BOOKS: Q&A With Dan Dunn, Playboy’s The Imbiber

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http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5179/5409559984_a3d1d60af1_t.jpgBY LAURA WESTERMAN Hunter S. Thompson once said “there is no honest way to explain [the Edge] because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”  For Playboy “Imbiber” columnist Dan Dunn, these words are both a cautionary warning and an irresistible dare.  He’ll be in town on Thursday to promote his new book Living Loaded: Tales of Sex, Salvation, and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour, a heady cocktail of booze expertise and sexual misadventure. His tales of drunken hook-ups, barroom brawls in Ireland, all-day benders and Bible-driven mosh pits provide much-needed entertainment for the adult reader as Dunn [pictured below, right] comes to the realization that it’s a lot easier to “just say no” than wake up butt naked on the floor of a TV producer’s living room with a headache the size of Mount Everest.  But, he argues, where’s the fun in that?

Initially I was skeptical whether Living Loaded was just going to be a series of self-indulgent and confessional accounts of bar-hopping and celebrity name-dropping.  Whilst this is not entirely false, Dunn’s clever repartee and playful discourse speaks directly to those of us who are conflicted about our vices and have been in many a compromising drunken situation in the past.  That’s not to say that most of us have found ourselves bonding with porn icon Savanna Samson over a glass of wine (or six) or golfing with actor Seann William Scott, but Dunn enables us to relate with lines such as “we were only slightly less pickled than the sandwich menu at Jerry’s Famous Deli.”  We’ve all been there, even if not to Dunn’s extremes.Dann_Dunn.jpg

This Imbiber’s unorthodox lifestyle and the many cringe-worthy moments it invariably engenders supplies the book with shock value, which is further intensified by Dunn’s unapologetic bluntness. “I’d take the high-octane cocktail of contradictions that is my drunk self over being “normal” any day of the week,” he writes. In his eyes, normalcy is overrated and this is something that resonates throughout the book.  But Dunn also means to instruct.  The majority of the chapters contain comical lists of “what not to do in this particular situation,” there are drink recipes from some of the world’s pre-eminent mixologists and sound, if not quite AA-approved, advice (How to cure a hangover? Retox!) for which avid boozehounds will be eternally grateful.

Yet in addition to these side-splitting stories, Dunn includes more poignant sections that speak of his relationship with his parents and his unrequited loves to bring us back down to reality.  Whilst some of Dunn’s comments veer into the wrong side of crudity, which could be off-putting to some, such is the nature of the Living Loaded lifestyle and Dunn should be praised for the fearlessness for which he pursues his next buzz, often in places where angels fear to tread.  He criticizes and stereotypes, which is somewhat ironic, yet his descriptions of Europeans and Southerners are particularly astute, if not slightly long-winded. “Be careful […] not [to] stray into global-warming territory, though, because as we all know, this is a myth fabricated by East Coast liberals in France,” he writes by way of advice for striking up conversations south of the Mason Dixon line.  His sarcasm is at times rather preachy, but Dunn allows us to laugh with him.  Nevertheless, while this way of life may be extremely tempting, Dunn does recognize the flaws in his grand plan of total intoxication that makes Charles Bukowski look like a teetotaler.  All this aside, Dunn’s devastatingly comical narratives makes Living Loaded an extremely entertaining read that is sure to leave you in hysterics.

PHAWKER: What was your best buzz ever and your worst? Please itemize intoxicants and ensuing adventures/misadventures for both.

DAN DUNN: Every buzz I have is special in its right. Indeed, it would be unfair to single out just one — like designating a favorite child or Seinfeld episode. I will say that my tequila buzzes tend to be a little wilder than wine buzzes, which are pretty damn mellow, though you should see the somnambulant state I’m usually in whenever I’ve quaffed single-malt whisky. And gin? Well, don’t get me started on gin. Seriously. Don’t. Fucking trainwreck. Gin is my kryptonite.

PHAWKER: How do you do your job without becoming an alcoholic?

DAN DUNN:
As I point out in Living Loaded, no matter who you are and where your own personal relationship with alcohol has taken you, your first encounter with booze is a singular event from which there is no turning back. In that moment you are set upon a journey toward becoming one of four different types of people: 1) a person who drinks; 2) a person who doesn’t drink; 3) a person who wishes he could handle drinking yet cannot; or 4) a person who is dead. And while I’m sure there are a few teetotalers who will pick up my book in the interest of getting a peek behind the curtain, I think it’s a good bet that most of the folks reading it are, like me, firmly entrenched in the first category. It would be naïve to rule out, however, that any one of us might become a 3 or 4 down the line somewhere. We’re all 4s eventually, after all. And as far as number 3 goes, my extensive field research has revealed a cruel irony: that a given person’s unwillingness to acknowledge their category 3 potential vastly increases the possibilities of it happening. Because alcohol does funny things to your brain. Sometimes it’s the ha-ha kind and sometimes it’s the peculiar kind.

PHAWKER: What was the best piece of advice Hunter S. Thompson ever gave you? What was the worst?

DAN DUNN: Hunter once said that writing is like sex, in that it’s only fun for amateurs. That’s just spot on. The best advice he ever gave me personally was to always know what I was snorting before I snorted it. The worst advice he ever gave me had something to do with driving a motorcycle on acid. That night didn’t end particularly well for anyone involved.

PHAWKER: In the book you talk about interviewing porn stars. Finish the following sentence: Porn stars are just like you and me except…

DAN DUNN: … they get paid to pee on people in bed, while you and me just do it for fun.

PHAWKER: What is the best cure for a hangover?

DAN DUNN: A refreshing golden shower, perhaps?

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