Dorothy Parker

Words by Theodora Sutcliffe

Originally from: New York
Profession: Author
At: New York

So who was Dorothy Parker?
Journalist, critic, screenwriter, poet and wit, Mrs Parker was a central figure of the Algonquin Round Table - and the author of the world's most famous ode to the Martini. She also campaigned tirelessly for civil liberties, broadcast live from the Spanish Civil War, fought Nazism and was blacklisted during the McCarthy era witch hunt. Despite four attempts at suicide, failed marriages and some truly epic drinking, she lived well into her seventies, spouting bitter irony and black humour all the way.

Where did she drink?
In New York, she variously lived and drank at The Algonquin Hotel, the Plaza Hotel, the Warwick Hotel and the Volney Hotel. She was a stalwart at some of the city's finest Prohibition speakeasies: Jack and Charlie's Puncheon Club, Tony Soma's, Tex Guinan's Club Intime and Polly Adler's mobile brothel. In LA? Chasen's, Chateau Marmont and her bungalow in the Garden of Allah. In Pennsylvania? The Doylestown Inn and Water Wheel Tavern.

What did she drink?
Mrs Parker once observed: "Three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content and sufficient champagne." During Prohibition, however, she favoured straight Johnny Walker, washed down with copious Chesterfield cigarettes. Martinis by the bucketload were her choice in later life, as she remarked in her famous ode: "After three I'm under the table, /After four I'm under the host." She once achieved the difficult feat of getting absolutely legless on pousse-caf├ęs, proving for once and for all that there truly is no accounting for tastes.

Any famous drinking buddies?
Robert Benchley and the rest of Mrs Parker's Vicious Circle are less famous than they were. But she was close to F. Scott Fitzgerald (and Zelda), and a major fan of Ernest Hemingway, who she followed to Paris in the 1920s. Tallulah Bankhead, another hard-drinking, sassy female, was a lifelong friend and hired her to write material for her. Dorothy wrote one-liners for Hitchcock and appeared with him in one of his movies.

How did drink change her life?
If ever there was a time to be a lady lush, speakeasy era New York was the perfect time and place to practice barbed witticisms over bathtub gin. Yet drink couldn't drown Mrs Parker's many sorrows, and by the end of her life, where she lived with her pet dog in a cheap hotel, she was in a permanent haze of Scotch - a substance she first discovered as a means to coping with her first husband's morphine addiction.

Any drinking stories?
Mrs Parker showed up absolutely hammered to be elected into the National Institute of Arts and Letters, spending most of the evening in pursuit of Marilyn Monroe. Her later life was an inelegant parade of pavement topplings, and she sometimes required a nurse. The same wit that made her come up with lines such as "I should never have put all my eggs in one bastard" made her a difficult person to be around when drunk. Her much younger (and famously gay) second husband killed himself with booze and barbiturates after an attempt at a reunion became a battle of negative wits.

Welcome to Difford's Guide

All editorial and photography on this website is copyright protected

© Odd Firm of Sin 2023