Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Drinking with the stars

Published:Saturday | July 18, 2015 | 7:00 AM

There are approximately 93 'rum' phrases in the English language, about 64 whiskey phrases and quotes, almost 500 on drinking, but only four types of drunks - and if that isn't rum indeed, then nothing is. It is truly a case for Rumpole of the Bailey.

Scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia have identified four types of drunk personalities: The Hemingway, Nutty Professor, Mary Poppins and Mr Hyde. At first, I thought that I never met any of those people in any of the bars and watering holes in all the many countries in which I have fired one, especially Mary Poppins, but in looking more closely at the research, I realised they were not dealing with real or even imaginary people, but with personality types, and I recognised in them a few companions of my youth, the days when I spent most of my money on wine, women and song and the rest foolishly.

The Hemingway type is named after the author Ernest Hemingway, who once wrote: "An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools." Members of the Hemingway group would be said to always "have their head on" and change only slightly even after large amounts of drink.

Not many Hemingways

The interesting thing is that almost every drinker I have known in my life, even the most obstreperous, would claim to have exhibited those qualities when under the influence of alcohol. The research showed, however, that only about four in 10 drinkers made up of an equal number of men and women fitted this category.

I met the 'Nutty Professor' in black and white. That is not a bar or even a Scotch, but the role first played by comedian, Jerry Lewis, in 1963 and then recreated by Eddie Murphy. A 'Nutty Professor' drunk is said to change quite dramatically and, after a few drinks, could tackle anybody.

It probably led to the joke, "If you are strong, brave, smart and very sexy, go home. You're drunk." The research says these drinkers become more confident and extroverted with a few drinks inside them. They also become less conscientious, and more men than women fall into this category, essentially one in five participants overall.

I never met the 'Mary Poppins' type at all, since the ladies who frequented the bars, snackettes, rum shops and clubs of my youth were not genteel in any way and tossed back their overproof rum and chaser with as much gusto as the male 'rummies'. Even though there is nothing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious about drinking alcohol, the Mary Poppins type, named after the Disney 'Nanny', remain friendly, cooperative, compassionate and agreeable, regardless of how much liquor they consume. No 'Nanny Wine' for them. Around 15 per cent of participants fall into this personality group and include both men and women.

The Mr Hydes are the ones we used to hide from. After two drinks, their personalities change, they try to pick fights with people, smash glasses and furniture, and you may end up in the police station cell with them. The researchers say that the Hydes, named after the character in the Robert Louis Stevenson novella published in 1886 (as The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), become less conscientious and intellectual and more disagreeable when they drink. They are most likely to experience memory blackouts and be arrested.

Now hear this! According to the research, Hydes make up 23 per cent of the drinkers, with more women than men. This supports a recent British report, quoted in the Daily Mail, that "educated British women head a global league table for alcohol abuse" and "growing numbers of professional women are drinking at dangerous levels to keep up with men and further their careers. Many start heavy boozing when young and continue the habit into middle age, downing vast quantities at home, often on their own."

Women's drinking habits

An article in the Telegraph stated, "Britain is the worst country in the Western world for heavy drinking among professional women, according to research showing the dark side of equality."

It is a strange thing, but although I have seen many drunk women in my time, and some even fighting, when I think of my days of wine and roses, it was never wine or roses, but beers and booze consumed among men in bars.

Our particular drinking spot was next to our 'Savannah', or village playground. After cricket or football, the guys already in the bar would call out, "You play good, boy, come and take a drink." Or: "Don't take on the loss, you play good, come and take a drink."

Given that most of our fathers, neighbours and family drank, taking the drink and the smoke was inevitable. Getting off the stuff in later years for many of my friends was virtually impossible.

There were characters - I remember Marli and Rackerback, Rabbit and his half-brother Jimmy, Wilkie and Curtis, Tavi and my father - but they were not romantic figures like Mary Poppins and the Nutty Professor, or even the schizoid Mr Hyde. They all got drunk like lords and fishes and the only thing they shared with Ernest Hemingway was the line, "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

- Tony Deyal was last seen talking about a teacher he once worked with. He never knew the man was a drunk until, one day, the guy came to work sober.