I feel bad for people who don't drink. When they get up in the morning, that's the best they'll feel all day.
Of course, it wasn't Sinatra who used this line in his act at the Sands Hotel, but my idol Dean Martin. "Dino" realized early in his career that fans seemed to love the notion that their entertainer was -- like many of them -- a little bit buzzed. It made them, as audience members, feel like they could relate to the man in front of them. It made them laugh when they saw someone with so much fame and fortune doing simple things like slipping and falling, spilling a drink, or hiccuping. Dino embedded the facade so intrinsically into his persona, that it's rare to see an image of him without a glass of some kind in his hand.
Interestingly, though, Dean Martin was not as big of a drinker as people would like to believe. His passion was actually golf. In fact, by the time he earned his fame in Las Vegas, he spent nearly every morning on the links, getting there at 6:00 am. Think about that for a second: if he was consistently awake before 6:00 and ready to hit the course by then, how could he have been such a lush?
According to his daughter Deana, who wrote the excellent biography entitled Memories Are Made of This, Dean perpetuated the myth that he was constantly drunk simply because he knew it entertained his fans. In actuality, he was relatively straight-laced. His drinking habits, on any given night, went as follows:
- a glass of wine while waiting backstage for his act to start
- a rocks glass filled with ginger ale for the first half of his act
- a "refill," where he would often drink a single shot of J&B on the rocks -- but only one
- ginger ale for the remainder of the act
- a glass of wine before bed, as he often slept alone in his hotel room watching Westerns
Sure, he loved his women, so there were obviously nights where some of those habits adapted to his fancies, but on the majority of nights in Vegas, Martin eschewed the party scene, and he found clever ways to side-step alcohol. In fact, he was famous for "disappearing" at parties. Sinatra often tried to beg him to stick around, but Dino would smile at a fellow party-goer, say, "Tell people you saw me here," and then duck out the back. After all, he needed to be up bright and early to golf.
Nevertheless, he maintained the facade of a heavy drinker until his later years, often remarking, "If you're drunk, don't drive. Don't even putt" or "I don't drink anymore. Now I just freeze it and eat it like a popsicle." He'd often stand on stage for nearly 30 seconds before saying anything, and when he finally spoke, he would blurt out, "How long have I been onstage?" And no matter how many times he went through this schtick, it always made the audience smile.
So on this St. Patrick's Day, I urge you to have a drink or two, but to remember that the most entertaining drunk of all time wasn't nearly as lit up as everyone thought. In other words, you don't need to get to that point either. Have a few, have a light buzz, and be silly.
You don't need alcohol to be drunk -- just ask any of Dino's fans.