Long before Gretzky was tabbed as "the great one" - Jackie Gleason had lived up to that nickname and more. I never realized how much booze played a role in his life though.
Excellent essay on Gleason and booze - here's a small snippet:
With some time off before his first season as CBS’s golden boy, Jackie camped out at Toots Shor’s with Sinatra and his celebrity pals. One evening Frank showed up during Jackie’s morning eye-opener with four tickets to the sold-out final playoff game between the NY Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, was having a tête-à-tête with Toots and Frank invited the trio to accompany him to the game. Everyone agreed except Jackie, who wanted to stay at the bar and drink. They finally talked him into it by renting a fully stocked limo. Sinatra recalls:Can you picture anyone else being able to treat Sinatra like that?
“We pile into that limousine, already feeling no pain, especially Gleason. Jackie guzzled booze all the way to the Polo Grounds and ate most of the food. When we get there Jackie switches to hot dogs and beer. Comes the last half of the ninth and the fans are going wild. The Giants are behind 4-2 and Bobby Thompson comes to bat.
“Right at the exact moment, with the crowd screaming, Gleason throws up right on me. Here is one of the all-time classic games that people will talk about and I am right in the stadium and I don’t see Bobby Thompson hit that home run. Only Gleason, a Brooklyn fan, would get sick at a time like that. But that’s not the punch line.
“On the drive back to Toots, Gleason keeps muttering to the chauffeur to pull over to the side of the road saying, “Let’s throw this bum Sinatra out of here. He’s smelling up the limo.”