Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, was a lot of things to people living in the 1960s and 1970s. Apart from being thrice awarded the world championship in boxing as a heavyweight (1964, 1974, and 1978), he would be a draft dodger and peace activist, a devotee of Islam, and pop culture icon. Like most elite athletes, he never drank or smoked. It is likely that being a devotee of Islam also helped.
Howard Hughes (1905-1976) — Was a multi-talented business tycoon, one of the world’s richest men in his day. He was an aviator, an aircraft engineer, inventor, and filmmaker. It would take a long time to go through his accomplishments, but the founding of Trans-World Airlines (TWA) has to count for something. He made some successful films, such as the original Scarface. He purchased the iconic Radio Keith-Orpheum Pictures company (known as RKO Pictures) from RCA, pretty much owning it outright as of 1948. Prior to that, RKO had been a Hollywood jewel, having made movies like the original King Kong, Citizen Kane, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. RKO was also the distributor for movies and cartoons from Walt Disney Studios. Under Hughes, which was a time of McCarthyism, there was much micro-management which led to the selloff of RKO in by Hughes ten years later. He was more successful as a real estate magnate, where he would purchase large amounts of property in Las Vegas, even places which were run by organized crime, and was instrumental in cleaning up the crime in that city. As an aviator, he did a round the world flight in 91 hours, which back in 1938 was a world record. He was inducted into the National Aviators Hall of Fame in 1973.
Alcohol rarely comes up in the bios I’ve read, but when it does, it is said that he never took to alcohol. Injuries from numerous airplane crashes earlier in his life took a toll, and he started to acquire an addiction to codeine, which he injected into himself. He also became a recluse, imprisoned also by a worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder, dying of complications from malnutrition in 1976.
Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was the only famous scientist I could find that was teetotal by repuation. Einstein was a moderate drinker, and a heavier smoker. Feynman reportedly used to be a moderate drinker also, no reason why not, but on a trip in Brazil he felt a compulsion to drink alcohol in the middle of the afternoon where there was no social reason to drink. He thought about it, and reportedly never drank again for any reason.
If there was a Nobel Prize for music, Eric Clapton would deserve it. At age 25 he was already hailed as the world’s greatest living blues guitarist. He was inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a member of The Yardbirds, once as a member of Cream, and once as a soloist. He had a weakness for alcohol and was a long-time alcoholic, but has been a non-drinker since at least 1988.
Henry David Thoreau – Author of Walden and Civil Disobedience, among scores of other books, this 19th-century Harvard-educated American philosopher and writer stands at the top rank of American Literature and philosophy. His connection with nature and desire for a balanced life led him to write “I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man; wine is not so noble a liquor.” While it is not clear if he had not been a drinker all of his life, it seems as if he had been a non-drinker for most of it.
Franz Kafka – Early 20th-century German philosopher, the long-reigning king of ennui. I found a quote about his feelings toward alcohol, said only in the way that Kafka can say it: “My peers, lately, have found companionship through means of intoxication – it makes them sociable. I, however, cannot force myself to use drugs to cheat on my loneliness – it is all that I have – and when the drugs and alcohol dissipate, will be all that my peers have as well.”
There are many Christian denominations whose devotees practice abstinence: Mormons, Amish, Methodists, Quakers, 7th-day Adventists, Mennonites, Salvation Army members, and there are probably more that I can’t think of. But not all preach abstinence, including Roman Catholics. Jesus himself turned water into over a hundred gallons of wine (John 2:1-11), seemingly to encourage its use at a wedding.
St. John The Baptist was big on fasting, and abstaining from wine. In fact, the angel Gabriel prophesied that he was to never drink alcohol his whole life. He seemed to have spent much of his adult life in wilderness, subsisting on a diet of locusts and honey. I would suppose he was a bit of a wild-man.
Reverend Jerry Falwell (1933-2007), as you might female viagra pill buy online remember, was a fundamentalist preacher who led an organization called the Moral Majority in the States during the Regan era. A bit of a prankster, had a life with more than enough strange twists and turns. The fact that he was teetotal was influenced by his alcoholic father dying of liver disease. Strangely he was friends with Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine. Flynt published a rather racy parody about Falwell, to which Falwell objected and sued him all the way to the Supreme Court. The court rejected the lawsuit, and upheld Flynt’s free speech rights. While Falwell and Flynt didn’t agree on anything relating to the lawsuit, they nevertheless became friends. Larry was lending him his jet in case Jerry’s broke down; they traded photos of their grandchildren; diet tips, … You never know how things turn out, do you?
There was never any indication that Donald Trump over-indulged in alcohol, but any indulging he ever did came to a halt in 1981 when his brother died of complications from alcholism. From then on, the billionaire politician eventually put an end to all bad habits: no alcohol, cigarettes, or recreational drugs. In all the brouhaha he creates in politics these days, it is easy to forget that when he says all those outrageous things, he does it sober, and in his best sense of mental acuity. Scary.
Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara (1928-1967) is a tad to the political left of Trump, I would suppose, but they have a lot in common. Both Che and Trump are loved or reviled, depending on who you talk to. Both were political outsiders that want to upset the political establishment apple cart for the sake of their own passionately-held beliefs. Che’s likeness, similar to the image you see to the right, was once used to sell strong drink (30% alcohol) that many people find hard to classify. Not a great homage to someone who not only was a non-drinker, but even tried to get alcohol banned in Cuba. The estate of the photographer of the image, one Korda Gutierrez, sued Smirnoff, the maker of the beverage, in 2000, for breach of copyright in using the photo on their bottles.
Al Pacino, actor in Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, and all of The Godfather parts, had faced alcoholism once, but swore it off due to a healthy support network of people around him. In the Godfather, Pacino’s character Michael Corleone famously said something like “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”. That might work in the movies, but the way to mental health is to stay away from sources of negativity, such as “enemies”, and stick with your friends. He has been sober since 1977.
Recently deceased David Bowie (1947-2016) has been much written about in recent weeks, such that it is hard to add anything new. He indeed challenged many things in our culture: ranging from music to fashion to sexuality. Another former alcoholic who quit more than 20 years ago, attributed his staying sober to positive relationships later in life.