Article Overview:   Booze, alcohol, spirits are rising up from the ashes of destruction, rearing their seductive heads on television to seduce us non-drinkers into slipping and sipping from the shot glass once again.    Is the beast of Booze Terror after me again?


Monday--July 14, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 670
The Terror Of Southern Comfort
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

  GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--July 14, 2003-- Complacency, one of the Beast's most insidious of the Three Triads of Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency--is stalking me again.  This time through the television screen.
    I thought I was safe, just kicking back in the cocoon of my New York apartment and flicking on the "tube" to relax after a busy yet fun-filled day.
    Then, it crept up on me, unexpected, like a sniper in Baghdad.

Southern Comfort, the elixir of drunks,  crept up on me like a sniper in Baghdad

 Southern Comfort.
    The elixir of drunks.
     Like most people who let up on their guard, I have fallen Complacent to the idea I was safe from the sirens of seduction when it came to booze being advertised on television.   Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought alcohol advertising had been banned from the invasive rays of the t.v. tube.  
     Last night, I was caught with my pants down.
     There, in my safe, alcohol-free apartment, in living color, was a scene of New York rooftop.
     It was dusk.   On top of "tar beach,"--the nomenclature of the space atop buildings where people elevate from their apartments to catch a soft, cooling breeze after a long hot day--was a knot of fun-loving people enjoying the great refreshing, and for some, like me-- numbing pleasure of Southern Comfort.
      It looked, ah, sooooooooo inviting.
      The ad's theme--"Southern Comfort--Between Friends."

The new advertising promotion for Southern Comfort makes the drink too inviting

      What a great idea.
      Just me and my friends on a rooftop getting wiped out.  Ahhhhh.
      The only trouble for me is that when I drink, I don't have any friends.
       For the past 13 years I have been a tee-totaler.
       I have one of those bodies that is allergic to alcohol.   When I start putting it into my body, I can't get enough of its numbing, anesthetic effect.
       I'm way on the opposite side of the spectrum of the social drinker who can "just have a couple" and stop.
       Drinking, where I come from, is about slugging down "more than your share and then some more."
       Maybe it stems from the fact I was brought up in beer bars or was a U.S. Marine.   As a kid in a small town, society was formed in the local pub.  My mom and dad would go to the local tavern and drink beer and other shots, next to the pickled pigs feet jar displaying the pink remains of a porcine hoof that always made me cringe and almost gag thinking that someone actually ate them.  I figured that the reason they ate the pickled pigs feet was because they were so drunk they didn’t care.   

Southern Comfort, also Janis Joplin's ruination, wasn't "between friends", it was between us and life

    I'm not blaming my family on my robust appetite for booze, but certainly the authority to drink was imprinted somewhere upon my Scots-Irish genes.  I didn’t start out as a drunk.  Booze crept up on me, sat in ambush waiting for me to think I could handle it.  I didn’t drink much in Vietnam or after.   It was only when I became an “important person” in business that I really started to drink in earnest.  That was around my early thirties.  Then, I was off to the races.  I just couldn't consume enough of the stuff.
       It grew into a passion.
       I had one of those high-ranking corporate jobs where I strutted about as the "king of the land," with servants filling my glass so it was never empty.  As a top-level executive, I was pumping hands and pretending I liked everyone. However, in retrospect, what drove me to be social was the lubrication of the drink, not the multitude of people I was there to impress by my presence.
       Again, I can't blame success for my ultimate problem with booze.  It oiled my climb up the high ladder to corporate stardom, as it does a number of people who feel they have need to shelter themselves from the constant insanity of corporate social life.  Unfortunately, booze eviscerates a person rather than protects them from harm.

       Today, the American Medical Association is up in arms over alcohol ads, claiming that young people see as many of them as adults.  The AMA is sounding the warning bell.  They’re braying that the booze companies are trying to lure the young drinker into their respective lairs, creating tomorrow's best customer today.
       For years, beer commercials have been around, and, frankly, they never bothered me.   It was the hard cider ads that got me.
       I liked to drink hard.   
       Straight up, pure alcohol, not mixed with anything.   That was my goal.
       Frankly, drinking straight booze is kind of like drinking kerosene.  You gag and spew and gulp all at the same time to show your macho ability to ingest what most would think was an ingredient for a nuclear bomb.  Then you develop a taste for the “poison” and pretend how “good” it tastes, when in fact, the first time people drink straight booze they usually pucker, gag and choke because it “burns all the way down.”
       No wonder Indians call it firewater.
       My firewater ended up crippling me, physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.
       Don’t get me wrong.  No one held me down and poured it in my mouth.

Booze ended up crippling me

       I went over the line, like people do with food, or spending, or gambling, or shopping, I just did it with a booze.
       The end result was after I found myself sucking on the bottle night and day and my life had gone into the lowest level of life’s cesspool, I forced myself  to go completely off it.
       I learned I’m the kind of guy who can't "just have a little."
       More is so much better.   And, I never really drank to "be friendly," I really drank to get drunk.
      Hard drinkers like myself represent about thirty percent of the U.S. population.  Then there are the incorrigible drinkers like me, representing around 5-10 percent of the nearly 300 million Americans.
       So, to escape the Beast of Bottled Terror, I quit.
       For the past thirteen years,  I daily remind myself it's okay not to drink.   And I need to remember that more than thirty percent of the U.S. population has never had a drink and doesn't want one.   I like the idea I'm not the only guy in the world who passes up the booze.
       But this new thrust to bring hard-booze back into prime time and seduce us former and future drinkers with the lure of a drink on a rooftop, I think is bad.
        Maybe it's worse than letting Saddam Hussein run around, or Osama bin Laden issue tapes to Al Jazeera about killing the “infidels.” 
       I'm not a booze reformer.  I believe everyone deserves the right to find out about life the easy or hard way.   I’m not for a police state shouting at them what to do.  That's why we went to war in Iraq in the first place, to let people choose.
        But, I am aware of the insidious and nefarious nature of marketing.  For years I invested $20 million a year in building a “big brand name” for the company I helped build.    Our philosophy was, as with all marketers, “We haven’t met our next best customer yet.”
        Despite all the claims of the booze gurus that they want to protect the youth, there is no better market for them than the young.    Young people have this incredible bravado that they can handle anything, that they are invincible—even able to battle the wiles of spirits of alcohol seduction.

In March, 2002, NBC scuttled their plan to run this hard liquor advertising

      “Why, I can stop at any time,” they claim, as they steadily increase their consumption.
       The booze companies didn't advertise their hard stuff on television for years.   They voluntarily took their ads off t.v., leaving only the beer and wine coolers.    Cigarettes got kicked off the tube, but the Beast of Booze Advertising just slipped back in the bushes.

The Distilled Spirits Council of America said NBC's plans (see proposed ad on right) were "a disservice to the American public".  Council President Peter Cressy said that over the last five years more than 400 broadcast stations and cable systems have reached 67%  of households airing distilled spirits advertising.  More ads are to come.

The Beast of Booze Advertising is sticking out his head and is back in the spotlight

     Now, he's sticking out his head and Pied-Pipering himself back into the spotlight.
       Am I worried about myself?
       Not as much as I am my grandkids.
       There's something terribly powerful about ads that urge a kid to drink, just as there is about ads that urge a kid to smoke.

When I was growing up, to be "cool" you drank and smoked

       When I grew up, all doctors on television smoked.    In fact, everyone of importance on television and the movies seemed to have a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other.    If you wanted to be "cool," you did both.   You have to be really old to remember “The Chesterfield Hour.”  Anyone who watches Turner Classic Movies will note the thick clouds of smoke and endless draining of the booze bottles.  A cigarette and a drink became a walking stick for the actor.  These two “demons” created a social statement: “If you want fame and glory, put a drink in one hand a cancer stick in the other.”
       Again, I remind myself that no one ever jammed those two Beasts of Terror into my body.  I elected to consume both--to extreme.
       Over the years I relaxed, thinking I was safe, secure.   Kind of like all of us in the U.S. felt about being attacked prior to Nine Eleven.
       Then it came.   A sudden assault that had been brewing for years.
       Maybe that’s the same process as how alcohol t.v. advertising invaded my homefront.
       I wonder what Homeland Security is doing about it?
       Ah, there goes my Complacency Factor.  I'm once again handing off the Hot Potato of Vigilance to someone else.
       Like so many, when there is the illusion that someone out there will "protect me" I fall into the quagmire of thinking I am "safe."   I forget to oil the Gates of Vigilance and turn my back, allowing my vulnerability to expose itself in the shape of finger pointing.
       Last night I jumped up and exclaimed:  "Hey, how'd Southern Comfort get on television advertising booze!"
      I felt like a Marine in Baghdad without a flack jacket walking down a street filled with Saddam's old buddies.

The Buck of Vigilance doesn't stop on the desk of Homeland Security but on my own desk

     Vigilance is about Courage, Conviction and Right Actions in behalf of the Children's Children's Children.   The Buck of Vigilance stops not on the desk of Homeland Security, but on my own desk.
      I can't expect anyone to protect my grandkids from the invasion of booze commercials but myself, and those who love them as I do and don't want them to think for a minute that drinking is a glamorous event.    They have Irish-based genes, thus drinking can be fatal if it strikes that secret cord within.
      I come from a long line of "drunks."
      So, I'm going to keep my guard up regarding my grandkids. 
      The booze t.v. ads are a warning shot, a rude awakening of the Beast of Terror’s presence in yet another form other than a suicide bomber.
      This t.v. booze ad issue is a rude awakening.
      I was caught so off guard I felt like a nation waiting for the government to stop Terrorism, and waking up one morning to another September 11th and saying:  "What happened?"
       I realize that Terrorism, of all sizes and shapes, must be protected at one's doorstep.   It’s not government’s job to patrol the world, it’s every Parent of Vigilance’s duty.

I can teach my grandkids that to not drink is cool

       To respond, I have to act in the best interests of the Children’s Children’s Children.   That means I set an example.  It means I stay sober, as I am now, and set represent that one doesn't have to drink to be cool.  
       Secondly, I can help reinforce their self-will and self-image so that if they do elect drink, they don't have to drink to fill some emotional void inside them as I did.
       Third, I can cast out nets of warning, reminding them to engage booze with caution, for it has many tentacles that can ensnare the unsuspecting.   Thinking about a rooftop at dusk with friends and a bottle of Southern Comfort to top it all off is so seductive, it could make a person think bliss was booze.    But, hopefully, the grandkids will be just as happy with a bottle of chilled water?
         I see no need to lure people to a drink, not when the abuse of alcohol is so common, and the damage it creates can cause so much pain.
        As a Sentinel of Vigilance I find myself constantly reminded the world is faster than I, and to keep up, I must reconstitute the Pledge of Vigilance daily.

As a Sentinel of Vigilance, I must guard against the romance of booze

        Regardless of your view on booze--pro or con—you must admit there is a danger in television ads sliding into the living room making the romance of drinking appear innocuous.   For some, it may start that way, but for many it ends in hellish destruction.
        Vigilance for me is about reminding myself to be wary.
        Not just of booze, but of the assumption that Terrorism can't slip into your living room.  I fell for that one.
        So, I'm retaking the Pledge of Vigilance---reminding myself to put up my guard against booze, and to do what I can to protect my grandchildren from thinking a rooftop and a bottle of Southern Comfort has any relationship to happiness


July 13--The Clear And Present Danger of Terrorism

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