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A Drinking Life: A Memoir by Pete Hamill

By Pete Hamill

A journalist and writer of Loving ladies recreates the hard-drinking Brooklyn-Irish way of life that trained each element of his adolescence and early occupation and that finally destroyed his marriage.

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And not only did I have to become the role of Nelle Porter, I also had to play the role of a celebrity. But what did celebrities do? Did they go to parties, get spray-tanned, become philanthropic? Did they get their hair and makeup done when they went to the supermarket? Did they go to the supermarket at all? Becoming a celebrity felt like a promotion to me. The problem with thinking that being a famous actress was an upgrade from being just an actress was that I wasn舗t given a new job description.

As I shook the hand of the makeup artist, Sarah, and looked her in the eyes, I registered her pupils dilating to begin their scan across my face. Could she see imperfections? Discoloration? Makeup? 舡 The question was straightforward, but her tone was slightly incredulous. Enough to make me feel very embarrassed. 舡 When attacked, defend by lying. 舠Sit down. Let舗s get started. 舡 舠No. You舗re the expert. 舡 The truth was, I wasn舗t so sure. Practically every time I sat in a makeup chair, I舗d look worse at the end than I did before we started.

Standing by his side in the role of his wife, I could run away from myself. But as his van drove away from our California bungalow with its white picket fence, it became clearer with the increasing distance between me and the back of that van that I was, for the first time in my life, free to explore those real desires. The shield had been ripped from me, and standing in the middle of a suburban street in Santa Monica with new skin and gasping for air, I realized that as his van turned the corner, so would I.

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