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All the Booze That's Fit to Print

At Denver's Modern Drunkard magazine, the glass is always half full.

Rich returned to Denver (where he had lived off and on over the years), found a straight job writing commercials for TCI and launched Modern Drunkard with $550 of the $600 in royalties he had left over from his series of dime-store novellas. The first issue was published this past August and distributed to local bars, where Rich found an appreciative audience. Monthly circulation has now reached 3,000, and Rich, who employs a staff of three, says every issue is snatched up virtually overnight. He says he has even seen Xeroxed copies of the magazine floating around due to the demand. And while he has never distributed the magazine outside of Denver, he claims to have received subscription orders from Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C.

The publication manages to support itself with advertising from local bars and alcoholic-beverage companies, but Rich says his financial goals are modest. "When the magazine can support the staff's drinking habits," he says, "then I'll be happy." Rich admits that the magazine's title has turned away more than a few prospective clients. However, since Modern Drunkard is available only in bars, he says he hasn't drawn fire from teetotalers.

When asked about Modern Drunkard and its growing popularity, an employee at Denver CARES, the city-funded program that picks up inebriated individuals and brings them to a downtown shelter, laughs. "Come down here to hang out for a day," she says, "and I'll show you some modern drunkards." A volunteer at Alcoholics Anonymous is equally incredulous, though she says she has never seen the publication. "We don't go to bars anymore," she says, "so I don't think anyone here has had a chance to look at it."

Despite the fact that some feel his magazine is glorifying alcohol and alcoholism, Rich believes his timing is perfect. "The United States has gone soft," he says. "In the Fifties, U.S. businessmen would go out to lunch and drink martinis, and we were the world economic leader. Now it's the Japanese and the Germans drinking whiskey and beer at lunch, getting loaded and being the economic powers. U.S. businessmen are drinking mineral water."

Rich admits that he wasn't around when the three-martini lunch was de rigueur for American executives and that many of his nostalgic feelings for the classic drunk-noir glorified by writers like Fitzgerald and actors like Dean Martin are "based upon memories I never had." But he still finds the lifestyle afforded him as editor of Modern Drunkard very appealing.

"The most comfortable place in the world for me," says Rich, "is sitting at a dark bar with a few old drunks, a cocktail and my laptop in front of me. It just feels natural.

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