What is the status of the “never be photographed with a drink in your hand” rule? Some people think it applies only to “ladies”, but during my years working in government none of the elected officials I worked for — male or female — would be caught glass in hand if they could help it. (Even making a toast!)
Your query immediately reminded Etiquetteer of Letitia Baldrige’s story about Senator Jack Kennedy at the 1957 Tiffany Ball in Newport.* The up-and-coming young senator knew that Life wanted photos of him and his wife, but he didn’t want to be photographed holding a drink. “See to that, will you?” he asked Tish, who firmly told him NO. “This is a public place. If you want to leave a lily-white impression of yourself in the public’s mind, you are simply going to have to get through the evening without a drink in your hand. Or else hide it under the table.” That must be what he did, ‘cause none of his photos featured a drink.
Etiquetteer is unaware of the origin of this rule; perhaps it got started with the advent of café society after World War I when paparazzi were starting to photograph everyone at nightclubs. It’s so easy to share a photograph of someone holding a cocktail and start a rumor about “holding their liquor” or some such Vicious Innuendo. (Of course now with the double-edged miracle of Photoshop, any photograph could be doctored to include anything . . . )
Those With Reputations to Protect - which seems mostly to be politicians and preachers** - remain wise to behave circumspectly in public. That means not overindulging in alcohol or other mind-altering substances. Bay Staters will remember the 1999 scandal of Massport director Peter Blute returning from an office “booze cruise” to be photographed with a topless blonde on the gangway. He had been seen “drinking beers and champagne” on board with a lobbyist; had he been drinking less, his reflexes might have avoided the “photo op” with the blonde.
And indeed, those drinking at professional functions need to remember that they are representing their employers. It’s wise to know your limits, which could be two or three drinks, or none. Etiquetteer knows a couple companies with a “one drink maximum” rule for their employees, and it’s sound advice. When you hear yourself saying “maxshimum,” it’s already too late. Leave.
In conclusion, it’s best to remember Mr. Bellamy’s instructions to Anne Welles in Valley of the Dolls: “You won’t have a hangover, because during this thrilling evening you will have sipped one sherry and you will remember everything I have said.” That’s how to get ahead in business without really trying!
*Which she tells so wonderfully in A Lady, First on page 153.
** So many entertainers seem to feel it's in their best interest to compromise their reputations nowadays . . .