Before Hollywood stars got stoned on marijuana, cocaine and pills, booze was Tinseltown’s drug of choice.
In the book “Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling through Hollywood History,” author Mark Bailey and illustrator Edward Hemingway have assembled an exhaustive look at the alcohol-soaked Golden Era of film … with some of their favorite cocktail recipes, to boot!
In 1955, producer Stanley Kramer for his flick “Not as a Stranger” assembled a cast of Hollywood’s most notorious lushes, including Lon Chaney Jr., Broderick Crawford, Robert Mitchum AND Frank Sinatra. It was a boozy, brawling disaster featuring a slugfest between Crawford and Sinatra. Ol’ Blue Eyes had been teasing Crawford, who’d played the “mentally handicapped” Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” on Broadway. Sinatra kept needling Crawford, calling him “Lenny”. when finally, Crawford erupted, pinning Sinatra to the floor! Burly Broderick ripped Sinatra’s toupee off his head and began to eat it – until he choked on the massive hairball. “One of the film’s medical advisers had to rush over to help him puke it up,” the author writes.
Fiery lovers Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were the biggest boozers of all.
Filming “The Night of the Iguana,” Burton sucked down a beer promptly at 7 a.m., finished a case and then switched to hard liquor. Liz – desperate to keep up – began drinking at 10 a.m., starting with vodka before hitting the tequila. And when Dick was inebriated, he’d viciously insult his wife!
“When Taylor paraded around set in ever-more-revealing bikinis, Burton would comment she looked like a tart,” writes Bailey.
Spencer Tracy, star of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” was such a drunk he’d hole up at the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights for weeks-long binges. Tracy “downed bottle after bottle of whiskey while sitting naked in a bathtub.” When Tracy was under contract to MGM, the studio assembled “The Tracy Squad: an ambulance driver, a doctor and four security guards dressed as paramedics” who were on call 24/7. They’d alert ALL bars to call within a 24-block-radius as soon as he staggered in!
Natalie Wood began drinking at age 15 – with Frank Sinatra, writes Bailey. Within years she was on a bender with her “Rebel Without a Cause” co-stars Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams. They opted for a boozy threesome. Wood agreed but only if she could “bathe in champagne first – like Jean Harlow.”
At New York nightspot El Morocco in 1949, Humphrey Bogart was enjoying drinks with pals, accompanied by two 22-pound stuffed pandas. When the waiter refused to serve them, heated words were exchanged. “I can take my Panda any place I want to,” Bogie recalled. “And if I want to buy it a drink, that’s MY business.”
Cheers to that!