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View Full Version : Was Doctor Who's Tom Baker Really an Alcoholic?


Cat Whisperer
01-01-2011, 12:52 AM
I know, really earth-shaking question, but I'm all curious now since someone here mentioned that Tom Baker was a raging alcoholic (I think it was here, anyway), and I'm not able to find confirmation for it. So, anyone know?

Kamino Neko
01-01-2011, 01:15 AM
Alcoholic, I don't know.

Very self-destructive, and a problem drinker? Seems to be the case. That's certainly his story.

This page (http://thomas-stewart-baker.com/article04.html) reprints several Daily Mail articles, where he speaks about many subjects, including his drinking, though it's never really the subject, but rather mentioned in passing as he discusses the end of his marriage to Lalla Ward, and the start of his relationship with Sue Jerrold, his third wife.

Relevant excerpts:

Our relationship was not moving in any direction. Drinking heavily, I wasn't going anywhere accept Soho.

We fell in love and got married in 1980, but happy as we were for a while, the attractions of drinking and low life around Soho were too strong for me - stronger than our union, which ended within two years.

The swift break-up of my second marriage (the first had ended long before, with my violent departure from the Wheatcroft dynasty) had not deterrent effect on my drinking, so that self-destructive life went on as usual.

pinkfreud
01-01-2011, 04:01 AM
Those fermented Jelly Babies really take a toll on a man.

aceplace57
01-01-2011, 04:33 AM
I guess fans remember Lalla Ward played Romana, Doctor's Companion? She fell in love with Baker on the set and they briefly married.

The Tardis produces sparks after all. ;)

chrisk
01-01-2011, 05:42 AM
I guess fans remember Lalla Ward played Romana, Doctor's Companion? She fell in love with Baker on the set and they briefly married.

The Tardis produces sparks after all. ;)

And now she's married to Richard Dawkins. They were introduced to each other by Douglas Adams.

gaffa
01-01-2011, 05:52 AM
Alcoholic, I don't know.
Based on my admittedly limited experience with British "pub culture"...how could you tell? I mean seriously, any American who drank like the English people I know would be the subject of an intervention.

Private Bin
01-01-2011, 10:32 AM
I remember hearing a bit on a British radio show called Dead Ringers that involved the producers calling people at home with a spot-on impersonation of Tom Baker. They called up someone he had worked with -I think it may have been a later incarnation of the doctor- and started haranguing them, insisting that they were the real doctor. The man's response was a fairly calm, "Tom? Have you been at the pub?"
Make of that what you will, but it seems like getting a drunken phone call from Tom Baker isn't an unexpected occurrence.

foolsguinea
01-01-2011, 12:32 PM
Someone he had worked with, a later incarnation of the Doctor--that would have to be Peter Davison, who seems a rather calm chap in general.

Or, wait, Colin Baker was in one serial, & maybe Tom had worked with McCoy on some other project.

Actually, I don't expect Tom Baker was familiar with any of the other Doctors really. Seems to have kept to himself a lot for an actor.

thirdname
01-01-2011, 04:45 PM
I remember hearing a bit on a British radio show called Dead Ringers that involved the producers calling people at home with a spot-on impersonation of Tom Baker. They called up someone he had worked with -I think it may have been a later incarnation of the doctor- and started haranguing them, insisting that they were the real doctor. The man's response was a fairly calm, "Tom? Have you been at the pub?"
Make of that what you will, but it seems like getting a drunken phone call from Tom Baker isn't an unexpected occurrence.
It was Sylvester McCoy, the 7th doctor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfcSAMkQknM

"Have you been in the pub?"
"For several millenia."
"Oh, I believe you."
A number of those calls are up on Youtube. He called the real Tom Baker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ7uHzZYREo
And here's a video of the Doctor taking a train: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q88kt_Vtyl4

Evil Captor
01-01-2011, 04:58 PM
Richard Dawkins is banging Romana from Doctor Who on a nightly basis?

THERE IS NO GOD!

GythaOgg
01-01-2011, 06:03 PM
During the 1980s, I was involved with a group that ran American Doctor Who and Blakes 7 conventions. Both were running on PBS at the time and enjoying enough fannish popularity to make conventions workable. Some smaller conventions found out - at considerable cost - that it was a good idea to put a strict cap on the amount the British actors were allowed to charge in the hotel bar at the convention's expense. It had been customary with Star Trek conventions for the conventions to cover the actors' food and bar bills as a courtesy. It didn't usually work out to be anything extreme. That didn't turn out to be the case with the Dr. Who and B7 people. There were a few of the actors who were especially notorious for this, and there was more than one Doctor who was one of them.

One small convention went completely bankrupt - lost money rather than breaking even or making some back - due to bar bills. (Some of the smaller conventions didn't bother to incorporate to protect themselves, either. That lesson got learned, too.)

I'd managed to forget about all this stuff. Those were the days.

kittenblue
01-01-2011, 06:31 PM
Oooohhhh...which Blake's 7 stars did you get to come to the conventions?

Two Many Cats
01-01-2011, 07:52 PM
Yup, I'd say Tom Baker's an alcoholic, from what I've heard. And I was in love with the man regardless for years.

Say what you like, but he'll be 77 on January 20th, and that's longer than any of the three preceding Doctors lasted.

chrisk
01-01-2011, 07:56 PM
Richard Dawkins is banging Romana from Doctor Who on a nightly basis?

THERE IS NO GOD!

Hee hee hee, I see what you did there. :D

(Of course, I don't know the details of their sex lives, just a report on their marital status.)

Cat Whisperer
01-01-2011, 09:06 PM
So, we don't have definitive confirmation, but it's pretty damned likely? I can live with that. :)

gaffa
01-01-2011, 09:56 PM
The man is nearly 70.

I'm just saying, I doubt it's every night.

GythaOgg
01-01-2011, 11:17 PM
Oooohhhh...which Blake's 7 stars did you get to come to the conventions?

I wasn't personally involved in inviting anyone, but I did help run conventions and knew other people in fandom. The relative popularity of active B7 fandom (pre-internet) in America lasted less than five years, and it imploded hugely at one point due to various fannish disagreements and nastiness, which some of the actors, quite sadly, chose to take sides in and encourage.

Most of the B7 cast made American convention appearances at one point or another. Paul Darrow and Michael Keating probably did the most. Gareth Thomas did a few, as did his ex-wife Shelagh Wells who was a BBC special effects makeup artist and would do panels and demonstrations. Terry Nation did a lot of cons both for Doctor Who and B7. Jacqueline Pierce also did some conventions and was always funny and entertaining. This was twenty years ago, so forgive me if I don't remember all the details. (I DO remember Michael Keating's reaction on being told that New Orleans could not be visited as a day trip from Chicago. He didn't believe it at first and had to be convinced that no, the Americans hosting him weren't joking.)

Baron Greenback
01-02-2011, 02:00 AM
During the 1980s, I was involved with a group that ran American Doctor Who and Blakes 7 conventions. Both were running on PBS at the time and enjoying enough fannish popularity to make conventions workable. Some smaller conventions found out - at considerable cost - that it was a good idea to put a strict cap on the amount the British actors were allowed to charge in the hotel bar at the convention's expense. It had been customary with Star Trek conventions for the conventions to cover the actors' food and bar bills as a courtesy. It didn't usually work out to be anything extreme. That didn't turn out to be the case with the Dr. Who and B7 people. There were a few of the actors who were especially notorious for this, and there was more than one Doctor who was one of them.

One small convention went completely bankrupt - lost money rather than breaking even or making some back - due to bar bills. (Some of the smaller conventions didn't bother to incorporate to protect themselves, either. That lesson got learned, too.)



Free bar + British people = unfortunate cultural misunderstanding on your part

GythaOgg
01-02-2011, 12:48 PM
Free bar + British people = unfortunate cultural misunderstanding on your part

Not my part, no. The local group I was most closely associated with had learned that lesson and both incorporated and capped actors expenses in the contracts. There were a LOT of small groups (local fanclubs, etc) trying to run individual conventions in that era, and very little communication between them. The internet has changed many, many things. I was talking about fandom as a whole.

MPB in Salt Lake
01-02-2011, 01:03 PM
Not my part, no. The local group I was most closely associated with had learned that lesson and both incorporated and capped actors expenses in the contracts. There were a LOT of small groups (local fanclubs, etc) trying to run individual conventions in that era, and very little communication between them. The internet has changed many, many things. I was talking about fandom as a whole.

I wasn't going to ask until I saw you back today, but while I don't know anything about conventions AT ALL, I am wondering how even a few incredibly huge bar/room service tabs could bankrupt a fan convention.

If a guy charged 25 drinks (and survived the alcohol poisoning) at $5 a drink, that's only $125, and let's say with another $50 in food. If they do this for all three days of the convention, that's still less than $500. If there are 5 actors who keep up this kind of pace, that's still under $3000.

Are the profit magrins so thin that this would be something that could take an entire convention down?

How much is admission for a fan?

How many fans would show up to a Doctor Who convention?

Do these conventions make money on anything besides selling admission? (food or drinks, memorabilia, etc.?)

Chimera
01-02-2011, 01:05 PM
You're assuming they drink common drinks when it's free.

Free Single Malt Scotch? Just keep it coming!

MPB in Salt Lake
01-02-2011, 01:09 PM
You're assuming they drink common drinks when it's free.

Free Single Malt Scotch? Just keep it coming!

A very good point, and something that I never thought of. :smack:

Le Ministre de l'au-delà
01-02-2011, 04:47 PM
Not to mention

"Bartender - another round for me and my twenty friends. And put it all down on my tab!"

"Certainly, Doctor!"

gaffa
01-02-2011, 05:14 PM
I wasn't going to ask until I saw you back today, but while I don't know anything about conventions AT ALL, I am wondering how even a few incredibly huge bar/room service tabs could bankrupt a fan convention.

If a guy charged 25 drinks (and survived the alcohol poisoning) at $5 a drink, that's only $125, and let's say with another $50 in food. If they do this for all three days of the convention, that's still less than $500. If there are 5 actors who keep up this kind of pace, that's still under $3000.

Are the profit magrins so thin that this would be something that could take an entire convention down?
I've always assumed the idea of a SF Con is to neither make money or lose money.

I I to understand that there is a contractual alcohol per deim?

MPB in Salt Lake
01-02-2011, 05:32 PM
I've always assumed the idea of a SF Con is to neither make money or lose money.

Once again, Ignorance Fought, as I would have assumed that Sci-Fi conventions were a for-profit affair, with the profits actually split between the talent (who would be paid in advance) and the promoter, who keeps whatever is left over after all the various bills have been paid.

I am not a Sci-Fi person, and have never been to a fan convention of any kind, however I am familiar with how music promoters do business, and the concert industry in general, and I guess that I figured that convention promoters followed a similar business model......

GythaOgg
01-02-2011, 05:58 PM
I wasn't going to ask until I saw you back today, but while I don't know anything about conventions AT ALL, I am wondering how even a few incredibly huge bar/room service tabs could bankrupt a fan convention.

(SNIP)

Are the profit magrins so thin that this would be something that could take an entire convention down?

How much is admission for a fan?

How many fans would show up to a Doctor Who convention?

Do these conventions make money on anything besides selling admission? (food or drinks, memorabilia, etc.?)


In the day - I'm talking about the 1980s, not now- yes, profit margins on media fan cons were very thin. The aim was usually was to break even, and to give any overage to charity. Conventions that incorporated did so as non-profits. This was mostly before the rise of the 'professional' SF fan conventions such as Creation....indeed, when those organizations started up, they were dissed by fans precisely because they were 'for profit' and fans felt that wasn't traditional.

If a group of fans got together and decided to run a convention, they usually did so with their own money. There would probably be some fund-raising done in the form of T-shirts and presales of convention admissions and dealers tables. However, there would be expenses almost immediately - for printing of flyers, buying ad space in newsletters and other conventions' program books, locking down guests, plane tickets for guests, and reserving hotel or function space. (Hotels gouge like crazy for everything from providing the tables for the dealer space to water setup to sound system setup to chairs in the function space)

This could very quickly run to a lot of money, before the convention even started.

Now, at the end of the convention, there are various ways a convention would see money come back to help them break even. On source would be from at-the-door sales. Another small source would be from things like selling t-shirts. The biggest factor would be if enough people stayed in the convention hotel to meet the usual clause in the hotel contract about reduced rates on the function space. This could scale up to 100% if enough 'room nights' were sold.

Conventions don't make money on food or drink. Hotels make money on food or drink and conventions don't get a cut - and are often specifically prohibited from bringing in their own food or drink by the hotel.

It was pretty standard for the convention to pay the guests' expenses, including room, food, transportation, etc etc. This all had to be figured in at the end of a con. If the convention had budgeted well, usually things were OK. (Some guests would waive their appearance fees if the convention would promote their charity. For example, Colin Baker lost a child very young to SIDS and did a lot of good work promoting causes related to that at his convention appearances.)

I don't mean to turn this into a lecture on the economics of fans running a convention, but what's important to remember was that, back then, these things were largely being done by inexperienced amateurs who had almost no idea what they were doing or getting into. For every fan convention that broke even there were probably at least five that were true disaster stories. This was a time period when there was very, very little crossover or communication in the fan community between the media fans and the literature fans, and only slightly more crossover between the new Brit-media fans and the older Star Trek fans. (Who had convention experience)

To boil it all down - yeah, a $500 bar bill in those days could easily put a convention underwater at the end of the weekend.

I think most people who run these things now know better; they certainly have more access to information about what and what not to do. I hope so, anyway.

MPB in Salt Lake
01-02-2011, 06:06 PM
GythaOgg, thank you for the very interesting info---I obviously had no idea what the fan-convention world is like, and instead thought it was similar to a promoter putting on a concert or a lecture, which typically are for-profit affairs.

I think it's great to see some money going to a charity, at least if all goes well at the convention.....

gaffa
01-02-2011, 07:55 PM
GythaOgg, thank you for the very interesting info---I obviously had no idea what the fan-convention world is like, and instead thought it was similar to a promoter putting on a concert or a lecture, which typically are for-profit affairs.
Far too often, those are also non-profit events...though not intentionally.

One major advantage of the non-profit status of fan-run Cons is that some folks would buy advance memberships of one they had no intention of attending as "Supporting members", just because they like the location, or the people running it, or the guest. With Worldcons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worldcon), membership also includes the right to vote on awarding Hugos, although I don't know if non-attending members can vote.

I've only been to two Worldcons, both in Chicago. One tradition is that the members get to vote on the location of upcoming ones. The committees vying to host a future Worldcon traditionally host a party every night in a hotel suite. There are enough competitors that two or more floors of a hotel are filled with party suites.

Scubaqueen
01-03-2011, 03:54 PM
You're assuming they drink common drinks when it's free.

Free Single Malt Scotch? Just keep it coming!

Just as long as it's Macallan it's all good. :D

Seriously? Tom Baker? Who knew? (aparently not I :eek:)

vislor
01-03-2011, 04:22 PM
I never saw the label alcoholic applied to Tom Baker but I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. I read a lot more Dr Who related stuff and did know he came drunk to film several episodes. The only time he didn't, which kept my opinion of him high, was when he was going to see kids. He didn't drink before or during then, as I understand it.

However, while it's bad and not something we would condone now, he seemed to be a functional alcoholic. He could still do the job, mostly. As best I remember what I read. I think it was in his fifth and sixth seasons and then he stopped during the seventh and his final season. I could be wrong on those points.

So, yes, we would call him an alcoholic for it and not condone it today.

Johnny Angel
01-05-2011, 10:19 AM
Some smaller conventions found out - at considerable cost - that it was a good idea to put a strict cap on the amount the British actors were allowed to charge in the hotel bar at the convention's expense.
I hadn't previously heard that the British were particularly prone to boozing. But just recently a wire story (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110104/ap_on_re_eu/eu_britain_smaller_beer) claimed:

Liam Donaldson, then Britain's chief medical officer, said in 2009 that while per capita alcohol consumption had fallen since 1970 in many European countries, it had increased by 40 percent in Britain,
The article seems to suggest that allowing pubs to sell beer 400 ml at a time rather than 190, 284 and 568 ml only will help reduce the alcohol consumption in Britain. Yeah, lots of luck with that.

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