If it's not champagne, and it's not ale, what is it? Malt liquor! Athletic boozers were encouraged to reach for the next rung of the social ladder by picking up a tennis racquet and popping open a bottle of the aristocracy's preferred malt liquor, advertised as "the sparkling alcoholic beverage that looks and tastes like champagne." Of course, the high-class vibe was significantly undercut by this: "It costs just pennies more than beer wherever beer is sold."
The above ad ran in carefully segregated Caucasian and African-American versions, starring Tom Selleck and Mariette Hartley impersonators for the white folk and a black couple the distillery hoped might pass for Arthur Ashe and Lola Falana. To get an idea of just how much that mustachioed generation drank, all you need to know is that it was a time when ad firms thought "high class malt liquor" was a viable angle.
Slyly marketed in 1950s comic book ads, as if it were a practical joke, this plastic novelty product's practical applications were all too clear. The poorly-reproduced, almost subliminal caption appears to read "Any time is lunch time with a whiskey sandwich."
The cartoon drinker's top hat tries to impart an illusion of class, but is undermined by his lolling tongue and prominent "HIC" sound effect. He also looks a little young to be drinking, which would explain the ad's placement in comic books, and the fact that the whiskey bottle is being disguised as an item that would really only make sense in a child's lunch box. In the '50s, it was apparently OK to not only encourage children to drink, but also to help them hide it from their parents.
In the early days of TV, you weren't officially considered a character until you had a drink in your hand. TV dads were greeted at home with a tray of drinks; Archie Bunker owned a bar and the most serious consequence was a comically bad hangover. A study in the '70s found that sitcoms showed people drinking five times per hour. But, maybe no TV character displayed old school TV's loving attitude toward drunks better than Otis Campbell (played by Hal Smith), Mayberry's official town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show.
Sure, he frequently spent time under Andy's care for public drunkenness, but it was a lovably hilarious public drunkenness, sort of like a drinking man's Steve Urkel. At various times, Otis mistook a goat for his uncle, tried to sue for a self-inflicted jail cell injury, and spiked the mayor's water. Still, he was invariably portrayed as a positive role model for imbibers everywhere, with a loving wife and no serious consequences for his bizarre behavior. He was even deputized briefly in one episode, encouraging addicts everywhere to take up loaded firearms and serve whatever they hazily perceived as the public good. Today, his name is Otis, and that's all any of his fellow AA members needs or wants to know.
For F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, nothing was more romantic and writer-like than kicking back with a typewriter and bottle of hooch. Gertrude Stein called them "The Lost Generation," because they were artists disillusioned by the human cost of World War I, not to mention Prohibition in the United States. They were the literary giants of the 1920s, living and writing as Americans in Paris --and every last one of them was usually stinking drunk. Their hard-drinking, hard-writing lifestyle found its way into print in several now-classic works. And while Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury are both chock full of what would today be considered "problem drinking," no novel gets at the generational depravity like Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.
Inspired by Gatsby, this admittedly autobiographical novel tells the story of a bunch of people who seem to drink for a living. Protagonist Jake Barnes is impotent and drinks; Scottish war veteran Michael Campbell gets angry and drinks; Jake's old friend Bill Gorton jokes around and drinks. The novel reads like a personal testimonial at an AA meeting, without any of the shame, and with a generous heaping of hilariously outmoded slang.
Not surprisingly, they produced a wealth of pithy witticisms about getting bombed. Fitzgerald once said, "first you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you," which was funny right up until he and Hemingway died of alcohol-related tuberculosis and depression.
Today, people think they need one of those newfangled Nintendo Wii machines to have fun getting drunk and playing games. But visionary designer Frank Bresee livened up the 1970s with these drinking-and-sex-themed board games, complete with official equipment and instructions for those too uptight to imagine their own fun things to do while inebriated and semi-clothed.
The object of Monopoly rip-off Pass-Out was to roll the dice, drink and repeat, presumably until you actually passed out or started having meaningful conversations with the tiny blue and yellow plastic people across the table. Companion product Sip'N'Go Naked allowed the terminally repressed to loosen up by drinking and playing strip poker, with smarmy support from a formal set of instructions, presumably so they could claim they were only following orders. Every winner is a loser! Hooray!
If you liked this article, check out Jay Pinkerton's how-to guide, An Alcohol Coma: Your Ticket To a Good Night's Sleep .