“Doctor, I have a question. Is it technically possible to, well, live…inside a bottle of liquor? Because if there’s a way, let me know, and I’ll just do that instead.”
Every so often, we at AFFotD imagine that you, our readers, ask aloud something along the lines of, “Hey, whichever AFFotD writer you’ve got on staff today, what is the craziest and most American idea you have ever heard of? Is it a bear-murder fueled cannon that shoots cheeseburgers? Or, like, a sex doll made out of ham? Or do you guys sometimes dream about making a hat that turns you into Robocop? Holy shit, I want all of those things I just mentioned right now.”
Well, to you, we’d say, first of all, back the fuck off, those are our ideas and our legal department is like, 90% certain that the copyright is going through any day now, so if we even hear a WHISPER about someone putting RoboCap out on the market, we will sue your ass. And secondly, uh, what a ridiculous question. Do you even understand how complicated it would be to make a hat that turned you into Robocop? Or how much time our creative department would take to come up with such an amazingly appropriate name for that as RoboCap? Yeah, that shit doesn’t just happen, so no, we never think about those awesomely crazy American ideas.
We do, however, think about BoozeTown.
Oh sweet, leathery Jesus, it’s REAL
Mel Johnson was not just a man, Mel Johnson was an American dammit. Johnson, born in 1912 to, let’s say, inattentive parents, splitting his time between boarding schools, visiting his father in London, or being with his mother in Cincinnati. He was expelled from three schools before getting admitted to Harvard because, let’s face it, if you were born into money it was practically impossible not to get into Harvard in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He dropped out a few years later, going to Mexico in an attempt to be a mining speculator. So he was sort of like a non-mustached, alcoholic Daniel Plainview…in Mexico. If they made a film about it they’d call it habrá borrachos (There Will Be Drunks). He then enlisted in World War II in 1942, hoping to be a fighter pilot. He was selected to be a Radio Operator in England. Mel Johnson’s response to being forced to work in a lame, “not-nearly-as-life-threatening” post, as opposed to being strapped to a flimsy piece of wood six thousand feet above the ground with a two week life span, was to be dishonorably discharged two years later after he tried to burn down the base officer’s club.
Such is the type of man who would envision…BoozeTown.
After spending 1946 to 1950 travelling the world and drinking just, like, so much you guys, as a sort of pioneering precursor to that dude on that show Three Sheets, Mel Johnson was in a difficult spot. He loved getting wasted, and he loved the camaraderie of drinking at a good bar or club. But he had never found that perfect bar, a Mecca of drinking, if you will (that analogy isn’t the best to use, in retrospect, what with that whole “Islam scripture forbids drinking” thing, but bare with us here). He had many places to drink, but no place to love drinking. He was The Rat Pack without Vegas, Batman without the Batcave, Superman without his Fortress of Solitude. Like a rich alcoholic with no city focused entirely on getting him drunk, he was desperate to have a place to call his own, his El Dorado, his Lush Land. His solution? BoozeTown.
No, not just a fort made out of whiskey glasses. Though that would still be American.
Mel Johnson came from money. His grandfather, a shipping tycoon, had left an inheritance to Johnson’s father, a Playboy who burned through his money faster than an arsonist on National Nobody Look At The Abandoned Warehouse District Day. When Johnson was 17, however, his father died in the rich noble tradition shared by Sonny Bono and one of the Kennedys- by skiing himself to death. Johnson took his inheritance and invested it in uranium in the 1940s. By 1951, Mel Johnson was worth roughly half a million dollars, which estimates from grandparents and geriatrics everywhere would inform you would have been more than enough to purchase roughly 10 million slices of blueberry pie cooled on the window sill, as well as an additional 5 million movie theatre tickets and 50 million sticks of liquorish way back then. So, he was sitting on a pretty big pile of money. But, was it build a booze city kind of money?
Johnson knew he needed investors, but first, he needed a plan. An American plan. Because with prohibition still a relatable memory, American livers had gotten a bit too smug about their lack of cirrhosis. And Johnson needed to teach those damn livers who was boss.
As Las Vegas was to gambling (and debauchery in general), Johnson hoped to be with glorious, American booze. BoozeTown had three planned phases, each of them crazier then the next (these are all real, because even AFFotD can’t channel this much Americanness into an idea). Phase one- BoozeTown would be established as a 24 hour happy hour resort. Comprised almost entirely of bars, each bar would be themed, ranging from an art-deco Speakeasy to a Cuban Nightclub to an Old West saloon to a jungle bar with live monkeys swinging around (no doubt ignoring the fact that monkeys love to steal booze when given the chance) each bar would offer a unique experience to the bar patron. Eventually, when enough revenue had rolled in, an infrastructure would be built, complete with an electric trolley system and moving sidewalks to ensure you could drunkenly but safely reach your destination.
Oh, we forgot to mention, the city’s headquarters would be shaped like a giant martini glass. Fuck yes.
Because nothing says “structural integrity” like a top heavy building with a thin foundation.
During phase two, Johnson would begin mass producing his own alcohol to supply the city, with distilleries, breweries, and even locally sustainable vineries if the location could support grape growth. The town itself would be policed not by regular cops, but by the “Party Police,” which surprisingly did not consist of that one dude at every party who hands out shots to all the girls saying, “It’s the Party Police, you look like you need a shot!” No, the Party Police were a regular police force, only instead of harassing and arresting drunks, their primary goal was to make sure that drunken tourists got home safely. Because if there’s one thing Mel Johnson had encountered far too often in his life, it was asshole regular cops getting all up in his face while he’s black out drunk.
Finally, step three would involve developing permanent residents, attempting to get the coveted “alcoholic artists” market cornered. Each house would come with a fallout shelter to combat the inevitable nuclear holocaust (no one quite does paranoia like America), and these shelters would be linked together so communities could still interact. Of course, there would be a working distillery solely for this complex, because if you’re going to sit out the half-life of a nuclear bomb, you might as well get crazy shitfaced while doing it.
Does that look like the face of a Loony Lush, or does it look like…America? And also, a little bit like Gary Busey, right? We’re not the only ones seeing the resemblance, right? Like, full on, Gary Busey crazy eyes?
Other “revolutionary” methods Johnson wished to utilize included vitamin and mineral infused booze (because who says nonstop overindulgence in alcohol can’t be healthy, right? Other than the Surgeon General, that is), a strict No-Kids policy (a.k.a. The “Who are we kidding, you’re gonna get knocked up if you’re here long enough, but at least those kids will end up as orphans” Plan), and BoozeBucks, where American Currency was literally replaced by gold money based on a “Liquid Gold” standard. No, seriously. Mel Johnson was the best kind of American Crazy- he figured that, as whisky aged, it always appreciated in value, so if he created his own currency for his town, backed by vaults of whisky at a BoozeBank, then you could combat inflation. He actually thought this. This is the glorious American mindset of, “if it sounds good in my head, let’s just go with it,” that serves as the reason why America is the nation with the highest rate of “Kids getting injured because they try to put on cardboard wings to fly off the top of their house” in the world. And that’s something to be proud of.
So to recap, here was the glorious town that Gary Bus…uh, Mel Johnson had planned. He originally hoped to have it in the Midwest, except for the fact that the Midwest wasn’t quite American enough at the time, with pesky things like “Strict liquor laws” getting in the way. He ended up looking at both Northern Nevada, because of Nevada’s long established, “You show us yours we’ll show you ours” policy of government. Once established, Johnson’s dream was to build a town where you only had bars that never closed. This would be the explicit reason for people to travel to his town, he hoped enough Americans would think, “Man, I like getting drunk whenever I fucking feel like it. If only there was a town where all I could do was get drunk.”
We here at AFFotD would like to think he’d be right.
BoozeTown would have been a shining Beacon of America’s prowess, a glorious city that would show America’s greatness. Salt Lake City would probably throw up in its mouth a little bit. Like a party that claims in the event description that, “This this a theme party. The theme is alcohol,” you’d know that BoozeTown wasn’t fucking around. The hottest ticket in town would be an Underground Booze Rave, and the pregnancy rates of Nevada would triple (we say that with full knowledge that Las Vegas is already in Nevada). Their slogan would be simple. “BoozeTown: Fuck yes, America.” Can you see it? Can you see the glory?
Yes. Yes we can.
Unfortunately, much like how Macaulay Culkin’s character died at the end of My Girl, it wasn’t meant to be(e). Johnson threw lavish booze parties to try to get investors interested- not the first time the “Get them drunk and try to get their money” tactic has been used- but found very few takers to the pitch of, “It’ll be like, a city…made out of alcohol. Just…so much booze you guys.” He needed roughly 5 million dollars to fund phase one of BoozeTown, and three times he believed he had investors lined up. Each time, the interested parties turned out to be either frauds, or just messing with him. Johnson’s main problem was the fact that he actually trusted Europeans to fund such an American city.
Because he dies from getting stung by bees at the end of the movie, you see. That’s why we said “be(e)”. Jay Leno just certified that this joke has been properly over-explained.
Oh, and also, Mel Johnson was fucking crazy. And not just in that “Crazy like an American” way, he was convinced that the Mafia wanted to steal his idea, would make potential investors sign non-disclosure agreements, and during his pitches he would occasionally start yelling to God about the obstacles placed in his path. When he finally gave up on his vision, by 1960 he was institutionalized for schizophrenia. It’s truly a sad end for a man with the most American of ideals.
So we can look back on the efforts of Mel Johnson, and we can appreciate his vision. May every bar, every drink, and every liquor run…be a BoozeTown for all Americans. We salute you, Mel Johnson, you crazy American son of a bitch.