In his old age, they tried to get the actor Robert Mitchum to quit drinking. They dragged his ass to the Betty Ford Clinic and dried him out. He bristled at the new-agey, feel-good bromides about sobriety and the make-work routine of doing your own laundry and other humbling exercises. He thought it was horse shit. Before he left the place, he walked out to the pool with a Chesterfield dangling from the corner of his mouth, his perpetually hooded eyes squinting in the sunlight and stood at the deep end of the pool. He unzipped and arced a high sticky piss into the pool.
This was a sign he was ready to leave.
A friend picked him up from the clinic and he proceeded to drive Mitchum home down Sunset Boulevard. When they got to the pink edifice of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Mitchum instructed him to pull in. Mitchum ambled into the Polo Lounge and ordered a tall scotch on the rocks. Drinking it down in one prodigious sip, Mitchum fired up a Chesterfield, looked at his friend and said, “Fuck ’em all.”
My pal, John McNaughton, loves to relay this story about the great Mitchum whenever he tells me about Mitch’s autobiography, Baby, I Don’t Care. And boy, he didn’t. Part of his effortless presence was his refusal to do anything as obvious as act–Mitchum embodied.
With easy charm, rakish good looks and a world-weary, wise-ass verbal style, he was cooler than Brando. No method dogshit for him. His own physicality and aura were enough. He didn’t give a fuck. And every day of his life, the wise American male wishes he were more like Mitchum.
I know I do.