For three days, Catalina Island was overrun by even more drunk bros in trucker hats than usual — and it was glorious.
Over the weekend the island hosted the Catalina Wine Mixer. Yes, that Catalina Wine Mixer. “The fuckin’ Catalina Wine Mixer” featured in Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s Step Brothers.
The important thing about fan events like the Catalina Wine Mixer is that no one takes them too seriously. Imagine Lebowski Fest being treated like a serious PBA bowling tournament. Or if every midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show involved sitting quietly and just watching the film.
Rather than focusing on wine tasting and helicopter sales (although both were technically available), the Catalina Wine Mixer was put on by the Santa Catalina Island Company – which runs most of the touristy aspects of Catalina Island – for people to get drunk and have a good time in the names of Brennan Huff and Dale Doback.
In the movie, the Catalina Wine Mixer was all about status, to the point of absurdity. This real-life incarnation seemed like one of those rare times a bunch of people from Southern California actually shut up about how much or how little they have.
None of the film’s actors were at the event — Chris Kattan, who was on SNL at the same time Ferrell was and who hosted 10 hours of Sunday festivities, was the closest they got — so there was a certain air of comfort about the entire weekend. Gone was the precociousness of a Hollywood club or the desperation of a late-night Santa Monica bar. The people at the Mixer dressed either in T-shirts emblazoned with the movie’s more memorable quotes or “costumes” based on the film (mostly all-white suits based on the unforgettable “Boats ‘n’ Hoes” music video). Everyone shared a common interest for all three days, which meant that even the douchiest bro and the dorkiest dork got along for approximately 72 hours while chatting about the importance of Randy Jackson’s autograph and how sweaty one can get while watching Cops.
On some weird level, within the confines of this Adam McKay-inspired construct, the Catalina Wine Mixer was essentially a reminder of how similar all of L.A.'s various cliques can be under the right circumstances. From retail-working twenty-somethings who'd saved up a few hundred dollars to go spend a weekend with their friends to the wealthier folks dropping a couple grand to prolong the inevitability of turning 40 for as long as possible, the event felt like a bonding experience for anyone who could appreciate one of the finest idiotic comedies of the 2000s.
“It's the fuckin' Catalina Wine Mixer,” said attendee Greg Baker, perhaps predictably. “Everyone's just here to get hammered and have fun. There's no time for the usual drama and bullshit.”
Attendees got around either by golf cart or on foot. The lack of cell phone service in some areas – primarily the Descanso Beach Club, where Saturday and Sunday’s activities took place – meant that constant texting and social media had to be put on hold for once, forcing face-to-face interaction with a populace that generally prefers staring at their phones. The Mixer might be the only place you’ll go in Southern California where people actually cheer for opening bands they’ve never heard of rather than muttering amongst themselves about the cooler act they saw in Echo Park last month.
Maybe Step Brothers is just the kind of movie we need to unite people across political, racial and socioeconomic divides. I mean, it couldn't make things worse.
Was the Mixer some world-shaking event that all of L.A. needed to attend? Absolutely not, but was it an example of how surprisingly pleasant the people can be when they're dropped into paradise with alcohol and hundreds of fellow Will Ferrell fans?
You should already know the answer, because it’s the fuckin’ Catalina Wine Mixer.