The Top 10 Celebrity Drunks

By Justin Zaremba,
A top ten list of celebrity drunkards and alcoholics.

For many people in the Hollywood spotlight, the line between celebrity and notoriety blurs after several drinks. The rigors and demands of the Hollywood image shape the way these fiery souls handle the world. Here are 10 individuals who stood apart from society as outlaws, scoundrels, tortured prodigies, barroom sages, and broken people whose work is perpetually linked to the whole of their alcohol-soaked exploits.

1. Orson Welles. At 25, Orson Welles wrote, directed, and starred in one of the best films of the past century, Citizen Kane; however, the genius of this first film resulted in his ruin. William Randolph Hearst, the basis for Welles's character, Charles Foster Kane, forced studios to blacklist Welles. Perhaps it was this early peak and stunted potential that caused Welles to be consumed by his enormous appetites for food and drink. The average dinner for Welles, whose weight ballooned to over 350 pounds at his heaviest, was ordinarily comprised of two rare steaks and a pint of scotch. His appetite for alcohol is evident in a well circulated video clip in which Welles stumbles through a reading for a commercial for Paul Masson's California champagne. Having decided to sample the product prior to filming, Welles falls asleep between takes, slurs his lines, and stares uneasily at the camera through bleary eyes. While not the most outrageous of characters in terms of behavior, the depth of this former prodigy's descent from the pinnacle of film to drunkenly reading for liquor advertisements stands as the saddest and most remarkable of the lot.

2. Oliver Reed. The gritty portrayals of tough guys, in films like Oliver! and Hannibal Brooks, by this British-born actor, were too often eclipsed by his erratic and remarkable appearances on talk shows. In one such incident, Reed succinctly proclaimed the location of a very personal tattoo. Another such episode saw Reed staggering with a booze-filled pitcher, and upstaging the show by dancing in spastic inebriation. The most poignant of his antics occurred during the filming of his final film, Gladiator, in 1999. While on location in Malta, Reed suffered a fatal heart attack after a fierce bout of drinking at a pub. Reed racked up a bill of $866 by reportedly drinking three bottles of Captain Morgan's rum, eight bottles of beer, and numerous doubles of Famous Grouse's. Ridley Scott, the director of Gladiator, was forced to use CGI effects in order to compensate for Reed's untimely death.

3. Hunter S. Thompson. Despite leaving his birthplace of Louisville, Kentucky by the age of 18, Thompson never went far without a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon. The author of books such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell's Angels was famous for both his gonzo form of journalism, which blurred the lines of subjectivity and objectivity, and for his drug-fuelled persona. Throughout his life, Thompson repeatedly danced with the law. Despite several arrests for drunk driving and a search of his house by the police which revealed drugs, firearms, and several sticks of dynamite, all charges against Thompson were ultimately dropped. In a 2002 skit that appeared on the Conan O'Brian show, Thompson can be seen drinking large glasses of Wild Turkey as he and O'Brian fired various guns at a stuffed bear which ultimately bursts into flames. Thompson, who committed suicide in 2005, can be heard muttering four-letter expletives as he fires multiple rounds at the bear.

4. Shane McGowan. For the past 20 years, the British press has claimed that the frontman of the Irish punk band, The Pogues, appears to have only 6 months of life left. Despite their erroneous prophecies, McGowan, an unabashed user of recreational drugs, has continued to gain years and to lose teeth. The punk singer with the smile of a broken jack-o-lantern began drinking stout at the age of 4 and whiskey by the age of 10. McGowan's behavior ultimately forced The Pogues to kick him out in 1991. In 2001, The Pogues reunited with McGowan as the lead vocalist. Shortly thereafter, McGowan vomited on several members of the audience in the front row after a particularly rough pre-concert binge in 2002. To this day, McGowan continues to tour with The Pogues, to drink and to give incomprehensible interviews.

5. Johnny Cash. The man in black fueled his outlaw image not only with alcohol, amphetamines and barbiturates, but with actions far beyond the ordinary. In 1965, Cash's car started a forest fire that consumed several hundred acres of land and killed several dozen endangered condors. He became the only person at the time to be sued by the federal government for starting a forest fire. Several years later, the country singer attempted suicide after growing tired of the pain his various addictions inflicted upon his family. High on various drugs and alcohol and feeling "barely human," Cash decided to crawl into Nickajack Cave in Marion County, Tennessee so that he might join the ranks of the many lost explorers of that cave. Cash moved into the depths of the cave until his flashlight died and his personal reservoirs of energy were spent. At this, his lowest point, Cash experienced a spiritual epiphany and a renewed vigor. After several long hours in the dark he managed to extricate himself from the cave. From that point on, Cash sought treatment and maintained sobriety, thanks to the support of his family.

6. Mel Gibson. The star of films such as Lethal Weapon and Braveheart has a trail of drunken driving arrests dating back to the early '80s. In an interview in 2002, Gibson claimed that he had been diagnosed as having a bipolar mood disorder and admitted that he began drinking at the age of 13. Gibson's drunken escapades came to head in 2006 when he was arrested for a DUI while speeding. At the time, Gibson made several offensive comments to the female police officer and most famously had an anti-Semitic rant in which he blamed the Jewish people for all the wars in the world. After a well-publicized apology, Gibson submitted himself to the rehabilitation process.

7. Stephen King. The prolific author of numerous novels and short stories has faced his share of misery due to multiple addictions, including alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs. King was born in 1947, and as early as 1975, when he was 28, he had problems with alcohol. He has admitted to being drunk when he delivered his mother's eulogy. In his memoir, On Writing, King writes of how a friend accused the author of drinking Listerine in order to get drunk. King haughtily responded that he did not drink Listerine because Scope tasted better and had a hint of mint. Following an intervention in the late '80s, King kicked his addictions and has since remained sober.

8. Charles Bukowski. Most of the Los Angeles-based poet's oeuvre is in some way influenced by his muses of alcohol, gambling, and philandering. Throughout his life, the author of Post Office and Factotum remained on the margin of the literary establishment and unrepentantly admitted that he only worked at jobs long enough to allow him to gamble and get drunk. During World War II, Bukowski travelled America, living on skid row and working short stints at odd jobs to support his vices: postal worker, gas station attendant, elevator operator, bus driver, and a foreman in a dog biscuit factory. He survived on the fringe using his experiences on the down-and-out as inspiration for his writing.

9. John Daly. The black sheep of the PGA and an admitted alcoholic, John Daly began drinking beer at age eight, then wine, then Jack Daniels whiskey at age 14. Daly's career and personal life is a rolling wave of ups and downs. He has won big tournaments, had several marriages dissolve into divorce, been arrested for alcohol-related crimes, gotten into fights with fans, and been suspended from the PGA more than once. Recently, Daly and a woman with whom he appeared to be very familiar were photographed during a boozing session flashing their chests to the camera.

10. Alex Trebek. The host of the long-standing game show, Jeopardy!, while appearing rather sedate and amiable on the surface, has demonstrated the depths that even game show hosts can reach. In a clip of several promo outtakes from 1990, a mustachioed Trebek can be seen drinking beer between takes, flubbing his lines, and in response to his mistakes, yelling various curses and expletives. The clip transcends the mundane when Trebek appears to be drinking a clear liquid from what can only be described as a chalice. What is vodka, Alex?

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