Books of The Times
Limelight Lives, Burned by Booze
From left, John Springer Collection/Corbis; Alan Pappe/Corbis; Pictorial Press Ltd./Alamay; Getty Images
From left, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed. The boisterous drinking habits of the four actors are chronicled in the book “Hellraisers,” by Robert Sellers.
By JANET MASLIN, New York Times
Published: November 25, 2009
HELLRAISERS The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed By Robert Sellers Illustrated. 286 pages. Thomas Dunne Books. $25.99.
Robert Sellers’s “Hellraisers” is completely unapologetic about its party-hearty premise. He has slapped together a string of outlandish stories about four of the British Isles’ most stylish drunken actors, and he doesn’t even pretend to have turned those stories into a coherent book. “Hellraisers” wants only to be a rowdy collection of greatest hits, and it lives up to that fun-loving ambition. It reels off riotous tales about Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed without giving a moment’s thought to what those tales might mean.
“Enjoy it; they bloody well did,” Mr. Sellers tells his readers at the book’s start. And then off he goes, digging up the wild, headline-making antics of his book’s four principals. Since each of them behaved like a tabloid reporter’s dream and did his best carousing in public, Mr. Sellers has plenty of fine one-liners to replay and bouts of mad excess to describe. How accurate are these stories? That can’t be a serious question. On the occasion when Mr. Reed is said to have drunk 126 pints of beer in 24 hours, it’s highly unlikely that anyone really bothered to keep the numbers straight.
And for this book the truth doesn’t really matter. Even for actors, its four subjects were uncommonly theatrical and loved telling merrily exaggerated stories about themselves. “I did quite enjoy the days when one went for a beer at one’s local in Paris and work up in Corsica,” Mr. O’Toole once quipped, though he doesn’t seem to have said this or anything else to Mr. Sellers. Ditto for the other three hellraisers, who were not available for comment, having all fallen into sad states of decline and developed the true physiognomies of Dorian Gray before they died of alcohol-induced or alcohol-accelerated problems.
Maslin's full review at NYT.
Since posting the above review from the NYT Newmarket, Auckland Bookseller Diva, Doris Mousdale, has pointed out to met the companion volume by the same author, Bad Boy Drive: The Wild Life and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson.
Here for your interest is the Sunday Times review of that title by Ed Caesar May 24, 2009
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