CasiNotes: Aykroyd's sold on selling spirits
CONSIDERING DAN Aykroyd wears so many hats, it's a little surprising he has but one head. You know Dan Aykroyd the "Saturday Night Live" icon. And Dan Aykroyd the movie star ("Ghostbusters," "Driving Miss Daisy"). And Dan Aykroyd the House of Blues impresario. And of course, Dan Aykroyd the pop star (as Elwood Blues, one-half of the Blues Brothers).
wears so many hats, it's a little surprising he has but one head.
You know Dan Aykroyd the "Saturday Night Live" icon. And Dan Aykroyd the movie star ("Ghostbusters," "Driving Miss Daisy"). And Dan Aykroyd the House of Blues impresario. And of course, Dan Aykroyd the pop star (as Elwood Blues, one-half of the Blues Brothers).
But do you know Dan Aykroyd, the liquor tycoon? How about Dan Aykroyd, the soon-to-be reality TV star? Both of them will be at Resorts Atlantic City tomorrow night.
The almost-57-year-old performer is coming to town as part of a promotional tour for Crystal Head Vodka, of which he is a principal. His Resorts visit is an invitation-only affair for the casino's high-rollers, but Crystal Head is certainly available to the public.
Aykroyd became a distiller by accident. It started when he realized that his favorite tequila, Patron, wasn't available in his native Ontario (where he still lives part time). "In order to [get it], I had to become [Patron's] importer and distributor in Canada," he said during a recent phone chat.
His evolution from spirits importer/distributor to creator was inspired by his idea to have some sort of liquor he could put in skull-shaped bottles inspired by the legend of the 13 crystal heads. They are believed to have been scattered about the world in ancient times by unknown beings (theories ascribe them to the Mayans, the residents of Atlantis and even extraterrestrials). The skulls are said to contain magical powers beyond the understanding of modern man.
"I said, 'We have to put something clean inside. We'll do a light spirit, vodka, and we'll infuse it with nothing,' " he recalled. Distilling experts he consulted suggested adding various ingredients, including glycol, a chemical used to cool Spitfire plane engines during World War II. But Aykroyd wasn't buying.
"I just wanted a good, old-fashioned, clean moonshine like I used to get [down South]," he said. "An old-fashioned white lightning."
Made in Canada's sole remaining still in Newfoundland, Aykroyd boasted that his vodka, made with a proprietary blend of grains, is "a good, clean vodka to drink with mixes. You do six shots, and you won't get a hangover. Sip it, and you'll get a little alco-punch. But it goes down smooth."
As for his in-production reality show, Aykroyd explained it's tied in with his promotional tour, which he is undertaking aboard a tricked-out RV he's dubbed the "Crystal Head-mobile."
The concept is that as he travels North America, "we'll pick people up in every town we go to. It might be a rocket scientist, a priest, rabbi or Muslim cleric, and we'll talk to them."
His goal, he added, is to engage his subjects in conversation about their work and lives. "Hopefully, people will learn something from reality TV. It's a form that needs a little intellectual elevation."
No matter what Aykroyd does, his name will always be entwined with that of his late partner and best friend, John Belushi. More than 27 years after his drug-induced death, Belushi remains a strong presence in Aykroyd's life.
"I think of him every time I walk into a House of Blues," said Aykroyd, a co-founder of the music venue chain. "We [he and Belushi's brother Jim, Aykroyd's current Blues Brother partner] talk about how funny he was, and how great it was to know him as an intimate."
So what does Aykroyd think Belushi would be doing today if he were alive?
"John would be a big-time director, a director of comedies and all kinds of things," he replied without hesitation. "He loved working with actors and knew what to do with actors."
Resorts is giving away five pairs of admissions to tomorrow's meet-and-greet with Aykroyd. The random drawing at 7 p.m. tomorrow is open to Resorts players who use their Destination Card at the slot machines and tables (earning one card point results in one drawing entry). For more info, call 609-344-6000.
A couple of Joes
Aykroyd won't be the only "SNL" alum making the AyCee scene this weekend. Over at Bally's, Joe Piscopo is among the entertainers and sports celebs convening at Bally's Atlantic City for the debut of "Smokin' Joe Frazier's Sportzbox."
Festivities get under way at 7 tonight with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and red carpet procession along the Boardwalk. At 7:30, the action moves to a VIP cocktail party benefiting the Gilda's Club cancer charity.
Tomorrow, the "main event," dubbed the "Champs and Stars Show," will feature what is being described as a cross between a celebrity roast and TV game show.
Besides former heavyweight champ Frazier and Piscopo, participants will include Vincent "Big Pussy" Pastore, Gianni Russo (Carlo in "The Godfather"); former heavyweight Gerry Cooney; five-time boxing world champion Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Paz; '50s pop megastar Bobby Rydell, Dan Grimaldi (Patsy Parisi on "The Sopranos"); ex-Eagles star linebacker Bill Bergey; skating-scandal queen Tonya Harding; and TV personalities Bill Boggs and Gus Johnson. Emceeing will be Showtime's Al Bernstein.
Both nights are open to the public. *
Bally's Atlantic City, Boardwalk at Park Place, 7:30 tonight, $45, 8 p.m. tomorrow, $45, 800-736-1420, www.ticketmaster.com.
Chuck Darrow has covered Atlantic City and casinos for more than 20 years. Read his blog http://go.philly.com/casinotes.
E-mail him at email@example.com.
And listen to his Atlantic City report Saturdays at 1:25 a.m. with Steve Trevelise on WIP (610-AM).