Do you remember Foster Brooks? He was a sixties era ‘comic’ whose shtick was acting the role of a ‘harmless’ drunk. He stumbled, bumbled and slurred through his routine. He was very popular, and many people laughed at him. He once bragged to Dean Martin that he had more DWI’s in California then anyone else. Foster’s crystal clear message? Being drunk was very funny.
But he wasn’t alone. Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.- the Rat pack, performing at Vegas and elsewhere. Always with a drink in their hands. The absolutely coolest guys imaginable. Everybody wanted to be like them. It was all rainbows and unicorns.
And drinkers of that time took to the roads with impunity. Get stopped by the cops dead drunk? They would shake their heads in amusement, wag their fingers, and wave you on. Who knows how many lives were lost on the highways?
Being a young teen, drinking didn’t impact me that much. My folks were very close to being non drinkers, so I thought they were boring.
Our family, like many, had issues, but since these issues weren’t rocket fueled by alcohol, they were manageable.
With my future wife’s folks, a much different story. They bought into ‘it’s cool to be a drunk’ to the hilt. And years later, it would devastate a young family-mine.
But years before I was affected in my marriage, many others quietly suffered through the ‘cool’ sixties. Over the decades, dribs and drabs of testimony to alcohol driven horror emerged. Tales of rage filled arguments, beatings, injuries caused by drunken tumbles. Automobile horrors! Stories that emerged painfully slowly over decades. For many, it was just too much to talk about sooner.
Two days ago, a great friend told me a story about a savage alcohol inspired beating at the hands of his father, nearly 50 years ago. Although he knew me for decades, this was the first time I heard it. I was speechless, near tears.
Another friend reported that he got stupendously drunk back then and lost his car in the city of Yonkers! Took weeks to find it. I thought it was a bit of a blessing.
But I have heard so much more over the last few years.
Maybe it is time for everyone to retire the bottle. It’s just caused way too much sorrow, and despite what the rat pack thought, it was NOT, and is not cool.