David Bruce: Alcohol Anecdotes

At the Grand Opening of the Denver Press Club, Prohibition was in full force. Since an opening without alcohol is unthinkable for a press club, the reporters began to think about how they could come up with the booze. Red Feeney, a reporter, and Harry Rhoads, a photographer, knew that the District Attorney’s office had seized some bonded whiskey. They also knew that the local police officers had a weakness for publicity, so they arranged a photo session outside with the police officers and the whiskey. At the time, photographs were lit with flash guns which created a lot of smoke. Mr. Rhoads used much more flash powder than was necessary for the photographs, and whenever the scene was filled with smoke and coughing police officers rubbing their eyes, Mr. Feeney grabbed a couple of cases of whiskey and put them in his car. The Grand Opening of the Denver Press Club was a success.

Jim Thornton was an alcoholic; he was also a vaudeville comedian. Once, he went on an alcoholic spree with another vaudeville comedian, George C. Davis. Although both men were alcoholics, they were different kinds of alcoholics. Mr. Thornton could stay drunk for weeks, but still keep himself shaved and clean. Mr. Davis, however, let himself go to seed. The two had drunk up all their money, and they needed more money to buy themselves alcohol, so Mr. Thornton asked to borrow $2 from a vaudevillian they met on the street. The vaudevillian refused to lend them anything, so the clean Mr. Thornton turned to the filthy Mr. Davis and said, “George, throw a louse on him.”

A judge got very drunk, then took off his robe and lay under a tree half-naked to sleep. Mulla Nasrudin came along, saw the judge, and took his cloak. Later, the judge sobered up, returned to his village and saw Nasrudin wearing his cloak. “Is that your cloak?” the judge asked. “No, it is not,” Nasrudin replied. “I saw a very drunk man lying under a tree, asleep, and I took his cloak so that robbers would not steal it. I should like very much to find that man so that I can return his cloak.” Fearing lest his friends and neighbors find out that it was he who had been drunk, the judge replied, “Such a drunken fellow deserves what happens to him,” then left Nasrudin and the cloak alone.

As a young girl, Alicia Markova danced for Sergey Pavlovich Diaghilev. For a long time, she wasn’t allowed to attend the receptions the other members of the ballet troupe attended, but on her 18th birthday, Mr. Diaghilev asked her to come to his table in the ballroom of the hotel the troupe was staying at in Monte Carlo. There, the troupe held a small coming-of-age party for her, she drank her first glass of champagne, and afterward she was allowed to attend the receptions the other members of the troupe attended.

William Frawley played Fred Mertz on TV’s I Love Lucy. He gave a certain panhandler a dollar for coffee each time they met, and one day he asked what the panhandler really did with the money. The panhandler replied that he didn’t buy coffee with the money, but instead bought whiskey. Hearing that, Mr. Frawley said, “At least you’re honest. Come have a drink with me.” They went into a bar, where Mr. Frawley ordered, “Two double scotch-and-sodas.” The panhandler spoke up, “Make mine the same.”

The British tongue-in-cheek spy series The Avengers lasted from 1961-1969. The series was known for its attractive leads, cars, clothes, and champagne. During the series’ run, John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, used 30 bowler hats. In addition, the filming of the series required 19 gallons of champagne. (In the 1967 episode “The Fear Merchants,” the audience learns that Steed’s worst fear is running out of champagne.)

Rabbi Moshe Leib once said that he had learned to love from a peasant. Once he saw two drunken peasants at an inn. One peasant turned to the other and asked, “Do you love me?” The other peasant replied, “Of course I love you.” The first peasant then asked, “Do you know what I need? If you really loved me, you would know.” According to Rabbi Leib, “To know the needs of other human beings, to feel their joy and to bear the burdens of their sorrow—that is true love.”

Ben Serkowich drank too much, and this worried him. While attending a cocktail party, he decided to try a new technique he had heard about—whenever he took a drink, he told himself, “This is not going to affect me.” The technique seemed to work beautifully for a while, but then, he says, “Suddenly I plunged forward to the floor, and when I woke up the next morning … it was four days later.”

In San Francisco, comic singer Anna Russell was invited to a party in a restaurant. The liquor was still flowing at 3 p.m., although by law, liquor was prohibited at that time. When Ms. Russell worried that the restaurant might get busted, the man sitting next to her said there was no chance of that happening. She asked, Why? He replied, “Because I’m the sheriff.”

A bore once sat next to Dr. Samuel Johnson and remarked that there were many reasons for drinking to excess. In making his argument, he said, “Drinking drives away care and makes us forget whatever is disagreeable. Would you not allow a man to drink for that reason?” Dr. Johnson replied, “Yes, sir—if he sat next to you.”

Occasionally, Jackie Gleason flew in airplanes, although there was a rumor that he never flew. Once he took a trip on the Concorde, which flew faster than sound. Asked if he had ever flown faster than sound before, Mr. Gleason replied, “Only a couple of times at Toots Shor’s.” (Toots Shor was Jackie Gleason’s favorite bartender.)

Playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan was once asked what kind of wine was his favorite. His answer: “Other people’s.”

Marc Connelly once sent a postcard to Frank Sullivan: “Guess who I just had a drink with at the Players? Corey Ford. Give up?”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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