With Mel Gibson’s arrest for drunken driving making headlines, I thought I would take this opportunity to point out a few highlights in the history of boozing and cruising. Although Mel apparently made a complete ass out of himself that night, his tequila-fueled outrage of drunkenness, speeding, anti-Semitism, and belligerency hardly ranks up there with some of the more infamous cocktails of man, machine, and alcohol. Please let me know if I’ve overlooked any truly epic cases.
To make this a little more interesting I’m going to enter this essay on my palm pilot as I drive. Let me just pull over at this convenience store for a six pack. That didn’t take long. The 16 oz. cans are a better deal—I got a twelve pack. Where was I?
3,500 B.C.- Beer was first made in Mesopotamia around 5,000 B.C. and the wheel was also invented there around 3,500 B.C. I’m guessing that within 24 hours after the invention of the wheel someone in Mesopotamia decided it would be a good idea to mix these two hallmarks of civilization, with disastrous consequences.
April 14, 1912- Captain Edward John Smith wrecks the Titanic with the subsequent loss of 1,516 passengers. I have no evidence that he was shit-faced but it happened at 11:40 p.m. You be the judge and jury. The ship had an excellent selection of tequila. When in 1985 a joint American-French expedition located the wreck using a video camera, they discovered a salt shaker and limes near the steering wheel.
May 6, 1937- The Hindenburg Airship explodes in a fireball over New Jersey. Radio reporter Herbert Morrison’s cry of, “Oh the humanity!” makes more sense when you learn that the pilot of the Hindenburg was partial to a flaming shot called The Humanity (equals part Bacardi 151 rum, Goldschlager, and Rumpleminz set ablaze). History shouldn’t be so hard on the captain. Have you ever tried to parallel park a zeppelin?
I’m making good time, even in this traffic. I’m on my fourth beer and I’m only about 4 miles from home.
September 30, 1955- James Dean hits a tree in the middle of nowhere while driving his roadster. Police investigators theorize that he was just trying to pull over to take a leak behind the one tree on Highway 46.
1980-2006- This represents Robert Downey Jr.’s entire driving career to the present. When he first registered for driver’s education as a sophomore his blood/alcohol was found to be more than twice the legal limit. He never looked back. His custom-made Maserati Quattroporte has a martini holder in the driver’s console.
I haven’t tried to “shotgun” a beer in a long time. I bet that would be fun.
March 24, 1989- Captain Hazelwood of the Exxon Valdez slams his oil tanker into a reef while he is trying to make another batch of frozen margaritas. The lesson here is that friends don’t let friends drink and drive ships carrying 11,000,000 gallons of crude oil which, when dumped into the ocean, can destroy 470 miles of pristine Alaskan coastline.
August 31, 1997- Henri Paul, Princess Di’s driver, slams her car into a wall in a Paris tunnel. Turns out he was shit-house drunk—even for French standards. A world-wide wave of grieving is unleashed along with a good joke:
Did you hear about the princess who stayed out past midnight?
She turned into a concrete wall.
She turned into a concrete wall.
This joke is incredibly insensitive, but not nearly as callous and insensitive as allowing your chauffer to drive 120 mph down a busy urban thoroughfare. Her car was being chased by photographers, not Al Qaeda assassins.
I’ve never noticed that stop sign before. The good news is that I won’t have to worry about it tomorrow unless someone comes out and puts it back up.
July 16, 1999- JFK Jr. crashes a plane that he wasn’t really qualified to fly. There was no indication that he had been drinking, although his flight pattern was incredibly erratic. Your honor, I would like to call to the stand my first witness, Mister, or should I say Señor José Cuervo.
Good evening, O-ci-fer. Or is it morning? What time’s it? Is’t after last call? Shit. You sure? You want me to touch my what with my what? Why you big…
It was pretty bad after that, at least what I can remember. I sent this off this morning to my publicist.
"I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the New York Yankees community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a DUI charge. I believe that Yankee fans are very similar to normal human beings and have the right to coexist and be protected by most of the laws set aside for people. When I say something, either articulated and thought out, or blurted out in a moment of insanity, my words carry weight in the public arena. I don’t really think the Yankees suck. That’s just a figure of speech we use in Seattle."