Welcome to Lady Liquor, where, for the next two months, I'll be writing about the relationship between, well, ladies and liquor. Primarily. I'm interested in the ways women's attitudes about drinking -- and society's attitudes about women who drink -- have shaped history and pop culture. But it's pretty much impossible to talk about those things without also talking about other mind-altering substances (I'm looking at you, War on Drugs); I'd also be remiss not to talk about the relationship between booze and other social justice movements -- like the gay rights movement, which actually started in a bar.
The hunger for celebrity gossip appears unslakable; there's a reason paparazzi and gossip-mongers can always find employment in Los Angeles. Even in periods of economic depression, in fact perhaps especially in periods of economic depression, the public demands stories about celebrity shenanigans and it particularly wants stories about celebrities gone bad. Celebrities losing control. It consumes, with relish, stories about celebrity breakdowns because many people seem to enjoy a sense of "how the mighty have fallen" over their morning gossip rag.
Working in Hollywood is intensely stressful, which can tend to add to the risks of experiencing mental illness. It is a highly pressured, fast-paced environment, especially for women, who have to fight twice as hard to attain half the popularity and following of their male peers, while remaining "strong" so they can be the subject of flattering profiles rather than lurid tabloid covers. Drug and alcohol abuse tend to be high in this environment as well; I've attended enough Hollywood parties as a non-drinker to know that you experience tremendous pressure to imbibe even when you have good reasons not to do so. While neither drug nor alcohol abuse is necessarily a cause of mental illness, both can cause erratic behavior and they may trigger latent mental illness, especially in a patient who is held under the looking glass instead of being given adequate support.
Most of us have that album in our lives, the one that's the instant open doorway to our core. (Mine is Joni Mitchell's Hejira…or is it P.J. Harvey's Dry? Never mind—what's that album for you, Bitch readers?)
Our ardent devotion to that watershed CD is the theme of the new anthology Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives, edited by Peter Terzian. The collection includes fine essays by Sheila Heti (on the Annie soundtrack), Stacey D'Erasmo (on Kate Bush's The Sensual World), Asali Solomon (on Gloria Estefan's Mi Terra), and Colm Tóibín (on Joni Mitchell's Blue).
It also includes Alice Elliott Dark's stunning essay, "The Quiet One," which chronicles her obsession with the Beatles' Meet the Beatles! and George Harrison that intensified at a pivotal, tragic point in her girlhood. Page Turner interviewed Dark about writing "The Quiet One"; truth-telling in fiction versus nonfiction; sexism and the boy bands; Beatle wives; and why she abandoned her belief in pop culture.