There have been Oscar Wilde bars before now: in Berlin, San Diego, Chicago, and, I seem to recall, one previously in New York City.There is a Wilde Café in Minneapolis,and a bar called Oscar Wilde 9 located, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, at #9 Oscar Wilde St. in Mexico City.
Most of these pretenders, however, merely give a nod to the old boy by borrowing his name. One or two, such as Wilde’s Restaurantin The Lodge at Ashford Castle, in Cong, Ireland, and the Oscar Wilde room at the Café Royal in Piccadilly, London, try a little harder to embody Oscar’s maxim that moderation is a fatal thing, and nothing succeeds like excess.
Raising The Bar
But believe me, none of them, past or present, comes remotely close to the lavishness to be found at the newOscar Wilde Bar in New York City.
As one artistic passerby was heard to exclaim when poking his head through the door, “Minimalism is dead!” And that was when the place was only half finished during the renovations.
Now that it is finished it was time to attend the press reception.
Oscar Wilde’s Reception in Kansas and the Sunflower Soirée.
I recently gave a talk on the subject of Oscar Wilde and the sunflower to the good people of the Maryland Agriculture Resource Council at their Sunflower Soirée, a yearly festival devoted to the Helianthus annuus. Literally, an annual event.
Between you and me, it was a wonderful occasion; but as there was a gloomy weather forecast I choose to focus on the portent to a poignant moment.
If Oscar Wilde really did live in terror of not being misunderstood—as he wrote inThe Critic as Artist in1891—then he need not have worried, at least not so far as his plays are concerned. That is because parts of the original texts are now so arcane that they are almost bound to be misunderstood, if they are understood at all.
Take Wilde’s most famous play The Importance of Being Earnest, which many say, quite rightly, is still relevant. Of course, it is, in everything from human shallowness to the fact that sugar is no longer fashionable.
But we should not allow the richness of the text to conceal the many dated references and topical allusions in it, which had a contemporary, often esoteric, relevance at the time Wilde wrote them, but which are now elusive—especially for young or non-British audiences.
In the East Village of New York City there is a bar called Dorian Gray and this week I made my inaugural visit. It styles itself as Simple, Cheery, and Charming—which it is, and that will have to suffice as a review as I was only there long enough for one beer. And therein lies a tale.
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
With its marble columns and lobby posters of productions past, the Walnut Street Theatre is a venerable venue; and what other theatre can claim that Jefferson and Lafayette attending its opening night performance? 
Moreover, within the Walnut’s neo-classic Federal shell there is often the kernel of fine scenic design, tasteful costumes, and knowledgeable subscribers. One wonders, then, why a sledgehammer is usually employed to crack it?
Such had been the case on my recent visits to witness the repertory’s assaults on Agatha Christie and Noel Coward. So it was more with a sense of duty and dread, than enthusiasm, that my band of Philadelphia Wildeans revisited the scene of those crimes to see The Importance of Being Earnest. Wouldthe Wilde play be similarly executed?
If I am to find Wildean relevance in topical US culture, there is a latter-day Nellie the Elephant in the room. And before proceeding, I should explain that twisted metaphor for the uninitiated.
I refer to the UK children’s novelty song of that name, and in particular to the eponymous pachyderm who was celebrated in the oft-repeated chorus for going off with a trumpety-trump, trump, trump, TRUMP! Apparently, it’s a sound elephants make.
And like any other annoying refrain stuck in one’s head, it’s a word currently hard to ignore. So reluctantly I must face it—the capitalized version that is—before we send in the clowns and say goodbye to the circus that is becoming politics in America.