Carrie Miller raises a wrist to the greatest exponents – fictional and real – of the art of drinking…
1. Leaving Las Vegas
I was pretty pissed when I saw this, but from what I can remember Nick Cage stars as a rock bottom alcoholic who fucks his career and his family life and decides to speed up his suicide-by-installment plan in Sin City. He meets up with a hardened prostitute; they make a deal: accept each other’s occupations and we’ll get on fine. It doesn’t really work out for them, but there are some romantic moments between the damaged duo if that’s your thing. Leaving Las Vegas is often praised for being “brave” but it’s one hell of a Hollywood cliché to stick a hooker in a movie. At least he dies.
2. Dean Martin
Personally, I’m into dichotomies. The world can always be split in two: girl/boy, cat/dog, Dean/Frank. While I’m definitely with Team Sinatra – the phrasing, the longing, the broads – Dean Martin had his drinking shtick down, baby. He made being a drunk cool when it could still be cool. Like Katherine Hepburn makes you want to wear pants, Dino makes you want a Scotch on the rocks and a cigarette. There’s been long-standing controversy over whether there was alcohol in his drink or if it was just some phony baloney stage act. Who cares? Listen to the man himself: “I don’t have a drinking problem. I drink, I get drunk, I fall down. No problem!”
3. NRL players
I have been so drunk that I’ve thrown up through my nose while unconscious and I’ve still never mistaken a hotel hallway for the dunny. But then I’m not a football player. They seem to make category mistakes more often than Descartes. They mistake Labradors for women, women for punching bags, and no for yes. Still, when the Sydney Rooster’s Nate Myles took a dump in the public corridor of a “luxury Central Coast hotel” in his birthday suit at least he had an explanation. It was “an accident” Myles told the media. Thank god for that.
4. Chopper on Elle McFeast
Leave it to Uncle Chop Chop to single-handedly kill off an ABC series after its first episode. Appearing to be pissed on live television, Read stated the obvious: “You’ve had me stuck in your fucking Green Room drinking Melbourne Bitter. I’ve just done six cans. Then you bring me on as pissed as a parrot and ask me in-depth questions. I’m obviously drunk. I’m no use to anyone. It’s not fair.” He expands on the story in his autobiography – apparently he had a Xanax habit at the time and was slaughtered before he had even arrived. But the best part of the story happened off-camera. Tina Arena, another guest, asked him: “Are you all right to go on TV?” to which Chopper said: “Do you mind me saying this? You’ve got big tits on TV, but you’re just a tiny little thing.”
5. Mike Willesee on A Current Affair
Speaking of Australian television, one of the first local TV journalists to become a household name for fronting current affairs shows, Mike Willesee was considered golden. That was until he filled in for the impeccable Jana Wendt as host of A Current Affair one night. It was a show he had previously fronted – there should have been no problem. But he turned up pissed and there was no hiding it. In Australia, this could have been spun to his advantage but instead he proved himself to be just a knob with his rambling religious explanation on Andrew Denton’s show years later. When Denton asked him if in retrospect he saw “a man lost” Willesee replied: “Yes, I think that’s pretty fair. The problem with being lost is not just being lost, but not knowing that you’re lost. If you know you’re lost you can do something about it. I didn’t know I was lost because everything had worked for me…I mean, maybe that plane crash, maybe that was a jolt. It wasn’t a conversion, but maybe that really kicked me into saying, “Well wait a minute, are coincidences, coincidences?” The more I thought about God, the more, at the very least, I had something to think about.” For God’s sake Mike, have a drink.
6. Boris Yeltsin
Being a drunk, reformed or otherwise, has never precluded anyone from high office – Winston Churchill, Bob Hawke, George Bush come to mind – but no-one has made it look more exciting than Boris, Russia’s performing bear leader. In between drinking sessions he managed to fit in a bit of state business but he’s largely remembered for his drunken escapades: breaking out into fits of dancing; groping women; and according to Bill Clinton being found in his underwear outside the White House trying to hail a cab because he “wanted a pizza”. He made the Cold War look like a Hogan’s Heroes episode.
7. Wake in Fright/Sunday Too Far Away/Don’s Party
Before Baz Luhrmann came along and remade the Australian film industry in his own image – closet camp and mediocre – we made some good flicks. Three of my favourites happen to have a fair bit of boozing in them. If you are Australian and you want to know how to drink like an Australian, then you should bloody well see these movies. Chips Rafferty, Max Cullen, Jack Thompson, Bill Hunter, Ray Barrett – these are the men who taught me about Australian masculinity through the way they drank on-screen. It’s not particularly pretty and at its core is a lack that can never be made whole.
8. David Hasselhoff eating a cheeseburger
The irony of the Hoff providing some of the most moving, poetic screen moments of late is partly what makes this Youtube sensation almost heartbreaking to watch. On another level, it’s just wrong to see a video shot by a teenager of her rat-fucked father rolling around the floor trying to get a burger in his mouth. God, grant me the serenity…
9. Mad Men
The Sopranos may have pushed the boundaries of television with its casual violence but the puritans must be having a fit with the amount of smoking and drinking that the cast of Mad Men do. The retro-boozing in this show could just be cool but that wouldn’t hold our attention – we can see that in a Hugo Boss ad. It is the way in which habitual drinking is bound up with the culture of aspiration, where keeping up means constantly topping up, that gives this show more than just aesthetic appeal.
10. The Boys
This movie deserves its own write-up because of the infamous Fife and Drum that features throughout the story. It’s the place they hold-up, it’s the place where Nola might have got knocked-up, and it’s the place where you get your takeaways on a slow afternoon. Director Rowan Woods’ has nailed it with his representation of the local pub in the outer Western suburbs and the meanings it holds for a dispossessed community, summed up in the boys’ childish mocking of some meek Asian customers.