In 1973, entrepreneurs Richard and Christine Braunlich launched a business called Conversation. The idea was that it would allow people to pay to have a conversation with an expert "conversationalist." $5 for the first half-hour, and $3 for each additional half-hour. Some details from the SF Examiner (Feb 11, 1973):
The couple rented space in a commercial building at 445 Colusa Ave. in October, invested their entire savings, and spent hours redecorating and rebuilding the interior...
So far, however, the talkers have been few and far between — only about 40 customers have dropped in since Conversation opened.
About 60 percent of the customers have been women, the Braunliches report, and they talk about subjects ranging from poetry to small family problems.
Sitting in one of 14 tiny booths, customers can talk to one of 20 employees, who are called, appropriately enough, conversationalists.
And more details from the Moline Dispatch (Feb 13, 1973):
The conversationalists, who work part-time, collect half of a client's fee. The other half of the fee goes to the business. One of the first customers was a lonely divorcee new to the area, according to Engel Devendorf, a marketing executive now working at Conversation.
"She left her two kids at a movie and was here when the door opened," he said. "She just wanted to chat with somebody alive, warm and wiggling. Boy, did she want to talk."
Another woman explained that her husband was a nice guy but boring, and she needed to converse with somebody else once in a while...
"Lots of people with problems don't need professional help, but they do need to talk them over," Devendorf said. "They can go to the hairdresser, a bar or a coffee shop, but some are too shy."
At Conversation, persons with serious psychological difficulties are referred to professionals.
In the late 1970s, Farrah Fawcett was, without a doubt, the most famous sex symbol in the world, thanks to her best-selling poster and role on Charlie's Angels. For a while, a Farrah craze swept the nation, inspiring a slew of lookalike contests. Below are some of the winners.
Gallagher posing in front of the Farrah poster. Detroit Free Press - Feb 2, 1977
In her day job, Gallagher was a clerk for the UPS, but after winning the contest she signed up with a modeling agency and landed various paid appearances as a Farrah lookalike, such as a gig (below) at Rosella's furniture store in Greenville, Mississippi. (Dobbs was her married name.)
The cheese-making process produces a lot of whey as a by-product — whey being a watery, yellowish-green liquid. For most of history, cheese makers simply threw out the whey, usually in the nearest river. But eventually the cheese industry began to wonder if there was anything they could do with it to make some extra money.
One possibility was to dehydrate it into a protein powder that could be fed to livestock, or bodybuilders. But in the mid-1970s, researchers at Oregon State University hit upon a potentially more lucrative use: making wine out of whey. They detailed their study in a pamphlet titled “Utilization of Cheese Whey for Wine Production.”
The reason this was possible is because the lactose in whey will ferment, if one uses the right microorganisms. The end result was a whey wine that, according to the researchers, "was acceptable to a great majority of tasters, who preferred it slightly sweet.” Which doesn't sound exactly like a glowing recommendation. Nevertheless, the researchers were enthusiastic about the potential of whey wine:
The U.S. cheese industry is in most urgent need of a development of whey by-product that would not encompass relatively expensive processes for water removal. The fermentation of sugar-fortified whey by selected wine yeast and the production of an acceptable whey wine may represent a “near ideal” solution for the whey disposal and utilization dilemma of the U.S. cheese industry. The production of an acceptable wine by whey fermentation may be the means of transposing a “cost of doing business” into a “profit opportunity.”
It doesn't seem that their dream of raking in the big bucks with whey wine ever panned out. The idea of whey-based alcohol products is still kicking around, however. Various gins and vodkas made from whey can be found, such as Bertha's Revenge Irish Milk Gin or Sheep Whey Gin. But I can't find any wines being made from whey.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.