Who is the greatest boozer of all time?
We’re slowly finding out. After selecting sixteen of Western Civilization’s most notorious boozers, we’ve narrowed the field by two—last month we saw Ernest Hemingway handily dispatch the badly mismatched Edgar Allen Poe, while Dorothy Parker craftily scored a stunning upset over heavyweight opponent Orson Welles.This month features a clash of dispsomaniacs and dandies, the rotund versus the romantic: tournament favorite Jackie Gleason attempts to roll over Lord Byron and W.C. Fields collides with dark horse F. Scott Fitzgerald.
1.) A coin toss determines who orders the first round.
2.) The opponents will then take turns ordering rounds of whatever alcoholic beverage they wish.
3.) A drinker must finish his drink within ten seconds of his opponent finishing his or face disqualification.
4.) The contest will continue until a contender loses by Passing Out (a PO), by being unable or refusing to continue with the contest (a Technical Pass Out, or TPO) or vomiting into the referee’s bucket (a VO).
5.) Opponents can speak to each other, but cannot make physical contact. Contact will result in disqualification.
Table Side Announcers: Howard Cosell and Sir Laurence Olivier
Ref: Bill “The Fox” Foster
“The Jolly Juicer”
“Drunk As A”
Tale of the Tab
A lot of handicappers have already picked Gleason to win the tournament and you can’t blame them. Jackie can not only belt down booze by the bucket, his vast range of tastes presents a near impenetrable defense, not to mention a multi-pronged offense. His only weakness is his boisterous overconfidence, which sometimes manifests as a lack of preparation.
The feisty clubfooted Englishman dominated the sport of drinking during the 18th century, but how will he fare against the new breed of tipplers? While capable of drinking nobles and nobodies under the table at will, his quick temper has served to get him thrown out of more pubs than he can remember. The Byron camp knows Jackie will have probably went out for pre-victory cocktails the night before and Gleason has been known to fall asleep under the weight of heavy hangover. If Byron can sing him a lullaby in the right key, he may be able to unlock a brilliant upset.
The Build Up
Howard Cosell: Jackie is blustering with charm as always, but by the shadows under his eyes I think he had a long night.
Laurence Olivier: He’s trying to cover his weakness with wisecracks, but rumor has it he was still up and drinking two hours before the match.
HC: What we have here is a classic contest of old school versus new. A product of the 20th century, Jackie has experience with a much wider range of drinks, but Byron may be able to sneak in a few 19th Century bombs that Jackie has never even heard of.
LO: Well, Howard, nobody was surprised last month when 20th Century Hemingway trounced 19th Century Poe, but this time anything can happen. I’m expecting the unexpected.
(Byron wins the coin toss.)
Byron orders A. de Fussigny Cognac
HC: A sound opening maneuver. Gleason doesn’t hate cognac, but he doesn’t love it either.
LO: Gleason shows disdain for the choice, making the “snooty-snooty” gesture by pushing up his nose with a finger, then tipping down the excellent cognac immediately thereafter.
HC: “Pearls before swine,” Byron sighs, swirling his snifter then drinking it down on the six count.
LO: Jackie expands the snooty gesture into a pig snout and points at himself with mock disbelief.
Gleason orders McCormick’s Whiskey
HC: Jackie, knowing his opponent lived in the upper stratosphere of society, is apparently trying to deal him a proletarian blow below the belt.
LO: He hasn’t done his research, Howard. Royal blood may run through his veins, but Byron spent most of his life running amok and living as ribald a life as Gleason. Jackie motions to Byron to clink glasses, and they tip them, Jackie’s pinkie extended.
Byron orders hot toddies
HC: The lord sticks with the brandy, but mixes it up with tea, honey and lemon.
LO: He must have detected the fatigue in Gleason’s face, he’s attempting to put him to bed.
HC: They tip them down and Jackie immediately yawns, stretches and lays his head on the table.
LO: And pretends to snore.
HC: The crowd loves it. The ref shakes his shoulder and Jackie jumps up, looking around wildly. He’s playing jester to Byron’s royalty.
Gleason orders Lords A Leapin’ shots
HC: “The lord will be a leapin’ for the bucket any time now,” Jackie informs the audience then downs his shot with a flourish.
LO: Byron follows suit with a smile. Jackie’s antics have yet to make a noticeable impact on his opponent.
Byron orders Fat Bastard Shiraz
LO: He takes Jackie’s jabs—
HC: —and counter-punches with a cruel hook of his own!
LO: Jackie bugs his eyes and gapes at his belly, which he distends until it fairly lays over the table. This is turning into a clash of clowns.
HC: Enjoying a communal laugh, they take their time with the wine.
LO: They’ve sparred magnificently, but I suspect they’re both searching for new angle of attack.
Gleason orders Peg Leg Cocktails
HC: Indeed. Gleason obviously didn’t order them because he likes fruity rum drinks, he’s—
LO: He’s jumped up and proceeds to limp around the table. Byron sits and smiles, but it is a thin smile indeed. He stares at the drink for a moment, then—what’s he doing?
HC: He’s taken off his special shoe. He pours in the cocktail and drinks it down.
LO: Brilliant counter! If Jackie doesn’t stop clowning he’s going to blow it.
HC: His corner is screaming bloody murder and Jackie waits until the seven count before lunging at his drink and downing it on the ten.
LO: Had he been a split second slower he would have been eliminated. His clowning may cost him the match yet!
Byron orders Lord and Lady Cocktails
HC: It’s no guess what Byron’s getting at. After Jackie’s close call at the end of the last round, Byron’s going to encourage his opponent to goof his way right out of the tournament. Will Gleason take the baited insult to his manhood?
LO: Not likely. Gleason was not adverse to acting in drag.
HC: You wore drag yourself.
HC: Sometimes even on stage, I hear.
LO: What are you—
HC:“At least he thinks I’m a lady,” Jackie quips in falsetto, draining his drink rather daintily.
LO: He stays in his chair this time though. What did you mean by—
HC: Byron nonchalantly winks at his opponent and finishes his.
Gleason orders an original cocktail: double vodka, Blue Curacao and pineapple juice. (He also buys a round of same for the house.)
LO: He’s pulling some sort of ruse.
HC: Gleason stands up and offers a toast to the audience, ignoring his opponent. “I call this libation the Lord Byron,” he announces. “It’s fruity, blue-blooded and if you drink five of them you’ll start walking around like a gimp.”
LO: The crowd roars with laughter and Byron steams. Jackie apparently has done his research, I believe he’s trying to revisit Byron to his most reviled days, when he was a young boy, taunted daily by his classmates.
HC: Jackie sits in his seat and stares coolly across the table at the flushed face of Byron. The lord is trembling with a barely contained rage!
LO: Jackie sinks the cocktail then belches crudely in Byron’s face. Byron is twitching now. “How dare you belch before a gentleman,” he snarls.
HC: Jackie replies, “Oh, I’m sorry, your majesty, I didn’t know you wanted to go first.”
LO: Five! Six! Byron lifts his glass with a trembling hand and—
HC: Throws it in Gleason’s face!
LO: Jackie manages to catch most in his mouth! Byron has disqualified himself!
HC: The clown set off the powder keg and blew himself to victory!
Gleason wins by disqualification.
Post Fight Interview:
Gleason: “I was starting to think that leg was hollow, so I had to snap his girdle.”
Byron: “I’d rather drink in a wine cellar with the Devil himself than take other sip with that lout. A gentleman is judged by his company and that is a judgment I could not bear.”
“Tore Up From The Floor Up”
(Odds: 12 to 1 in favor of Fields)
Tale of the Tab
A fanatical trainer, Fields is known for his extremely strict diet of two quarts of liquor a day. The caustic contender has little patience for lightweight drinkers and less for cocktails. He likes to jab at his opponents with beer then finish them off with a flurry of the hard stuff.
Drinking with Fitzgerald is like rummaging through a wino’s pockets—you never know what you’re going to get. Emotions play a crucial role in his drinking: if the upbeat persona that matched Hemingway drink for drink in Paris shows up, he’s a match for anyone on the board; if the melancholy drunkard shows up, he may fade after a couple.
The Build Up
HC: Oh, for Christ’s sake, Scott’s already drunk.
LO: Well, there’s certainly something wrong with him. Perhaps he’s one of those athletes who believes in training right up to the day the competition.
HC: Right up to the hour, it would appear. Look for W.C. to go for a quick knock-out; he doesn’t take Fitzgerald seriously and won’t want to waste any time with him.
LO: If Fitzgerald can manage to swing his mood, however, Fields may have a surprise coming.
(Fitzgerald wins the coin toss.)
Fitzgerald orders champagne cocktails.
LO: Perhaps Fitz is trying to brighten his mood.
HC: Look who’s stepped into his corner! His old pal Hemingway.
LO: He’s whispering in Fitzgerald’s ear, but is Fitz listening?
HC: W.C. frowns at his fizzy drink then lays it back. Not a favorite of his, I take it. He’s reaching into his pocket.
LO: It’s a flask. He has a belt to wash down the bubbly. “Snake bite medicine,” Fields drawls. “I was bitten by a snake just a moment ago.”
HC: I haven’t seen any snakes, have you, Larry?
LO: He must keep it in his pocket with his flask.
HC: Hemingway nudges his friend and Fitzgerald, as if waking up from a dream, picks up his glass and drains his champagne on the seven count.
LO: He appears lost.
HC: I can’t see him lasting another round.
Fields orders double shots of well whiskey.
HC: Fields is skipping his usual beer warm up, going right for the haymakers.
LO: Fitzgerald sniffs the shot and wrinkles his nose. “I thought Prohibition was over,” he quips, making a reference to the poor quality of bootleg liquor, then knocks it back. Has he revived?
HC: Fields fires back, “There’s no such thing as bad whiskey. Some are just better than others.”
Fitzgerald orders two Malibu and milks.
LO: I suspect Hemingway told him to order that. A master strategist, Hem has probably studied Fields inside and out.
HC: Fields has a smell, remarks he wouldn’t feed it to his dog, then promptly knocks it back. And out comes the flask for a chaser.
LO: He has a system. F. Scott sips his down, finishing on the nine count. And now it’s Fitzgerald’s turn to reach inside his jacket pocket for something. Has he brought his own supply as well? Will he throw Fields’ taunt right back in his face? Good God, it looks like—
HC: A book! A bartender’s bible, most likely. Is he finally getting into the game?
LO: That’s no drink guide, Howard. That’s Shakespeare. Lord help him now.
Fields orders double well rums.
HC: Fields isn’t wasting any time. “All roads lead to rum,” he quips, then knocks his back like so much water and—this is ridiculous—chases the hard-liquor doubles with whatever’s in his flask.
LO: Fitzgerald would be insulted if he were paying attention, but his nose is buried in the book. Hemingway nudges him again and F. Scott absentmindedly picks up the shot and—heavens!
HC: He almost spit it back out! He must have thought he was still working on that Malibu and milk. His cheeks bulge and the ref steps up with the bucket!
LO: He manages to get it back down! But he does not look well.
HC: W.C. offers Fitz his flask to chase the rum. F. Scott takes a belt and promptly spits it out on the floor. “Vodka!” he gasps. Vodka!”
LO: “It was a Russian snake,” Fields replies. That was certainly a dirty trick.
HC: Fitzgerald gets unsteadily to his feet. “O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains,” he shouts. “That we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!”
HC: And off he goes! F. Scott has flapped off out the door much like a insane seagull. This can’t be good for the sport.
LO: All Hemingway can do is shake his head. He trades a stare with Fields. It won’t be pretty when those two meet.
Fields wins by disqualification.
Post Fight Interviews
Fitzgerald: “First you take a drink, then the drink takes you. I was trying to outrun it, that’s all.”
Fields: “That’s the problem with drinking with sensitive types and small bottles of whiskey. They both have the nasty habit of running out on you.