DUI or DWI : Celebs Latest Crime

Judging from the entertainment headlines of late, a growing number of celebrity scandals have the whiff of alcohol about them.

Socialite Paris Hilton’s violation of her probation on charges that she drove drunk last September led to a judge’s decision on Friday to jail her for 45 days.

This after everyone from Hollywood actor-director Mel Gibson - who shocked the world when he made anti-Semitic remarks last July while being arrested for drink driving - to former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff - the subject of a video that surfaced this week where he appears inebriated - has paid the price
for having one too many.

Closer to home, actor Christopher Lee, 35, - faces five charges following his arrest for drink driving last October near Mustafa Centre. He will have his fourth court appearance on Thursday.

Former TV host Benedict Goh was charged on Wednesday with the same offence. Breathalyser tests showed the 38-year-old’s blood alcohol level was above the legal limit on two occasions when the police stopped him - first in February 2004, and then in the same month this year when the car he was driving collided with a stationary vehicle on the Ayer Rajah Expressway.

While alcohol-related run-ins with the law aren’t limited to the rich and famous, it seems that being in the public eye makes people especially susceptible to the perils of alcohol.

The Art of Saying ‘No’

Former MTV VJ Max Loong - an actor who has worked with corporations such as Motorola, Nike and Johnny Walker - finds it harder in Asia to say “No” when offered cocktails by those who recognise him in clubs.

“People here really like to see you down the drinks,” said the 27-year-old Cosmic Film artiste, who goes clubbing at least once a week when he’s in town. “They do make your life a little difficult when you decline their offers so there’s not much you can do in such situations.”

The actor, who currently stars in MediaCorp TV Channel 5’s drama After Hours, admitted that he tends to oblige the people who wish to buy him a cocktail unless he has to work the next day.

“It’s really hard saying no, and I don’t like feeling bad about people wasting their money to buy me drinks. But if I really don’t want to or can’t, I just have to stay strong and say no.”

For a self-confessed beer lover like film-maker Eric Khoo - who calls himself “a heavy drinker when the mood strikes him” - it can be even harder to turn down a proffered pint. Of course, this often puts the 39-year-old director in the position of trying to work out how to get back to his house safely.

“If I’m driving and know I’m going out for a drink, I will either take a cab or ask my wife to drive me home.

“In situations where people offer to buy me drinks and I really can’t drink that day, I’ll ask them to buy me drinks another day.”

MediaCorp Radio Class95 DJ Jean Danker also finds herself treated to offers of free drinks when she’s out on the town.

“I’ll accept the drinks more often than not,” said the 28-year-old DJ. “To be polite, I’ll at least take a sip or two. I don’t think maliciously of the people who offer me drinks. They could be one of my listeners or someone who recognises me.”

In any case, she has the perfect answer so that no one is offended. “I’d say I am the designated driver for my group of friends,” That usually stops anyone from becoming too persistent, she added.

Clubs Play a Part

Even though the consensus among club operators here seems to be that Singapore celebrities are not the type to let one too many glasses of wine turn them into potential road hazards, club managers still take precautions where drinking is concerned.

These include well-known outlets like Zouk, St James Power Station, Club Momo and The Hacienda.

Explaining that it’s difficult to control the alcohol consumption of customers, The Hacienda owner Michel Lu, 35, said that measures such as calling a cab for customers - celebrities and non-celebrities alike - are in place to ensure that those who have had one too many get home safely.

“It’s a responsible business practice, something I’ve followed since I started my first bar,” he said.

The club impresario, who has played host to the likes of Kate Moss, Jude Law, Naomi Campbell and footballer Hidetoshi Nakata, added that anyone who seems to have had too many alcoholic beverages tends to be removed from the premises.

“But we’ve never had a problem with celebrities, who are just like any other customer to us,” Lu said. “Real celebrities are classy and understand that to get respect, they have to act in a certain way.”

Ning Ling, 35, the marketing and guest relations manager for Club Momo, agreed that it’s hard to control how much customers drink. She said: “If they are members or regulars whom we know personally, we will not get them any more drinks once they are drunk, unless they have friends or someone who is driving them home.”

In such cases, a cab is usually called for the customer, or he is escorted out of the club to take a breather.

Cheryl Khong, 27, the publicity manager for St James Power Station, said the entertainment complex has a drive-home service for celebrities who are deemed unfit to take the wheel. And she has their contact numbers to make sure they get home safe.

“Generally, local celebrities don’t drink a lot but, if they insist on drinking, we will serve them but, at the same time, make sure that someone else is driving them home.”

She agreed with Lu that celebrities here are generally well behaved. “Most of the stories about how celebrities can be quite hard to handle are not true,” she said. “Usually all they ask for is a table and some privacy.”

Tracy Philips, the marketing manager of Zouk — which has played host to the likes of David Beckham and Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann — added that it’s often “the not-so-big stars that ask for more”.

“We try to assist them the best we can,” said Philips, who is in her 20s. “And our PR personnel and supervisors are always on the lookout to make sure that people don’t drink too much. We don’t really have the wild nights of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears here in Singapore, so drinking’s not much of a problem.”

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