A toper’s guide to booze and its discontents in the film mecca that is Los Angeles.
Sure, Bogart drank—and W.C. Fields and Jackie Gleason, by the gallon. But Clara Bow, Mary Pickford, Veronica Lake? Yep, they swilled alcohol as if there were no tomorrow and no consequence—and, at times, as if there were no laws against it. Screenwriter Bailey and artist Hemingway (Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers, 2006) team up to profile some of Tinseltown’s most notorious drinkers (and a few secret tipplers as well), along with the watering holes they favored, from the Polo Lounge to Ciro’s and a few lesser-known saloons in less fashionable districts. They write in the same style that fuels such tell-alls as Hollywood Babylon and Mommy Dearest: Sure, Errol Flynn often played a scamp, but who knew that he was so downright awful in real life? Unfortunately, Bailey brings too little new information to the table, though when he does, it’s a revelation. The packaging, too, is pleasant enough, with its abundant sidebars, recipes—if you’re going to read the book, you might as well learn how to make simple syrup, as well—and caricatures. Bailey’s yarns, lasting about a beer apiece, are engaging enough as well and sometimes shocking to boot—it rattles our image of the man, for instance, to learn that sweet Stan Laurel, a constant drunk who put down “a ton of whiskey,” once threatened to bury his wife alive. Overall, the book is pleasantly enjoyable but dispensable.
If you have a hipster’s need to drink your way through film history in the footsteps of Bogey and Bacall or just want to hit all of LA’s historic hotspots or perhaps are just taking your liver out for a thorough road test under the swaying palms, then this is your vade mecum. Otherwise, stick to Kenneth Anger or maybe Barton Fink.