4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
They`re all here.
This is a book that will keep you up long past your usual bedtime, you`ve just got to read one more entry.
Hellraisers is a much better book than it looks or sounds, mainly because Sellers can really write, and edits what must have been a wealth of material into bite-size chapters. So we open up with the A`s: Alexander the Great, Kingsley Amis...through an action-packed 400 pages till closing time with the likes of John Wayne, Hank Williams and Boris Yeltsin. As you see, it`s an eclectic mix, all corralled together by their propensity for living the wild life, invariably fuelled by booze or drugs, or in many cases both.
You could dine out for a year on the stories related here. Lee Marvin`s run-in with Sean Connery over a lewd remark about Connery`s elderly aunt; the unrepeatable Tallulah Bankhead`s reply to a young man who `blurted out that he wanted to make love to her that very night`: "And so you shall, you wonderful old-fashioned boy."
Then there`s Irish playwright and dedicated drinker Brendan Behan`s apparent last words, to the nuns sitting at his bedside: "God bless you, and may your sons all be bishops." I do hope that`s true.
We learn some things we might rather have not known, such as the sheer terrifying nastiness of the great US actor George C Scott, who drank for America and tended to threaten cowering wives with broken bottles. Or the dislikeably mercurial waspishness of painter Francis Bacon when in his cups.
Some of the tales are hilarious, those relating to actors Wilfrid Lawson, Trevor Howard, his mate and boozing buddy Robert Mitchum, and the aforementioned Tallulah being examples of slightly more benign pissheads. Journalist and pub habitue Jeffrey Bernard`s sozzled life among the denizens of Bohemian Soho makes for sad though amusing reading, while some stories are merely sad, such as the tragic life of promising film star Frances Farmer, relatively temperate Dean Martin, who seemed to fade away into reclusive self-disgust after the death of his son, or Carry On regular Charles Hawtrey, a man who was hard to like and who seems to have been his own worst enemy, dying a gay, lonely drunk, no longer welcome on the upbeat Carry On set.
What impresses - or, more accurately, boggles the reeling mind - are the amounts of drink and other substances many of these people managed to put away. Dennis Hopper is a prime example. How he lived into his seventies is a miracle in itself. There again, champion guzzler (as well as the greatest living country singer) George Jones is now into his eighties, and he was known to down canyons of hooch in his pie-eyed pomp.
Another who, by rights, should no longer be around to slur the tale - though I`m glad he is still with us, just - is song-writing and singing Shane MacGowan, of the Pogues. Reading the chapter on the Irish self-abuser will make you either very thirsty or act as a warning it`s time to find that wagon and hitch a ride.
As befits a book with the title Hellraisers, plenty of hellraising indeed goes on, the reader virtually cowering as he reads, so much furniture, bottles and punches are thrown.
The usual suspects are present - O`Toole, Harris, Ollie Reed, Burton, Errol Flynn, footballers Best & Gascoigne, poet Dylan Thomas, chef and `bon viveur` Keith Floyd. Less obvious entries belong to Alexander the Great, the painter Utrillo, writer Jack London, Poe, jazz cornettist Bix Beiderbecke, actor Dennis Price, aptly named film star Rip Torn, Sinatra (a rather nasty drunk), `Wild Bill` Hickok, and, of all people, Calamity Jane - though with that name...
And, of course, space is found for the one person who wouldn`t have been the Great Man he was without an olive in his pocket and a bar within reach: WC Fields.
Who knows, you might even find yourself in this capacious compendium of tipplers, topers, potheads, hotel-wreckers and downright mean, drunken bastards. I must confess, after browsing this booze-addled book for most of an evening, my head was swimming. And I was stone cold sober too. Honestly!
Last word to the great, regularly the worse for wear, though always word-perfect actor Robert Mitchum. He once said he drank as a preparation for death. "When the great day comes, I will be completely inured to it. It will be just one more hangover."
Somehow, he lived to be almost 80.
I`ll drink to that.
on 20 February 2013
I thought that me, my family and mates had done some things over the years but this bunch of reprobates make us look like complete lightweights! This book sheds light on the lives of over 90 stalwart booze-addled ne'er-do-wells, including the usual suspects like Best, Sinatra, Reed, Moon, but it was a real education to catch up on some of those you don't generally hear too much about, like Kingsley Amis, Francis Farmer, Charles Hawtrey, Robets Shaw, Lee Marvin, Keith Floyd, Robert Newton and even Boris Yeltsin! A warning: as with this book's excellent companion 'Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Burton, Harris, O'Toole and Reed', and alarming as all these life stories may be, it really is hard to get through a page without feeling the desire for a stiff drink!