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Dennis Burt after too much to drink
Picture from the collection of Dennis Burt
Original Caption: 1940s Too much to drink
Copyright Gary Burt 2013
Many thanks to Gary for providing us with these photos from his father's collection.
Sipowicz was a New York City police detective working in the detective squad of the fictitious 15th Precinct of the NYPD, placed on the lower east side of Manhattan.  He was a major character of the show during its twelve-year run, and the only one to have been a regular cast member in every episode. (Detective Greg Medavoy (Gordon Clapp) did not appear until episode 3 of the first season and did not become a regular until the start of season 2.)
In October 2018, creators Jesse Bochco, Matt Olmstead, and Nick Wootton revealed that the pilot for an NYPD Blue sequel was in production.  The sequel will focus on Andy Sipowicz's son Theo, who has joined the police department and earns promotion to detective while trying to solve the murder of his father. 
Jason Gay of The Boston Phoenix described Sipowicz as a "drunken, racist goon with a heart of gold" who was "the moral core" of NYPD Blue. In 1997, he described Sipowicz as becoming "sobered up" but said Sipowicz "won't ever go totally soft." Gay describes Dennis Franz as adding "underrated, edgy mixture of grit and sensitivity" to Sipowicz. 
According to a second-season episode aired in 1995, Sipowicz was about to celebrate his 47th birthday on April 7, implying he was born in 1948. He is from Brooklyn, where his father, a World War II veteran of Polish-American ancestry who worked as a meter reader for ConEd, originally raised the family in temporary Quonset housing. At some time in the mid-1950s, Andy's father moved the family to a new, mostly white housing project in which he was able to purchase a federally subsidized apartment. Subsequently, the neighborhood became more diverse and a young Andy was frequently in verbal and physical conflict with his black peers. Andy worked in a local candy store as a boy, later returning under sad conditions when a son of the shop owners organized a robbery that led to his mother's death. His father was an alcoholic whose frequent drunkenness cost him his job as a meter reader. He defiantly returned to finish his route after dark, but was hit in the head with a hammer by a black man who mistook him for a burglar, causing him to lose one eye. He claimed that the black man had tried to rob him Andy grew up hearing the story, which was the basis for his racism. In season 6, however, he realizes that his father was lying about the circumstances of the incident, and begins to question the values he was raised with.
Before becoming a policeman, Sipowicz served in the U.S. Marine Corps, including an 18-month tour in Vietnam beginning in either 1968 that he did not talk much about, although it is an underlying theme in the show. He once became incensed when an obnoxious fellow cop named Sgt. Ray Kahlins, also a Vietnam veteran, lied about being in combat, and told Kahlins he could lie to his heart's content about anything else, but not about his Vietnam War service. In 1970,  he joined the NYPD "right out of 'Nam" (as referenced in episode 4 of season 4). While in uniform, Sipowicz was partnered with Kurt Kreizer and served under Al Angelotti, then a sergeant, in the 25th precinct. One of his early police assignments was infiltrating the Black Panthers organization and posing as a white leftist radical. These events accentuated his already-developing racist tendencies.
In 1979, Sipowicz received the gold shield of Detective Third Grade (the "beginning" rank) and briefly worked in the Robbery Squad at the 28th Precinct alongside John Clark Sr., before transferring back as a detective to the 15th, where he previously worked as a uniformed officer  He was promoted to Second Grade at an unknown time prior to the start of the series in fall 1993, and was promoted to First Grade in late 2001.
Like many television characters on New York-set police shows, Sipowicz takes advantage of an NYPD regulation allowing officers who were on the force prior to 1993 to carry a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson Model 36 five-shot revolver as his main sidearm. Police who were hired in 1993 or later use one of three models of semi-automatic 9mm pistols. This is accurately reflected in depictions of Sipowicz's younger colleagues.
Based on information revealed in various episodes cited above, the timeline of Sipowicz's career can be fairly accurately assembled:
- 1948 - Born in Brooklyn, NY
- 1966 - Drafted into the U.S. Marines
- 1967 - Begins 18-month tour of active duty in Vietnam
- 1969 - Returns to New York and enrolls in police force. As an anti-crime trainee, is immediately assigned to infiltrate the Black Panthers undercover as a white radical.
- 1970 - Completes the police academy and begins normal uniformed police work at Manhattan's 25th precinct.
- 1972 - Marries Katie, a lifelong office employee at AT&T/NYNEX
- 1973 - Birth of Andy Jr. In Andy's later self-estimation, his alcoholism first became an active problem in this year.
- 1977 - Reassigned to the 15th precinct
- Early 1979 - Earns promotion to Detective Third Grade and assigned to the Robbery Squad working out of the 28th precinct has a series of bad interactions with his colleague John Clark Sr.
- Late 1979 - Transfers to the 15th Detective Squad with homicide investigations as primary responsibility partnered with Joe Brockhurst
- 1983 - Due to the effects of his increasing alcoholism, divorces Katie and no longer has contact with Andy Jr. for the next eight years.
- Mid-80s - Earns promotion to Detective Second Grade
- 1986 - Begins partnership with John Kelly
- 1990 - A brief attempt at rekindling a relationship with Andy Jr. does not work out. Katie and Andy Jr. move to an apartment in north New Jersey and do not have personal contact with Andy for another three years.
- 1992 - Assigned new direct superior, Lieutenant Arthur Fancy. Sipowicz's first time working under an African-American boss and a boss who will not look the other way on his drinking.
- Fall 1993 - Nearly dies after being shot by Alphonse Giardello given an ultimatum to change his behavior or be forced out of the police department by Lt. Fancy stops drinking reconciles with Andy Jr.
- Fall 1994 - Andy begins attending formal Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. John Kelly forced out of department Andy partnered with Bobby Simone
- Spring 1995 - Marries Sylvia Costas
- Spring 1996 - Birth of Theo death of Andy Jr., Andy relapses for the second and final time since beginning recovery in 1993 and from this point on does not use alcohol for the rest of his life
- First week of December 1998 - Death of Bobby
- January 1999- Andy partnered with Danny Sorenson
- Spring 1999 - Death of Sylvia
- Summer 2001 - Disappearance of Danny (later revealed to have been killed) Andy partnered with John Clark Jr.
- Fall 2001 - Promoted to Detective First Grade
- Spring 2003 - Moves in with Connie McDowell and adopts Connie's biological niece Michelle
- Fall 2003 - Marries Connie
- Spring 2004 - Birth to Connie of Andy's fourth child, third biological child, and second surviving biological child, Matthew
- Spring 2005 - Promoted to Sergeant and given command of 15th Detective Squad, expresses intention to remain in this role until planned retirement in 2010
In the first season of NYPD Blue, Sipowicz's partner is John Kelly, who leaves the force in 1994 after withholding evidence in a murder investigation of his lover Janice Licalsi. After Kelly's resignation, Bobby Simone becomes Sipowicz's partner. They soon become best friends Sipowicz is devastated when Simone dies of a heart infection. In 1994, Andy begins to date Assistant District Attorney Sylvia Costas, with whom he previously clashed due to professional differences (Sipowicz calls her a "pissy little bitch" in the pilot episode). They get married in 1995 and have a son, Theo, in 1996.
Andy was married to Katie Sipowicz for 11 years and they had a son, Andy Jr. (born 1973). However, by 1993 both his ex-wife and son were estranged from him, due to his heavy drinking, and his job is perpetually in jeopardy due to the effects of his alcoholism and his increasingly outdated bigoted attitudes. In the spring of 1992  the 15th squad, where Sipowicz has been a detective for just over 12 years, receives a new commander, the straitlaced African-American lieutenant Arthur Fancy, who has little patience for Sipowicz's racism, sloppy personal habits, and rogue tendencies. In the show's pilot episode, after being shot six times in an ambush by a mobster named Alphonse Giardella and almost dying, Sipowicz decides to change his life. He stops drinking, focuses on the job, and rebuilds his relationship with his son. Fancy states outright that he was prepared to have Sipowicz removed from the force on the day of his shooting and only gives him another chance, starting with restricted desk duty, because of the incident.
On his route to becoming a better man, Sipowicz struggles to overcome his bigotry with the help of his partner Bobby Simone, he and Fancy continue to have beefs but always resolve them. He also eventually comes to terms with his homophobia, mainly due to his initially grudging friendship with precinct Police Administrative Assistant John Irvin. With the birth of his second son, Sipowicz's life seems to be going well. However, a series of devastating personal tragedies over the next few years arise: in May 1996, Andy Jr., who is about to start work as a policeman in Hackensack, New Jersey, is shot and killed while trying to stop a robbery. The shooting sends Andy Sr. into an alcoholic relapse, during which Sylvia briefly throws him out of the house. In November 1998, Bobby Simone dies of an infection caused by heart transplant complications, and less than a year later in May 1999, Sylvia is accidentally killed by the distraught father of PAA Dolores Mayo (whose killer she had been prosecuting) outside the courtroom. This is then followed by the disappearance and subsequent murder of Simone's successor Danny Sorenson during an undercover assignment in 2001. He also survives a serious bout with prostate cancer in 1998. With the exception of Andy Jr.'s death, however, Sipowicz remains sober in the face of all of these tragedies. He also has to deal with the fact that he had been instrumental in putting an innocent black man in prison for 18 years for the murder of a teenager, remembering that he had no experience as a detective and deferred to a lazy veteran cop. He is the only cop to apologize when the man is released (he learns that the perpetrator was a white man who later died of a drug overdose, and while Sipowicz and the now-retired veteran cop basically knew he'd been murdered, the end result of the case was left unresolved).
In 2003, Sipowicz marries for the third time, this time to a fellow detective named Connie McDowell, who had recently joined the squad. The year before, Connie's pregnant sister is killed by her abusive husband. The baby survives, so Connie and Sipowicz take custody of the child and name her Michelle, after her mother. Soon after, Connie, who had believed she could not have children due to scarring of her Fallopian tubes, becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby boy named Matthew. With two infants to raise, Connie resigns from the police force to be a stay-at-home mother. Later that year, Sipowicz overcomes a personality clash with new Lt. Thomas Bale, is promoted to sergeant, and persuades a reluctant chief of detectives to name him the new squad commander.
In 1999, TV Guide ranked him # 23 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list. 
What Is Hangover Chest Pain?
Severe chest pain after drinking alcohol can be attributed to numerous causes. Many might consider chest pains after drinking alcohol as a complication of booze intake. The fact is that the alcohol might just be a trigger for a predominant disease in hiding. Hangover upper body ache can generally be defined as any form of ache experienced in the chest after rounds of alcoholic beverages. Whether the pain is experienced a few hours after drinking or after a 2-day hangover, it is still a health threat. Let’s take a look at probable causes.
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But even presuming that this story of natural selection is right, it doesn’t explain why, 10 million years later, I like wine so much. “It should puzzle us more than it does,” Edward Slingerland writes in his wide-ranging and provocative new book, Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, “that one of the greatest foci of human ingenuity and concentrated effort over the past millennia has been the problem of how to get drunk.” The damage done by alcohol is profound: impaired cognition and motor skills, belligerence, injury, and vulnerability to all sorts of predation in the short run damaged livers and brains, dysfunction, addiction, and early death as years of heavy drinking pile up. As the importance of alcohol as a caloric stopgap diminished, why didn’t evolution eventually lead us away from drinking—say, by favoring genotypes associated with hating alcohol’s taste? That it didn’t suggests that alcohol’s harms were, over the long haul, outweighed by some serious advantages.
Versions of this idea have recently bubbled up at academic conferences and in scholarly journals and anthologies (largely to the credit of the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar). Drunk helpfully synthesizes the literature, then underlines its most radical implication: Humans aren’t merely built to get buzzed—getting buzzed helped humans build civilization. Slingerland is not unmindful of alcohol’s dark side, and his exploration of when and why its harms outweigh its benefits will unsettle some American drinkers. Still, he describes the book as “a holistic defense of alcohol.” And he announces, early on, that “it might actually be good for us to tie one on now and then.”
Slingerland is a professor at the University of British Columbia who, for most of his career, has specialized in ancient Chinese religion and philosophy. In a conversation this spring, I remarked that it seemed odd that he had just devoted several years of his life to a subject so far outside his wheelhouse. He replied that alcohol isn’t quite the departure from his specialty that it might seem as he has recently come to see things, intoxication and religion are parallel puzzles, interesting for very similar reasons. As far back as his graduate work at Stanford in the 1990s, he’d found it bizarre that across all cultures and time periods, humans went to such extraordinary (and frequently painful and expensive) lengths to please invisible beings.
In 2012, Slingerland and several scholars in other fields won a big grant to study religion from an evolutionary perspective. In the years since, they have argued that religion helped humans cooperate on a much larger scale than they had as hunter-gatherers. Belief in moralistic, punitive gods, for example, might have discouraged behaviors (stealing, say, or murder) that make it hard to peacefully coexist. In turn, groups with such beliefs would have had greater solidarity, allowing them to outcompete or absorb other groups.
Around the same time, Slingerland published a social-science-heavy self-help book called Trying Not to Try. In it, he argued that the ancient Taoist concept of wu-wei (akin to what we now call “flow”) could help with both the demands of modern life and the more eternal challenge of dealing with other people. Intoxicants, he pointed out in passing, offer a chemical shortcut to wu-wei—by suppressing our conscious mind, they can unleash creativity and also make us more sociable.
At a talk he later gave on wu-wei at Google, Slingerland made much the same point about intoxication. During the Q&A, someone in the audience told him about the Ballmer Peak—the notion, named after the former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, that alcohol can affect programming ability. Drink a certain amount, and it gets better. Drink too much, and it goes to hell. Some programmers have been rumored to hook themselves up to alcohol-filled IV drips in hopes of hovering at the curve’s apex for an extended time.
His hosts later took him over to the “whiskey room,” a lounge with a foosball table and what Slingerland described to me as “a blow-your-mind collection of single-malt Scotches.” The lounge was there, they said, to provide liquid inspiration to coders who had hit a creative wall. Engineers could pour themselves a Scotch, sink into a beanbag chair, and chat with whoever else happened to be around. They said doing so helped them to get mentally unstuck, to collaborate, to notice new connections. At that moment, something clicked for Slingerland too: “I started to think, Alcohol is really this very useful cultural tool.” Both its social lubrications and its creativity-enhancing aspects might play real roles in human society, he mused, and might possibly have been involved in its formation.
He belatedly realized how much the arrival of a pub a few years earlier on the UBC campus had transformed his professional life. “We started meeting there on Fridays, on our way home,” he told me. “Psychologists, economists, archaeologists—we had nothing in common—shooting the shit over some beers.” The drinks provided just enough disinhibition to get conversation flowing. A fascinating set of exchanges about religion unfolded. Without them, Slingerland doubts that he would have begun exploring religion’s evolutionary functions, much less have written Drunk.
Which came first, the bread or the beer? For a long time, most archaeologists assumed that hunger for bread was the thing that got people to settle down and cooperate and have themselves an agricultural revolution. In this version of events, the discovery of brewing came later—an unexpected bonus. But lately, more scholars have started to take seriously the possibility that beer brought us together. (Though beer may not be quite the word. Prehistoric alcohol would have been more like a fermented soup of whatever was growing nearby.)
For the past 25 years, archaeologists have been working to uncover the ruins of Göbekli Tepe, a temple in eastern Turkey. It dates to about 10,000 B.C.—making it about twice as old as Stonehenge. It is made of enormous slabs of rock that would have required hundreds of people to haul from a nearby quarry. As far as archaeologists can tell, no one lived there. No one farmed there. What people did there was party. “The remains of what appear to be brewing vats, combined with images of festivals and dancing, suggest that people were gathering in groups, fermenting grain or grapes,” Slingerland writes, “and then getting truly hammered.”
Over the decades, scientists have proposed many theories as to why we still drink alcohol, despite its harms and despite millions of years having passed since our ancestors’ drunken scavenging. Some suggest that it must have had some interim purpose it’s since outlived. (For example, maybe it was safer to drink than untreated water—fermentation kills pathogens.) Slingerland questions most of these explanations. Boiling water is simpler than making beer, for instance.
Göbekli Tepe—and other archaeological finds indicating very early alcohol use—gets us closer to a satisfying explanation. The site’s architecture lets us visualize, vividly, the magnetic role that alcohol might have played for prehistoric peoples. As Slingerland imagines it, the promise of food and drink would have lured hunter-gatherers from all directions, in numbers great enough to move gigantic pillars. Once built, both the temple and the revels it was home to would have lent organizers authority, and participants a sense of community. “Periodic alcohol-fueled feasts,” he writes, “served as a kind of ‘glue’ holding together the culture that created Göbekli Tepe.”
Things were likely more complicated than that. Coercion, not just inebriated cooperation, probably played a part in the construction of early architectural sites, and in the maintenance of order in early societies. Still, cohesion would have been essential, and this is the core of Slingerland’s argument: Bonding is necessary to human society, and alcohol has been an essential means of our bonding. Compare us with our competitive, fractious chimpanzee cousins. Placing hundreds of unrelated chimps in close quarters for several hours would result in “blood and dismembered body parts,” Slingerland notes—not a party with dancing, and definitely not collaborative stone-lugging. Human civilization requires “individual and collective creativity, intensive cooperation, a tolerance for strangers and crowds, and a degree of openness and trust that is entirely unmatched among our closest primate relatives.” It requires us not only to put up with one another, but to become allies and friends.
As to how alcohol assists with that process, Slingerland focuses mostly on its suppression of prefrontal-cortex activity, and how resulting disinhibition may allow us to reach a more playful, trusting, childlike state. Other important social benefits may derive from endorphins, which have a key role in social bonding. Like many things that bring humans together—laughter, dancing, singing, storytelling, sex, religious rituals—drinking triggers their release. Slingerland observes a virtuous circle here: Alcohol doesn’t merely unleash a flood of endorphins that promote bonding by reducing our inhibitions, it nudges us to do other things that trigger endorphins and bonding.
Over time, groups that drank together would have cohered and flourished, dominating smaller groups—much like the ones that prayed together. Moments of slightly buzzed creativity and subsequent innovation might have given them further advantage still. In the end, the theory goes, the drunk tribes beat the sober ones.
But this rosy story about how alcohol made more friendships and advanced civilization comes with two enormous asterisks: All of that was before the advent of liquor, and before humans started regularly drinking alone.
Photograph by Chelsea Kyle Prop Stylist: Amy Elise Wilson Food Stylist: Sue Li
The early Greeks watered down their wine swilling it full-strength was, they believed, barbaric—a recipe for chaos and violence. “They would have been absolutely horrified by the potential for chaos contained in a bottle of brandy,” Slingerland writes. Human beings, he notes, “are apes built to drink, but not 100-proof vodka. We are also not well equipped to control our drinking without social help.”
Distilled alcohol is recent—it became widespread in China in the 13th century and in Europe from the 16th to 18th centuries—and a different beast from what came before it. Fallen grapes that have fermented on the ground are about 3 percent alcohol by volume. Beer and wine run about 5 and 11 percent, respectively. At these levels, unless people are strenuously trying, they rarely manage to drink enough to pass out, let alone die. Modern liquor, however, is 40 to 50 percent alcohol by volume, making it easy to blow right past a pleasant social buzz and into all sorts of tragic outcomes.
Just as people were learning to love their gin and whiskey, more of them (especially in parts of Europe and North America) started drinking outside of family meals and social gatherings. As the Industrial Revolution raged, alcohol use became less leisurely. Drinking establishments suddenly started to feature the long counters that we associate with the word bar today, enabling people to drink on the go, rather than around a table with other drinkers. This short move across the barroom reflects a fairly dramatic break from tradition: According to anthropologists, in nearly every era and society, solitary drinking had been almost unheard‑of among humans.
The social context of drinking turns out to matter quite a lot to how alcohol affects us psychologically. Although we tend to think of alcohol as reducing anxiety, it doesn’t do so uniformly. As Michael Sayette, a leading alcohol researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, recently told me, if you packaged alcohol as an anti-anxiety serum and submitted it to the FDA, it would never be approved. He and his onetime graduate student Kasey Creswell, a Carnegie Mellon professor who studies solitary drinking, have come to believe that one key to understanding drinking’s uneven effects may be the presence of other people. Having combed through decades’ worth of literature, Creswell reports that in the rare experiments that have compared social and solitary alcohol use, drinking with others tends to spark joy and even euphoria, while drinking alone elicits neither—if anything, solo drinkers get more depressed as they drink.
Sayette, for his part, has spent much of the past 20 years trying to get to the bottom of a related question: why social drinking can be so rewarding. In a 2012 study, he and Creswell divided 720 strangers into groups, then served some groups vodka cocktails and other groups nonalcoholic cocktails. Compared with people who were served nonalcoholic drinks, the drinkers appeared significantly happier, according to a range of objective measures. Maybe more important, they vibed with one another in distinctive ways. They experienced what Sayette calls “golden moments,” smiling genuinely and simultaneously at one another. Their conversations flowed more easily, and their happiness appeared infectious. Alcohol, in other words, helped them enjoy one another more.
This research might also shed light on another mystery: why, in a number of large-scale surveys, people who drink lightly or moderately are happier and psychologically healthier than those who abstain. Robin Dunbar, the anthropologist, examined this question directly in a large study of British adults and their drinking habits. He reports that those who regularly visit pubs are happier and more fulfilled than those who don’t—not because they drink, but because they have more friends. And he demonstrates that it’s typically the pub-going that leads to more friends, rather than the other way around. Social drinking, too, can cause problems, of course—and set people on a path to alcohol-use disorder. (Sayette’s research focuses in part on how that happens, and why some extroverts, for example, may find alcohol’s social benefits especially hard to resist.) But solitary drinking—even with one’s family somewhere in the background—is uniquely pernicious because it serves up all the risks of alcohol without any of its social perks. Divorced from life’s shared routines, drinking becomes something akin to an escape from life.
Southern Europe’s healthy drinking culture is hardly news, but its attributes are striking enough to bear revisiting: Despite widespread consumption of alcohol, Italy has some of the lowest rates of alcoholism in the world. Its residents drink mostly wine and beer, and almost exclusively over meals with other people. When liquor is consumed, it’s usually in small quantities, either right before or after a meal. Alcohol is seen as a food, not a drug. Drinking to get drunk is discouraged, as is drinking alone. The way Italians drink today may not be quite the way premodern people drank, but it likewise accentuates alcohol’s benefits and helps limit its harms. It is also, Slingerland told me, about as far as you can get from the way many people drink in the United States.
Americans may not have invented binge drinking, but we have a solid claim to bingeing alone, which was almost unheard-of in the Old World. During the early 19th century, solitary binges became common enough to need a name, so Americans started calling them “sprees” or “frolics”—words that sound a lot happier than the lonely one-to-three-day benders they described.
In his 1979 history, The Alcoholic Republic, the historian W. J. Rorabaugh painstakingly calculated the stunning amount of alcohol early Americans drank on a daily basis. In 1830, when American liquor consumption hit its all-time high, the average adult was going through more than nine gallons of spirits each year. Most of this was in the form of whiskey (which, thanks to grain surpluses, was sometimes cheaper than milk), and most of it was drunk at home. And this came on top of early Americans’ other favorite drink, homemade cider. Many people, including children, drank cider at every meal a family could easily go through a barrel a week. In short, Americans of the early 1800s were rarely in a state that could be described as sober, and a lot of the time, they were drinking to get drunk.
Rorabaugh argued that this longing for oblivion resulted from America’s almost unprecedented pace of change between 1790 and 1830. Thanks to rapid westward migration in the years before railroads, canals, and steamboats, he wrote, “more Americans lived in isolation and independence than ever before or since.” In the more densely populated East, meanwhile, the old social hierarchies evaporated, cities mushroomed, and industrialization upended the labor market, leading to profound social dislocation and a mismatch between skills and jobs. The resulting epidemics of loneliness and anxiety, he concluded, led people to numb their pain with alcohol.
The temperance movement that took off in the decades that followed was a more rational (and multifaceted) response to all of this than it tends to look like in the rearview mirror. Rather than pushing for full prohibition, many advocates supported some combination of personal moderation, bans on liquor, and regulation of those who profited off alcohol. Nor was temperance a peculiarly American obsession. As Mark Lawrence Schrad shows in his new book, Smashing the Liquor Machine: A Global History of Prohibition, concerns about distilled liquor’s impact were international: As many as two dozen countries enacted some form of prohibition.
Yet the version that went into effect in 1920 in the United States was by far the most sweeping approach adopted by any country, and the most famous example of the all-or-nothing approach to alcohol that has dogged us for the past century. Prohibition did, in fact, result in a dramatic reduction in American drinking. In 1935, two years after repeal, per capita alcohol consumption was less than half what it had been early in the century. Rates of cirrhosis had also plummeted, and would remain well below pre-Prohibition levels for decades.
The temperance movement had an even more lasting result: It cleaved the country into tipplers and teetotalers. Drinkers were on average more educated and more affluent than nondrinkers, and also more likely to live in cities or on the coasts. Dry America, meanwhile, was more rural, more southern, more midwestern, more churchgoing, and less educated. To this day, it includes about a third of U.S. adults—a higher proportion of abstainers than in many other Western countries.
What’s more, as Christine Sismondo writes in America Walks Into a Bar, by kicking the party out of saloons, the Eighteenth Amendment had the effect of moving alcohol into the country’s living rooms, where it mostly remained. This is one reason that, even as drinking rates decreased overall, drinking among women became more socially acceptable. Public drinking establishments had long been dominated by men, but home was another matter—as were speakeasies, which tended to be more welcoming.
After Prohibition’s repeal, the alcohol industry refrained from aggressive marketing, especially of liquor. Nonetheless, drinking steadily ticked back up, hitting pre-Prohibition levels in the early ’70s, then surging past them. Around that time, most states lowered their drinking age from 21 to 18 (to follow the change in voting age)—just as the Baby Boomers, the biggest generation to date, were hitting their prime drinking years. For an illustration of what followed, I direct you to the film Dazed and Confused.
Drinking peaked in 1981, at which point—true to form—the country took a long look at the empty beer cans littering the lawn, and collectively recoiled. What followed has been described as an age of neo-temperance. Taxes on alcohol increased warning labels were added to containers. The drinking age went back up to 21, and penalties for drunk driving finally got serious. Awareness of fetal alcohol syndrome rose too—prompting a quintessentially American freak-out: Unlike in Europe, where pregnant women were reassured that light drinking remained safe, those in the U.S. were, and are, essentially warned that a drop of wine could ruin a baby’s life. By the late 1990s, the volume of alcohol consumed annually had declined by a fifth.
And then began the current lurch upward. Around the turn of the millennium, Americans said To hell with it and poured a second drink, and in almost every year since, we’ve drunk a bit more wine and a bit more liquor than the year before. But why?
One answer is that we did what the alcohol industry was spending billions of dollars persuading us to do. In the ’90s, makers of distilled liquor ended their self-imposed ban on TV advertising. They also developed new products that might initiate nondrinkers (think sweet premixed drinks like Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade). Meanwhile, winemakers benefited from the idea, then in wide circulation and since challenged, that moderate wine consumption might be good for you physically. (As Iain Gately reports in Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, in the month after 60 Minutes ran a widely viewed segment on the so-called French paradox—the notion that wine might explain low rates of heart disease in France—U.S. sales of red wine shot up 44 percent.)
But this doesn’t explain why Americans have been so receptive to the sales pitches. Some people have argued that our increased consumption is a response to various stressors that emerged over this period. (Gately, for example, proposes a 9/11 effect—he notes that in 2002, heavy drinking was up 10 percent over the previous year.) This seems closer to the truth. It also may help explain why women account for such a disproportionate share of the recent increase in drinking.
Throughout history, drinking has provided a social and psychological service. At a moment when friendships seem more attenuated than ever, maybe it can do so again.
Although both men and women commonly use alcohol to cope with stressful situations and negative feelings, research finds that women are substantially more likely to do so. And they’re much more apt to be sad and stressed out to begin with: Women are about twice as likely as men to suffer from depression or anxiety disorders—and their overall happiness has fallen substantially in recent decades.
In the 2013 book Her Best-Kept Secret, an exploration of the surge in female drinking, the journalist Gabrielle Glaser recalls noticing, early this century, that women around her were drinking more. Alcohol hadn’t been a big part of mom culture in the ’90s, when her first daughter was young—but by the time her younger children entered school, it was everywhere: “Mothers joked about bringing their flasks to Pasta Night. Flasks? I wondered, at the time. Wasn’t that like Gunsmoke?” (Her quip seems quaint today. A growing class of merchandise now helps women carry concealed alcohol: There are purses with secret pockets, and chunky bracelets that double as flasks, and—perhaps least likely of all to invite close investigation—flasks designed to look like tampons.)
Glaser notes that an earlier rise in women’s drinking, in the 1970s, followed increased female participation in the workforce—and with it the particular stresses of returning home, after work, to attend to the house or the children. She concludes that women are today using alcohol to quell the anxieties associated with “the breathtaking pace of modern economic and social change” as well as with “the loss of the social and family cohesion” enjoyed by previous generations. Almost all of the heavy-drinking women Glaser interviewed drank alone—the bottle of wine while cooking, the Baileys in the morning coffee, the Poland Spring bottle secretly filled with vodka. They did so not to feel good, but to take the edge off feeling bad.
Men still drink more than women, and of course no demographic group has a monopoly on either problem drinking or the stresses that can cause it. The shift in women’s drinking is particularly stark, but unhealthier forms of alcohol use appear to be proliferating in many groups. Even drinking in bars has become less social in recent years, or at least this was a common perception among about three dozen bartenders I surveyed while reporting this article. “I have a few regulars who play games on their phone,” one in San Francisco said, “and I have a standing order to just refill their beer when it’s empty. No eye contact or talking until they are ready to leave.” Striking up conversations with strangers has become almost taboo, many bartenders observed, especially among younger patrons. So why not just drink at home? Spending money to sit in a bar alone and not talk to anyone was, a bartender in Columbus, Ohio, said, an interesting case of “trying to avoid loneliness without actual togetherness.”
Last August, the beer manufacturer Busch launched a new product well timed to the problem of pandemic-era solitary drinking. Dog Brew is bone broth packaged as beer for your pet. “You’ll never drink alone again,” said news articles reporting its debut. It promptly sold out. As for human beverages, though beer sales were down in 2020, continuing their long decline, Americans drank more of everything else, especially spirits and (perhaps the loneliest-sounding drinks of all) premixed, single-serve cocktails, sales of which skyrocketed.
Not everyone consumed more alcohol during the pandemic. Even as some of us (especially women and parents) drank more frequently, others drank less often. But the drinking that increased was, almost definitionally, of the stuck-at-home, sad, too-anxious-to-sleep, can’t-bear-another-day-like-all-the-other-days variety—the kind that has a higher likelihood of setting us up for drinking problems down the line. The drinking that decreased was mostly the good, socially connecting kind. (Zoom drinking—with its not-so-happy hours and first dates doomed to digital purgatory—was neither anesthetizing nor particularly connecting, and deserves its own dreary category.)
As the pandemic eases, we may be nearing an inflection point. My inner optimist imagines a new world in which, reminded of how much we miss joy and fun and other people, we embrace all kinds of socially connecting activities, including eating and drinking together—while also forswearing unhealthy habits we may have acquired in isolation.
But my inner pessimist sees alcohol use continuing in its pandemic vein, more about coping than conviviality. Not all social drinking is good, of course maybe some of it should wane, too (for example, some employers have recently banned alcohol from work events because of concerns about its role in unwanted sexual advances and worse). And yet, if we use alcohol more and more as a private drug, we’ll enjoy fewer of its social benefits, and get a bigger helping of its harms.
Let’s contemplate those harms for a minute. My doctor’s nagging notwithstanding, there is a big, big difference between the kind of drinking that will give you cirrhosis and the kind that a great majority of Americans do. According to an analysis in The Washington Post some years back, to break into the top 10 percent of American drinkers, you needed to drink more than two bottles of wine every night. People in the next decile consumed, on average, 15 drinks a week, and in the one below that, six drinks a week. The first category of drinking is, stating the obvious, very bad for your health. But for people in the third category or edging toward the second, like me, the calculation is more complicated. Physical and mental health are inextricably linked, as is made vivid by the overwhelming quantity of research showing how devastating isolation is to longevity. Stunningly, the health toll of social disconnection is estimated to be equivalent to the toll of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
To be clear, people who don’t want to drink should not drink. There are many wonderful, alcohol-free means of bonding. Drinking, as Edward Slingerland notes, is merely a convenient shortcut to that end. Still, throughout human history, this shortcut has provided a nontrivial social and psychological service. At a moment when friendships seem more attenuated than ever, and loneliness is rampant, maybe it can do so again. For those of us who do want to take the shortcut, Slingerland has some reasonable guidance: Drink only in public, with other people, over a meal—or at least, he says, “under the watchful eye of your local pub’s barkeep.”
After more than a year in relative isolation, we may be closer than we’d like to the wary, socially clumsy strangers who first gathered at Göbekli Tepe. “We get drunk because we are a weird species, the awkward losers of the animal world,” Slingerland writes, “and need all of the help we can get.” For those of us who have emerged from our caves feeling as if we’ve regressed into weird and awkward ways, a standing drinks night with friends might not be the worst idea to come out of 2021.
This article appears in the July/August 2021 print edition with the headline “Drinking Alone.”
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Babjak, Diken, and Mesaros are all from Carteret, New Jersey and graduated from Carteret High School in 1975. In 1980, they formed the band with DiNizio, who was from Scotch Plains, New Jersey.  DiNizio had placed a classified ad in The Aquarian Weekly looking for a drummer to help on a demo tape – Diken answered it, and later introduced his schoolmates Babjak and Mesaros as well. 
The band's name derives from the cartoon character Yosemite Sam who had the expression, "Ya better say your prayers, ya flea-bitten varmint … I’m-a-gonna blow ya to smithereenies!". The Smithereens are known for writing and playing catchy 1960s-influenced power pop. The group gained publicity when the single "Blood and Roses" from its first album was included on the soundtrack for Dangerously Close, and the music video got moderate rotation on MTV. "Blood and Roses" was also featured on the 1980s TV show Miami Vice during the episode 'The Savage' (first aired February 6, 1987).
Along with a basic East coast roots-rock sound that owed much to musicians who inspired DiNizio, including the Who, the Clash, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe, The Smithereens deployed a uniquely retro obsession with Mod, the late British Invasion pop of John's Children and the Move, and other artifacts of 1950s and 1960s culture that lent its music substance. But DiNizio has stated that his single biggest influence is Buddy Holly: "Listening to Buddy Holly, I rediscovered my enjoyment of simple pop structures and pretty melodies. I've always thought of him as a kindred spirit."  Likewise, The Who and The Kinks were major influences on Babjak and Diken.
The title and lyrics of their song, "In a Lonely Place," appear to be based on the 1950 Humphrey Bogart film of the same title because of Bogart's lines: "I was born the day I met you, lived a while when you loved me, died a little when we broke apart." The title and artwork for the album 11 were a nod to the original 1960 Ocean's 11 film. [ citation needed ]
The Smithereens starred as themselves and were featured as the entertainment in the indoor beach party scene of the Troma film Class of Nuke 'Em High, playing the song "Much Too Much".  The soundtrack to the film was not released until 2014. 
The highest position a Smithereens album attained on the Billboard pop charts was in 1990, when 11 peaked at No. 41 on the strength of the single "A Girl Like You" (which hit No. 38). "A Girl Like You" was originally written to be the title track for the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything. . [ citation needed ]
The basic tracks for their most recent studio album of original material, titled 2011, were recorded in early October 2010 and the album was released on April 5, 2011.
The Smithereens were the final band to perform at the fabled Bleecker Street nightclub Kenny's Castaways in Greenwich Village, New York City, in October 2012. 
In June 2013, The Smithereens toured as support for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. 
Original bass player Mike Mesaros reunited with the band in 2016 and 2017 for select performances and continued to tour in 2018 through the present.  
DiNizio died in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, on December 12, 2017, at the age of 62. According to bandmates, his health declined following a series of issues that began in 2015, resulting in nerve damage that limited the use of his right hand and arm. 
The surviving members of the band, including Mesaros, performed together as The Smithereens in a tribute show to DiNizio on January 13, 2018 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ.  In a five-hour concert, the band was joined by Steven Van Zandt, Dave Davies, Ted Leo, Robin Wilson, Lenny Kaye, Southside Johnny, Marshall Crenshaw, Bebe Buell, Richard Barone, Tony Shanahan, Graham Maby, Freedy Johnston, Kenny Howes, John Jorgenson, Peter Zaremba, Keith Streng, producer Ed Stasium, Andy Burton, and various other musicians.  The Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship was established at the Count Basie's Performing Arts Academy.
In 2018, Babjak, Diken and Mesaros decided to continue the band's musical legacy and tour with different guest vocalists, including Marshall Crenshaw and Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms, separately taking over lead vocal duties at concerts throughout the United States, including shows in NYC, Chicago, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Virginia. 
On May 25, 2018, the band released Covers on Sunset Blvd. Records, featuring 22 of the band's favorite songs first recorded by other artists. The CD includes rarities from the vault and some previously unreleased tracks.
On November 16, 2018, The Smithereens were nominated for induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, Performing Arts Category, Class of 2018.
It’s one of those timeless myths that makes sense. It makes so much sense, after all, that no one really bothered to look twice at it. There were no water filtration devices in medieval Europe, and there were certainly no systems in place to separate sewage and other dirty wastewater from clean drinking water, so it must have been laden with disease and bacteria, right? And then it only makes sense that people would have turned to beer and wine, as the process would make it a much safer thing to drink.
It was food historian and photographer Jim Chevallier who took another look at some of the writings of medieval Europe and even farther back into ancient history. What he found was that the idea of drinking beer and wine as a substitute for water is a fairly modern idea. Drinking water was mentioned in numerous texts, but there weren’t many that made a big deal about it.
That’s just because it wasn’t a big deal.
Somewhat ironic is the number of texts in which monks and saints alike swore off alcohol completely. We usually think of them as brewing their own beer in monasteries across Europe—but nothing ever says they actually drank it themselves. A diet of bread and water was often used as a punishment, as they would need to abstain from earthly pleasures and rely on their faith to sustain them.
Bad water certainly was a concern, but people had long established guidelines for telling the difference between what was drinkable and what wasn’t. The Natural History of Pliny, written in the first century A.D., outlined guidelines for determining how good water was to drink. He stressed that if there were “eels” in the water, then it was probably clean as it could support life. Bitter-tasting water was bad, and so was water that was slimy. He also suggested leaving questionable water in drinking vessels to see if it would stain over time if it didn’t, the water source was a good one. He also noted that water shouldn’t have a bad smell, and it should get warmer after it’s been drawn from its source.
Pliny also said that it was Emperor Nero, who ruled at the beginning of the first century, who first used the idea of boiling water to rid it of impurities. It was well accepted that boiled water was healthier, and this became common practice.
They knew all this in the first century, and there were plenty of freshwater sources for people to get drinking water from up through the Middle Ages when we hear the most about the beer-drinking myth. There are plenty of texts that suggest water in moderation, because of the idea that drinking too much at one time would distend and weaken the stomach. There were suggestions for adding water to wine. By the 13th century, doctors like Arnaud de Villeneuve were recommending a person drink wine on a daily basis for its nutritional value. It was never suggested that anyone abstain from water, however.
So where did the myth come from?
It’s possible that it gained popularity with Benjamin Franklin, who pointed to evidence that 18th-century documents indicated that drinking beer would give a person more strength than drinking water. While the nutritional component of beer and wine can’t be denied, it’s possible that the whole thing came from exaggeration that generally replaced fact.
There are many theories as to why Dennis Weaver decided to give his character Chester Goode a limp. It was reported that the producers told him to do it to appear shorter than he actually was. While it was also rumored that Dennis chose the limp to accompany his country accent, to make him stand out. The on-screen explanation was that he got it during the Civil War. However, Weaver ultimately regretted giving Chester the limp as it was so much hard work.
Why Drinking Water All Day Long Is Not the Best Way to Stay Hydrated
D ehydration is a drag on human performance. It can cause fatigue and sap endurance among athletes, according to a 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Physiology. Even mild dehydration can interfere with a person&rsquos mood or ability to concentrate.
Water is cheap and healthy. And drinking H2O is an effective way for most people to stay hydrated. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adult women and men drink at least 91 and 125 ounces of water a day, respectively. (For context, one gallon is 128 fluid ounces.) But pounding large quantities of water morning, noon and night may not be the best or most efficient way to meet the body&rsquos hydration requirements.
&ldquoIf you&rsquore drinking water and then, within two hours, your urine output is really high and [your urine] is clear, that means the water is not staying in well,&rdquo says David Nieman, a professor of public health at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus. Nieman says plain water has a tendency to slip right through the human digestive system when not accompanied by food or nutrients. This is especially true when people drink large volumes of water on an empty stomach. &ldquoThere&rsquos no virtue to that kind of consumption,&rdquo he says.
In fact, clear urine is a sign of &ldquooverhydration,&rdquo according to the Cleveland Clinic. And some of the latest research supports Nieman&rsquos claim that guzzling lots of water is not the best way to stay hydrated.
For a 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the short-term hydration effects of more than a dozen different beverages&mdasheverything from plain water and sports drinks to milk, tea, and beer, to a specially formulated &ldquorehydration solution.&rdquo Based on urine analyses collected from the study volunteers, the researchers concluded that several drinks&mdashincluding milk, tea, and orange juice, but not sports drinks&mdashwere more hydrating than plain water. (Lager was a little less hydrating than water, but a little better than coffee.)
Of course, no one&rsquos suggesting that people dump water in favor of milk and OJ. Water is still hydrating. So are sports drinks, beer, and even coffee, to some extent. But the authors of the 2015 study wrote that there are several &ldquoelements of a beverage&rdquo that affect how much H2O the body retains. These include a drink&rsquos nutrient content, as well as the presence of &ldquodiuretic agents,&rdquo which increase the amount of urine a person produces. Ingesting water along with amino acids, fats and minerals seems to help the body take up and retain more H2O&mdashand therefore maintain better levels of hydration&mdashwhich is especially important following exercise and periods of heavy perspiration.
&ldquoPeople who are drinking bottles and bottles of water in between meals and with no food, they&rsquore probably just peeing most of that out,&rdquo Nieman says. Also, the popular idea that constant and heavy water consumption &ldquoflushes&rdquo the body of toxins or unwanted material is a half-truth. While urine does transport chemical byproducts and waste out of the body, drinking lots of water on an empty stomach doesn&rsquot improve this cleansing process, he says.
In some rare cases, excessive water consumption can even be harmful. &ldquoIn athletes or people who are exercising for hours, if they&rsquore only drinking water, they can throw out too much sodium in their urine, which leads to an imbalance in the body&rsquos sodium levels,&rdquo explains Nieman, who has spent a chunk of his career investigating exercise-related hydration. Doctors call this imbalance &ldquohyponatremia,&rdquo and in some cases it can be deadly. In this scenario, sports drinks and other beverages that contain nutrients and sodium are safer than plain water.
While hyponatremia and excessive water consumption aren&rsquot big concerns for non-athletes, there are better ways to keep the body and brain hydrated than to pound water all day long. Sipping water (or any other beverage) a little bit at a time prevents the kidneys from being &ldquooverloaded,&rdquo and so helps the body retain more H2O, Nieman says.
Drinking water before or during a meal or snack is another good way to hydrate. &ldquoDrinking water with amino acids or fats or vitamins or minerals helps the body take up more of the water, which is why beverages like milk and fruit juice tend to look pretty good in these hydration studies,&rdquo he says. Some of his own research has found that eating a banana is better than drinking a sports beverage when it comes to post-exercise recovery. And he says eating almost any piece of fruit along with some water is going to aid the body&rsquos ability to take up that H2O and rehydrate. (These hydration rules apply to athletes as well, he says.)
The take-home message isn&rsquot that people should drink less water, nor that they should swap out water for other beverages. But for those hoping to stay optimally hydrated, a slow-and-steady approach to water consumption and coupling water with a little food is a more effective method than knocking back full glasses of H2O between meals. &ldquoWater is good for you, but you can drown in it too,&rdquo Nieman says.
President Zachary Taylor dies unexpectedly
On July 9, 1850, after only 16 months in office, President Zachary Taylor dies after a brief illness. The exact cause of his death is still disputed by some historians.
On a scorching Fourth of July in Washington, D.C., Taylor attended festivities at the newly dedicated grounds upon which the Washington Monument would be erected. According to several sources, Taylor gulped down a large quantity of cherries and iced milk and then returned to the White House, where he quenched his thirst with several glasses of water.
Outbreaks of cholera, a deadly disease caused by bacteria, occurred frequently during the summer months in hot, humid Washington during the 1800s, when sewage systems were primitive at best. The bacteria were mostly likely present in the water or iced milk Taylor drank, though other sources have claimed that Taylor died of gastroenteritis caused by the highly acidic cherries combined with fresh milk. Others suspected food poisoning or typhoid fever. It appears no one suggested foul play even though Taylor, a Mexican War hero, opposed secession and vowed to personally lead a military attack against any state that threatened to secede from the Union.
Taylor died on the evening of July 9, after four days of suffering from symptoms that included severe cramping, diarrhea, nausea and dehydration. His personal physicians concluded that he had succumbed to cholera morbus, a bacterial infection of the small intestine. His vice president, Millard Fillmore, was sworn in as the new president the next day.
Dennis Oppenheim - Biography and Legacy
Dennis Oppenheim was born in Mason City, Washington (later renamed Electric City) which he explained "was really primarily a construction site for the construction of [the Grand Coulee] dam [and] it certainly is not a city. It's not even a town. It's kind of a ghost town without a town. It does not exist." The family lived there while his father worked as an engineer on the dam, but soon after Dennis' birth they returned to their home in Richmond, El Torito, near Berkeley, in the San Francisco Bay area. Richmond was primarily a shipyard-building town during the war, and one of its main employers post-war was Standard Oil.
Both of Oppenheim's parents were Russian immigrants. His father was Jewish, born in China, and educated at the University of Hong Kong and later at the University of California at Berkeley where he received a Master's degree in engineering. He noted that his father stood out as markedly different from the local working-class El Torito community, both because of his strong Russian accent and his status as a professional. Oppenheim's mother studied English at the University of California. He described her as a "sensitive creative individual" who was very much involved in the arts: playing piano, working with marionettes, and writing poetry. He noted that his parents were "both relatively non-conformist. Oppenheim had one sister, a year older than himself, with whom he had a "rather cool" and "relatively neutral" relationship.
Oppenheim attended Richmond High school, which he described as "enormously overcrowded," as it was built for about one thousand students but in fact served about five thousand. He recalled, "I think one of the positive things that grew out of this experience in Richmond was a real close alignment with the minority class, which I did in a natural way. Particularly the African Americans [. ] I was popular with them." Oppenheim was quite involved with sports during high school, participating in track and field and swimming, although he said that he "never played football. Something about football, it was just too American. I had trouble with that."
As for the arts, Oppenheim explained that "I was kind of showing signs of artistic ability early in grammar school, punctuating this population of mediocrity and of relatively low-spirited imagination. I was operating with great resistance. Because being an artist was not a popular thing at all. It was ridiculed because at that time it would appear to be more of an alignment to a feminine activity [. ] I used to put on marionette shows and things [in elementary school], that really excited a lot of resistance from my pals who were all hard core juvenile delinquents." He then stated that he became more of a conformist in high school, as he wanted to "be identified as being one of the guys" and he thus resisted his sensitive side, keeping any involvement in art "rather secret and somewhat hidden. Not announced with any great claim, although I did know that I related to it." Nevertheless, he did take some art classes in his later years at the high school. Another student who attended high school with Oppenheim was artist, sculptor, illustrator, and composer Walter de Maria. Oppenheim was friends with de Maria's younger brother, and describes the adolescent artist as "mysterious".
Education and Early training
Oppenheim stated, "I didn't leave high school knowing that I was going to become an artist, although it was really something I considered. I was not sure. I experienced a short period of questioning at that time." He spent a year working at his first-ever job (at a shipyard) and feeling "uncomfortable" and "really quite lost", before enrolling in the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1958. He describes this college as "the obvious choice", as it allowed him to continue living at home. Moreover, many of his friends went to UC Berkeley, but students were required to have an additional language in order to attend, which Oppenheim did not.
He described his early college experience as "an awakening, because here one was all of a sudden thrown in with all of these people that you identified with, and never knew exactly how strong your identity would be until you saw them all together." It was also here that he met his future wife, Karen Cackett. During his first year of college, he kept up his shipyard job, which he recalls as being "not an enjoyable job at all," to help finance his education and have some extra spending money. Every day he awoke at 6:30am, packed two meals (lunch and dinner) and then drove to his 7:30am Art History class. He left school at 3:00pm and drove thirty miles to the shipyard to start work at 4:00pm until midnight. After a year of this grueling schedule, he was laid off and went on unemployment benefits. During that busy first year, he was unable to concentrate fully on his studies, but as of his second year he began to perform very well in school. He recalls two of his sculpting teachers who were the first New Yorkers he had ever met, as being "very important" to him, "sharp," "tough," "verbal," and "stimulating" teachers (despite not being very good artists). The students worked in plaster and Styrofoam as well as a bit of welding. Oppenheim also worked a lot in watercolor at that time.
However, he dropped out of college before completing his degree, got married to Cackett, and moved to Honolulu along with the rest of his family. His father had been relocated there, and had suggested to his son "This is probably a chance for you to do something, and you may as well travel." Oppenheim taught briefly at the University of Hawaii before starting his own Public Relations business. He explained, "all of a sudden I became this kind of extraordinary young versatile entrepreneur." What's more, he was experiencing financial success, and by 1960 he was able to purchase a large house for his wife and first, and later second child (Erik and Kristin respectively) and a fancy car. He said that by 1962 "I made a lot of money. I had all kinds of things. But I was developing a rather poor marriage, and so my wife went back home for a little rest, as we called it. And at that point everything fell apart. Not that that was such a trauma for me, it was just that things were beginning to unfold into what was going to be this continual state of highs and lows which was going to, unbeknownst to me, occur forever."
The couple soon got divorced Oppenheim closed his PR firm, and went back to school, this time at the University of Hawaii, full-time. As he recalled, "All of a sudden I was back, after a hiatus of two years, in a school environment, and I was about almost twenty-three years old [. ] the University of Hawaii in 1960 was quite something. I mean, it was a tropical environment and it captivated a lot of people from various parts of America, many of them interesting. I think I was older with my ability to differentiate between the substance of one person and the value of another was much more acute." During this period he developed strong relationships with several new friends, and "a general feeling of spiritual camaraderie with this group that made up the creative department in the arts".
The teacher that had the greatest impact on him at this time was Burt Carpenter, who went on to become curator/director of Witherspoon Art Gallery in North Carolina. Carpenter taught Oppenheim both in studio classes and art history, and took an instant liking to him. Oppenheim used this time to experiment with various ideas. He stated, "I used to dig holes in the ground, and I'd throw in a lot of broke and rusty steel and pieces that were kind of randomly placed, but yet want to address a certain physiological body component. And then I'd throw plaster in. I'd make these dirt paths and then I'd throw them out, and then I'd burn them, and I purely was identifying, at that time, with remnants of the abstract expressionist sensibility." He also experimented with paintings that were "abstract figurations". However, once again he left before completing his degree, this time to return to the California College of Arts and Crafts.
He remembered this step as "kind of a defeat, in a way, because [. ] I was going back to the school I was at when I was a kid. I was older. And for some reason, I ended up in the dormitory. I didn't stay there long. I knew that that was impossible. I was pretty unstable." At this time he struggled with depression, often visiting doctors and taking medications to "equalize" himself. He later noted, "As a survivor of these things, one can develop certain strengths that are useful in making art. They can be in the form of allowing yourself close proximity to dangerous psychological states. For instance, because you tested things, you're more capable of knowing when you're on the brink. You're more capable of examining things, turning them over, looking at them in different ways that are really very difficult, very hard, that have a kind of sinister aspect to them. You can look at very dark things. You aren't afraid. Your level of fear has been compromised because you've experienced things. So this is all ammunition that you can use in art making."
He finally graduated with a degree in Education and a minor in English in 1964, and then promptly received a scholarship to do his Masters of Fine Arts at Stanford, which he completed in a mere nine months. His education at Stanford was comprised nearly entirely of studio work. He said, "I remember distinctly that the day I arrived at Stanford and the day I left, I didn't miss one day in the studio. I mean, I worked every day for nine months, and sometimes all night. So I worked all the time. I expanded from one room to about six rooms. I took over an entire building, work that would overflow in the courtyard. I did hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pieces. I was reading a lot, I was developing theory". He also noted, "I developed extraordinarily lofty intellectual positions because I was being persuaded by a real natural urge for radical upset. I was really sure at that point, without doubt, that I wanted to be a cutting edge artist."
Oppenheim moved to New York in 1966, and in 1967, he moved into the Tribeca loft that served as his home and studio until his death in 2011. (For the last three decades of his life, he also owned a second home in The Springs on Long Island, next door to Jackson Pollock's house, where he liked to simply "go and think".) He taught art at a nursery school in Northport, as well as at a junior high school in Smithtown, Long Island, all the while working toward his first one-person New York show, which was held at the John Gibson Gallery in 1968. The show included mainly photographs and maps of his outdoor Land art works, including Annual Rings. His third child, Chanda, was born to Phyllis Jalbert that same year.
Oppenheim received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1969, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in 1974 and 1982. By the early 1970s he had joined the Art Workers' Coalition, along with Minimalist sculptors Carl Andre and Robert Morris. The group organized demonstrations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the aim of implementing economic and political reforms. In the early 1980s he presented workshops at the Visual Arts Center of Alaska.
In 1981 he married the sculptor Alice Aycock while the two were working together with eight other artists (including Ulrich Ruckriem, Robert Morris, Mauro Staccioli, Dani Karavan, Richard Serra, George Trakas, and Anne and Patrick Poirier) on the first group of works that would begin the Gori Collection of Site-Specific Art at the Fattoria Celle, in Santomato, Tuscany (part-way between Florence and Pisa). Oppenheim and Aycock were both constructing large-scale metal sculptures next to each other in the English-style Romantic gardens on the property. The marriage was short-lived, but the two remained close friends.
During the early 1970s, Oppenheim turned to Performance art, focusing on the use of his own body. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he returned to the material art object, creating large sculptures from industrial materials. Around 1986, Oppenheim entered a period where he stopped working for about three or four years. He later explained, "I just wanted to sort of feel stuff out."
Although he quit drinking in the 1990s, Oppenheim's house hosted some of the wildest parties of his time, with artists like Vito Acconci , Robert Smithson, and Chris Burden in attendance.
Author and friend, Charlie Finch wrote in his obituary, "Hugh Hefner was a street urchin compared to Dennis when it came to hosting parties", going on to describe the lavish events at which party crashers were always welcome.
In the later years of his career, Oppenheim focused on creating permanent outdoor sculptures that engaged with the surrounding environment in metaphorical ways. At this time, he felt a need to focus on public works in an attempt to "find an alternative to museums and galleries" - although he admitted, "public art has always been a bittersweet and disappointing context over the last 20 years. It really has produced some of the worst sculpture in the world [. ] It's a receptacle for bad art. What it offers an artist is an excruciating interaction with bureaucrats and overseers who invariably make a good work impossible. It aligns the artists with architects, who are often resistant, and puts the artist into a no-win position of impossible problems. One must develop a new kind of thinking process in order to interface with the power structure of public art successfully."
In 1998, he married Amy Van Winkle Plumb, and they remained together until his passing from liver cancer in 2011 at the age of 72.
The Legacy of Dennis Oppenheim
Oppenheim was one of the first to advocate strongly for the use of photography in ephemeral Land and Performance works, stating that the photograph was "necessary as a residue of communication".
Oppenheim's early earthworks, such as Annual Rings (1968), which involved modifications to natural substances (such as snow and earth) that would eventually yield to the forces of nature and disappear completely, directly influenced his Land artist contemporaries, such as his close friend, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970), as well as in more recent work by Richard Long. His influence can also be seen in the works of later artists, such as Andy Goldsworthy, who used the earth and natural elements, as well as his own body, in his "ephemeral" artworks.
Oppenheim was also a pioneer of performance art that focused on the limits of the artist's own body in the 1970s, along with artists like Valie Export, Vito Acconci , and Marina Abramovic. Oppenheim was particularly close with Acconci, saying that they "began about the same time, and we were always quite friendly, and basically we've supported each other [. ] I have always liked his work [. ] He is quite a different kind of artist. But yet we shared some of the same risk-taking and some of the same inability to do the same thing over and over again. Our position in the market is relatively relaxed. So we have characteristics that we share."
British sculptor Stephen Cripps cited Oppenheim's mechanical sculptures of the 1970s and his firework-launching machines of the early 1980s as having strongly influenced his own "Pyrotechnic" Sculptures of the same period.
His daughter, Kristin Oppenheim is a respected artist working in New York and working predominately in sound and light installations.