The Guinness Book of World Records, the bible of all things excessive doesn’t list some excesses – like massive consumption of alcohol. Obviously they don’t want to encourage people to pursue a pastime that millions of people worldwide practice daily. But we can’t – and won’t – ignore masters of the mighty keg; beer drinkers who amaze with their astonishing ability to down vast quantities of suds and still stand – barely. And those who rarely touched beer but certainly prodigiously consumed other alcoholic beverages. We will be visiting a few famous names in our visits to various watering holes in our completely exhaustive series of legendary drinkers. But the undisputed number one spot goes to……Andre The Giant.
Born Andre Rene Rousimoff, for two decades, from the late 1960s through the mid 1980s, Andre the Giant was the highest paid professional wrestler in the business and a household name across the globe. Promoters fought tooth and nail to book Andre, as his presence on a card all but a guaranteed a sell-out. Fans cheered his every move, and mobbed him on the street like a rock star.
For proof of his drawing power, look no further than Wrestlemania III in 1987. The main event was Andre vs. Hulk Hogan. The show drew the first million-dollar gate in wrestling history, set a pay-per-view record that lasted a decade, and set the all-time indoor attendance record for any live event ever—78,000+ butts in seats at the Pontiac Silver Dome in Detroit—destroying the previous record set by some rock band called the Rolling Stones. His rematch with Hogan two months later, broadcast live on NBC, attracted 33 million viewers, making it the most watched wrestling match ever.
Known to his friends simply as “Giant” or “Boss,” Andre was born on May 19th, 1946, in Grenoble, France, the child of Russian immigrants. Shortly after his birth, he was diagnosed with a rare glandular disease, acromegaly, which caused his body to over-produce growth hormones. As a result, Andre grew to a height of somewhere between 6’11” and 7’5” and a weight of over 500 pounds (his actual height and weight have been speculated about for decades—the business is notorious for inflating wrestlers’ statistics—but Andre’s illness sometimes made him slouch or bow his shoulders, so he might well have been the advertised 7’5”). He first wrestled as Andre the Butcher, but it was Vincent J. McMahon Sr., owner of New York’s World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), who christened him “Andre the Giant.”
While it can be argued that a miniscule handful of professional wrestlers matched Andre’s in-ring achievements (Gorgeous George back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, perhaps; Dusty Rhodes in the ‘70s, and Hulk Hogan, without a doubt, in the ‘80s), no other wrestler ever matched his exploits as a drunkard. In fact, no other human has ever matched Andre as a drinker. He is the zenith. He is the Mount Everest of inebriation.
As far as great drunkards go, there is Andre the Giant, and then there is everyone else.
Here’s Rob Reiner with an amusing story about Andre the Giant
To be continued……..