Herman was a big man, powerfully built with a barrel chest, huge hands and a heartiness and jolly nature that often seems to be part of a man with such an imposing physique. I was relatively new to the beverage industry when I knew him.
He was western manager for an import firm. One of Herman's products was an imported English gin and he wanted some publicity on the brand. He talked to my Editor and explained that he had this bar restaurant in the East Bay that had won a reputation for its outstanding martinis and they were made with his brand. Would it be possible for the paper's photographer to accompany him to the restaurant so some photos could be taken and published.
So one morning about 11 a.m. I stood on the corner from our office, speed graphic and big film bag in hand, and soon Herman came by in his car and we were on our way over the Bay Bridge to the restaurant. He explained that they did a big lunch business and that it would be well for us to have a few cocktails, enjoy lunch and take the photos when the lunch crowd had moved on.
Since I was on assignment with him to his schedule, this was fine with me. If it took most of the day it was not a problem. After all I was working. We arrived at the restaurant, met the owner and bartender and preceded to try a few martinis made with Herman's gin. Lunch was excellent and Herman was on good terms with everyone on the staff including our most attractive waitress.
When it came time for the photos I lined up the owner, Herman, bartender and waitresses at the end of the bar, with the gin bottle displayed prominently and a long row of martini glasses. I took several photos and then I thought it was time to go, but no ,Herman decided we should haveat least one more cocktail for the ride back across the bridge.
The restaurant was quiet and empty and then Herman gave a deep sigh, shook his head and started his sad tale.
He said he had just got back from a business trip to Hawaii where he had some brands that sold quite well. One evening he was at the hotel bar where he was staying and met a woman who was also there. Herman was in his early 40's and he said the woman was probably in her mid to late thirties, nicely dressed, well spoken and very attractive.
They appeared to hit it off well together and so he ended up at the woman's apartment. What first appeared to be an evening of sexual pleasure was not. Herman said to me with no little anguish in his voice, "Joe, I could not perform, I was dead in the water".
"The woman became furious with me. She shouted at me, called me every bad name she could think of and I might add that she now showed a vocabulary like a drill sergeant or bosun mate. It was dreadful. I was totally embarrassed and all her carrying on did nothing to improve my situation.
"Finally I just put my clothes back on and slinked out of her apartment with her shouting and yelling curses at me the whole time." With his huge size I had a hard time imaging Herman slinking anywhere.
Herman continued, "I wish I could stop thinking about it."
After listening to his sad story I said, "Well, I think almost all of us have had moments of manly inadequacy at some time or other. And added philosophically 'You know maybe you felt something was wrong with the situation and your brain kicked in with some kind of warning. Something, I added, that unfortunately does not happen to we men in this kind of situation as often as it probably should."
I am not sure Herman found any comfort in my comments on the night 'he was dead in the water'.
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