This installment completes the culling of the original herd of 16 super hoochers into a hard-drinking eight.
Last month we witnessed Charles Bukowski’s psychological destruction of Thomas Dylan, and a brutal 28-round battle royale between British stalwarts Richard Burton and Winston Churchill, with the previously unheralded Burton outlasting the entrenched Churchill.
This week promises to be just as thrilling, with Southern champion William Faulkner going head to head and drink for drink with formidable power- boozer Babe Ruth, and a battle of Rat Packers, with Humphrey Bogart testing his caustic wit and powerful thirst against the implacable might of Dean Martin. Strap on your beer hats, boys, this going to get ugly.
Table Side Announcers: Howard Cosell and Sir Laurence Olivier
Ref: Bill “The Fox” Foster
“The Souse from the South”
“The Sultan of Shots”
(Odds: Dead Even)
Tale of the Tab
Though slight in build, the scrappy southern scribe’s capacity for hooch is the stuff of legend. An accomplished master of the month-long bender, his genteel appearance belies his taste for bootleg liquor and high-proof moonshine. The descendent of a very long and illustrious line of drunkards, he is born and bred to the task like a bird dog.
At 6 feet 2 inches and 235 pounds, Ruth is a deluxe model drinking machine. The epitome of the functional alcoholic, Ruth was capable of hammering down a bathtub of beer and two bottles of rye, closing his eyes for two hours, then rising up to smack three homers out of the park. None of his hard-drinking baseball contemporaries could keep up with him and he is reputed to have never been bested in a drinking bout.
The Build Up
Howard Cosell: The difference in size is striking, you’d think this was a given.
Laurence Olivier: And you’d be wrong, Howard, as this could very easily end up a retelling of the story of David and Goliath.
HC: Perhaps. The Babe drinks like he swings at fastballs, he puts everything he’s got behind every round, and we can count on him going for a home run each time at bat.
LO: Yes, but Faulkner has some pitches that may confound the Sultan. Both claim to have never been beaten at the bar, but that is soon to become an idle boast for one of them.
(Faulkner wins the coin toss.)
Faulkner orders Mississippi moonshine
LO: Faulkner leads off with a wicked Mississippi curve ball.
HC: They settle down to drink, both choosing an easy pace. Faulkner lights his pipe and, after a taste of the shine, Ruth puts in a chaw.
LO: Ruth drank his share of prohibition rotgut, I doubt if the ‘shine will faze him.
HC: Faulkner makes idle chatter and do you see the deceptive way he drinks? He appears to be sipping like a gentleman, but—
LO: Suddenly his drink is finished and the Babe, caught unawares, rushes to knock his back on the eight count. Wiley, that Faulkner.
Ruth orders quadruple shots of Jim Beam Rye Whiskey
LO: Quadruples! The Babe tries to knock Faulkner out of the park on the first swing.
HC: Faulkner seizes his glass and jumps to his feet. “Fort Sumter has been fired upon, sir!”
LO: Some sort of Civil War allegory.
HC: Nothing allegorical about what he does next, draining the four-banger of rye in two huge gulps.
LO: Ruth follows suit a gulp behind him. Faulkner snuck a strike past him that time.
Faulkner orders Mint Juleps
HC: The choice of a Southern gentleman. They came out with the big guns and now it appears Faulkner is backing down a bit.
LO: The Babe doesn’t appear to like his. He wasn’t known for diluting his liquor with ice.
HC: “I thought we were playing hardball,” Ruth complains and Faulkner frowns, appearing to be gravely insulted. He demands to know where Ruth was born.
LO: “Baltimore,” the Babe informs him. “I thought as much,” Faulkner sniffs, “You have the look of a fat Yankee carpetbagger. And the smell.”
HC: The Babe drops his ubiquitous grin, drops the Julep down his throat right behind it, says, “Put this rug in your bag,” then orders.
Ruth orders quadruple shots of Jim Beam Rye Whiskey
LO: Well, he’s consistent. He’s swinging hard every time at bat, but he’s got to realize that Faulkner can take it.
HC: But for how long?
LO: Strange, the Babe doesn’t attack his, he sits with his hand around the glass, staring at Faulkner.
HC: Who relights his pipe, breathes out a plume of smoke, then reaches out—
LO: The moment Faulkner’s hand touches the rye, the Babe brings his up and downs it, slamming the glass on the table!
HC: Faulkner tries to match him but Ruth poured it down like a bucket of water down a dry well.
LO: The Babe smiles and lights a cigar, he doubled off that pitch and means to enjoy his victory.
Faulkner orders Mississippi moonshine
LO: Faulkner responds to the thrown gauntlet.
HC: This time it’s William who waits with his hand around the glass, a challenge in his eye.
LO: Ruth points to a distant corner of the bar, much as he pointed into the stands before belting a long ball out of the park.
HC: Faulkner glances in the corner and—
LO: Ruth seizes his glass and tips it. Faulkner scrambles to beat him and comes up short again!
HC: The crowd cheers Ruth and Faulkner trembles with indignation. “That was a low-down Yankee trick,” he intones. “You have insulted my kinder nature, sir!”
LO: “Don’t he talk funny?” Ruth replies with a laugh.
HC: It’s the Southern Dandy versus the Baltimore Bumpkin.
Rounds Six Through Nine
Ruth orders four rounds of quadruple ryes, Faulkner orders four rounds of moonshine
LO: Good Heaven! It’s donnybrook for donnybrook. Think of the amount of hard liquor coursing through their veins!
HC: Faulkner, if anything, has become more steely while Ruth appears to be having a helluva good time.
LO: Faulkner keeps pitching his sly curve and the Babe keeps swinging his rye bat with all his might.
Ruth orders Blatz Beer
HC: Ruth changes up his swing.
LO: Ruth loves his beer. It was said he had a bootlegger in every town. His standing order was a case of scotch, a case of rye, and a bathtub full of beer. The fact that he got off the liquor makes me think he’s realized this one is going extra innings.
HC: Faulkner is having a good laugh. “The Babe has cried for his bottle of milk,” he says.
LO: The Babe is getting a bit droopy-eyed. I don’t think he’s ever been against a juggernaut like Faulkner, who snatches up his pint with a flourish and tips it down.
HC: But only finishes half of it. No great fan of the suds, it appears.
LO: The Babe’s eyes light up. Could he have found a ball he can hit?
HC: The Babe drains his down and Faulkner dives back in, finishing on the eight count.
Faulkner orders banana daiquiris
LO: Faulkner changes up as well. But I don’t get the choice.
HC: I believe he is making a comment about Ruth’s rather simian appearance. “There’s manna for you, you great Yankee ape!” Faulkner affirms.
LO: The Babe’s teammates did like to say he fell out of a tree.
Ruth orders 60 oz glasses of Blatz Beer
LO: Ruth swings hard at Faulkner’s perceived weakness for beer. Good God, look at the size of that glass!
HC: Faulkner immediately starts in, he’s trying to get a headstart on what will surely be a Ruth—
LO: Onslaught! Ruth seizes his monstrous glass and, without stopping for air, pours 60 oz of beer down his gullet! Did Faulkner get enough of a headstart?
HC: Six! Seven! He’s drowning in it! He rises to his feet as he chugs, stretching his neck, trying his best to—
LO: Nine! Te— and he finishes! The Babe looks to the ref, and the ref signals that Faulkner dove under the wire!
HC: “I was taught to swim at an early age,” Faulkner gasps, but he is shaken. I can’t see him surviving another Blatz bombardment.
Faulkner orders fruit jars of Mississippi moonshine
LO: Faulkner also seems keenly aware of that, and is going for the knockout!
HC: This is going to be an nasty, evil round.
LO: I should say. That jar must hold at least twenty-four ounces of high-proof ‘shine.
HC: The Babe looks distraught. He thought he had this game in the bag. He knows if he can survive this round he will drown Faulkner in the next, but—
LO: That’s a devil’s amount of liquor.
HC: “Time to put the Babe to bed,” Faulkner boasts, smiling insolently as he lights his pipe.
LO: The Babe glares, he’s blurry now, he takes the jar up, has a great pull, drains off a third of it.
HC: Faulkner merely laughs, busying himself with his pipe. He hasn’t even touched his jar. “Keep reaching, ape,” he quips. “Your arms are certainly long enough.”
LO: The Babe’s face is red with rage now, he jabs a finger at a far corner of the bar and tips it up again, knocking back another third. Faulkner still hasn’t touched his, he—
HC: And the Babe goes down! He dropped like a bag of dirt! He’s under the table! He’s out cold!
LO: It’s not over yet! Faulkner has to finish the round to win. He smiles, takes a sip and settles back to smoke. “I’ve got all night,” he says. And by the look of Ruth, he does indeed.
HC: The Souse from the South springs a brilliant trap!
Faulkner wins by PO.
Post Fight Interview
Ruth: “I swung as hard as I could. I swung big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I missed that whopper by a mile.”
Faulkner: “I salute the man. He may not drink like a gentleman, but he certainly drinks like an ape who may have at one time devoured several gentlemen.”
“Three Drinks Ahead”
(Odds: 2 to 1 in favor of Bogart)
Tale of the Tab
The actor’s hard-drinking, tough-as-nails screen persona was no facade, if anything it was a pale reflection of the real man. Though a scotch drinker by choice, he can take anything you can dish out — and give it back in spades. The founder of the Rat Pack, he’s capable of drinking through dawn, turning in a professional day of work, then doing an encore at a dozen bars. His iron will, caustic — some say cruel — wit and infatiguable thirst make him a formidable opponent.
The velvet-voiced crooner is a true wild card. Building up a peerless reputation as a drinker while alive, rumors flew after his death, hinting he may not have deserved his status as the lush’s lush. His very private nature insured that either summation could be correct. His easy going nature and stylish manner makes for a difficult psychological target, but if he’s going to hang with the big boys he’s going to have to prove his capacity to imbibe.
The Build Up
LO: By an odd twist of fate we have the founder of the Rat Pack, Bogart, pitted against one of the Pack’s latter-day stalwarts.
HC: Even more controversial was the selection of Dean over Sinatra as the flag bearer of the Vegas-Era Pack. Many thought Sinatra was the better choice.
LO: We’ll find out shortly if the Chairman should have been chosen, or if Dean is truly a drinking machine.
(Bogart wins the coin toss.)
Bogart orders Cutty Sark Scotch on the rocks with apple juice backs
HC: “I want to see which one he drinks first,” Bogie says with an insinuating grin.
LO: He’s playing off the rumor that Dean actually drank apple juice instead of scotch while on stage.
HC: Dino takes a sip of the apple juice and does a spit take. “You need to find a better bootlegger,” he jokes then chases with the scotch. Bogie joins him.
LO: Things are certainly starting out friendly enough.
HC: Bogie’s just getting warmed up. We’ll see if Martin’s affability can fend off Bogart’s rough-house repartee.
Martin orders dry Gordon Gin martinis
LO: “How long have I been on?” Martin asks.
HC: He’s doing his drunk act. Smart. Bogart won’t be able to tell when Dino’s actually drunk, he’ll never know when to pounce.
LO: Martin’s choice is interesting.
HC: Especially considering Bogart’s last words were, “I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.” He used to drink them by the pitcher when he liked them, though.
LO: “Still sorry you switched?” Martin asks and Bogie replies with his next order.
Bogart orders double Cutty Sark Scotches, neat
LO: “That ice was making my teeth hurt,” Bogart says, taking out his dentures and showing Martin. “See?”
HC: They’re both playful as hell.
LO: Nothing playful about the way Bogart drains his double.
HC: Martin follows on the seven count. Bogie means to find out if those rumors were true.
Martin orders two carafes of Sicilian malvasia wine.
LO: “Little old wine drinker, you,” Bogart says. “You’re a tough boy, you are.”
HC: “Welcome to my world,” Dino croons. Dean spent the last decade of his life pouring down the vino. He can tilt it ‘til dawn.
LO: They polish off the first glass swiftly and seem ready to make quick work of the carafes.
Bogart orders two Drambuies
HC: That’s Bogie’s after-dinner drink.
LO: After-drinks drink, you mean. “When you’re drinkin’, you get stinkin’, it helps your point of view,” Dean sings.
HC: “Stinkin’?” Bogart says. “We just started, pal.”
LO: Bogart downs his and Dean says, “You sure he drank that?”
HC: Then follows suit.
Rounds Six Through Ten
Martin orders five rounds of malvasia wine, Bogart orders five Cutty Sarks on the rocks
HC: They’ve settled into a groove.
LO: Is Dino sloshed? I can’t tell if he’s putting us on or not.
HC: Neither can Bogie, much to his growing irritation. He’s getting a little angry about the whole charade.
LO: Martin’s like a man who shows up at a duel covered in red paint. You can never tell when or where you’ve struck him.
HC: “Let’s see if this helps your performance,” a vexed Bogart snarls, downing the glass and putting in his order.
Bogart orders triple Cutty Sarks, neat
LO: So much for being playful.
HC: Bogie’s had it. If he can’t see the blood, he’s going to try to hack off a limb.
LO: The mystery man croons, “Ain’t that a kick in the head,” and knocks his back. For a chap who supposedly stole his reputation, he can hold his own.
HC: Bogie knocks his down and growls, ”Okay, now let’s see what you can do.”
Martin orders triple J&B Scotches, neat
LO: He does quite well, thank you very much.
HC: Bogie came out swinging, trying to put Dino on the ropes and Dino responds with a flurry of his own.
LO: Bogart angrily knocks his down and Martin pauses to sing to his glass.
HC: “Sweet embraceable you,” says Dino and knocks his down on the seven count.
LO: “Play it again, Sam,” Bogart says through gritted teeth.
Bogart orders triple J&B Scotches, neat
LO: Bogart’s anger appears to be getting the best of him.
HC: He loathed phoniness, and Dino’s act has him unhinged.
LO: Bogart knocks his down and shouts, “Come on! Let’s go! Quit fooling around!”
HC: Unflappable, Dino slurs, “I left my heart in Fran Sancisco.”
He polishes it off on the six count. “How’s about we sing an old song, Hump?” he says and orders.
Martin orders mead
LO: Where the devil did that come from?
HC: He’s a man of mystery. Who knows what he knows?
LO: Bogart has a pull and doesn’t appear to care for it.
HC: “Who the hell ordered this?” Martin slurs after having a taste.
LO: “You did,” Bogart fires back.
HC: “Christ, I must be drunk,” Dino says. And, do you know what, Larry? I think he is. Both of them take their time with the pints.
Bogart orders mead
HC: “You again?” Martin says, sniffing the pint.
LO: “That’s right, him again,” Bogart says with a wicked smile, and knocks his back quickly.
HC: Too quickly it would seem, the sickening sweet drink is trying to come back up!
LO: He grits is teeth, and . . . he rides it out! It’s down and it’s staying there!
HC: At least for now. Dean sighs and starts in on his. Four! Five! Six!
LO: He can still make it. He stops to breathe. Eight! He tries again and ten! The ref signals him out. Bogart wins!
Bogart wins by Disqualification.
Post Fight Interview
Bogart: “They don’t make rats like they used to.”
Martin: “Don’t tell Frank or Sammy about this. They’re liable to start singing.”