Facts and figures you never heard about drunk-as-a-skunk Hollywood lushes…
There are various things a guy can do after he’s knocked off a quart a day of cheap hooch for five years, then wakes up one morning to behold a covey of small, purple-haired giraffes dancing the mambo at the foot of his bed.
He can grab a shotgun from under his pillow and let go at said small, purple-haired giraffes-which is a mistake, for all the poor boob will do is shoot off his left foot.
He can run-not-walk to the nearest saloon and inhale another quart of cheap hooch, muttering as he knocks it off: “So what the hell if it kills me? I’ll only be dead a few years longer!”
Or else, if he has very strong willpower and a very strong dislike for small, purple-haired giraffes who dance mambos at the foots of beds, he can join that eminent organization known as Alcoholics Anonymous.
The editors of this magazine consider A.A. one of the world’s noblest outfits. In its fifteen years of existence it has undoubtedly accomplished more good than Santa Claus, corn-plasters, and Life-buoy soap, all rolled into one. There is only one thing wrong with Alcoholics Anonymous, in fact-its services are unfortunately unsuited to the people who need them most. We refer to that class of homo semi-sapiens known as actors, movie producers, and residents of Southern California in general.
One should not judge from the above that we accuse A.A. of discrimination. Quite the contrary, A.A. is as tolerant as Lassie. But the notion of even the lousiest actor voluntarily joining any organization with the word “Anonymous” in its title is about as sensible as expecting Wally (Mr. Peepers) Cox to kayo Rocky Marciano in 2.23 of Round One.
In proof of which, RAVE now presents an educational gallery of members of that distinguished Cuckooland club-Alcoholics Not-So-Anonymous.
The president of said club, of course, is that notorious sometimes actor named Lawrence Tierney. Mr. Tierney has been arrested nearly 20 times, and his lushed-up exploits are too well known to require extensive rehashing here. Suffice it to remark that his most outstanding caper in the field of non-anonymous alcoholism occurred in October, 1952, when the cops had to literally drag him away from the alter of a Santa Monica church. Glassy-eyed and barefoot, President Tierney had hotfooted it into the joint and claimed the ancient right of sanctuary. The gendarmes were not impressed-not even when he started wildly mumbling Latin and shouted that they were “desecrating” said church by entering it to nab him. Some folks ascribe Tierney’s battling alcoholism to the fact that he scored an overnight success in the title role of the movie Dillinger, and has never got it through his thick skull that he really isn’t that notorious hoodlum.
Another Cuckooland youngster who garners more press-reviews for his boozing than his acting is Mr. Scotty Beckett, ages 25 and bosom pal of John Barrymore Jr., son of the world’s all-time Number One whiskey-sponge. Scotty’s most recent performances began about a year ago when he was arrested, asleep, in the shower room of a hotel on Los Angeles’ swank Wilshire Boulevard. There is no law in Cuckooland against bedding down in shower rooms (however damp and messy said practice may be), but Mr. Beckett was extremely drunk, was carrying a nasty knife, and there was also the small matter of a robbery charge.
After the latter had been conveniently dropped, Mr. B felt a sudden need for a change of air and took his wife and two-year-old son for a brief visit to Mexico. Mexico is a wonderful place to recover from a shower-room siesta, but it’s no better than any other place when it comes to writing rubber checks-as Scotty discovered after trying his hand at that naughty pastime. Mr. Beckett, wife and child found themselves locked up pronto in a dirty Mexican jailhouse. In vain did the bleary-eyed Daddy point out to his keepers that this incarceration was highly inconvenient, as he was presently due to appear in a Los Angeles court for a hearing on the shower room episode. They kept him right there in the calaboose, with the result that the California cops unkindly issued a warrant for him as a bail-jumper.
There’s no telling what would have happened to the dashing Mr. Beckett if his ever-loving Mama hadn’t dashed south of the border, ransomed him from the Mexicans, and presented him to the merciful justice of Southern California. Scotty made the usual pious promises that he would go straight, his agent swore that he’d lined up a few TV jobs, and the benign judge in Santa Monica Superior Court eventually set him free with his blessing – “provided the Beckett boy drank no more.”
Whether Scotty has since confined himself to straight sodawater or not, we do not know. But he is apparently sleeping in beds these days, using knives only to peel those scrumptious California oranges, and not lousing up the police-blotter with his biography.
The leniency of the Los Angeles courts, when it comes to accepting the mealy-mouthed promises of boozy actors, is positively touching. Even they, however, can be pushed a notch too far-as was discovered not to long ago by that other Cuckooland alcoholic non-anonymous, Mr. John Agar.
Mr. Agar’s chief claim to fame is having been the husband of Shirley Temple, and the amount of sentimental slop written thereon would fill all the garbage cans of New York City. Mr. Agar went in and out of the courthouse on drunk-charges the way an aging blonde goes in and out of the beauty parlor, behaving so badly that Shirley nearly drove her Cadillac over a Hollywood cliff in sheer desperation. Wising up at last, she divorced him-whereupon John began to behave even worse, and the columnists began spewing out the slop mentioned above. “What an awful, horrid thing to be known as Mr. Shirley Temple!” said they. “How dreadful to have had your Papa kick off when you were a tot of 14, leaving you with no firm hand to guide you!” RAVE –readers will kindly forgive us while we yawn out our false teeth.
Divorced from Miss Temple, Johnny stumbled around in his cups for a while, then decided he ought to get remarried to someone-to anyone, in fact. Gossip has it that one night Johnny had dinner at his mother’s house along with a pack of studio office-workers, and in the course of same asked half a dozen of them to marry him. All but one turned him down but cold-the one being a chick named Loretta Combs, a young divorcee and movie extra. Miss Combs was willing, and shortly afterwards the romantic pair eloped to Las Vegas.
It was hardly the sort of wedding you’re apt to read about in a Victorian novel.
Three days before said wedding, Johnny was openly hotting around after another chick named Elaine White, an ex-amour of Clark Gable. Possibly the torch still burned, for when Johnny and his brand-new intended arrived in Las Vegas he was so plastered that the marriage-clerk refused to tie the knot until the bridegroom was sobered. Anyone who has ever been in Las Vegas can imagine how plastered you’ve gotta be before a marriage clerk turns you down.
The ceremony was eventually performed, however, and Johnny and Loretta lived happily ever after-for a month, anyway, at which time the bridegroom was hauled into court on still another drunk-driving rap. Loretta and his faithful mother assured the judge that poor John was under the care of an eminent head-doctor, and was taking the drug Antabuse to cure him of his love for firewater.
Maybe the judge was in a nasty mood that morning. He snapped back that he served Antabuse in his jailhouse, too. Johnny was sentenced to 150 unpleasant, manure shoveling days on the County Farm.
Last September Mr. Johnny Mercer, the noted songwriter, consumed a bit too much high-class rotgut and sooner than you could sing the first 97 bars of Stardust found himself engaged in a collision with two other cars on Imperial Highway. He also found himself charged with drunken driving. On October 19th his distinguished attorney, Mr. Richard J. Kamins, appeared in court to demand a jury trial and plead Not Guilty. All this would have been fine and dandy except for one thing: the cops had taken a small sample of Mr. Mercer’s blood at the time of the smash-up, and said blood had enough alcohol in it to pickle a crocodile. A hasty change was made in the legal plans, accordingly, and on November 15th Another of Mr. Mercer’s distinguished attorneys, Mr. Milton Tyre, showed up in the same court to meekly plead Guilty. Given the choice of 40 days in jail or stiff fine, Mr. Mercer’s beagle forked out the fine.
Johnny was luckier than actress Lynn Baggett, at any rate, who had the misfortune to be involved in a boozy crackup in which a 9-year-old boy was killed. The beauteous Lynn, ex-wife of producer Sam Spiegel, was promptly socked with 90 days in the tank. Most folks would consider they’d gotten off pretty lightly-not so in Cuckooland. Miss Baggett turned pale, wobbled on her shapely gams, and had to be assisted into a chair. Her doting Mama, who’d doubtless expected nothing more severe than a tongue-clucking lecture, let out a loud wail and fainted.
Another dame who mixed hooch and gasoline is Mary Rogers Brooks, 39-year-old daughter of the late philosopher, Will Rogers. She weaved her snooty foreign roadster through Los Angeles traffic last October 18, and at this writing is still out on bail. It was not Mary’s first skirmish with the law-nor her first embarrassing experience under the influence of fire-water. During a well-liquored party at her hacienda, some time ago, her elegant butler suddenly went berserk and ordered the guests out of the joint.
It came out later that said butler was not quite what he seemed to be, but was in fact an “old friend” of Mary’s who occasionally resided at Milady’s place in a non-butlering capacity.
Of all Hollywood’s non-anonymous boozers, Mr. Jackie Coogan is perhaps the one with the best excuse. A has-been by the time he was 10, he also had the misfortune to be beaten out of some $6,000,000 of earning-by nine other than his loving Mama and his not-so-loving Stepdaddy. As if that isn’t enough to drive a guy to the trough, Mr. Coogan was also married to-and sloughed-off by-the delectable Betty Grable. Whatever the reason, Mr. Coogan went through the usual routine: drink, a drunk-driving rap, a suspended jail-sentence. The sympathetic judge fined the ex-child star the huge sum of $150 and made him promise to scorn the bottle for one year!
Mr. Coogan’s younger brother, Bobby, has not to date been booked for drunken driving. He was, however, picked up with a carload of that nasty backyard weed known as marijuana, and was also bagged in a raid on a certain fabulous house on Brentwood’s ritzy Schuyler Road.
We use the word “house” in the unpleasant, or Polly Adler, sense. This same raid could furnish material for an educational article of its own, for it revealed some highly piquant doings. It brought sexy Cy Howard into prominence, was supposedly the cause of the busting-up of the engagement between Mr. Howard and Miss Paulette Goddard, and is furthermore said to be the reason why Miss Goddard abruptly departed the U.S.A. and has since spent so much of her time away from Cuckooland.
Dan Dailey, Lawrence Tibbett, Johnnie Ray, Ray Milland, the late Robert Walker, Robert Newton…
The list of Hollywood’s non-anonymous booze-hounds go on for twenty pages.
But it will have to wait for some other issue, for RAVE’s Hooch Editor is now departing to the neighborhood saloon. To our readers we leave this thought-provoking question: Why drink in gloomy solitude? Why not get your name in your local newspaper? Just write to Alcoholics Non-Anonymous. They’ll be glad to send you an illustrated brochure containing full particulars about the Modern Comforts of jail.
(Source: Rave, March 1955)