Well, the word of Carlo Sands has been questioned.
As readers of this blog know, I staggered out of bed late on New Years Day to award, for the second year running, Lily Allen the 2009 Carlo Sands’ Person of the Year for Services in the Advance of Humanity and General Drunkenness.
It seemed, and I must confess still seems, a perfectly logical choice.
But some punters disagree.
There has been a debate of sorts on Facebook, which is where all debates of any importance happen these days.
(I would, however, encourage all readers of this blog to also take advantage of the comments section provided thoughtfully right here on the blog. Among other advantages, allow me to bring to the reader’s attention the array of highly attractive and very useful “google ads” at the top of the blog.
They are specifically tailored to the tastes of the discerning “Alcoholic’s Guide to Modern Life” reader, generated according to the topics brought up in the hard-hitting polemics and tasteful cultural contributions this blog is world-renowned for.
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No. I am genuinely excited at some of the products this blog is proud to host. For instance: the many offers of “alcohol treatment”. How great is that? I love being treated with alcohol! And it is all just a click away!)
But I digress. (Did I mention there are google ads at the top you can click that can actually earn me money?)
My decision to award Allen this coveted prize has sparked controversy. One comment was “If I was David Hasselhoff, I'd be feeling a little bit ripped off right now.”
This particular person (who may or may not be real, I don’t like to assume these things when it comes to “Facebook friends”) proceeded to submit evidence.
In the interests of fairness, I hereby provide it.
Okay, so we have established pretty clearly that the Hoff is a drunk.
But is that all there is to the question?
Another dissenter said: “What about Charlie Sheen's late bid? And I assume Tiger Woods was always sober.”
No doubt it was only the timing of Mariah Carey’s January 5 wasted award nights speech that prevented her name being thrown into the ring by those who think they know better than Mr Carlo Sands, gentleman and drunk.
And here we get to the heart of the matter. Is the award simply about levels of intoxication in abstract? No.
Is it simply about celebrities, while intoxicated, behaving in ways that the media declare are scandalous and cynically exploit to generate sales, viewers and internet hits?
Again, the answer is no.
That criterion certainly applies to all these names. And, by those standards, Lily Allen does indeed fall behind the Hoff. And Peter Doherty, Amy Winehouse and a large percentage of the rest of those who are named celebrities.
But Ms Allen has won the coveted prize twice for something more than just being publicly wasted. (That’s important, of course. You are highly unlikely to win this award for advocating prohibition and topping it off by putting your principles into practice.)
I am looking for something more.
I am looking for an attitude. I am seeking a particular stance in relation to the world and all that is wrong with it.
Lily Allen does not just drink. She almost never seen on a stage without a glass of booze in her hand.
Now she could, of course, drink on stage discreetly. But she makes no attempt to hide it. The glass is always right there in her hand for all to see.
In fact, she gleefully tells the media she wont get on stage without a drink.
Think of this attitude and stance and how it relates to the government and media anti-drinking hysteria.
Have another look at the spat between Allen and Elton John on stage at the 2008 GQ Awards.
Allen stood at that podium, forced to present alongside Elton John. Noticeably tipsy, she slurped champagne on stage and poured some more from the bottle she had conveniently placed behind the podium.
Absolutely no attempt was made by Allen to hide her drinking. And when she announced they were coming to the “most important part of the evening” and Elton John said “What, are you going to have another drink?”, Allen refused to apologise.
She said (and I quote): “Fuck you, Elton”.
Mariah Carey, by contrast, apologised of her own volition half way through her drunken ramble.
Most of the celebrities that go to these things get out of their heads on champagne and a hell of a lot of other stuff. And most of them, if asked, will publicly discourage binge drinking and drug use.
Allen’s attitude and stance is defiantly anti-hypocrisy.
Because the truth is, people drink. People often drink a lot. They do it because it is fun.
Allen won the 2009 award for telling the media she drinks because it is fun and has no intention of not doing so. “Why the hell would I stop?”, she said.
Large numbers of people feel the same. And so they get drunk — at parties, BBQs, dinner parties, pubs, bars, parks, weddings, funerals, sporting events (and I'll declare when I fucking well feel like, Richie), gigs and awards ceremonies.
This is the truth about our society and Allen, a chart-topping singer, says it and makes no attempt to hide it in her own life.
Allen displays disrespect for the official rules of the game, for the standard hypocrisy that goes hand-in-hand with the daily functioning of late monopoly capitalism as it makes its increasingly rapid slide towards barbarism.
Elton John is an officially designated “national treasure” in Britain. He is above reproach after he sung that song for Princess Di. And Allen, on stage at a nationally televised event, told him to fuck off.
Of course, it isn’t just Elton John who gets this treatment. In Fuck You, Allen says exactly the same thing, this time to a catchy melody, to then US president George Bush and all racists and homophobes.
To Elton John, she went on: “I’m 40 years younger than you.”
Allen’s point was, at age 23, she was simply being young. This is what young people do.
Allen makes a good role model. She drinks, smokes, swears, speaks her mind, sings openly about sex, sings songs insisting it is her right to sexual pleasure, sarcastically puts down sexist pigs in her lyrics and generally attacks hypocrisy.
In fact, you really have to wonder why anyone was surprised by her response to Elton John when the chorus to Friday Night goes: “Don’t try and test me coz you’ll get a reaction/Another drink and I’m ready for action/I don’t know who you think you are/But making people scared wont get you very far”.
Let Lily be Liam
Of course, Allen could easily drink, smoke, swear, and screw who she wants without it being controversial providing she did it discreetly behind closed doors.
This lack of hypocrisy unsurprisingly saw the British media turn on her. Especially in the earlier part of her career, she was represented as a trainwreck and a drunken slag — prompting Allen to comment that this sexist treatment made her feel like she was living in the 1950s.
If Allen was a young male singer, she would be hailed as a great lad by all. Allen made this point herself in a December 22 Telegraph article: “I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be like Liam Gallagher just because I was a girl.”
Carlo Sands insists that if anyone wants to be like Liam Gallagher, it is their goddamn right.
The appeal of Allen to young women, especially, is she looks and sounds like them. She does the things they do and doesn’t try to hide it. She represents aspects of their lives in her songs (most notably on her first album Alright Still) with wit and a defiant “fuck you” attitude.
A particular target, in a number of songs, is arrogant men who treat her like shit and think they can walk over her. Her response in Shame For You, a swaggering bluesy number dripping in attitude, is one of the best lines in recent popular music: “Oh my gosh you must be joking me/If you think that you’ll be poking me”.
It should go without stating that a key part of the appeal is the language the line is delivered in.
In the delightful Everything’s Just Wonderful, Allen sings about the drag of life for ordinary people.
She sings of being unable to get a mortgage (“It's very funny coz I got your fucking money/And I'm never gonna get it just coz of my bad credit”) and the pressures on young women to lose weight (“In the magazines they talk about weight lose/If I buy those jeans I could look like Kate Moss”).
The result? “Oh jesus christ almighty/Do I feel alright, no not slightly”.
And really, we don’t in this society. That’s why we have booze. And now the bastards try to attack us when we use that to kill the pain!
Allen’s popularity rests in no small part on delivering these sorts of lines, capturing the lives of ordinary people with wit.
Of course, success brings with it the contradiction that success increasingly removes Allen from these conditions. But that is a real contradiction of the capitalist music industry.
You can already sense it having an impact in her second album It’s Not Me, It’s You. It combines more purely personal songs with some general swipes at society as a whole, which work or don’t to varying degrees.
(The Fear is Allen at her best, letting her ironic wit off the leash in a biting picture of society in the grips of empty consumerism with lines like: “I want lots of clothes and a fuckload of diamonds/I hear people die while they’re trying to find them”. All delivered with a sweetly innocent smile.)
But, on the whole, Allen was better singing about getting drunk at the pub and dealing with unwanted attention by men trying to pick her up (Knock 'Em Out).
And it is for that attitude and stance of unashamed defence of the right to drink and have fun, with no attempt to hide it by someone in a position to be a real role model for our youth, that Lily Allen has been honoured with Carlo Sands’ Person of the Year award for two years running.
As opposed to the Hoff or Charlie Sheen or Tiger Woods. All of whose stance is the exact opposite.
“What the fuck do you know? Just cos you’re old you think your wise. But who the hell are you though? I didn’t even ask for your advice. You wanna keep your mouth shut, you wanna take your thoughts elsewhere. Cos you’re doing in my nut, and do you think I care?” — Lily Allen responds to critics of the decision to award her the 2009 Carlo Sands’ Person of the Year for Services in the Advance of Humanity and General Drunkenness