to the solarium. I am also decidedly un-gay, but am often mistaken for being such because of aforementioned personal traits (some would call them demeaning and unnecessary stereotypes, but I call them personal traits).

    OK, I mention this because I sometimes find myself at the scoring end of some hot chick, who inevitably declares that she didn't jump me earlier because she assumed I was gay.

    A few questions:

    * Should I be offended?
    * How many times can I use the same towel before washing it?
    * If I change my number, how long will it take tele-marketers to find out what it is?


    Posted by: Bodog | Apr 8, 2005 8:39:46 AM

  22. I too wrote about this on my photo-blog.

    The research was exhausting - running over the 13 blocks to Lucky Cheng's to drink some 42 Below, trying to get a photo of it being poured and not have it come out blurry and then having to stumble home.

    It really is all about the vodka, which I'm told doesn't give you a hangover. I guess it was the Jager and Whisky I drank later that had me ill the next morning. My point is the 42 Below is good vodka and we east village boys never drink in Chelsea anyway so their opinion doesn't matter.

    Posted by: Aaron Edwards | Apr 8, 2005 11:45:02 AM

  23. Ikon Vodka True Russian does the same without shitting on your rug!

    Posted by: albatros | Apr 11, 2005 8:40:00 PM

  24. Persoanlly, all I drink when I drive fast is 42 below vodka, it's smooth and refreshing. Hell, the cops can't even smell it on my breath. Even in jail the LA cops continue to treat me like a King.

    Posted by: Rodney King | Apr 14, 2005 10:10:04 AM

  25. It's funny in sort of the same way that Kill Bill is funny, but not so subtle. A lot of people don't find Kill Bill funny, but I think it's one of the most hilarious movies I've ever seen.

    Posted by: S. Way | May 27, 2005 6:07:39 AM

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