Hollywood Celebrities Over the Rainbow and Under the Influence

Posted In:   From Issue 652   By: Mark Leffler

10th January, 2008     0

"There is only one thing worse than being drunk, and that is not being drunk."

Oscar Wilde

"There is only one thing worse than being drunk, and that is not being drunk".

Lindsey Lohan

Okay, I made that second one up after I saw the video clip of 2007's poster child for Bad Behavior (and there was a lot of competition for that title, wasn't there) swigging from a bottle of bubbly while in Italy last week.

As we ring in the New Year in a society that is increasing tough on drunk drivers, it seems that celebrities are getting arrested and being publicly embarrassed for their drunkenness and substance abuse to a degree that seems unprecedented.

Gone are the Good Old Days when Rock Hudson could get pulled over, three sheets to the wind and the California police officers would drive him home, pour him into bed, and probably drive his Bentley into the garage for him, too. Gone are the days where a savvy press agent could spread some cash quietly to get a DUI story spiked from the national press and radio gossips.

In a 24/7 Cable news and Internet world, there is no hiding celebrity meltdowns.  And oh, how the mighty have fallen.

2007 Boozeketeer Roll Call:

Lindsey Lohan (2 DUIs) * Paris Hilton (DUI, probation violation) * Nicole Richie (2 DUIs) * Ray Liotta (DUI) * Lane Garrison from Prison Break (vehicular homicide, DUI) * Mischa Barton (DUI) * Rebecca DeMornay (DUI)
* Gary Collins, actor, former Miss America host (DUI) * Britney Spears (unable to list Ms. Spear's activities under the influence in 2007 due to space limitations) * Keifer Sutherland (2 DUIs) * Vivica Fox * Ty Pennington from Extreme Home Makeover

It makes one nostalgic to some degree. Remember Frank and Dean and Sammy entertaining crowds at Caesar's Palace with cocktails in hand? Funny drunk acts like Foster Books? Otis, the amiable town drunk on the Andy Griffith show, locking himself up to sleep off a bender? Harmless fun with no indication of the darker side of alcohol related traffic fatalities and domestic abuse so related to alcoholism. Hell, remember the three-martini lunch? Or it's 80's sequel, the three lines of coke bathroom trip at the club?

Part of the surge in celebrity DUIs is undoubtedly related to the trend of lowering the legal limit to a blood alcohol level of .08. Two drinks at dinner, which might leave a driver at just under .10 before now might lead to a set of iron bracelets and a trip to the county lockup.

Just ask all those actors from LOST. With all that otherworldly beauty and primo weed in Hawaii you'd think they might be content to sit on the beach, take a few hits and munch on some passion fruit. But so far three cast members have been arrested for drunk driving and speeding. Michelle Rodriguez originally got off lightly, spending under an hour in lockup before being released due to overcrowding. But when she failed to complete her community service she was ordered to jail, donning her county Oranges on Christmas Eve.

Not all the best-drunken celebrity stories involved DUIs. Take David Hasselhof. If you haven't seen his infamous video go to Youtube.com and check it out. His daughters taped him laying on the floor in his shorts, drunker than a sailor on shore leave in Bangkok. To the Hoff's credit, he knew he had a drinking problem and gave his daughters permission to grab a camera if he was drunk around them. He was and they did, and the world is just a little funnier as a result.

The old comedy maxim is that such incidents are funny when they happen to someone else. "Comedy happens to you. Tragedy happens to me." We all crack up at the hysterical mug shot photos of Nick Nolte or James Brown or Mel "Are You Jewish" Gibson. But would you want your DUI mugshot to run on the cover of Review? I wouldn't. And I crave attention more than anyone except possibly The Olsen Twins. And Lindsey. And Paris.

Paris isn't the most out of control drinker, but she had a DUI and somehow failed to understand that losing her license meant she couldn't drive. Even for a burger, which is what she was doing when she was arrested for driving without a license. That's what sent her to county jail for a month. Is it any wonder her Grandfather recently announced 99% of his fortune would be donated to charity?

And then there was her sometime BFF Nicole Richie who was stopped driving the wrong way down the freeway.

The average person's reaction to such poor judgment is to wonder why the hell these millionaires don't hire a driver? Radio personality Don Imus, who embarrassed himself out of a job completely sober, once remarked that it took him so many years to get sober because he had people driving him everywhere who would clean up his messes so he never faced the consequences of his actions.

But many of these celebs drive themselves because they don't want others to know they are scoring or using drugs or indulging in some other form of bad behavior they don't want made public knowledge. And limo drivers can make some serious coin blabbing to the tabloids, not the mention the cash to be made by a driver with a camera on his cell phone.

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock died after smashing into a tow truck driving to a hotel rendezvous with a groupie. He was intoxicated and drugs were found in his glove compartment. You know how your teenage daughter "dies" of embarrassment? This guy died because of fear of the embarrassment that would follow disclosure of his secret life of drugs, booze and sex with groupies in hotels. And now he's lifting one with Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle. I think it was someone like Dennis Leary who said "Billy Martin, whose last words were 'I think I can drive."

And some final thoughts about the almost Greek tragedy that is Britney Spears life: Maybe her little sister thought by getting knocked up at sixteen she could take some of the heat off of her big sis. But that doesn't seem to have worked. At press time the drugged out diva had been hauled out of her home on a stretcher and taken to a mental health facility for a 72-hour evaluation. That's probably the best place for her.

There is a German term, shadenfreude that has no exact English translation. It can be translated as "taking pleasure in other's misery", which is just what you'd expect from a people who brought us The Great War (aka WWI), World War Two, The Holocaust, and the skinheads.

There is a longstanding tradition of the public enjoying the spectacle of celebrity downfalls. The tabloid press, show like The Insider and Hard Copy thrive on this. And websites like PerezHilton.com rake in the ad revenue by posting the latest mug shots and stories. There is every reason to believe that 2008 will be just as bountiful a year for celebrity drunkenness as 2007 was.



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