Category Archives: speakeasy

Slurred Speech

Standard

The Dark Side of Comedy

While laughing and coming up with a wide selection of old time shows

that were either variety and/or talk shows, we came upon a somber

moment. My coworkers and I had listed The Jackie Gleason Show, which

included a funny character named, “Crazy Guggenheim.” We had also talked

about how many of the talk show ‘hosts’ or ‘hostesses’ held cigarettes

in their fingers or had a amber colored beverage in their glasses.

Who doesn’t remember Dean Martin, for example, having a drink in

his hand?

By the way, Frank Fontaine portrayed Crazy Guggenheim on both the

Jackie Gleason and Jack Benny shows. He died of 58 years old, about

to donate a check for heart disease studies. His heart attack was

a shock to those who loved him. He knew how to sing well, having

filled a whole album of the songs he sang, while Jackie G. portrayed

his famous alter ego, “Joe the Bartender.” Frank F. was famous for

his slurred speeches, his drunken behavior and his bug-eyed look

and facial expressions.

We thought that it was interesting how times ‘had changed’ and

decided there were “pro’s” and “con’s” to the past.

Let me insert a famous line from the movie, “A Night at the Opera,”

(1935):

“Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and

necking in the parlor.”

This line was spoken by Groucho Marx, in his portrayal of the film’s

character, Otis B. Driftwood.

We know now that famous people are just like us, in many ways.

We also realize that, although there were “Time” and “Newsweek”

magazines trying to bring to the forefront of the population,

the downfalls of alcohol, drugs, gambling and smoking, there were

many disregarding the after effects, side effects and we did not

have such a stigma attached to these ‘bad’ habits. Two of us at my

lunch table on Thursday, became rather sad and quiet. They were

reflecting on recalled deaths of family members due to smoking and

cancer. One of us had experienced abusive, “mean drunks” for parents.

We decided that addictions, such as these, are still not considered

as ‘big of a deal.’ Society, in some ways, continues to ‘brush them

under the table.’

Even the subject of rehabilitation has had its lighter comedic film

moments. People either laugh, due to the antics and situations that

don’t seem real or out of being uncomfortable. It is hard to explain

why we laugh when someone runs into a wall, falls off a roof, or

trips and does a pratfall.

Treatment for the addictions, in the form of actually facing that

these ARE diseases, is important. Still, we felt a little sad

about the fun we had, when young and felt ‘invincible’ and our

lives, for the most part, had been impermeable to the aging

results of sometimes almost impossible challenges.

Slurred speech, in the ways a person sometimes cannot help it,

while in persons who have had a stroke, live with the challenge

of disabilities and speech delays are NOT FUNNY! We would not

laugh, hopefully, when someone has a speech ‘impediment!’

We still felt a little ambiguous, as we thought back upon the

variety of comedy skits that made us roar with uncontrollable

laughter. Melvin admitted to sometimes, while in the armed

forces, being drunk and thinking it was funny when his buddies

and he pulled pranks while drunk. It is considered a serious

offense, and if caught, these days, you could be court-martialed!

Melvin remarked, that in the ‘old war stories’ of the past, often

there would be stories of men ‘letting off steam.’ We also agreed

that the Viet Nam war movies, seemed to include a prevalent use

of drugs.

Who can forget Crazy Guggenheim’s humorous lines, his leaning

into a person, while breathing out his alcoholic breath? Who

cannot forget when there have been famous movies, with drunken

scenes, sometimes with innocent types of sloppy behaviors?

Who can forget the drunken orgies in “Animal House?”

Who has seen and enjoyed some teenaged or college-aged

movies (or personal memories) where it was very funny being

drunk or being around people who were high?

Who did not laugh (if they are above 40 years old) at Cheech

and Chong’s movie, “Up in Smoke?”

Adding, “Arthur,” with Dudley Moore and The Benny Hill Show,

to the mix, we had international connections of drinking in

movies and television shows.

I have seen Doris Day, Sandra Dee, Humphrey Bogard, Elizabeth

Taylor, Richard Burton and other classic actors and actresses

who have done scenes where they portrayed alcoholics. Some

were quite dramatic and serious roles with “mean” and “sloppy”

drunken roles as their focus. Yet, some were fun ‘romp’ movies

where the drunks were silly.

A lot of comedies include either drugs, alcohol or addictions,

going over the top in their portrayals.

There are also famous movies with the dark and angry side of

the picture:

“Days of Wine and Roses” and “Leaving Las Vegas” come to mind.

We have moved forward in some ways, then stepped back, too.

After all, we still have three “Hangover” movies…

I still will watch comedy sketches with the Saturday Night

Live crew, some who are great at making me laugh, acting

silly while stumbling around and falling down drunk.

“Raise Your Glasses…”

Standard

I am thinking that you may already know that this Thursday is the 80th

celebration of the repeal of the Prohibition Law, or the 18th Amendment.

On Dec. 5th, 1933, the law which banned alcohol sales in the U.S. was

repealed, or the 21st Amendment to the Constitution took effect.

Most of us don’t need an excuse to have a little party in this honor! I found

a few interesting places in Cleveland, Ohio, that are going to go “all out”

with their remembrances of the ‘speakeasies.’

I did not know that during Prohibition, since there was a lot of homemade

and “bad” alcohol being served, that the drinks were made with fruit juices

to cover up the flavor! We consider this sometimes a way to enjoy our drinks

without too much alcohol flavor coming through. But the origins of some of

the drinks, like Manhatten’s and Old Fashioned’s is attributed to this era.

Another reason why we may add soda or pop to our drinks may be due

to our having a ‘sweet tooth.’ Some people during this prohibition era,

would order a soda and the bartender would “slip in alcohol.”

Not to be confused with the expression, “slipping one a mickey.” This

predates the Prohibition, by thirty years. It is credited for being around

in 1903, when a man named Mickey Finn, a bar owner in Chicago, Illinois,

allegedly gave his customers drinks in his bar, laced with barbituates.

This  drugging patrons would allow the staff to rob them.  Also, not to be

confused or mixed up with “date rape” drugs, which came years later.

There’s an entirely different purpose to that drug being added to alcohol,

as you know, unfortunately from actual news reports and incidents.

We had bottled Canadian whiskey smuggled into Ohio, one article recalled.

I learned some of my facts from the column, “After Dark,” in the

Cleveland Plain Dealer mentioned. Canadian whiskey was easier to get a

hold of if you had the money to pay for the importation of it. It was also

considered more reliable than “moonshine” or the other homemade

liquors circulated during this period when factories were not allowed to

produce liquor legally.

The Society Lounge is ‘turning back the clock to the classic cocktail era.’

They already started tonight with their special drinks list that boasts of 48

exciting mixes, including names of drinks ranging from Moscow Mule,

Mai Tai, Dark and Stormy to Singapore Sling. I remember working in the

seventies at a place in Westlake, Ohio called Lord Nelson’s serving drinks

that had those wild names attached. On Thursday, this lounge is having a

“private soiree.” All week, excluding Thursday, they will have complimentary

appetizers. Too bad, I worked in Delaware, Ohio today and am now 2 and 1/2

hours away from “Happy Hour” at the Society Lounge! Both Thursday and

Friday, including the “private party” will have live bands to entertain the

special guests.

A place that has been around since 1893, opened by an Otto F. Moser, is

called the Wonder Bar. It is especially appropriate to have a “Repeal Day”

celebration there. It stayed open during the Prohibition time, with the ‘back

door’ policy going on, I imagine. (Or ‘under the table pay-offs’ to the cops!)

There is a long, 40 foot beautiful and classy wooden bar with great vintage

design and woodwork shown. All those classic cocktails will be featured at

this ‘gin joint’ that has been around the block a few times (or over a hundred!)

Now I know why they came up with those strange concoctions! I always

wondered about the creative names, too.

The 21st Amendment was the one that “fixed” up and got the party started

so traveling over to the Prosperity Social Club would be a good direction to

go since it opened only five years after the repeal, in 1938. The “Prohibition

Repeal Party,” as this place is calling their Thursday night occasion, is going

to feature The Hollywood Slim Band. It will include performances of songs

during the 30’s through the 40’s. They will be serving up plenty of those

fancy, flavored drinks along with the era’s food dishes, too.

Speakeasy, is a destination spot to find the owner, Sam McNulty with his

staff and the bartender wearing period clothes along with pre-Prohibition

customers recommended attending in appropriate attire. This place will

have a jazz band playing tunes, ‘to boot.’

Not too far from my Mom’s apartment in Westlake, Ohio, the bootleggers

had a heyday with delivering booze behind the White Oaks, in the woods.

This is a place that has been around since 1928. We used to consider this

a special occasion to eat out there, with the white tablecloths, napkins

and fresh flowers on the tables. White Oaks was ‘too expensive’ for our

family, except once annually.

We may have made an exception, going out for a drink would have been

something nice to do this Thursday. Going somewhere that holds a few

memories of the dining room ambiance and the delicious, melt in your

mouth yeast rolls, too. The photograph of Elliot Ness over the bar would be

a great sight to see, since I had never known about him, in the “olden” days

while eating with my parents. I would not have recognized him then.

I am not even sure my parents knew about the woods and the illicit

activities associated with Prohibition at the White Oaks.

I will have to ask, next time I am up there, in that “neck of the woods!”

I cannot write a post about alcohol without giving these two warnings.

Don’t drink and drive. (Call a taxi, please!)

Drink responsibly.

The song, “Raise Your Glass” is not one of the thirties or forties, but a

current song, sung by the woman named “Pink.” If you get to partying,

after you have listened to some “oldies,” I suggest you check this song out!