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DIGEST, Vol. 9(7): 79-80, May, 1945
ANONYMOUS ON BROADWAY
Anonymous has come to Broadway. The organization that has
helped lift 12,000 drunks onto the water wagon, many of
them straight from the gutter, is now established in a new
clubhouse on W. 41st. St., a few minutes from Times Square.
is the old Knox Memorial, Collegiate chapel, Reformed Church
of America. Inside, church pews are lined up, and the Christ
looks out over the audience benevolently from a stained-glass
window. But here the church similarity ends. Men and women
sit around smoking, waiting for the program to begin. You
look around, and see faces of persons you know, some famous,
some of whom have been on Broadway, in the amusement world
in general, for years.
is a great actress. If you as much as hinted at the play
in which she had been famous, almost everyone would know
her as well as if you printed the name in black capital
letters. A man behind you speaks in a voice you have heard
before. Sure enough, he is a formerly famous radio personality.
And that man who just walked in, the one in the Navy officer's
uniform, you find out later that he is a lieutenant commander
just back from two years in the Pacific. He is an old friend,
an old newspaper colleague; you stood at a bar together
often in the old days.
here, they are all fellow members of A.A. Among themselves,
they sometimes drop their anonymity. As your newspaper friend
did, when he got up to address the audience a little later.
You know the history of his drinking very well, and wonder
how much of it he will tell. But he tells it all. And you
say to yourself; if they're all as honest as he, they're
is the quality that stands out among these people. For honesty
is the approach to their method for curing themselves. They
have a 12 Step program. Boiled down, their program calls
upon drunks to admit to themselves first of all that they
are drunks, who can't handle their liquor. Then they are
advised to analyze their own personalities and find out
what made them that way; adjust their personal relations
to normal life; depend upon some power outside themselves
to help them stay sober; work with other alcoholics, to
help cure the latter and help stabilize themselves.
matter of depending upon some outside power, that gets some
of them down; it sounds like religious evangelism. But it
isn't anything of the kind. These are not religious fanatics
nor zealots. They are men and women of the world for the
greater part, some of whom had been much too blase. They
know the score.
isn't anybody around the joint sprouting wings. The "testimonials"
that are given are intended only to add point to the A.A.
program, to show that it really works. And there is no doubt
that it does.
workers speak highly of the movement. The section on neurology
and psychiatry of the New York State Medical society has
run articles in its official journal about the work of A.A.
Prominent psychiatrists have given it their endorsement.
And, of course, religious leaders have blessed it. All have
agreed that Alcoholics Anonymous is the McCoy.
are more than 300 branches all over the country, about 30
in the New York metropolitan area alone, and a headquarters
in Hollywood, too. At the 41st St. clubhouse there are billiard
and card rooms, a library and a writing room where members
can relax, good fellowship, and all the appurtenances of
any good club, except a bar. For one thing is insisted upon
by A.A.: don't come to the club drunk or with liquor on
your breath. A.A. knows that some of the members slip some
times; these are helped to get back to 'dryness again. But
they may not come to the club until they have stopped drinking,
no matter how recently.
evening spent with the A.A. was exhilarating. You wonder:
would these people care to have you talk about their work?
You decide to ask the secretary. A woman near by, an actress
hears the inquiry. The secretary let her answer: "Yes,
do talk about our work. Show people will read it in Variety.
They'll know we're neither crackpots nor zealots, but just
people, including people from show business who have licked
an important personal problem, and want to help others."