Doonan: It’s Time To Bring Back Prohibition

Notes from the fashion apocalypse.
Jan. 11 2013 7:45 AM

Bring Back Prohibition!

All right already with braying drunks and boozy breath.

Drunk and out.
Life is much more fun when you're sober.

Photo by Al Rod/Pixland/Thinkstock.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. After surveying the blotto binge-fest which took place over the holidays on both sides of the Atlantic—to mention nothing of the soused housewives I saw reversing their Bentleys into one another in a Palm Beach supermarket parking lot—I am seriously wondering if the time hasn’t come to un-repeal it?

Simon Doonan Simon Doonan

Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.

To all my boozer friends, I say this: Relax! I’m just free-associating. We all know it’s never going to happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

There are so many reasons to fantasize about a ban on alcohol that it’s hard to know where to begin. How about all that spittle? Being of a certain height, I am in the direct firing line of the boozy sprays that issue forth in a downward arc from the braying mouths of drunks. And if champagne is being consumed, then brace yourself for blasts of sulfurous halitosis: Yes, I’m talking about that strange smell which recalls baby vomit. (Karl Lagerfeld began carrying his fan for the sole purpose of deflecting this unfortunate odor.)


Whether knocking back champers or gin, people who drink too much invariably become a burden on the rest of us. When my booze-loving grandpa kicked the bucket he died with “insufficient funds.” Who would cough up the dough for his interment? My mum solved the problem by borrowing the money from the local pub, the very same pub into which gramps had pissed all his shekels. It’s always so heartwarming to see everything in life come full circle. Bottoms up and RIP.

And speaking of dependents: How many unplanned-for little nuggets are propelled into this world as a result of impulsive, and sometimes repulsive, booze-fueled couplings? How many gals toss their reputations to the four winds after a few wine-coolers or a jeroboam or two? As per that Edwardian music-hall song:

Just like a poor moth she flew too near the flame.
She opened her wings and she lost her good name,
all through a glass of champagne. 

The repercussions of excess boozing often go way beyond a bit of what the Brits call “a bit of slap and tickle.” On New Years’ Day an allegedly inebriated dude named Charles Amado sideswiped a bunch of parked cars and then mowed down a cluster of funsters outside a night club in Bay Ridge. According to an eyewitness named Tameka Council, “He hit them like bowling pins.”

When I read about this sort of grim catastrophe, I am reminded of the oeuvre of Patrick Hamilton. In addition to the screenplays for Rope and Gaslight, Hamilton also penned several novels that brilliantly illustrate the dark side of alcohol. His own pickled, tragic life was his main source of inspiration. Hamilton died of cirrhosis at the age of 58. If you overdid it at the holidays and are looking for a little negative reinforcement or aversive conditioning, you could do worse than to read Hangover Square or Twenty-Thousand Streets Under the Sky. After plowing through these booze-addled Hamilton classics, you will be screaming for the return of prohibition.

Even drinkers will find some upsides to banning hooch: If prohibition were to be reinstated, then booze would have a chance to reclaim some of its illicit sizzle. A martini would once again be a martini! It would taste louche and daring instead of drearily pedestrian. Can’t you see yourself enjoying a coffee cup full of bathtub gin in a speakeasy? Every gal would have a little flask tucked in her garter belt like Marilyn in Some Like it Hot. Prohibition would do wonders for the image of booze, which has lost much of its Boardwalk Empire naughtiness and luster. Under prohibition a tiny nip of cooking sherry would, once again, feel like the most transgressive experience imaginable.

Full disclosure: I have been sober since 1985. Proud though I am of my longstanding abstinence, I am also fully committed to FUN. A sober life affords more chuckles than its opposite. The world becomes a much more surreal and intriguing place when you encounter it without the fuzzying effects of crème de menthe or Kahlua.  

Slapstick humor has always been my preferred genre. Who doesn’t enjoy plonking a whoopee cushion on granny’s favorite chair? I was weaned on this kind of amusement, albeit unwittingly, by my parents. It all started when mum and dad—still in their early 30s—got their first sets of dentures, the de rigueur accessory during  Britain’s austere 1950s. To describe these freebie teeth as ill-fitting would be an understatement. Every sneeze was followed by the clatter of flying choppers scuttling across the floor. Watching my parents retrieve these National Health gnashers was a great warm-up for Monty Python.

Speaking of slapstick and flying dentures: You will not be surprised to learn that my favorite new show is Tru TV’s Killer Karaoke. This guffaw-fest is hosted by Steve-O, of Jackass fame. Contestants karaoke their way through corny numbers while being tortured with shock collars, attack dogs, cacti spines, and snake pits. Before every bout, Steve-O reminds contestants that no matter what happens, they must continue singing. He also makes constant and hilarious reference to his newfound sobriety. One of the delights of the show is watching Mr. O convulsing with laughter—having screwed up his teeth doing stunts on Jackass, he is now sporting a brand new oversize smile—at the appalling plight of the singing contestants. What better illustration of just how much fun can be had sans hooch?



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