Professional ‘Imbiber’ Dan Dunn Gives the Dirt On Being Playboy’s Party Bro
Dan Dunn has a bro's dream job: professional Imbiber. Best known as Playboy's booze and party corespondent, Dunn's livelihood is largely based on a surgical analysis of alcoholic beverages and partying culture. For example, take this excerpt from his last book, “Nobody Likes a Quitter,” where he breaks down two stages of drunkenness that most bros know well: “It happened after yet another long day of Phase II drinking — Phase I is where you can still count the number of drinks youve had; Phase II is where you just count the hours youve been drinking, figuring your burn rate is about six or seven drinks an hour — its not unlike the drug guys in movies who weigh the money instead of counting it.” Dunn's legendary benders include parties with Bond girls, a certain bombshell hotel-chain heiress, and a coterie of Hollywood A-listers, including Bill Murray. His next book, “Living Loaded,” will soon hit bookstores.
Earlier this month, BroBible's AZ spent a debauched three days with Dunn in Mexico gulping Jose Cuervo, frequenting Guadalajara strip clubs, and getting addicted to a mysterious and vaguely narcotic energy drink called “B:oost.” BroBible caught up with him over the weekend to discuss why you should stay away from Smurf-colored cocktails, why you shouldn't bang a waitress at your favorite bar, and why to keep your drunk photos off Facebook.
BroBible: Besides psychotic publicists begging for coverage and the occasional hangover, what are some of the occupational hazards of your chosen career path?
Dan Dunn: My job/lifestyle combo is like a supermodel serial killer — it might look great and be a whole lot of fun, but it will cut your throat if you take your eye off it for a second. As the poet said, writing about music is like dancing about architecture. If thats true then what I do is like smoking crack about crack. I am a professional risk-taker. I am the kings taster: the Medieval peasant who got to live the good life, eating a steady diet of foie gras until his luck ran out and one of the one-in-a-thousand morsels with arsenic in it landed on his plate. Theres a saying among commercial deep-sea divers that there are old divers and there are bold divers, but there are no old, bold divers. This profession isnt all that different. In a heartbeat that breezy walk in the park can turn into a sprint through the fields away from a tornado. That said, it is the best job for picking up chicks. Too bad its also the worst for keeping them. In fact, writing my latest book only served to underscore the central conflict of my existence — on one hand, I want nothing more than for Living Loaded: A Life-Affirming Journey to the Depths of Humanity with Cocktails to become a huge bestseller because Ive found that stunningly beautiful women are prone to sleeping with famous authors. On the other hand, if I do a truly great job at writing an unsparingly honest expose of my working life, any self-respecting woman who read it would rather date Tom Sizemore or Charlie Sheen or Eliot Spitzer before me.
In your profession, you must run into all sorts of amateur drinkers and second-rate partyers. How do you deal with the third-string hangers-on who try to go round-for-round but simply can't play in the big leagues?
The most odious offenders are what I call Punch me as hard as you can drinkers: These are the macho dudes who have cultivated an alpha male persona revolving around their drinking prowess to compensate for their lack of brain, brawn, and overall appeal to women. These guys feel a constant need to assert their masculinity — i.e. their ability to pound shots of Jager — to themselves and others. Also known as drunk a**holes. I routinely drink these clowns under the table.
There's a healthy debate in the nightlife world about the use of the label “Mixologist” vs. “Bartender.” Some call the concept of mixology absolute bullshit. Care to weigh in and settle the score?
From now on, lets just call them hootch slingers and be done with it. Actually, I touched on this subject in a recent Playboy column about archetypes.
What are some of the few libations you tend to avoid or stray away from?
It's never acceptable to order a cocktail the color of a Smurf (or any other Saturday morning cartoon character, for that matter). But even for that we need an exception. Namely, the frozen rum drink, which is acceptable if and only if youre on a beach or poolside in an exotic locale with a hot chick and she orders one too. (Note: This applies to daiquiris only. Pina Coladas are the banana hammocks of tropical adult beverages. Just don't go there.) Another rule is Man shall consume no tini; that is, save for a martini, if and only if made the way God — and the Rat Pack — intended. And that means gin. The vodka martini is the gibbering bastard child of Jay McInerney and the guy from “American Psycho.” The only thing less manly than drinking a vodka martini is drinking it at a bar with interior designers on call. Oh, and I am unequivocally opposed to the much-ballyhooed abomination known as Low-Carb Beer. Or, as my dear old Uncle Denny likes to call it, Diet Swill. If youre worried about packing on pounds while tippling, drink vodka for chrissakes. Just leave the beer — real, carbo-loaded brew — to those of us who think love handles are sexy and consider a paunch hanging over the belt a mark of good character. Besides, why settle for six pack abs when you can have a party ball belly?
Are there any drinks you feel are under-appreciated?
Gin may very well be the least understood bottle in the bar at least in the U.S. In England, on the other hand, gin flows only slightly less freely than stupidity on the set of “The Hills.” Funny thing, although its now heavily associated with the U.K., most people dont know that gin was actually invented by the Dutch. They dubbed it “jenever,” a name that was promptly shortened by a drunk Englishman. It's kind of the same thing the Brits did when they co-opted Madonna and started calling her Madge. The only difference is gin doesn't adopt foreign babies or look like beef jerky. I like to do shots, too. Im talking about a straight ounce-and-a-half of a single, robust spirit. Concoctions with names like Attitude Adjustment, Gorilla Fart, or Mind Eraser are not shots, theyre telltale signs that you frequently wet the bed as a child.
You've obviously had your fair share of celebrity encounters. Who's the drunkest and/or craziest celebrity you've ever partied with?
The guys from INXS are pretty nuts. There was a period a few years ago where I was charging hard with them regularly. Ive always had great fun drinking with Tim Farris. I hung out with Paris Hilton for an entire evening at the Cannes Film Festival a few years ago. She likes to party, that one. Olga Kurylenko (the latest Bond girl) is a lot of fun to get drunk with, and so is Bill Murray. But stay away from Rob McElhenney from Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. That dude is a notoriously bad drunk. Im kidding… hes a friend, and I like busting his balls. But he is on heroin — you can print that. [inline:robitsalways] And adult entertainment stars. I love hanging with adult entertainment stars. One of the best assignments Ive ever had as a booze writer was a piece I did for Playboy on Savanna Samson. Shes one of the worlds biggest adult entertainment stars, but she also has her own wine. My assignment was to figure out if she was the real deal (as a winemaker, that is — her adult entertainment credentials are unassailable) and write about the experience. My research for this basically entailed drinking a shitload of wine with a gorgeous and notoriously sexually voracious celebrity and talking fermented grape juice. I was a wee bit excited. Kind of like a kid in a candy store. If candy stores had giant, gorgeous tits in the window and a serious case of f*ck-me eyes.
You live in L.A. and get to jet-set around to the world to party in some of the most exotic places. Is there a city that stands out, bar-none, as the best party spot in the world?
I like this place called New York.
As a West Coast transplant originally from Philadelphia, what do you notice about the regional subtleties between nightlife on the East Coast and nightlife on the West Coast?
They dont do Beef & Beers in L.A. Im sure they never have. For those of you who have never experienced a Beef & Beer — and Im assuming that to be pretty much everyone who didnt grow up in Philly, because, like cheesesteaks and communities comprised entirely of extraordinarily obese people, its a regional phenomenon — all you really need to know is that B&Bs were good, clean fun. We drank a lot, fought a little, and on the good nights got to play tonsil hockey with a big-haired cheerleader or two. The cops left us alone because damn near every kid in the neighborhood was related to a cop, and because the guys who ran the B&Bs invariably left a spare keg outside for the Boys in Blue to enjoy down at the station.
Do you think that the advent of text messaging and Facebook have made life more miserable for men who drink in excess and stray on their ladies? And has there been a time where your drunken messaging took a chunk out of your ass?
It's not the text messages so much as the images. Guys need to avoid cameras at all costs when out on the town without the wife or girlfriend. Hard to overstate the importance of this. Thanks to Facebook and the Internet as a whole, theres a high probability that any remotely embarrassing thing you do in front of a camera will be available almost immediately for scrutiny by pretty much everyone who knows you. Not to mention everyone who doesnt. Indeed, a Google search for drunk photos you don't want to be in turned up nearly 9 MILLION results, including those great ones of Mister Braveheart himself, Mel Gibson, in a bar with two blondes about a half hour before he called a female cop, and I quote, sugar tits.Same goes for video. It might even be worse. You just know some smartass is going to remix it and its going to go all viral and… oh, poor David Hasselhoff. And while the Hoff was pathetically wasted when said video was taken, theres something that goes even beyond pathetically wasted. And that thing is called Brad Ferro, the now-infamous Queens schoolteacher who claims to have been so befuggered at a North Jersey bar in the summer of 2009 that he has no memory of punching a girl in the face. Unfortunately for everyone — particularly Brad Ferro — his stupendous feat of f*ckheadedness was caught on film and broadcast on a little reality TV show you may have heard of called The Jersey Shore.And that guy wasnt even on a reality show, he was just in the proximity of one.
If your liver could say just one thing to you, what would it be? No words, just tears? 'Please Dan, I beg you?'
I think my liver would point out that should the day ever arrive that I must choose between paying my rent and purchasing the vodka I need to make it through the day, its time to hang up my drinking shoes. Thanks for playing.
Why is hitting on hot bartenders and waitstaff always a cardinal sin when it comes to picking up girls at bars?
At the very goddamn top of my ironclad laws of how not to ruin your life while drinking is dont shit where you eat. The awful truth is that putting the moves on a waitress at your favorite bar never, ever works out in your favor. Ever. As a mistake, Id rank it up alongside such drinking no-no's as getting behind the wheel of a car or singing karaoke. If it doesn't go south out of the gate, the chances are stacked astronomically against you that things will work out in the long term. Partly because even good relationships have hard times. And where do you go when your relationship is having a hard time? Your favorite bar! Whether it's your shame reflex, the management, or a restraining order, bang a waitress at your favorite spot and you can kiss your little sanctuary goodbye. Now I'll admit that my life revolves around drinking more than most, but for me, losing a favorite bar is like losing a great friend.
Have you ever had the privilege of hooking up with a Playmate or at least some of Hef's table scraps?
I dated a Playmate named Lexie Karlsen for a few months about 11 years ago — long before Id ever written anything for Playboy. Shes very hot. In fact, please post a picture of her with this interview so your readers will be jealous.
How did hanging out with Hunter S. Thompson in Woody Creek during your Aspen days influence you to pursue a career as an “outlaw” booze writer?
Like Hunter, Ive always felt more comfortable — although theres often very little thats comfortable about it — operating beyond the fringes of polite society. Out where people are f*cked up and crazy in myriad ways. Beyond that, I was already a writer when I met Hunter, so its not so much how he influenced my career choices as it is the things I learned about writing from him — some of it good, some of it not so good. Mostly good, though.
A career in booze journalism world seems like a dream to many college students, but is certainly a tough gig to break into. Any words of wisdom to any aspiring spirits journos currently nursing their hangovers in J-school?
As I point out in my upcoming book Living Loaded, Jim Fixx, the author of the best-selling “The Complete Book of Running,” suffered a massive heart attack after a jog and died. He was 52. Steve the Crocodile Hunter Irwin was killed by a stingray while filming a doc*mentary about marine life. And Karl Wallenda, of the famous Flying Wallendas, fell to his death while attempting to walk across a wire stretched between two buildings in Puerto Rico. Yes, its ironic. But the lesson here is this: Doing what you love could kill you, but you should do it anyway because you may wind up being referenced as a life lesson in a book someday. If their examples hold true, Im probably going to die in some freak bottling accident while touring a distillery. On the plus side, the place will have a truly unique limited edition offering on their hands. Who could pass up whiskey infused with real journalist spleen? There are other lessons in here too: Avoid exercising too much, or swimming with dangerous sea creatures. And for chrissakes stay off tightropes. You've been drinking.
Check out Dan Dunn's blog here.
Check out Dan Dunn's Playboy columns here.