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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

The Swizzle Stick Collectors

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‘The swizzle stick’s origin can be traced to its first appearance on sugar plantations in the West Indies in the 1600s as a small branch used to stir a refreshing rum elixir called “Switchel.” It seems we’ve never stopped using them. Queen Victoria was known to use a stirring rod to chase bubbles out of her Champagne, quietly avoiding any embarrassment from those pesky fizzy gasses.

‘The Gibson Girls and then flappers of the Roaring ’20s used swizzle sticks made of glass and newly invented Bakelite plastic. They were already a hot item when all they did was stir. But it was inventor Jay Sindler who, in 1934, revolutionized swizzle sticks with a brilliant advertising idea.

‘Two and a half months after the repeal of Prohibition, Sindler sat contemplating his martini at the bar in Boston’s Ritz Carlton Hotel, wondering how he could remove the olive without dipping his fingers into his gin. He sketched the solution to this problem on his cocktail napkin; it was a small spear made of wood with a paddle-shaped handle. The paddle would be used as a miniature billboard imprinted with the establishment’s name.

‘This idea would have been worthless during Prohibition when speak-easies hid from the law, but after repeal, drinking establishments wanted their names and addresses out in public. Swizzle sticks conveyed the information and were cheaper than a book of printed matches and cheaper still than the vanishing ashtrays that also boasted printed logos. Sindler was granted his patent on Feb. 19, 1935, and his invention and his company, Spir-it Inc., are still in business.

‘World War II and then the space race prompted growth in injection molding and plastic technologies that were good for the development of the swizzle. By the 1960s, we’d reached the golden age of the swizzle stick; any form was possible, fantasy designs were limited only by an artist’s imagination and a client’s request.

‘Swizzles became an important part of any lounge’s décor. They were snapped up as soon as they were set out, and the more exciting the design, the faster they were pocketed. As playful representations of their establishments, they became more whimsical and intricate — for example, sporting a lobster for a seafood restaurant or a steer for a steakhouse. Las Vegas casinos all competed to have the most extravagant swizzle in town.

‘Taking swizzles as a memento was assumed and encouraged. They were saved for years. They made customers feel like they were given a gift, and the cheap but magical memories on a stick beckoned them back to an establishment again and again. A Madison Avenue dream come true.

‘It wasn’t until the 1980s that swizzle sticks fell upon hard times. The rise of Jane Fonda workout videos and general health consciousness prompted a decline in cocktail consumption, bars and restaurants tightened their belts, and swizzle sticks practically disappeared. Remaining patrons were left with a flimsy red straw, hardly substantial enough to move the ice around their drink.’ — Los Angeles Times


400 swizzle sticks found in a dumpster.

 

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‘Swizzle sticks are miniature billboards and a very reasonable way to advertize, as 95% of swizzle sticks are taken home. They’re not as much in vogue as they used to be but they’re making a big comeback. Swizzle sticks are a very reasonably priced and easily acquired collectible. My own collection is in excess of 55,000 and is always growing. They can’t possibly be put on display but they’re all mounted on 11 x 14 inch cards (28 x 36.5 cm), and are not only in alphabetical order, but also indexed by color. I’d say I spend at least seven hours a day working on swizzle sticks. In 1985 the International Swizzle Stick Collectors Association (ISSCA) was born. Our first biennial convention was held in 1987 in Las Vegas. To date, we have had 12 such events. Our conventions bring together 30 or 40 members from ISSCA for three days of swizzle stick business including presentations, guest speakers and our huge swap fests. I publish our “Swizzle Stick News” newsletter and my wife arranges the convention planning. I’m extremely proud of what I have and what I have achieved.’ — Ray Hoare

 

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‘This is one of the many things I collect; I hope you enjoy my Suzanne’s Swizzle Sticks Page! You might want to post your trades on the Delphi Collecting Forum or join The International Swizzle Stick Collectors Association below. I went to there biannual convention and had a great time!!! Please feel free to send me swizzle sticks, or other collectibles: P.O. Box 865201, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-0047. I will reimburse for postage costs. Here are some pictures of some of my best-looking sticks (the rest are sorted in boxes in the closet).’

 

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‘Welcome to Swizzle Sticks International! New to collecting or have tens of thousands? Either way, check out this site dedicated to collecting all sorts of swizzle sticks from around the world. Here are some samples from our collection.’

 

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‘Welcome to the Casino Swizzle Stick Page. Currently the Las Vegas swizzle sticks are being loaded. The guide will be updated on a regular basis as new scans are uploaded. This is a guide to view swizzle sticks, this is not a price guide but I do use a rarity factor to give some idea how difficult some of the swizzle sticks are to obtain. Currently there are 159 swizzle stick examples to view.’

 

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‘Welcome to Swizzle Sticks Collection, a site devoted to swizzle sticks. Generally made of plastic, glass, sometimes metal, swizzle sticks are part of objects which are collected from bars. Next to bottle openers, ashtrays, glass, swizzle sticks have attracted collectors since their creation. Swizzle sticks being very numerous and varied according to the different countries, exchanges remain the best way to increase a collection rapidly. This is why this site has a page showing duplicates. For a clearer view, the collection is classified by themes or per brand. As it is a big collection only part of it has been photographed, that is 3114 pictures altogether.’

 

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‘Welcome to SwizzleDD’s Swizzle Stick Collection! I collect many things, but swizzle sticks are my passion. For many years I have collected them, but really got serious about the hobby eleven years ago. In the past, I would keep one swizzle stick from a cocktail, but now all my friends and relatives collect as many as they can for me. I now have more than 50,000. Here are some of favorite stirrers.’

 

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Leftovers


Shaunessy Swizzle Stick Master Class


A Sculptural Swizzle Stick


Gin & tonic


LED Swizzle Sticks
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p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Oh, yeah? Not at all for me. Situations where gay guys are having furtive public sex and cruising and all of that stuff have always just made me feel totally alien and borderline hetero. ** Bernard, Thank you for confirming my porn theater nerdiness. ‘Kagemusha’ is the real deal, yeah. Still haven’t caught ‘Parasite’, but no doubt there’ll be opportunities galore for ages. You good? Love, yours truly. ** kier, Hey, hey, hey! The gallery show is a two person thing. Three or two of my gif fictions (desk, keyboard, screen, plus large screens on the walls so non-readers can see them) and a bunch of paintings by an artist. I think maybe mixed together? I’m not really sure. I guess I’ll find out soon. It should be very pleasant here in May and June. I mean, you never know in this climate altered world, but it’s generally not bad at all. It usually doesn’t get hot here until July. Ooh, we should try to organise a road trip to see the Gregor Schneider house while you’re here. Zac and I have talked about going to see it. Oh, man, those sketches of the house in ‘Period’ are amazing! That’s, like, such a total dream come true for me. Wow! Thank you, kier, that’s insane. Everyone, If the idea sounds appealing, the amazing artist Kier Cooke Sandvik made a post on his blog that is fully explained by its title — ‘an unfinished attempt at constructing a model of the house described in dennis cooper’s novel ‘period,’ summer 2010′. I’m, of course, thrilled to bits, and if you think there could be a thrill there for you, go here. You have a super swell day/night, dear pal! Love, me. ** KK, Hi! That’s so true about Semiotext(e). There really isn’t a better publisher. Your review of ‘Uncut Gems’ describes exactly what I imagine it is. ‘Good Time’ was, to me, just a soulless, unimaginative imitation/rehash of 70s alt. films like ‘Panic in Needle Park’, et. al. with boring, ‘edgy’ over-color saturation and ham-fisted ‘energised’ editing and blah. Great about your interview! I read it yesterday, and it’s great! Everyone, The fantastic writer and d.l. Kyle ‘KK’ Kirshbom has interviewed the excellent writer Troy James Weaver on the occasion of the release of his book ‘Selected Stories’ — one of my favorite books of 2019 — over at Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and it’s a fine read, and so I highly recommend you go read it. I kind of want to see ‘Underwater’. I’m sure it’s semi-shitty, but the premise is so guilty pleasure. I’m good. Yeah, pretty good. You sound good. Are you? ** Quinn R, Hi, Quinn! Yeah, I think I saw a photo of you and Ed. I think. Awesome that you see your sex bender as propulsive force for general good. Totally makes sense. I liked the Tiqqun book quite a bit. I don’t know if I agreed with it. I guess I wasn’t thinking that way about it. I was just taken with it mostly. Yeah, Ariana was actually a super regular commenter here on the blog for a long time until a few years ago, and that’s how I got to know her and her work. She’s a good friend. I just hung out with her in Paris not doing ago. I think what she’s doing in poetry feels really fresh right now. Somebody said she’s kind of like the Anne Waldman of her generation, and I don’t know, but I get that comparison. Expository and mystical and full of belief in poetry itself, etc. Good to see you, man, and I look forward to the next time. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey, Ben. Great news about the class! That’s a great thing for you to do, and great for the class too, obviously. That’s funny: I just restored an old guest-post of yours that features Legowelt (among others) in it. I’ll hit those links gratefully. Thanks, pal. ** Misanthrope, It’s pretty logical and not that complicated. I mean, when’s the last time you read a book or saw a movie or whatever from Europe that was distributed in the US by its European distributor. Never. America thinks it owns the world, or it wants to own the world, and it’s very grabby. The novel will get a US publisher for sure. It’s just taking so fucking long. No need at all, for sure. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. I haven’t seen the Andrea Long Chu thing so of course I don’t know if you’re spot on or not. You’re often spot on, so, by the law of averages, probably. ** Right. Today I give you the most profound and important post in the history of this blog, ha ha. Show it due respect please. See you tomorrow.

6 Comments

  1. dennis, i would DIE if we could roadtrip to his house, DIE! how does one get access, it doesn’t strike me as something with regular opening hours? i’m deadly serious, i want us to go so bad that would be the best thing. im happy you liked the sketches! i was really obsessed with that project for a while, i remember i would carry the book with me everywhere, full of my sketches, and close read everything relating to the house and make notes and drawings on any piece of paper i could find. right now i’m trying to get better at being in my studio at school regularly, so i’m trying to start my days here with the blog and some coffee, because i also need to learn how to relax and enjoy being in the studio and not just work ’til i’m exhausted and leave. today a friend of mine came here from stockholm to get something knitted on the huge digital knitting machine my school has, for a show, and since he’s not a student he can’t use it so i went with him and pretended it was a collaboration. i love that machine though so it was fun. it’s being knitted right now, takes several hours, and then i’m gonna go pick it up. tonight a whole bunch of people are coming to our house for dinner, which’ll be great. i love our house so much, it’s amazing how good it is to live in a house and not an apartment, and it’s such a good house too. me and erik just started playing this ps2 game called second sight, did you ever play it? it’s set in some freaky hospital which is exactly what’s up my lane right now. tell me about your day? good swizzle sticks btw, i especially like the ones that have a complete design that goes all the way down the stick, like the dragon ones for example, instead of just a thing on top of a stick. xx

  2. Sex on the Piers in the 70’s wasn’t at all “furtive” Dennis. But Chaque a son GOO.

    Swizle Sticks evoke certain mixed drinks or me: Rum and Coke, Gin and Tonic, Whiskey and Soda. and Frank Sinatra

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever used a swizzle stick. Then again, they seem to be linked to alcoholic beverages, and I’ve been a lifelong teetotaler.

    Oh, I saw my first Bresson yesterday, one of the ones you recommended to me, PICKPOCKET, as you may have seen on Facebook. I liked it. I think the next film I watch will be THE END OF THE TOUR. For whatever reason the thought of Jason Segel playing David Foster Wallace just cracks me up whenever I think of it, and Ellis’ very negative review of the film has made me morbidly curious to see it.

  4. Haha I thought at first this was about Swizzel lollies which are basically sugary crack cocaine for hyperactive young children. Sure if I was offered some of that then I’d be having a major sweet-tooth relapse.

  5. I felt the same way about the Safdie brothers till I saw UNCUT GEMS. It’s very similar in style to their other films, but the use of close-ups and abrupt editing to evoke a mix of anxiety and excitement works far better, for some reason. Have you seen Ronald Bronstein’s FROWNLAND? It’s a great, extremely abrasive film, but I can see its influence here (he co-wrote and co-edited it.)

    One interesting thing about Bandcamp is that it’s eliminated the concept of the import and the inflated prices that went with it. To some extent, streaming services have done the same. Slowthai’s NOTHING GREAT ABOUT BRITAIN costs $25 as an import CD at Rough Trade, but you can download it for $9.99 on Bandcamp and listen to it on Spotify for free. Would there be any way to do something similar in the publishing industry?

  6. Dennis, The swizzle stick. I like it when people will take something functional and make it an art form.

    Oh, no, I get it. Like I said, you see even American film companies distributing their films through European distributors, even if said distributors are their own subsidiaries.

    However, I think a European publisher or movie company would be wise to look into having some sort of American arm or something because we’re such a huge market that likes to spend money. It’s the smart thing to do financially. But that’s me with my former marketing/business hat on. I get how it actually works these days. And I assume, too, that many of the publishers and film companies in Europe are happy doing just what they do and are fine with the money they make.

    I’m slowly but surely making my way through this novel of mine again. Up to chapter 6 (of 28). Just chuggin’ along.

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