Drinking & Debauchery at Cannes: a sober view.
June 23, 2008
Judging from the online party pics of people getting their drink on at Cannes, you’d think this was Mardi Gras. Factor in the snarky commentary from certain creepy advertising blogs and suddenly it’s Girls Gone Wild!
Let me give it to you straight, my report from the field, after the fact:
As some of you know, I don’t drink alcohol anymore and haven’t in over 5 years. So, it was not without trepidation I took part in the nightly debauches along the Croisette. Without belaboring the obvious, this was a liquor soaked affair, with Rose’ and Chablis consumed all day, then champagne and beer guzzled long into the night, until it became day again, and the cycle continued… for seven days and seven nights. In that time God created the earth, but in Cannes it’s the drinking that’s biblical and the only thing created are hangovers. That and whopping expense account issues.
All this was true. But so what? Drinking with clients and drinking with your boss and drinking at night with the boys. Watch any episode of Mad Men. Drinking and advertising go together and way back.
Nothing epitomizes Cannes’ zeitgeist like the infamous Gutter Bar. Also called 72 Rue, this corner café has become the last watering hole in Cannes, where every soul still standing gathers for a final, final, final. It is reported that the Gutter Bar makes more money during the advertising festival than any other time during the year. Way more. The joke is that after the week is over, the owners are so flush they close the place for the rest of the summer. If you saw the nightly crowds, you wouldn’t be at all surprised. This is where thirsty elephants go to die and I inhabited its periphery like a tourist observing wildlife.
It’s not so tough not drinking. Not anymore. And certainly not from this vantage point. In many ways the throng really did look like so many creatures waiting to die. Sweaty, sunburned, standing in their own spillage. Perhaps some thought of mating instead. As it got later, the Congolese hookers swooped in like vultures. They would satisfy the drunk and horny and then pick their carcasses of cash and jewelry. Or not. A friend observed such a lady move from drunk to drunk, not able to rouse any takers. Though I salute my advertising comrades for their sense and sensibility, I found her predicament somehow sadder without tricks turned. She no longer had the goods. She was an ineffective ad for herself. Of course, I seldom bore witness as my bar tour concluded well before most folks’ began.
And then, of course, there’s the Leopard Ladies, a mother and daughter team who’ve silently patrolled the festival and its parties forever. Always donning the same spotted attire, every year, every night, at least as long as I’ve been going. No one is certain their raison d’etre, only that they are either coming or going. Never stopping. Not speaking. Odd as hell.
The only time I missed drinking was when I forced myself to stay up late, which was every night. The evening really does begin at midnight. Then, I pined for the time-stretching quality alcohol has, its ability to fill spaces and create meaning. With a drink, the endless LOUD music would not have been so annoying. Maybe even Deitloff and his rap about brilliant radio wouldn’t have been so annoying. I know goddam well waiting 40 minutes for a menu would not have been so annoying!
That said I was happy nursing my Coca Cola Light, watching all my fellow clowns in this advertising circus.
At home, this is irrelevant. I go to bed.