You’ve been doing that often lately. A toast to friends and family around the table. To a new job, new baby, new marriage. To accomplishments made in the past and possibilities that lie in the future.
Like you, your favorite actors enjoy raising a glass, too. And in the new book “Of All the Gin Joints” by Mark Bailey, illustrated by Edward Hemingway (c.2014, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $21.95, 336 pages), you’ll see how some stars’ tippling almost toppled them.
Long before Hollywood even had a Boulevard, there were places to go for a drink. Built in the early 1900s, the Hollywood Hotel was the town’s first “proper nightspot.”
Owner and chocolate heiress Almira Hershey “policed” her hotel, intending to serve nothing harsher than cocoa but Hollywood denizens found ways to drink there anyhow. Sometimes, they did it right in front of the aging and near-blind Hershey.
Bailey says that the Hollywood was where D.W. Griffith stayed before he realized that California filming would be cheaper (and probably more fun!) than in New York. His relocation west started the Hollywood movie-making craze.
Surely, stars like Fatty Arbuckle drank at the Hollywood. Arbuckle was a big fan of scotch; so much so that he owned a car with both bar and bathroom aboard. John Barrymore, who was “famously indiscriminate” about where he relieved himself after imbibing, likely did both in the Hollywood. And so, undoubtedly, did W.C. Fields, who was known for his love of the bottle.
Alas, the site of Tinsel Town’s first drinking establishment is now “an abominable megamall,” but the famous never let that stop them…
Joan Crawford, for instance, traveled with her own liquor supply; several bottles of it, in fact. Humphrey Bogart was happy to drink any time except New Years Eve, because it was more fun to watch everybody else then. Louis B. Mayer once assembled a “Tracy Squad,” whose sole job was to rescue an inebriated Spencer Tracy. John Wayne, says Bailey, was one of the first people to drink margaritas. And when Lee Marvin got drunk (which happened regularly), he often couldn’t remember where he lived.
As Hollywood scandal books go, “Of All the Gin Joints” is one of the more unique — and one of the more enjoyable.
From La-La Land’s first watering hole to locales in which you can still belly up to the bar, author Mark Bailey pours readers a double shot of bad behavior from Hollywood’s yesteryear. The stories you’ll read here are wide-reaching (starting with Fatty Arbuckle and ending more recently), funny and just a little snarky, with the occasional pathetic tale thrown in for balance. Bailey’s also adept at revealing tiny secrets that will surprise even the most ardent fan. Add illustrations from Edward Hemingway, addresses of the clubs still standing, and recipes! and you’ll want another round.
Hollywood watchers, trivia buffs, and movie fans will down this book in short order. Mixologists will want to try the ideas inside. Or, if you just like a nip now and then, grab “Of All the Gin Joints.” You’ll drink to that, too.
If this book leaves you craving more juicy gossip, look for “Scandals of Classic Hollywood” by Anne Helen Petersen, a book about Fatty and Mae, Liz and Dick, Brando, Harlow, and Bow. And if you’re a classic movie buff, then grab “1939: The Making of Six Great Films from Hollywood’s Greatest Year” by Charles F. Adams. Don’t forget the popcorn!
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.