A mother goes into a whiskey joint with her eight, six and four-year olds. You might think this is a joke. But it’s so not. Earlier this summer, my kids and I took the vacation destination less traveled and visited the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. No, I was not trying to find a substitution for the periodically administered allergy medication that helps my children along in their afternoon naps. I took my young ones on a pilgrimage to see their birthright. Well, sort of. See, my husband and his family are direct descendents of Jim Beam founder, T. Jeremiah Beam. How close are we to old Jeremiah? Supposedly, the grand distiller himself is a “great to the second power” uncle. I like to say we’re close enough to the company to share the name, but distant enough not to see any of the profits.
It’s tough being a Beam. Since I have not had the name for my full 36 years of existence, I wasn’t prepared for the jokes. When check-out clerks see your credit card, they think it’s funny to ask if Jim is my father. Total confusion for me, because Jim IS my father-in-law, brother-in-law and grandfather-in-law. Normally I try to have a witty reply like yes, and Jack Daniels is my uncle. But then I realize that they might actually know my husband’s relatives. If I’m too sarcastic, they might report back that I’m the bad wife. Or even that I’m the drama queen drunk of the brood. Which I am, but only at graduation parties, weddings, and Christmas dinner.
I wonder if other famous family names receive equal attention? Paris Hilton makes good use out of her ties to the Hilton hotel chain. You know she utilizes the free rooms to her, let’s just say, advantage. Where do you think “One Night in Paris” was most likely filmed? And, I bet she doesn’t even own HBO. Anytime she wants to watch Entourage or soft-core porn, she just checks in. Sigh. What a life!
And how about Walt Disney’s relatives? I can honestly say, I’ve never met someone with the last name of Disney. I had to google if he even had children. I would have bet ten Disney pins that he died childless much like the guy who founded Hershey Chocolates or Mother Theresa. People that pure and good shouldn’t be able to reproduce. But no, he has a slew of great-grand kids. I assume they constantly fend off cryogenic jokes. When Disney’s head returns to life 20 years from now, we’ll see who’s laughing. Most likely it will be old Walt himself in a jar of formaldehyde. I reckon the family can spend the night in that darn Cinderella’s castle at any time of their choosing just for paying the electric bill on the freezer.
And don’t even get me started on the female heirs to the Hoover vacuum fortune. Just think of the phrases that’s been sucked through their ears!
As to my family’s claim to fame, we really do not take advantage of great-great uncle Jeremiah nearly enough. Even at the distillery, we couldn’t score a private tour. I had to say quite loudly while in the massive touring group that indeed we were Beam’s. I never get the chance to throw my name around other than at the local gymnastic venue where I lie and say my father-in-law was Balance. Plus, I was hoping that the others would understand why a mother would bring her offspring to such an establishment if they thought we were just trying to see their grandpa’s namesake. Surely Phillip Morris’ descendants tour the cigarette factories without fear of negative backlash, at least two packs of non-menthol lights and some killer health insurance. In the end, I was offered only two jigs of whiskey. Not the 50 percent of the business I was hoping for, but at least it was a start. The kids ate bourbon balls. Makers say that the bourbon cooks off, but I’m still unsure. My oldest kept hitting on an 80 year old British lass with blue hair and long yellow toenails protruding from her orthopedic sandals. If that’s not seeing through drunk goggles, I’m not sure what is.
Other than a buzz, my kids also learned an important lesson from our alcoholic adventure. They now understand that your name can only get you so far in life. Your actions and words must do the rest. That and the fact that good whiskey must be aged in an oaken barrel for years is something that they can’t learn in the classroom. Or a bar.