Magazine article Out

Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Magazine article Out

Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Article excerpt


"How long have you been sober?"

Ah. The question. If s usually asked about halfway through an audience Q&A. If I'm lucky, it comes before my buzz has worn off.

It's a valid question. They're asking me this after having read my memoir, in which nearly every chapter opens with me waking up hungover in an unfamiliar locale. But if s also one of those questions like "When did you stop beating puppies?" Any answer implicates you in a different, equally pitiable scenario. The closest I came to a successful response was one time in Atlanta when I raised my fist triumphantly and lied: "One thousand, three hundred, and eighty-five days tomorrow!" The crowd was very pleased with the answer-which pleased me because, above all, we drunks like other people to be having as good a time as we are.

When I'm giving a very serious NPR-ish interview-for which I'm nearly always sober-I often say something like "I've abused alcohol, but I am not an alcoholic." This doesrit please people quite as much as lying does. It especially irks alcoholics. If s very hard to please alcoholics. Thaf s why most drunks dorit even bother trying.

Drinking doesrit seem to be funny anymore. There are no more Jackie Gleasons, or Dean Martins. I carit think of a single contemporary Tallulah Bankhead, Mae West, or Dot Parker. Sure, we still have plenty of drunken characters to inspire us...but they're just fictional. Admit it. We're all disappointed when we see an interview with Megan Mullally or Joanna Lumley and we dorit hear Karen Walker or Patsy Stone. The true heroes of drunks everywhere are long gone. By the time I was old enough to steal Dewar"s from my grandmother's glass, all I had left to inspire me was Brett Somers on Match Game. ("Every morning, John puts blank on his cereal.") Here was a woman trapped on the bottom rung of celebrity, day after day trying to win a new dishwasher for a mousy housewife contestant who had little talent for double entendres. But Brett turned it all into a party with her scotch-throat guffawing and boozy self-confidence. I wanted whatever she was having.

Over the last few decades, modern-day garden-variety drunks started joining forces with the truly clinically alcoholic. And, yes, there's a difference. It even says so in medical texts. The alcoholics and the run-of-the-mill drunks all started going into rehab together, then emerged redeemed. Personally, I've never experienced the grand sense of accomplishment in simply being able to not do something. I'm terrifically lazy. There are evenings when I really have to gather up steam to get up off the couch to refill my glass. …

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