Better Know A Blogger: Dan Dunn of The Imbiber
"I've said this before, my job/lifestyle combo is like a supermodel serial killer — it might look great, and be a whole lot of fun, but it will cut your throat if you take your eye off it for a second."
In a sea of booze blogs, Dan Dunn, the forever-irreverent Imbiber, continues to stand out from the cocktail crowd. The former staff writer for the Emmy-nominated Talk Soup was one of very few spirit scribes when he launched his blog The Imbiber, which later became a wildly popular column for Playboy.
Now two booze books later, Nobody Likes a Quitter… and other reasons to avoid rehab and Living Loaded: Tales of Sex, Salvation and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour, Dunn co-wrote a half-hour comedy pilot with Rob McElhenney of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia based on Living Loaded... for FX and is the host of a weekly radio program Dan Dunn's Happy Hour on SiriusXM.
In between booze-infused adventures, we caught up with the raconteur.
Did you ever think your drinks blog and subsequent cocktail column(s) would become such successes?
Dan Dunn: Yes.
I know you worked with Hunter S. Thompson. Was he a mentor? Did you design yourself after anyone else then?
Hunter was a big influence, mainly because I knew him personally. Seeing the Good Doctor in action was something else. The guy who got me started in the drinks-writing profession, though, was Terry Sullivan, a legendary booze scribe from Chicago who used to pen the "Mixology" column for GQ magazine back when hardly anyone knew what mixology was. I met Dale DeGroff and Gary Regan nearly 13 years ago, and both of those legendary barmen played key roles in my development as a professional degenerate.
That said, I haven't consciously mimicked other writers' styles. But, as they say, every artist is a cannibal and every poet is a thief.
Who or what do you have designs on now that you are multimedia machine?
We recently made a TV pilot for Fox, a half-hour comedy based on my book, Living Loaded. It starred Donald Sutherland, Mike Vogel and Larry Wilmore from The Daily Show. Unfortunately the show didn't get picked up to series. I blame Sutherland. So, yeah, given the size of the paychecks they hand out in the entertainment business, I'd like to do something else in TV. My former editor at Playboy and I wrote a very funny half-hour that we're shopping around now.
You must be every guy’s hero as you wrote about boozing and barhopping for Playboy. What was that like?
I've said this before, my job/lifestyle combo is like a supermodel serial killer — it might look great, and be a whole lot of fun, but it will cut your throat if you take your eye off it for a second. This profession isn’t all that different. In a heartbeat that breezy walk in the park can turn into a sprint through the fields away from a tornado.
Your second book was such a huge success. Why do you think that was and what’s going on with the TV show?
I don't know that I'd label Living Loaded a huge success. Book sales were respectable, but not "I'm purchasing a new vacation home on the Cape" successful. Not even, "I'm taking a vacation to the Cape" successful. The TV pilot was a big deal, I guess for a few minutes, anyway. But again, that ultimately didn't pan out either. God, I'm fucking depressed now. Next question!
Back to the blogging, how do you think the blogging world, cocktail and spirits blogging in particular, has changed since you started out?
When I started out in this business blogs didn't exist. The Internet was in its nascent stage. There were but a handful of people covering the adult beverage beat in magazines and newspapers (remember those things?) And — here's the crazy part — those magazines and newspapers actually embraced the antiquated notion of paying writers for their efforts. Nowadays, the vast majority of bloggers don't get paid anything. Well, unless you count free booze and "exposure" as viable currency. (Most landlords and bill collectors do not, FYI.)
These days, it seems every sauce-soaked sap with a laptop and an ID is blogging about booze. Of course, industry publicists are enabling them by trading product, meals and all-expenses-paid junkets for coverage… no matter how dreadful or low profile it may be. One of the more unfortunate truths about life in the Information Age is that large swaths of society don’t give a hoot that so much of the information they consume is complete crap. Where does that leave the discerning reader who’s actually looking for substantive reporting on adult beverages? Shit out of luck, that’s where.
Man, don't I sound like a miserable old bastard this morning!
What kind of advice would you pass on to new boozy bloggers?
Just because US Weekly and InStyle weren’t hiring when these newbies graduated from community college does not mean the rest of us should have to endure the puke-inducing pap about “toasty tipples for cold winter nights” that they copied from a press release. Even if they are willing to do it for free! If you want to be taken seriously in this business, look up the definitions of the words “tattered,” “erudite” and “curmudgeon.” And then become one.
It's really simple: know things that other people don't know, about things they would like to know about. Tell them these things clearly and concisely. And don't digress into tired stories about hanging out with porn stars and your "celebrity" bartender friends. That's my job.
How much of Philly has influenced this liquid path? You are so Philly. I am a native. So, I see that.
Sometimes when people drink, things turn ugly. When that happens, I feel confident in my ability to negotiate the situation, one way or another. I have my Philly roots to thank for that.
Career high? Career low?
I'm usually pretty high at night. In the morning, the lows take over.
What and where are you drinking now? Favorite spirit? Favorite cocktail? Favorite L.A. bars?
I've been drinking Bourbon Smashes of late and enjoying the hell out of a bottle of Bunnahabhain 25-year-old single malt. In fact, I named my puppy after that Scotch. I have lots of favorite bars in L.A. Depends on the mood: Eveleigh, Neat, Roger Room, La Descarga, Pour Vous, The Varnish, Seven Grand, the Surly Goat, Baby Blues BBQ... the list goes on and on (to the detriment of my liver). My local hangouts are Areal in Santa Monica, the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, Hal's in Venice, The Other Room, Hinano, Sunny Spot, The Townhouse and Baja Cantina.
I know you are a big wine guy. What's on the tip of your lips on the eno front?
Lakoya. Inglenook. La Fenetre. Joseph Phelps. Cardinale. Blackbird. And some '66 Latour if I can get my hands on some... got any?
If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?
Probably time in prison... which is still a very distinct possibility. Stay tuned!