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And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

Hellraisers – The Luvvies adventures in print

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My current laugh-out-loud book is now one of my all-time favourites.  Hellraisers, by Robert Sellers, is a biography of the drinking days of a unique group of actors.  Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed were the most notorious drinkers, brawlers and womanizers of their day.  Russell Crowe and Christian Bale have a long way to go to beat these mentalists.

Richard Burton in classic pose

Richard Burton in classic pose

Richard Burton is a Welsh wizard who left the valleys to become  a classical actor.  He appeared in a dozen films before meeting Liz Taylor, the only woman who could match him drink for drink and punch for punch.  He nearly burnt his house down by falling asleep drunk with a lit cigarette.  Later he would leave his wife to have a torrid affair with his leading lady, Liz herself.

Richard Harris, Limerick embodied

Richard Harris, Limerick embodied

Richard Harris, from Limerick, would fight anybody, especially the man in the mirror who mocked him.  One closing time he bought the pub he was drinking in at the time so he could continue knocking back the booze.  When he woke up the next morning he went back to the pub in a panic to see if they had cashed his cheque.  Luckily they hadn’t.  When the landlord died he went to the funeral and sobbed buckets.. until the name was called and he realized he was at the wrong funeral.

Peter O'Toole

Peter O’Toole was from Connemara and grew up in Leeds.  The last survivor of the original four, he has calmed down a little of late.  He was prone to depression and once decided to end it by drowning himself in Lake Como.  He threw himself off the pier to discover the tide was out and he face-planted himself in the sand and seaweed.  During the filming of Lawrence of Arabia he partied with Omar Sharif in Beirut.  One night they lost the equivalent of nine months wages in a single bet.  They made great use of the fleshpots of the city and caught a dose of clap off the same woman.

Oliver had a habit of doing press-ups on the bar

Oliver had a habit of doing press-ups on the bar

Oliver Reed is a man who needs no introduction.  Built like a shithouse, but with the voice of a classic actor he was an enigma of a man.  His breakthrough role was as a werewolf.  After filming all day it could take up to two hours to take his facial prosthetics and hair off.  On the final day he thought: Sod it, and went boozing in full Werewolf regalia.  Eighteen pints later and our worse-for-wearwolf decided to drive himself home.  Big mistake.  Soon the blue flashing lights were in his rear view mirror, and he was pulled over.  The copper made his way towards the open car window.

“Licence and registraaAAAAGGGHHH!!!!!”

The Policeman backed off sharp enough as the hairy inebriate made good his escape.

You want my dog licence or driver's licence?

You want my dog licence or driver's licence?

Such heroic antics are the stuff of legend.  The world is a duller, greyer place without them.

You can find the book at:


Written by Nick Gilmartin

August 11, 2009 at 6:53 am

One Response

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  1. This book sounds great, Nick.
    Shall look it up.
    Thanks for the recommendation.

    Nicola Marsh

    August 16, 2009 at 2:31 am

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