Richard Harris

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Originally from:
Limerick, Ireland



Words by: Theodora Sutcliffe

So who was Richard Harris?
Irish thespian and all-round bad boy (Colin Farrell eat your heart out) transformed into a fine old character actor in his later years, courtesy of his role as Dumbledore. Harris believed "life should be lived to the last drop, and then some", and proved it. Twice divorced, twice bankrupted, famous for punch-ups with anyone from Kirk Douglas to Charlton Heston to passing market porters, he lived life hard and partied harder.

Where did he drink?
A major fan of the rugby - he had hoped to make a career of it before he came down with TB - Harris was often to be seen in the pubs of Twickenham. At one time, he only had to walk into P. J. Clarke's in New York for the bartender to line up six double vodkas - his usual at the time. He also drank and fought at Malachy's, an Irish pub in the city. In London, he lived for some years at The Savoy, though he drank mainly at the nearby Coal Hole and Green Room. A fan of early opening market pubs for the morning pint, he lost a punch-up outside the Kembles Head, Covent Garden.

What did he drink?
At one point in the 1970s, Harris was consuming two bottles of vodka every day, followed by a mixture of brandy and port (a bottle of each) in the evening. Filming Hawaii, in Hawaii, he took a liking to the local cocktail, a blend of rum, Cointreau and grenadine which had him endeavouring to stop traffic with his fists. After Harris's doctors told him he had only 18 months to live if he didn't stop, he went to the Jockey Club in Washington to bid farewell to drink. His choice? Two bottles of Chateau Margaux 1947. In his declining years, he returned to drink, but limited himself to a pint of Guinness before bedtime.

Any famous drinking buddies?
Harris was at the centre of a hardcore of hellraising actors, which included Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton and Oliver Reed, until Burton's death. Even while filming Harry Potter, he went to the pub with Alan Rickman and Kenneth Branagh, and continued to drink until four o'clock in the morning.

How did drink change his life?
Drink almost killed Harris, and certainly did his marriages no favours. He once went out to the football on a Saturday, announcing that he'd be back on Tuesday, possibly in a police van, and another time threw a wardrobe at his wife. But he enjoyed his life immensely and delivered some outstanding performances.

Any drinking stories?
Aged 17, his father sent him to drive a haulage truck to Dublin and come back promptly. Instead, he headed for the nearest pub and, his confidence enhanced by beer, decided he could drive under a bridge marked "Clearance, 12 feet". He couldn't, and the bridge came clean off its pillars. His explanation to a policeman? "Sorry, officer. You see, I'm just delivering this bridge to Limerick."

During his wild years in the 1970s, Harris would pop out for a packet of cigarettes and not return for a fortnight. Apparently a policeman once found him lying in the street and asked him why he was there. "Because the world is spinning," Harris replied. "And how is lying there going to help?" quoth the copper. "I am waiting for my house to go by," responded Harris, quick as a flash.

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