No Booze But Plenty of Babes
Some 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 than the
best saloon in town!
An 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.
by HOMER H. SHANNON
The 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.
Love to Be Humbugged-by a Pious Fraud
Such 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.
Lady Lushes May Get Extra-special Treatment
It 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 rate brothels.
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 acquainted.
Maybe they figure that after seeing so many spotted snakes and pink elephants they have nothing left to fear.
Have to Watch Lady AA’s
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:
“Having 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.
Gals Sure Had a Good Time
Girls 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?
(Source: Confidential, September 1954)