Following the repeal of prohibition, America entered into a mammoth binge of cocktail socializing, after work saloon visits and three martini lunches for the white collar mad men of the gray flannel suit brigade. Bartending was a highly respected profession, requiring knowledge of some several hundred dreadful alcoholic concoctions to qualify at top hotel lounges. The depression and the war gave men plenty of excuses to drink and forget, and women began drinking in public in the new social bender as well.
Youth of the day emulated their elders and drank voraciously in their teens, seeking to achieve the manly image projected in the movies of the time by every screen hero except Hop-along Cassidy, who preferred Sarsaparilla. John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart and every private eye drank habitually on screen, along with smoking cigarettes for every occasion.
The pattern was bent but not broken in the “psychedelic 60s” when rebellious youth discovered lots of other ways to get high. Many of which were a lot more fun, including marijuana and speed, which had just been put on the market by doctors selling weight loss and energy for housewives. The most notable aspect of the turn from alcohol, however, was the reduction in violence. Drunks fight, sometimes for the fun of it. In the 50s bar room brawls were common, again mirroring the movies. Military units fought each other off duty and proudly bragged of whipping the dogface soldiers or fly boy airmen off base.
What bothers me is the resurgence of booze as a media role model in these somewhat stressed times. The plethora of cop shows and court room dramas all feature their leading characters tossing back a few while meeting colleagues and sources. The rise of tough women in TV dramas seems to feature hard drinking female agents, lawyers and desperate housewives in abundance. Is there a series that doesn’t feature the producers favorite beer on the table of every home front crisis.
Once again we are being led back to the booze by an industry that couldn’t even mention its name a few years back. Radio and TV advertising is relatively new for the booze barons, but these days primetime family shows are sponsored by five different vodka flavors, 15-year-old single malt Scotch and 50 different beers for the connoisseur.
Remember as you order that double — drunks are charming and funny only if you’re drunk too.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.