A Bailey’s for breakfast, 12 bottles of champers on a flight & 20 pints of Guinness a day
EXCLUSIVE: THE CRAFTY COCKNEY IN HIS OWN WORDS:
FOR years, Eric Bristow was at the top of his darts game, playing for England and ranked World No.1 a record six times between 1980 and 1990.
The star, who died on Thursday after a heart attack, aged 60, also won five World Masters titles and was made an MBE for services to sport in 1989.
Here, in extracts from his autobiography Eric Bristow: The Crafty Cockney, he recalls three-day benders with teammates and the wilder side of the sport...
By the time I was playing for England I was with the proper boys, hardcore boys who could drink. I’m a boozer, I like a drink, and I have drunk with the best but when it came to an important darts tournament I’d say no.
I wouldn’t get drunk in the week leading up to the tournament. And I know when to stop. But very occasionally I would get caught out and the man who caught me out was Cliff Lazarenko.
Big Cliff, as he is known, is a twotimes winner of the British Open and a four-times World Championship semifinalist but perhaps his biggest claim to fame is his prodigious drinking ability.
Cliff caught me on my way to the Canadian Open with him. It was 24 hours I’ll never forget but find hard to remember. We’d been upgraded to first class, sitting in luxury for the 12-hour flight, and the champagne came out.
I already knew I was going to be in a bit of trouble because we’d had four or five pints in the airport bar. But off we went and it was champagne, champagne, champagne.
Then we got the meal and there was more champagne, champagne, champagne. Then they ran out. We’d gone through all 12 bottles on board.
So Cliff starts ordering drink after drink after drink. Cointreau, Bailey’s on ice, then Southern Comfort.
All I could think when the plane touched down was how the hell was I going to get through customs, because I was smashed. I was in the toilet splashing my face with cold water in a desperate bid to sober up.
I could feel the alcohol literally swimming around my brain. I was seeing double and when I said goodbye to the stewardess the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I just grinned at her like an idiot. Fortunately, I managed to get through customs.
As we reached the hotel in our taxi Cliff said, ‘Right, upstairs, quick wash and a change and I’ll see you in the bar, Brissy, in 25 minutes.’ ‘Right,’ I slurred.
I had a quick shower, put my shirt on, put my darts in the top pocket and I was downstairs. It was still only seven in the evening. We had a couple in the hotel bar, then we went for a throw in a nearby British Legion. Those couple of beers in the hotel had topped me right up again. I was wrecked. I ordered a pint and stood at the oche.
We went back to the bar, then we went to a rock bar, followed by a couple more late-night bars and had a few more drinks, by which time I was having trouble standing up.
I’d completely lost it: I didn’t know what day it was, I didn’t know where we were, what country we were in, or anything.
We finally arrived in a bar which had 18 optics lined up, all different spirits. We had vodka and something, brandy and something else, whisky, gin, rum, Bacardi... and on it went until we had done the lot: 18 rounds of 18 different drinks, all big measures compared to what you’re served back in England.
There was an Indian open nearby. I don’t remember anything about this at all but I do remember waking up the next morning to go to the toilet and seeing this half-eaten curry on a chair.
I don’t remember buying it or eating it and I can’t believe I managed to get back to my room, but it was there on the chair. And it stayed there for another day and a half because for the next 36 hours I couldn’t get out of bed.
I had alcohol poisoning and was shaking like a dog. Looking back, I
I could feel the alcohol swimming around my brain... I had alcohol poisoning
should’ve gone to hospital but I dealt with it in my room – it was just water, water, water, one glass after the other. I did the same in Las Vegas a few years later. I had caught the gambling bug and was at the tables for 28 hours drinking White Russians one after the other – but I won $12,000 so it didn’t matter.
When I’d finished I went to bed and passed out – another day and a half gone.
Cliff got me again, years later, in a TV tournament in Scotland.
We both missed our darts for the double and victory, and were knocked out. We were gutted and hit the bar where he started ordering large Southern Comforts.
I don’t really do spirits; I never really have done. The next day the shaking dog was back and I couldn’t move. I never tried to match him drink for drink again after that.
It took me days to recover from those benders and even when I thought I was over the hangover and the poisoning I didn’t feel right for a good 72 hours.
It spoiled the darts really, because it was only when I flew home that I started to feel normal again. I wonder sometimes how my liver didn’t pack in.
I could’ve died in bed and they’d have done the autopsy, opened me up and thought, ‘This geezer deserved to die’. The killers were the American tournaments, which started at 10 in the morning and finished at two the next morning.
At two o’clock you’d have a few beers, be in bed for about three or four, and then up and ready for the next day’s play which started at 10 and off you went again, playing darts round the clock until two the next morning.
If you were good it would be a straight 16-hour shift; no food, just drinking, drinking, drinking, bed and up at eight to have breakfast.
You’d start breakfast with a Bailey’s in your coffee to steady the shakes from the night before. Then you’d have a couple of drinks before you got ready at 10 to steady the nerves.
The adrenaline rush used to pull me through but as soon as the last dart was thrown on a Sunday night to signal the end of the tournament it was like, ‘Urgh! Thank Christ for that, it’s over’.
The game has changed so much since I started out. That’s the trouble with having been a darts baby: I look back and all my friends of yesteryear who I played with are gone.
The way I’ve lived my life I should’ve been gone long ago but I’ll continue plodding on, drinking, smoking, eating curries and probably getting in trouble with the law once or twice.
I might even throw the odd dart or two.
Extracted by Rhian Lubin from Eric Bristow: The Crafty Cockney, © Eric Bristow 2008, Published by Century, an imprint of The Random House Group Limited.
BOOZE BROTHERS In Blackpool with Cliff Lazarenko and Jocky Wilson
REFUELLING Bristow sups pint during 1981 match
DARTS LEGEND Eric Bristow, 60, died on Thursday
RAISING THE BAR Eric at his White Swan pub in Leek BAD HABITS Eric was a heavy smoker and drinker