Booze, alcohol, spirits are rising up from the ashes of destruction,
rearing their seductive heads on television to seduce us non-drinkers
into slipping and sipping from the shot glass once again.
Is the beast of Booze Terror after me again?
14, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 670
The Terror Of Southern Comfort
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--July 14,
one of the Beast's most insidious of the Three Triads of
Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency--is stalking me again.
This time through the television screen.
I thought I was safe, just kicking back in the cocoon of my New
York apartment and flicking on the "tube" to relax after a busy yet
Then, it crept up on me, unexpected, like a sniper in Baghdad.
Comfort, the elixir of drunks, crept up on me like a sniper
The elixir of drunks.
Like most people who let up on their guard, I have fallen
Complacent to the idea I was safe from the sirens of seduction when it
came to booze being advertised on television. Somewhere in the back
of my mind I thought alcohol advertising had been banned from the
invasive rays of the t.v. tube.
Last night, I was caught with my pants down.
There, in my safe, alcohol-free apartment, in living color, was a
scene of New York rooftop.
It was dusk. On top of "tar beach,"--the nomenclature of the
space atop buildings where people elevate from their apartments to
catch a soft, cooling breeze after a long hot day--was a knot of
fun-loving people enjoying the great refreshing, and for some, like
me-- numbing pleasure of Southern Comfort.
It looked, ah, sooooooooo inviting.
The ad's theme--"Southern Comfort--Between Friends."
advertising promotion for Southern Comfort makes the drink too
Just me and my friends on a rooftop getting wiped out. Ahhhhh.
The only trouble for me is that when I drink, I don't have any
For the past 13 years I have been a tee-totaler.
I have one of those bodies that is allergic to alcohol. When
I start putting it into my body, I can't get enough of its numbing,
I'm way on the opposite side of the spectrum of the social
drinker who can "just have a couple" and stop.
Drinking, where I come from, is about slugging down "more than
your share and then some more."
Maybe it stems from the fact I was brought up in beer bars or
was a U.S. Marine. As a kid in a small town, society was formed in
the local pub. My mom and dad would go to the local tavern and drink
beer and other shots, next to the pickled pigs feet jar displaying the
pink remains of a porcine hoof that always made me cringe and almost
gag thinking that someone actually ate them. I figured that the
reason they ate the pickled pigs feet was because they were so drunk
they didn’t care.
Comfort, also Janis Joplin's ruination, wasn't "between friends",
it was between us and life
blaming my family on my robust appetite for booze, but certainly the
authority to drink was imprinted somewhere upon my Scots-Irish genes.
I didn’t start out as a drunk. Booze crept up on me, sat in ambush
waiting for me to think I could handle it. I didn’t drink much in
Vietnam or after. It was only when I became an “important person” in
business that I really started to drink in earnest. That was around
my early thirties. Then, I was off to the races. I just couldn't
consume enough of the stuff.
It grew into a passion.
I had one of those high-ranking corporate jobs where I strutted
about as the "king of the land," with servants filling my glass so it
was never empty. As a top-level executive, I was pumping hands and
pretending I liked everyone. However, in retrospect, what drove me to
be social was the lubrication of the drink, not the multitude of
people I was there to impress by my presence.
Again, I can't blame success for my ultimate problem with
booze. It oiled my climb up the high ladder to corporate stardom, as
it does a number of people who feel they have need to shelter
themselves from the constant insanity of corporate social life.
Unfortunately, booze eviscerates a person rather than protects them
the American Medical Association is up in arms over alcohol ads,
claiming that young people see as many of them as adults. The AMA is
sounding the warning bell. They’re braying that the booze companies
are trying to lure the young drinker into their respective lairs,
creating tomorrow's best customer today.
For years, beer commercials have been around, and, frankly,
they never bothered me. It was the hard cider ads that got me.
I liked to drink hard.
Straight up, pure alcohol, not mixed with anything. That was
Frankly, drinking straight booze is kind of like drinking
kerosene. You gag and spew and gulp all at the same time to show your
macho ability to ingest what most would think was an ingredient for a
nuclear bomb. Then you develop a taste for the “poison” and pretend
how “good” it tastes, when in fact, the first time people drink
straight booze they usually pucker, gag and choke because it “burns
all the way down.”
No wonder Indians call it firewater.
My firewater ended up crippling me, physically, emotionally,
financially and spiritually.
Don’t get me wrong. No one held me down and poured it in my
Booze ended up
over the line, like people do with food, or spending, or gambling, or
shopping, I just did it with a booze.
The end result was after I found myself sucking on the bottle
night and day and my life had gone into the lowest level of life’s
cesspool, I forced myself to go completely off it.
I learned I’m the kind of guy who can't "just have a little."
More is so much better. And, I never really drank to "be
friendly," I really drank to get drunk.
Hard drinkers like myself represent about thirty percent of the
U.S. population. Then there are the incorrigible drinkers like me,
representing around 5-10 percent of the nearly 300 million Americans.
So, to escape the Beast of Bottled Terror, I quit.
For the past thirteen years, I daily remind myself it's okay
not to drink. And I need to remember that more than thirty percent
of the U.S. population has never had a drink and doesn't want one. I
like the idea I'm not the only guy in the world who passes up the
But this new thrust to bring hard-booze back into prime time
and seduce us former and future drinkers with the lure of a drink on a
rooftop, I think is bad.
Maybe it's worse than letting Saddam Hussein run around, or
Osama bin Laden issue tapes to Al Jazeera about killing the
I'm not a booze reformer. I believe everyone deserves the
right to find out about life the easy or hard way. I’m not for a
police state shouting at them what to do. That's why we went to war
in Iraq in the first place, to let people choose.
But, I am aware of the insidious and nefarious nature of
marketing. For years I invested $20 million a year in building a “big
brand name” for the company I helped build. Our philosophy was, as
with all marketers, “We haven’t met our next best customer yet.”
Despite all the claims of the booze gurus that they want to
protect the youth, there is no better market for them than the
young. Young people have this incredible bravado that they can
handle anything, that they are invincible—even able to battle the
wiles of spirits of alcohol seduction.
2002, NBC scuttled their plan to run this hard liquor advertising
can stop at any time,” they claim, as they steadily increase their
The booze companies didn't advertise their hard stuff on
television for years. They voluntarily took their ads off t.v.,
leaving only the beer and wine coolers. Cigarettes got kicked off
the tube, but the Beast of Booze Advertising just slipped back in the
The Distilled Spirits
Council of America said NBC's plans (see proposed ad on right)
were "a disservice to the American public". Council
President Peter Cressy said that over the last five years more
than 400 broadcast stations and cable systems have reached 67%
of households airing distilled spirits advertising. More ads
are to come.
The Beast of
Booze Advertising is sticking out his head and is back in the
he's sticking out his head and Pied-Pipering himself back into the
Am I worried about myself?
Not as much as I am my grandkids.
There's something terribly powerful about ads that urge a kid
to drink, just as there is about ads that urge a kid to smoke.
When I was
growing up, to be "cool" you drank and smoked
grew up, all doctors on television smoked. In fact, everyone of
importance on television and the movies seemed to have a drink in one
hand and a cigarette in the other. If you wanted to be "cool," you
did both. You have to be really old to remember “The Chesterfield
Hour.” Anyone who watches Turner Classic Movies will note the thick
clouds of smoke and endless draining of the booze bottles. A
cigarette and a drink became a walking stick for the actor. These two
“demons” created a social statement: “If you want fame and glory, put
a drink in one hand a cancer stick in the other.”
Again, I remind myself that no one ever jammed those two Beasts
of Terror into my body. I elected to consume both--to extreme.
Over the years I relaxed, thinking I was safe, secure. Kind
of like all of us in the U.S. felt about being attacked prior to Nine
Then it came. A sudden assault that had been brewing for
Maybe that’s the same process as how alcohol t.v. advertising
invaded my homefront.
I wonder what Homeland Security is doing about it?
Ah, there goes my Complacency Factor. I'm once again handing
off the Hot Potato of Vigilance to someone else.
Like so many, when there is the illusion that someone out there
will "protect me" I fall into the quagmire of thinking I am "safe."
I forget to oil the Gates of Vigilance and turn my back, allowing my
vulnerability to expose itself in the shape of finger pointing.
Last night I jumped up and exclaimed: "Hey, how'd Southern
Comfort get on television advertising booze!"
I felt like a Marine in Baghdad without a flack jacket walking
down a street filled with Saddam's old buddies.
The Buck of
Vigilance doesn't stop on the desk of Homeland Security but on my
Vigilance is about Courage, Conviction and Right Actions in behalf of
the Children's Children's Children. The Buck of Vigilance stops not
on the desk of Homeland Security, but on my own desk.
I can't expect anyone to protect my grandkids from the invasion
of booze commercials but myself, and those who love them as I do and
don't want them to think for a minute that drinking is a glamorous
event. They have Irish-based genes, thus drinking can be fatal if
it strikes that secret cord within.
I come from a long line of "drunks."
So, I'm going to keep my guard up regarding my grandkids.
The booze t.v. ads are a warning shot, a rude awakening of the
Beast of Terror’s presence in yet another form other than a suicide
This t.v. booze ad issue is a rude awakening.
I was caught so off guard I felt like a nation waiting for the
government to stop Terrorism, and waking up one morning to another
September 11th and saying: "What happened?"
I realize that Terrorism, of all sizes and shapes, must be
protected at one's doorstep. It’s not government’s job to patrol the
world, it’s every Parent of Vigilance’s duty.
I can teach my
grandkids that to not drink is cool
respond, I have to act in the best interests of the Children’s
Children’s Children. That means I set an example. It means I stay
sober, as I am now, and set represent that one doesn't have to drink
to be cool.
Secondly, I can help reinforce their self-will and self-image
so that if they do elect drink, they don't have to drink to fill some
emotional void inside them as I did.
Third, I can cast out nets of warning, reminding them to engage
booze with caution, for it has many tentacles that can ensnare the
unsuspecting. Thinking about a rooftop at dusk with friends and a
bottle of Southern Comfort to top it all off is so seductive, it could
make a person think bliss was booze. But, hopefully, the grandkids
will be just as happy with a bottle of chilled water?
I see no need to lure people to a drink, not when the abuse
of alcohol is so common, and the damage it creates can cause so much
As a Sentinel of Vigilance I find myself constantly reminded
the world is faster than I, and to keep up, I must reconstitute the
Pledge of Vigilance daily.
As a Sentinel
of Vigilance, I must guard against the romance of booze
Regardless of your view on booze--pro or con—you must admit there is a
danger in television ads sliding into the living room making the
romance of drinking appear innocuous. For some, it may start that
way, but for many it ends in hellish destruction.
Vigilance for me is about reminding myself to be wary.
Not just of booze, but of the assumption that Terrorism can't
slip into your living room. I fell for that one.
So, I'm retaking the Pledge of Vigilance---reminding myself to
put up my guard against booze, and to do what I can to protect my
grandchildren from thinking a rooftop and a bottle of Southern Comfort
has any relationship to happiness.
July 13--The Clear And Present Danger
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