Bris­tow

A Bai­ley’s for break­fast, 12 bot­tles of cham­pers on a flight & 20 pints of Guin­ness a day

Daily Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIC BRIS­TOW rhian.lu­bin@mir­ror.co.uk

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

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