Donny and Marie Osmond have been singing as a brother and sister act since the early 1970s. Both don’t imbibe, and possibly never did, accounting as to why both look so young. They still have their brother/sister act, which they perform mostly in Vegas these days. Marie has liberal views about marriage and out of support for her lesbian daughter, she supports LGBT rights, something not necessarily agreed to by all of the Osmonds.
You might remember that Donny starred in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat back in the ’90s. The Toronto musical eventually went on tour, and had a very successful 6-year run. Andrew Lloyd Webber was so impressed, that he chose Donny again to star in the film adaptation shot in 1999. Both Donny and Marie have been raised as Mormons, living that way their entire lives.
Ted Nugent or “The Nuge” is a hard rock/psychedelic guitarist whose musical career dates back to 1963. He has made his stance against drug and alcohol abuse part of his right-wing activism. He is an ardent Republican supporter, and is strongly in favour of gun rights. It is said that his stance against substance abuse had an influence on a part of the Punk Rock movement known as the “Straight Edge” movement.
Bill O’Reilly, a host on Fox-TV, also won’t ever be accused of accusing the Republicans of anything wrong, unless it involves Donald Trump. And he is also teetotal. His show The O’Reilly Factor, was the highest-rated news show on the Fox network, and brought in the style of news commentary where afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comforted becomes the norm. But he would tell you that his roots are working class. This, like much of what he says, is disputed. However, he there is no disputing that he studied at Harvard; that he has had much experience in journalism before becoming part of the punditry machine that is Fox News.
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.
Rumor has it that Prince, otherwise known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, is teetotal, although maybe it is hard to believe. All Google searches for Prince in association with drugs led to Saudi sheikhs, cocaine and beheadings (not kidding), so I can only believe what the rumors say. Actually, it is a little above rumor, since many sources say that his father, John Nelson, was also teetotal, and he looked up to him, growing up. It is likely that he had never drank, and is vegan besides. For Prince to be this creative for so long (complete with his current project, called Third Eye Girl), it would not be believeable to hear he was doing drugs for the past three decades.
Elton John’s biggest demon was never really booze, most of his demons seem internal. He was given to depressive episodes where others would find him hard to cope with, but later he would come to his senses and make it up to his colleagues, often producers, engineers and fellow studio musicians. About 40 years ago, he suffered a drug overdose and later suffered from bulimia. He also had to battle feelings of suicide on many occasions. In 2015 he celebrated his 25th year of sobriety and freedom from drugs. At age 68, 20 years after being inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, he has been awarded most of his Grammy Awards and Tony Awards only since the 1990s, long after he reached rock superstardom in the mid-1970s.
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.”
Jim Carrey – Probably one of the funniest comedians alive, the star of the Ace Ventura sequels, The Mask, and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has had a few ups and downs in his private life, including battling depression, he has sworn off all meds, booze, and even coffee, and has been that way since at least 2013.
Henry Rollins – This former lead member of the post punk group Black Flag and later becoming a maker of several spoken word records, appearing in lots of films, found drugs and alcohol to be “a bummer”, and tended to be too much of a bore, and so he has never felt the need to drink. He says he gets his highs from listening to music and performing.
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 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.
Nelson Mandela – An anti-Apartheid activist who paid for it with decades of imprisonment. He led an austere life where he never drank or smoked, and was gracious to people in all walks of life. He became recognized as the father of South African democracy, and has received many awards, among them the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Mohandas K. Ghandi – The person who taught us passive resistance, overthrew British rule of India without a shot being fired, and was the inspiration for human rights groups around the world. In India, his birthday on October 2 has been declared a national holiday. He saw India gain its independence in 1947, but died in New Delhi a year later at the hands of an assassin named Nathuran Godse. He and co-conspirator Narayan Apte were sentenced to death by execution in 1949. It is ironic that the manner of justice brought before Ghandi’s assassins would have been something Ghandi himself would have strongly opposed. Back to the topic, Ghandi was definitely a teetotaler, and his reasons appeared to have been moral reasons. He was a supporter of prohibition, and in Ghandi’s memory, many Indian states have passed prohibition laws. But after our bout with prohibition in North America, we know you can’t legislate morality, since organized crime would push back even more, and deaths linked to distilling one’s own “home brew” will be on the rise, as is still being felt in many Indian states where the law is still in effect. The moral of this tale is that teetotaling, like morality, is as much of a personal choice as it ever was, rather than being something that needs to be imposed on people. I would rather say that “I can have all the booze I like: I just choose not to drink any”, and would feel better that teetotaling is an act of will. Passing laws takes away from the dignity of what ought to be a free choice.
Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) – One of two surviving Beatles who, from the 1960s, said in an interview after Sgt. Pepper words to the effect that drugs make you a lousy musician and artist: “we were just junkies dabbling in music”, he said in 2001. But as for alcohol, it took its toll on him during and after the Beatles’ breakup. He is clear of that now , and has been inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once for being a member of The Beatles, and once for his solo career.
Friedrich Nietzsche (philosopher) – This German philosopher was one guy that never drank. He was frequently in frail health, both physically and mentally. Maybe he should have had a few schnapps. But he lumped alcohol and Christianity together as those two things that prevent us from facing our problems head-on. Alcohol dulls our senses, and never solves our problems, and we need to face life squarely and honestly, he would say. You have to respect that. Sadly, he died at age 55, never knowing the success of his contributions to philosophy. Even after his death, his contributions were used to justify anti-Semitism during the rise of the Third Reich. This was nonsense, of course, but it meant that the true value of his philosophies were not going to be seen until a half century after his death, or until the mid-20th century.