George Clooney: Husband. Father of twins. Former TV doctor who fathered twins. Two-time Oscar winner. Facts of Life handyman. Casamigos Tequila co-creator.
Admit it. From a distance, the tequila title seemed like a celebrity vanity project. He slapped his name on alcohol in the same way that Jennifer Lopez slapped her name on perfume. During publicity rounds, it was his friend and partner, nightclub owner Rande Gerber, who went on talk shows to promote the brand — and dutifully answer questions about Clooney and his wife, Cindy Crawford.
On June 21, the guys entered into a “definitive agreement” with British alcoholic-beverage company Diaego for ownership of the brand. The deal is worth up to $1 billion. Ahem, that’s more than all the Ocean’s films combined. The Clooney twins’ great-great-great children will be set for life. It’s the kind of news you read and say “wow” and secretly muse how this guy hit the jackpot and then move on.
I’m not a business reporter and won’t pretend to analyze the money logistics of the deal. So I’ll just wax nostalgic about the time Clooney did tequila shots right in front of me. This will be more fun, trust me.
We travel back to the 2016 at the Cannes Film Festival. Clooney was in town to premiere Money Monster. Though the Croisette, a narrow street sandwiched between high-end shopping and the Mediterranean, is the epitome of glamour, it’s the South-of-France equivalent of Times Square. A star of his caliber would never stay in an area swarmed with tourists and iPhones.
Enter the Hotel du Cap. Located a half-hour’s drive away in Antibes, it’s a sprawling, serene five-start villa well-regarded for its tony exclusivity. You can’t even approach the grounds without giving your name. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston together used to stay there in the golden days. In 2015, Us Weekly star reporter Travis Cronin and I saw Charlize Theron and Sean Penn and her son and a nanny and an entourage walk out of a dinner at Eden-Roc. (They broke up a week later. No fault of the DuCap.) This had to be Clooney’s version of Lake Como. We were sure of it.
Ok, it was more of an educated guess.
The lobby interior at the DuCap is like a cross between a Bliss spa waiting room and Henry VIII’s parlor. The few loitering patrons don’t gab with each other as much as they whisper in judge-y tones. The Bellini Bar in the back room, which overlooks the French countryside, features a famous namesake drink that costs $50 (only a slight exaggeration). Travis and I planned to innocently grab a drink and hope for a fun anecdote to tell our friends. Just two minutes later, La Clooney manifested himself. With his new wife Amal. And a bottle of Casamigos.
Picture that moment after a storm when sunlight peaks through the clouds and the angels sing. He wearing a tuxedo and a smile. Amal, glowing in a mint-green gown, was even more striking and lithe in person. I expected them to simply walk out and follow the greenery path to Eden-Roc, site of the private Money Monster cocktail reception. Instead, George decided to start the party right then and there.
“I think he’s drinking,” Travis muttered in my ear. It was difficult to tell exactly. George had planted himself on the other end of the room by the coat check and main desk.
“No way,” I replied. Even by Clooney’s good-times standards, this seemed like a reach. Meanwhile, I was fixated on Amal. She’s gorgeous.
“Yes he is! Oh my god, he is drinking from the bottle.”
“What? Wait, I’ll find out.”
I decided to play the female card. In that I would politely ask a staffer for directions to the ladies room. I approached the desk, just inches from the man himself. Holy Star Sighting, Batman!
George, holding an open bottle of Casamigos, was chatting with the staff about the smoothness of the tequila. I distinctly heard the phrase “This is the best!” He then proceeded to let the main concierge take a swig. The Frenchman looked like he drinking from the fountain of youth.
I reluctantly walked down the carpeted stairs to the bathroom, waited a few minutes, then darted back up like Cinderella at 12:01 AM. Please oh please let The Clooney still be there. He was! And not only was he holding court, he and the staffers were now doing shots together on a desk. So much for the coats that needed to be checked. Soon, the bellman joined in. Even a jaded journalist like myself marveled at the scene: George Clooney, the Homecoming King of Hollywood, was jovially plying free booze to every Hotel du Cap employee standing within a five-foot radius. No paparazzi or handlers hovered nearby. He did it for the love of the game. And his drink. He strolled out at dusk; one hand wrapped around Amal’s waist, the other carrying the half-empty bottle.
Who knows how much money Clooney will actually pocket for the sale. But I can vouch that he invested his energy — and his liver — in his product. Bottoms up.
Also published on Medium.