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A Cautionary Tale Lavender Blue, Jilly, Jilly

[whitespace] Or how to stay out of the Big Casino

By Tai Moses

WHILE THE RAT PACK was notorious for weekend-long booze binges, a lot of that was just a pose--a carefully manufactured illusion. Those glasses of hooch tossed back during shows at the Sands Casino were often apple juice, and the bottles in the onstage liquor cart were filled with watered-down cola. Dean Martin's bumbling-drunk act was just that: an act.

"Dean and I did a lot of jokes about drinking," Sinatra told Bill Zehme in the book The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Living. "But let's face it: If we had actually drunk as much as people said we did, do you think we could have made movies all day and done shows at night, which we did? I would not recommend that anyone else live life that way. You have to know what you can handle."

Sinatra had firsthand knowledge of the dark side of alcohol. His best friend, Jilly Rizzo, was killed by a drunk driver in 1992. Jilly played Sancho Panza to Sinatra's Don Quixote--he was sidekick, bodyguard and confidante. For Jilly, the party ended too soon, and Sinatra never got over his loss.

When Frank and Pack did indulge, a safe bed was often as nearby as the hotel room upstairs. Most of us do our drinking further from home, and the stories of the return trips that end in disaster are told in statistics: Every 22 minutes, someone dies in an alcohol-related traffic accident--and those fatal crashes are three times more likely to happen at night.

"You've got to love livin', baby! Because dyin' is a pain in the ass!" Sinatra told his Rat Pack buddies until they were sick of hearing it.

Drunk driving is Nowheresville, baby. Designate a driver.

If you're on your own, call a cab, walk home or find someplace to sleep it off.

Don't believe the myth that black coffee or a glass of ice water in the face will sober you up. That only works in the movies.

The discomfort of a night in the gutter is better than eternity spent in the plushest coffin--whether it's yours or the innocent chump who had the bad luck to meet you on your crooked trip home. Ask Jilly Rizzo.

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From the June 11-17, 1998 issue of Metro.

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