Celebrity drunkards

Ransom Riggs

Here in the states, we like our flags stripey, our pies appley and our celebrities blotto. In fact, just as some of our tabloid royalty seem to be famous mostly for being famous (a certain heiress comes to mind), others are famous mostly for being drunk. Here are some of our favorite tipplers -- American and otherwise -- and what they have to say for themselves.

"¢ Motion picture icon W.C. Fields. He said, "I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake... which I also keep handy."

  • American author F. Scott Fitzgerald loved the bottle, but during one of his drying-out periods, he had a conversation with his friend, humorist Robert Benchley: "Listen, Bob," Fitzgerald said. "Don't you know drinking is slow death?" Whereupon Benchley took a sip, smiled, and said, "So who's in a hurry?"
  • Legendary poet, author and leader of the famed Algonquin Round Table Dorothy Parker once famously spat this bit of slam poetry: "I like to have a Martini / Two at the very most / After three I'm under the table / After four I'm under my host."
  • Borrowing from Parker, quarry-voiced singer Tom Waits quipped "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy." But Waits has plenty of his own material when it comes to knocking one back: In "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart," he sings "I don't have a drinking problem -- "˜cept when I can't get a drink."
  • On the day he died, Welsh poet Dylan Thomas said "I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record."

    Southern lit heavyweight William Faulkner said "The tools I need for my work are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey."

    After a lifetime of hard drinking, Winston "we shall never surrender" Churchill concluded that he had "taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."

    Former prime minister of Australia Bob Hawke has suggested that he owes much of his political success to his status as a world record holder for fast consumption of beer: he can put drain two and a half pints in eleven seconds. (I have to wonder, if "Fosters" is really "Australian for beer," then does "prime minister" also mean something other than what I think it does? Like, "fast beer drinker?")

    Tomorrow: hangover remedies.