After spending a week in the hospital for seemingly unexplained, debilitating stomach pains, actress Sharon Gless was advised by her doctors to stay away from alcohol.
The then 72-year-old TV star lasted a whole 36 hours without touching the stuff.
But, when the pancreatic attacks came back soon after, she consulted a top-notch gastroenterologist who got to the heart of the issue within minutes.
“If you ever have another drink again, don’t call me,” he said. “I don’t do suicides.”
Gless’ bottom lip began to tremble but the physician showed no mercy. “You’re not going to get all weepy on me, are ya?” he barked. “I thought you were the tough one.”
The doctor was referring to Gless’ role as hardened New York cop Christine Cagney from the hit show “Cagney and Lacey” — a part which rocketed the California native to fame.
Now 78, the 1980s sex symbol has written the memoir “Apparently There Were Complaints,” (Simon & Schuster) out Dec. 7, in which she remembers the medical advice that drove her to get permanently sober on May 8, 2015.
Another factor was a video from her 70th birthday celebration on a high-rise rooftop in downtown Los Angeles. Rewatching it two year later, she writes, “made me cringe at the progression of my drunkenness.”
At one point in the video, Gless is seen yelling at one of the guests: “I don’t give a f–k about your kids!”
The irony won’t be lost on die-hard fans of Gless’ police drama. In sharp contrast to clean-living mom Mary-Beth Lacey (played by Tyne Daly), Gless’ character Cagney lives alone and hits the bottle as a means of coping with the stress of her failed romantic life and grief caused by the death of her father.
“In the parallel universe of my real life … I had no idea where to go or what to do about my feelings,” Gless recalls in her book. She believes that, due to her own experience with booze, she gave one of her best performances in one particular episode where Cagney goes from drinking from a glass to swigging directly from the bottle.
The star suggested that, in the scene, the wasted cop sits on the floor and rests her head on a couch to avoid the dreaded “whirles” from lying down.
“From personal experience I knew that lying down flat while drunk produces a feeling that the room is spinning.”
Gless, who once had an unsuccessful spell in a rehab facility, said her drug of choice was mostly Martinis.
She described her passion for the cocktail as a “love affair with Martinis” and also admits to having a penchant for Jimmy Beam whisky.
When it seemed death was the inevitable outcome, she went cold turkey and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — and writes that she has stayed on the wagon ever since.
But Gless confesses she still has a yearning for liquor.
“I miss my Hendrick’s dry Martini, stirred not shaken. Every single night. Still.”
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