Otis from The Andy Griffith Show
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.
1970s Drinking Board Games
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 .