Way back in my misspent youth, I was cast as Vera Charles in Mame. Not once, but twice. What can I say, teenage female baritones weren’t easy to find.
Anyhow, the first time, I winged it. It was my first lead – ever. I was 15. And I learned many things.
The second time, I had more lead roles under my belt – enough to want to understand the character I was playing.
Central to the character Vera Charles is that Vera (as the song goes) – “is the world’s greatest …. lush.”
At this point, the best claim I could make was getting “tipsy” – certainly not drunk – and I never had a hangover.
Well, this wasn’t right. How could I embody Vera Charles without intimate experience with the joys and anguish of over imbibing?
Enter my sister Linda. My 5-years older than me sister Linda. My sister with 5 years more of drinking experience than me. She was willing to be my guide to drunkdom – in getting me, not just drunk, but druh-unk, and dealing with the (fervently hoped for) resultant hangover the next day, far from the eyes of our mother and stepfather. Linda got me and my cousin Alice invited to a party where there would be older people (you know, my sister’s age) and there would be alcohol – including my sister’s recommendation – Lime Vodka and Squirt. (DON’T JUDGE – I WAS 18 – which by the way was legal drinking age in Michigan at the time).
So I drive to party in my beloved AMC Rambler with my cousin Alice. Park. My cousin Alice, suggested a better parking spot – so I reparked. (Note – Alice insisted I include that bit – she still feels guilty about that suggestion.)
Fast forward. I am drunk. Not druh-unk, but really drunk.
Big crash outside. A druh-unk has plowed into a row of parked cars, one of which was my beloved AMC Rambler. (The driver was so drunk, he was still trying to drive through the cars when the cops found him.) My sister decides I need to be sobered up – NOW. So Linda makes me throw up. Note – throwing up does not make you sober; at least it does not sober me up – it makes me drunker – a lot drunker – I have now achieved druh-unk. Linda starts the black coffee. I am cooperating but I am puking up coffee as quick as Linda can pour it down my throat.
My sister takes care of the cops asking after the owners of the parked cars.
Now, my sister needs to get me to her place. I never liked her boyfriend/husband Larry (I can’t remember if they were married at this point – and they were divorced not too long after that marriage) – but I will give him props – he CARRIED my fat young lady ass to the car and into their mobile home.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine called my folks to let them know about the car and that I wouldn’t be home. My stepfather answered. Now, my mother was divorced and remarried. Her old husband’s (my father) last name was Cotter (well-known for his sense of humor). Her new husband’s last name was “Ray” (well-known for no sense of humor at all).
My friend: “Hello, Mr. Cotter?”
It went downhill from there.
Fast forward early the next morning. My stepfather has called and told my sister to get my fat young ass home. NOW. My sister is driving me and my cousin Alice to my house. I am, as Mame states, “hung”. I also desperately need to puke some more. My sister stops the car. We are in front of a Catholic church just letting out from early mass. These good Catholics come out to the sight of my sorry ass out there puking up bile and what ever leftover lime vodka and squirt is left in my system (which must have been in my toes, because I can’t imagine any other way there was anything left in my body to bring up).
So. I knew what it was like to be Vera-Charles-Druh-unk. I knew what a hangover was like. Was it worth it? Nah.
As attributed to Laurence Olivier speaking with Dustin Hoffman during filming of Marathon Man: “Why don’t you just try acting?”