Drink - Shane Watson is irritated by Catherine Zeta-Jones

Drink - <strong>Shane Watson</strong>

Catherine Zeta-Jones, an actress who has famously made the transformation from up-for-it Welsh lass to Hollywood sophisticate, is apparently missing some things about home. "The problem with Hollywood is that everyone has to be so well-behaved all the time. Everyone is either not drinking alcohol because of their diet, or a reformed alcoholic, or in rehab," she says. And it's not the casual social drinkers CZJ hankers for, but the hard-partying old school epitomised by her fellow countryman Richard Burton. "I wish he was still around to inspire more hellraisers. He was a real character - he behaved like a movie star should." Well, indeed. Only he's not around because he drank himself into an early grave, which is one of the occupational hazards of being "a real character", and you can bet that he would have given Ms CZJ short shrift if she'd dared to interpose herself between him and his next Scotch.

CZJ's observation is irritating on about 50 levels. For a start, she personally will be evangelically practising the alcohol exclusion diet, because if anyone buys into Hollywood values, it's CZJ. Likewise, her sudden passion for Burton is just another attempt to look earthy and raunchy, when she is in fact the kind of woman who sues if photographed within 40 feet of food, let alone drink.

What is really maddening is that most of us will agree with her, with the obvious exception of recovering alcoholics, who, not for the first time, will be holding their heads and groaning: "When are people going to stop making the connection drunk-equals-hellraiser-equals-bloody good sort? How can it be that we still draw a line between glamorous hellraisers and sick people who ruin their lives through drinking? When will we cease to think that being good-looking and talented is great, but being good-looking, talented and on the verge of throwing it all away is much more interesting?"

If anything, our blind crush on the attractive boozer is getting worse, partly as a result of CZJ's politically correct Hollywood culture (which, granted, is boring), and partly because there is so much evidence around of how easy it is to be a boorish, violent drunk without so much as a lilting Welsh baritone to compensate. Colin Farrell is an OK actor currently gobbling up Hollywood because he is cute, Irish and unapologetically wedded to the bottle. George Best has tested our patience of late, but still we love him for his intemperance. Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood are walking cadavers who we think of as national heroes for their services to bodily abuse. I could go on, but we all know the score. In our confused minds, there's bad drunks and there's damn fine drunks, and the day we admit they're one and the same is a long way off.

This article first appeared in the 27 September 2004 issue of the New Statesman, The real Tony Blair