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No Booze But Plenty of Babes
AA’s go to meetings to hear how to stay dry. The others-well,
many have discovered their club is a faster spot for a pick-up
best saloon in town!
Ozarks mountain boy who had a hankering to write before
he ever saw a typewriter, Homer H. Shannon graduated from
the University of Missouri and set out on a newspapering,
free-lance writing career interrupted only by service in
both World Wars. Like many another excellent scribes before
and after him, Shannon has occasionally looked at life too
heartily from the bottom of a highball glass and recently
gave AA a whirl, as a corrective measure. His disillusionment
is told with wry (or rye) humor in this penetrating report.
HOMER H. SHANNON
twentieth Anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous-most
remarkable hoax of this generation-will be celebrated next
December. Tens of thousands of cups of coffee will be downed
by the membership of this noble order of sometime drunks
in honor of the event. And, no doubt, a considerable number
of the brothers and sisters will be so inspired by the historic
occasion that they’ll take off on a prolonged bender.
The AA hoax not only has proved its durability, but it is
especially notable for the aura of sanctity it has assumed
in the minds of do-gooders and otherwise level-headed citizens
who have swallowed-with or without chaser-its brand of fairy
tale. These include ministers of the gospel, social workers,
municipal judges, personnel executives of great industrial
enterprises and even a scattering of medical and scientific
gents who know the bottle babies by reputation.
to Be Humbugged-by a Pious Fraud
good souls love to be humbugged-as long as it’s a
good, clean, pious fraud. They’d probably be horrified
to know that many an AA still drops around to the club house
for the sole purpose of picking up a date, rather than to
boost his new-found and oh-so-temporary enmity towards John
Barleycorn. It’s true, though. I can give you some
proof in my own experiences and a whole lot more from what
other AA’s have told me.
But we’ll get into that later. First, let’s
take a look at AA’s proud claim that it has accumulated
a membership of 150,000 around the world. At least that’s
the figure put out by the zealous boys who run the show.
No one has ever seen the membership books because there
just aren’t any. It’s Alcoholics Anonymous remember.
But even if there are 150,000 who stay sober long enough
to be called members, it’s scarcely a drop in the
family beer bucket. In this country alone there are about
4,000,000 alcoholics, periodics and problem drinkers. They
are all fit subjects for AA, even though a real AA makes
it important that he is an alcoholic, not a namby-pamby
second or third-grade addict.
The AA version of the long series of cults dedicated to
the salvation of over-eager tipplers was the brainchild
of a fellow named Bill Wilson. It isn’t quite cricket
to use last names of alkys who affiliate. But Bill has been
making speeches around the country for so many years, it
can’t be much of a secret his last name is Wilson.
With that exception, I’ll play the game according
to rule and won’t mention out loud the names of any
other members I know. From here on it’s Bill and Jane
and Harry and Lucy.
While I was a member, I toured meetings of half a dozen
groups scattered about the various boroughs of New York.
That’s regulation. It affords a greater variety of
horror stories than if you stuck to home base. At every
meeting three or four speakers-male and female-tell in sordid
detail how low they had sunk while clutching the bottle
and how high they’ve climbed since they relaxed their
grip on the foul-smelling thing.
By visiting various groups, you not only get to hear more
and better stories, you also meet more and sometimes better
people of both sexes. If you are a man, it’s especially
nice to meet and better people of the female sex, since
your wife probably isn’t a member of AA.
My home group was in Brooklyn, a few blocks from where I
live. Naturally, I know that gang a lot better than the
others. The chapter boasts a club house over a garage-open
every evening, plus afternoons on Saturday and Sunday. At
one end of the long room is a “bar” where you
can buy a good cup of coffee for a dime. Heavy drinkers
are given to plenty of coffee when they are off the hard
stuff, in or out of AA. There are comfortable chairs and
divans scattered about. Also, old magazines and books. Even
a radio, which is rarely turned on because it would mess
up conversation which, next to romance, is the main business
of the place.
Up close to the coffee bar are a couple of tables which
we called “Lovers’ Nook.” Romance was
all over the place, but that was where it really got organized.
At ten cents a throw you could buy drink after drink and
not be hurt too badly.
Lushes May Get Extra-special Treatment
must have gotten around the neighborhood that our romance
corner was pretty good. A middle-aged gal’, slightly
off her rocker, began occupying a chair there every evening
for several weeks. She had plenty of company until a male
regular she had turned down got around to asking her if
she were an alky. She didn’t quite understand the
significance of the question but pleaded not guilty. In
a firm sort of way she was invited not to come back.
Genuine lady lushes get all the loving treatment accorded
the males, however, and sometimes extra-special care if
they’re good looking. Until recent years, it was commonly
believed among non-members that AA was strictly for the
boys and the general public still has a childish opinion
that the only females who ever join a swearing-off society
are wrinkled old trollops who spent their youth in second
I wish all those who have fallen for this idea could attend
one of the many big parties tossed by the Manhattan-Uptown
branch of AA. The first time I went, I met two girls who
had been in the chorus of New York’s famed Copacabana
line only the year before. Later that same evening, I was
introduced to a pair of top-flight models whose beautiful
faces had graced the covers of leading fashion magazines.
There were some 250 persons at the party and the men outnumbered
the girls slightly-a ratio of three-to-two, I’d say-but
there was plenty of femininity there, much of it under 30,
and many of the samples would have had to be very potted,
indeed, for the average man to pass up.
One thing encouraging about a female AA is that it doesn’t
take much coaxing to make a date and then get even better
Maybe they figure that after seeing so many spotted snakes
and pink elephants they have nothing left to fear.
to Watch Lady AA’s
are like call girls in one way. As soon as two get together,
one or the other always asks, “How did you ever get
into this racket?” Swapping yarns with reformed binge
babies. I discovered there’s a deep maternal instinct
in a female AA. If you say you were led down the primrose
path by a heartless dame who’s still lapping it up
and still torturing other men, you’ve got your new
sweetheart hooked A Maybe it makes her mad to think of some
other gal who can down a Martini without climbing right
into the bottle; I don’t know.
You have to watch them, though. The minute they feel they’re
in love, they get a deadly urge to celebrate. First thing
you know, neither of you can find yourselves, much less
the black-coffee-club where you met. I slipped off the wagon
hard a couple of times before I learned not to toast a new
romance with anything stronger than 7-Up.
In its most insidious form, this danger looms when you’re
“twelfth stepping a brother or sister AA,” as
the members call it. The “twelfth step” of the
AA credo is:
had a spiritual awakening as the result of previous steps,
we try to carry the message to alcoholics and to practice
these principles in all our affairs.”
In other words, when the phone rings, and an alky needs
a helping hand to get him out of the gutter, it’s
your duty to report to the scene of the accident and lend
as much moral support as you can muster. All too often,
if you answer the fire bell for another man, it means two
guys get drunk instead of one.
Sure Had a Good Time
who fall off the AA wagon aren’t supposed to call
gentlemen AA’s, nor are they supposed to go to the
aid of a plastered renegade, unless they’re accompanied
by another woman. I know hundreds of cases where it didn’t
work that way in actual practice, though I can tell of one
case where a fun-loving blonde obeyed the rules to the letter.
She had a buddy-Sue and Rita were their names-in the Downtown-Manhattan
branch. If either got an emergency call, they’d team
up on the rescue. They didn’t exactly save many guys,
but they sure had a hell of a good time and answered more
alarm bells than a Bellevue Hospital ambulance.
I’m not a member of AA anymore and I don’t drink.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to decide which I miss
most-those binges before I joined or all those cozy evenings
afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, though. There’s
a fair sprinkling of reformed souses who manage to stay
dry for years, once they make contact with AA. Of course,
I’ve always suspected they just got tired of falling
down subway stairs and, maybe, sick and tired of waking
up every morning sick and tired.
I did. Anybody want a cup of coffee?
Confidential, September 1954)