Some men shape history by accident, and some shape it by design. Some shape history by God's decree, and some shape it by sheer force of personal will. Still others shape history by drunkenly stumbling into it, urinating on it and then dancing around naked while wearing it like a hat. Those men are our heroes, and these are their tales:
During the Cold War, Yugoslavia became the first and only country to successfully sneak out of the Soviet "Iron Curtain" when Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito publicly dumped Joseph Stalin in 1948. This messy breakup nearly led to war between the two countries from 1948 to 1955 in a period known as Informbiro, which is a Slavic word roughly translating to "holy shit that's balls." Not even Stalin's death in 1953 was enough to defuse the crisis. That's right: It was a grudge that transcended the grave. But undead communist grudges were no match for Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and his epic drinkin', hard partyin', straight chillaxin' attitude.
The kind of world leader you could totally kill a keg with.
Khrushchev was hopeful for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, which is why he led a Soviet delegation to Belgrade in May 1955 to iron things out. But Tito tried to turn this into a PR disaster for the Soviets: His plan was to get them plastered in front of the cameras and embarrass them, because apparently Tito had never met a Russian before. To the surprise of basically nobody, Khrushchev was more than happy to oblige him. But, what started off as a bear trap quickly transformed into one of the most awesome parties in history, leaving Tito with little choice but to join in the vodka-fest himself.
"One! Just do one!"
The visit ended with a lavish party at the Soviet Embassy, where "Khrushchev got stupefyingly drunk... (he) kept trying to kiss everyone, particularly Tito, to whom he kept cooing, 'Josya, quit being so angry! What a thin-skinned one you are! Drunk up and let bygones be bygones.'" On June 2, while Tito and Khrushchev were probably still fighting off one of those epic, multiday hangovers, the USSR and Yugoslavia signed a joint resolution in Belgrade that effectively ended the crisis. It was one of the most unexpected successes in diplomatic history, and it was all made possible thanks to Nikita Khrushchev being a friendly drunk.
You KNOW these guys partied.
While a good drunk can liven up almost any situation, there are certain frontiers of human endeavor where we strongly believe alcohol and alcoholics should not venture. Most of those endeavors involve working a 230-ton, $1.7 billion piece of hardware while going several times the speed of sound.
Somewhere in that shuttle the final frontier is getting plastered.
Yes, astronauts have gone to the stars while under the influence. NASA actually launched an investigation looking for this sort of thing after the infamous incident in 2007 when former astronaut Lisa Nowak tried to kidnap her ex's girlfriend while wearing a diaper. Headed by Col. (Dr.) Richard E. Bachmann Jr. of the US Air Force, the investigators uncovered something that makes Attempted Interstate Infantilist Kidnapping look like charity work: On no fewer than three separate incidents, NASA had cleared astronauts to fly missions -- including two shuttle missions--while completely fucking tanked.
Holy shit, First Contact got something right!
The identities of the astronauts have not been disclosed, but we do have a pretty good idea of what missions they were on. We're talking feats that require some of the most extensive training on the planet, where everything from fine motor skills to physical/psychological conditioning to not barfing in a space helmet is absolutely vital.
One drunken mission actually involved two crafts: a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and a supersonic NASA T-38 training jet capable of traveling nearly twice as fast as your mother's wandering mouth. While the astronaut in the Northrop T-38 Talon had it bad enough, traveling at speeds fast enough to make you deepthroat your own face, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft had it worse: Its mission involved some work on the International Space Station, which meant that the very first step of the astronauts' job that afternoon involved being blasted off of Earth in a gargantuan metal bullet aimed at a moving target traveling at 17,239.2 mph... and they showed up drunk that day.
"One more for the road. Sky. Sky-road."
The NASA panel also reported on a third flight that an astronaut was cleared for, this time on the space shuttle. But the mission was scrubbed just in time, presumably when the crew showed up in full spacesuits, sans pants.
If we were to draft a list of all the artists, writers and musicians who owed their muse to booze, it would pretty much just be a list of all artists, writers and musicians, period. Douglas Adams came up with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy while lying drunk in a field, Jackson Pollock turned being a violent drunk into an art form, Charlie Parker once vomited onto his microphone during a live performance, and Ernest Hemingway was Ernest Motherfucking Hemmingway. But no act of creation so thoroughly embodies the drunken arts as the songwriting of Doug Ingle, from the band Iron Butterfly.
You'd be an alcoholic too if you had to dress like that.
1968 was not a particularly good year for the band: Their first album, Heavy, had just been released, and it was doing so well that their drummer, Ron Bushy, "was supporting the band by making pizza." When Ron came back from work one evening to find Ingle, Iron Butterfly's primary composer, drunk(er than usual) after pounding an entire bottle of Red Mountain wine, Ingle was "playing this song on the keyboard for me and singing it. He was so drunk that it came out 'in-a-gadda-da-vida' instead of the intended "In the Garden of Eden."
Strangely, Wikipedia doesn't list the genre as "Rock and/or Roll"
Fortunately for Ingle, Iron Butterfly and the entire narcotics industry, Bushy kind of liked how his bandmate's inebriated lyrics slurred out. The newly rechristened song and album, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, went on to sell 25 million copies, making it the 31st-best-selling album of all time. Iron Butterfly became rich and famous (or at least enough for Bushy to quit his old pizza job), and it was all thanks to Doug Ingle's drunkenness.
Thanks, crippling social disease!
Ottoman Sultan Selim II, aka "The Drunkard," made wine his official doctrine. No, seriously: The Selim doctrine was an actual thing, and all it consisted of was, "Keep Selim drunk."
Him? The guy wrapped in a rubber ducky shower curtain, drunk? You don't say...
Selim cared about only two things: drinking and his epic poetry ... about drinking. Cyprus wine was his favorite, so at least he had good taste: Cypriot commandaria remains one of the oldest and most celebrated wines in history. Unfortunately for Selim, even the most extravagant and kingly of bottles have a bottom to them. He eventually ran out of his preferred wine... until Joseph Nassy came along and suggested that if the Ottomans were to invade Cyprus, Selim would have all the wine he could possibly want. Which is a bit like proposing to your friends that you fire-bomb a 7-Eleven because you ran out of Heineken, but Selim rolled with it and declared war against an entire territory just to steal its wine. The Ottomans launched a massive invasion of the island with tens of thousands of men that laid siege to its cities and massacred some 20,000 of its civilians.
Selim's brutal conquest eventually spurred the West into action. They formed a Venetian-Genoese-Papal-Spanish coalition known as the Holy League, and with their combined forces they won a spectacular naval victory against the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto. It was one of the most crucial battles in history and the turning point of the millennium-spanning war between the Muslim East and the Christian West, in which the Ottomans lost 30,000 sailors and 90 percent of their navy.
This epic slice of military awesome is brought to you by alcoholism.
But Selim II somehow remained in control of Cyprus after the Ottoman annihilation at Lepanto, so as far as he was concerned, he had his wine, and that meant he was victorious. The Ottomans never recovered their losses, and Selim promptly ran his country into the ground until he died in 1574 when he fell on a marble floor and fractured his skull. But take heart, friends, for he died exactly as he lived: hilariously drunk.
We'll just say he drowned doing a body shot.
Union general Ulysses S. Grant suffered from perhaps the most unfair reputation of all the generals during the Civil War: He was widely regarded as a common drunk. Oh, the drunk part is true -- but he was anything but common. It is the conclusion of more than one expert on the subject, including President Abraham Lincoln himself, that Grant suffered from a unique form of alcoholism that "made him a better field commander."
Also, we're pretty sure that's a keg he's being sworn in over.
The beauty of Grant's particular breed of alcoholism was that it made him into exactly the type of leader Lincoln needed. He didn't need a gentleman to win the Civil War -- he needed the kind of don't-give-a-fuck attitude that only a dude who gets plowed on active battlefields can bring to the table. According to numerous historians and historical journals, the secret to Grant's military success was not that he was a drunk, but that he knew he was a drunk. This gave him a distinct advantage over his Confederate adversaries, because Grant "had absolutely nothing to lose," whereas the rebels, being ordinary human beings, had plenty to lose: Land, families, limbs, dignity -- you name it. Because Grant had been a complete failure at everything he had ever applied himself to throughout his entire life, he "had nowhere to go but up," and he knew it. In other words, he was exactly the loser Lincoln needed.
Aw, poor wittle guy...
Grant fought the Civil War harder than any other general of his time because, when any normal person would succumb to fear or overwhelming odds and retreat, Grant simply got himself so drunk that he could "brush aside caution" and go the extra distance. He was a self-aware alcoholic, meaning that he knew when an impossible situation simply required him to be drunk enough to do the unthinkable, and he was willing to take that Whiskey Bullet for Team America. Once Grant was promoted to commander of the Union Army, he was able to execute what no other Union general had dared: an utterly relentless war against the South, day and night.
Grant: The only man to mushroom-stamp the South.
Before Grant came along, major battles were months apart, and more often than not, they resulted in Union retreats. But thanks to his specific, self-administered prescription of alcohol, Grant was able to throw caution to the wind and force the South to fight a war of brutal attrition. Historians describe Grant's benders as providing "a release, but a controlled one, like the ignition of a gas flare above a high-pressure oil well" that he used to defeat the South and bring the bloodiest war in American history to an end.
Pictured: How Grant gets his drink on.
For more incredible acts done while under the influence, check out The 5 Greatest Things Ever Accomplished While High. Or learn about some people accomplished amazing feats post-mortem, in The 6 Greatest Things Accomplished by Dead Bodies.
And stop by Linkstorm to see what drunk geniuses await on the Internet. (Hardly any.)
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