Oliver Reed

Words by Theodora Sutcliffe

Died: 1999
Originally from: London
Profession: Actor
At: London

So who was Oliver Reed?
A talented actor, last seen as Proximus in Gladiator, Oliver Reed started his career in horror films. Although his great-grandfather founded RADA, he worked as a bouncer, a boxer, a cab driver and in a mortuary before finding his way into film. By night, he transformed into a hell-raising caner with a fondness for flashing, a persona that would overshadow his acting career.

Where did he drink?
"My idea of a good time," Reed told an interviewer in the 60s, "Is to get a few friends together and get as drunk as we possibly can... When I'm not filming I like to go down to the pub, have a few drinks, play darts..."

Reed was a pub man until he died. In, umm, a pub, where he had been "drinking on the floor". (It's now known as Ollie's Last Pub.)

He was a regular at the White Horse Hotel in Dorking, Surrey, and the Duke of Hamilton in Hampstead, and created a crawl of the eight pubs around Wimbledon Common.

"You meet a better class of people in pubs," Reed observed, though he himself was barred from plenty.

What did he drink?
Drink for Reed was more about the quantity than the quality. He appeared at film premieres carrying a bottle of vodka, and consumed an entire bottle before filming his groundbreaking nude scene in Women in Love.

Reed's benders are the stuff of legend - he was widely reported to have drunk over a hundred pints of beer on his stag weekend, though he claimed that actually happened at an arm wrestling competition.

In 1974, Reed and 36 rugby players went through 60 gallons of beer, 32 bottles of Scotch, 17 bottles of gin, four crates of wine and, umm, a bottle of Babycham. A typical lunch with his wife and a friend produced a bar tab of eight gin and tonics, four bottles of wine and six brandies.

Any famous drinking buddies?
Just a few... Keith Moon of the Who; Alex Higgins; George Best; Peter O'Toole; Richard Harris; Steve McQueen. Reed drank regularly with Richard Burton until Elizabeth Taylor (of all people) identified him as a bad influence and barred him from his life.

How did drink change his life?
An incredibly shy man when sober, Reed used booze to socialise, yet his hellraising soon overtook his acting career. Most believe he would have made better films had he stayed sober - he made no fewer than six movies with Michael Winner -- and many friends found him unbearable after dark.

Drink was an essential entry to Reed' social circle: at one of his mansions, guests had to consume an entire bottle of port then stay in the room for 20 minutes without throwing up. When his son was 12, Reed took him to the pub for a beer, and was "immensely proud" when the child downed seven pints.

Any drinking stories?
Reed once summed up his life as "shafting the girlies and downing the sherbies." A favourite party trick was exposing his cock, which was tattooed with, well, a cock - he was almost killed in the Caribbean by folk who took the tattoo as a voodoo sign.

Routinely barred from pubs and hotels for "initiating tests of strengths", Reed once stripped naked and jumped into a (large) tank of goldfish, telling the police, "You can't touch me! I'm the Fourth Musketeer."

He famously arrived at Galway airport drunk on the baggage carousel, and was expelled from a TV studio after drunkenly attempting to snog a feminist author. In later years, he was invited onto telly less for his acting than his memorably execrable behaviour.