From the Movieline Vaults: The Sobriety Game (Nov '89)


As we wait patiently for the Movieline vault to get up and running, we'll dip occasionally into our archives to highlight notable news items, columns, and interviews from the days when stirrup pants and yarn sweater tunics ruled the Earth.

And what better way to kick off this feature than with this perfectly preserved time capsule from the November 1989 issue, featuring Daryl Hannah on its cover. In it, contributor Ben Kallen weighs in on that evergreen Hollywood obsession, drying out:

The Sobriety Game

by Ben Kallen

Do you drink? Do drugs? Sleep with strangers? That's bad! Did you used to drink, do drugs and sleep with strangers? That's good! Welcome to Sobriety, a Hollywood game in which the most repentant former indulger wins.

I'm at this party -- I won't say whose and I won't say where, but Pia Zadora's there, and George Hamilton, if you know what I mean -- and all the heavy action is around the imported mineral water. The real wildcats are ordering lemon slices to squeeze into their Diet Cokes. Talk runs to movies, electronic rowing machines and where to find fresh wheatgrass juice. Every once in a while, somebody gets up and goes to the bathroom to ... go to the bathroom.

I catch one particular discussion. Stallone's gofer, the head chef at the Burbank commissary and a rewrite man for "Love Connection." Influential people. And one says, "I was doing a couple of joints a day, but then I saw Parenthood and I started thinking about my DNA."

"You know it, " says another. "I was going though a couple of grams of blow each week -- three or four, even. I'll never go through that again."

"Me 'n' Belushi used to hang out," boasts the third. "Then I said to myself, Garrett, get with the program. So now it's Pritikin all the way, and I've never looked back."

At that instant, I realize why I'll never get anywhere in Hollywood: I've never been addicted to anything.


You don't think that's a problem? Check out the movies: Before Michael Keaton can play Batman, he as to dry out onscreen in Clean and Sober; John Ritter at the end of Skin Deep quite both booze and promiscuous sex to go back to his ex-wife; and even Bill W., founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, is sponsored by Hallmark these days. The smart money follows a trend to its source: writers, producers and actors who are very much involved with their own transformations from partiers to homebodies. Yet since saying "no" gives you all the hip cachet of Nancy Reagan, it helps to let people know you're a wild one at heart -- the should have seen you in '73.

This is true: There are certain A.A. meetings -- Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Malibu -- where more networking is done than at Spago, that brim with more stars, film execs, and their hairdressers than China Club on a good weekend. (Though sources say the really cool people are in Narcotics Anonymous.) The only thing Hollywood loves better than a good a party is a good free party, and what could be better than a place where you've already got something in common with everyone you'd like to impress? Everyone's on a first name basis -- in fact, it's first names only. "Hell, I started drinking just to get into one of those meetings," says actor Renaldo Kandinsky [born Bart Hammer, but a name like that gets you nowhere these days]. "But I just couldn't keep up. This one chick stood up, a blonde bimbo who played the oversexed valet parking attendant on 'Dynasty' one week, and she's a real pro; she's going, 'My name's Brittany and I'm recovering from alcohol, coke, morphine, grass, glue, diet pills, hairspray...' And everybody's so touched by her courage and honesty that by the end of the evening she's got a bit on a movie of the week and a Bob Hope special."

The way things are going, it won't be long before we see one more remake of Hollywood's favorite substance abuse flick: A Star Is Born Again. They'll get an annoyingly spunky actress in the Garland/Streisand tradition -- Meg Ryan, say -- only this time, she's a fresh, young rock-video star who realizes she's become a codependent to her lover, aging performance artist/addictive personality Norman Maine [Dennis Quaid, natch]. Their affair crumbles and Quaid becomes increasingly self-destructive as he realizes that audiences just don't his his "Bozo in Cambodia" bit. Instead of committing suicide, Quaid checks into the Betty Ford Clinic. At the very end, a chastened Ryan stands before a crowd of well-wishers at her first Al-Anon meeting and, tears in her eyes, proudly announces:

"Hello, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman M."

Ben Kallen is a free-lance writer, and Assistant Editor at L.A. Style magazine.

[Illustration: Lisa Persky]


  • happygolucky says:

    Have I wandered into Chuck C and Clancy land? Yeh, NA was cooler on the east coast too. But then, a secret society is a secret society that keeps secrets (hopefully).
    Wasn't it Meg Ryan and a cutie with a hairy chest for the AA movie?