The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
Big Fat Whale  |  Failure  |  Hoopleville  |  Idiot Box  |  Lifestyle Features

Set ’em up, knock ’em back

15 people who could (or can) drink more than you
By MIKE MILIARD  |  March 17, 2006

Infamous drinkersBrendan Behan
“A drinker with a writing problem,” Behan billed himself. And Dublin’s great playwright did both with two fists. Setting up his typewriter in his favorite pub, McDaid’s, a pint of plain and a bottle of Jameson at his side, he banged out brutal, funny plays about prisoners and patriots, such as The Quare Fellow and The Hostage. It wasn’t long before this bear of a man’s fame spread beyond Ireland: he was the toast of Broadway in 1961, and his plastered appearances on The Jack Paar Show are the stuff of legend.

Robert Pollard
Anyone who has ever seen Guided by Voices in concert knows the on-stage antics of “Uncle Bob.” Last time I saw the band, Pollard was sucking down beer after beer from song one, and by the latter stages of the set he was pulling lustily off a vodka bottle. By show’s end he was slurring so badly you could barely understand his words. But it was a glorious noise. Some more-abstemious rock critics have wrung their hands, offering armchair psychoanalysis. “He’s running from something, trying to black out the insecurity and stage fright and god knows what else. It’s like he thinks it’s the brew that turns him into a superhero rock star,” wrote one. Bullshit.

Charles Bukowski
“Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. Endurance is more important than truth.” Despite his copious appetites, despite reaching for the bottle immediately following a near-fatal bleeding ulcer suffered at age 35, despite the havoc drink wreaked on his craggy face and prodigious gut (a girlfriend once vomited after having sex with him), Bukowski had endurance as well as talent. After decades of near-constant booze, beer, and wine, the “poet laureate of skid row” lived to the ripe old age of 74.

Winston Churchill
The quintessence of the functioning alcoholic. But he didn’t just function: he kicked Nazi ass! As he was winning World War II, Churchill drank steadily from morning to bedtime. He would regularly start the day with a scotch and soda or two, or sometimes a whole bottle of wine. He kept it rolling through lunch. Dinner was more of the same. One American official described an evening with the great man: “A varied and noble procession of wines with which I could not keep pace — Champagne, port, brandy, Cointreau: Winston drank a good deal of all, and ended with two glasses of whiskey and soda.”

Kingsley Amis
The author of Lucky Jim and The Old Devils was also the author of On Drink, How’s Your Glass, and Everyday Drinking. He “wrote about booze to salvage something from all the hours he devoted to it,” his son Martin later wrote in his own memoir, Experience. Those days and nights were spent fiddling with “the heated wine glass, the chilled cream poured over the back of a spoon, the mint leaves and the cucumber juice, the strips of orange peel, the rims of salt, the squeezers and the strainers.” Alas, the prolificacy and quality of Amis’s writing diminished as the intake increased and the drunken stumbles got worse.

Tallulah Bankhead
According to Christine Sismondo’s bibulous bible, Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History, Bankhead drank two bottles of Old Granddad a day. Two. Per day. They don’t make ’em like they used to. Of course, distilled spirits in that quantity is excessive for anyone, especially for a 5’3” woman. Another apocryphal story holds that her doctor told the badass Southern belle to cool it, advising her to eat an apple every time she had the urge to drink. Sensible enough, right? Not quite. Bankhead complained about the prescription to her friends: “Really, dahlings, sixty apples a day?!”

William Faulkner
“Old Corndrinker Mellifluous” is what Hemingway (no dim light himself in the firmament of literary lushes) called his rival. Indeed, the prolix Mississippian was a great consumer of distilled spirits, especially brown liquor. But, as Sismondo points out in Mondo Cocktail, he wasn’t completely without discipline. Despite what some readers might think when attempting to penetrate his dense and abstruse stream-of-consciousness passages, Faulkner didn’t drink while he wrote. Instead, he would go on “long dry, monastic writing spurts, interspersed by alcoholic benders when he would entirely give up his writing habit — cold turkey — sometimes for months at a time.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald
In her book, A Drinking Companion: Alcohol and Writers’ Lives, Kelly Boler reports that Fitzgerald once tried to cut back on his drinking by limiting himself to beer — a glass of it 30 times a day. She also makes the bold pronouncement that “Francis Scott Fitzgerald died young, but not young enough.” Instead of flaming out at the top of his game and croaking when he was a golden boy, immediately following The Great Gatsby’s success, he lived another 15 years, cementing his image as a troubled drunk. His second act was a tragic waste.

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Dick for a day, Burtons Grill, 2007 restaurant awards, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Frank Sinatra, Culture and Lifestyle, Beverages,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article
Set ’em up, knock ’em back
What about Pat Summerall? He used to drink before just about every game.
By rst on 03/17/2006 at 1:24:50

Best Music Poll 2009 winners
Today's Event Picks
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   A MIGHTY WIND  |  August 20, 2009
    This past Earth Day, President Barack Obama, speaking at an Iowa wind-turbine factory, delivered a gusty peroration. "The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy," he said. "America can be that nation. America must be that nation."
  •   HOLDING A FINGER TO THE WIND  |  August 19, 2009
    Across New England, there's currently less than 150 megawatts worth of wind turbines installed and operational. That's small change compared with what's happening in places such as Texas and California. But it's a whole lot more than existed just a few years ago.
  •   PHOTOS: STETSON WIND IN MAINE  |  August 19, 2009
    Photos of Stetson Wind in Washington County, Maine
    The Pretenders + Cat Power + Juliette Lewis | August 12, 2009 at Bank of America Pavilion
  •   THE FUNN(K)Y DRUMMER  |  August 13, 2009
    Johnny Carson was revered for his impeccable comic timing. It was "so precise," wrote one newspaper in his obituary, "that we wouldn't be surprised to find buried in his skull a quartz crystal." And why might that be? Perhaps because Johnny Carson was a drummer. In drumming, after all, timing is everything.

 See all articles by: MIKE MILIARD

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2009 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group