Asked during a May 1999 Good Morning America interview whether sobriety had changed him, George C. Scott said, “The only reason I’m sober is because I didn’t want to die. And that’s why. Otherwise I had a good time drinking. I drank for 40 years, and I [did] my best at it and loved every minute of it. Except when I was throwing up. But you get into bad scrapes, etc. Too many ruptured relationships and all of that. And it’s a bad scene.”

Scott was only 71 at the time, but he looked older and certainly worse for wear. Four and half months later he died of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, no doubt brought on by all those decades of drinking as well as smoking, which Scott was doing during the interview.

I was honored to chat with Scott on the set of William Freidkin‘s remake of Twelve Angry Men (’97). He had the Lee J. Cobb role (juror #3). A sharp mind, lion-like energy, fun to kick it around with. The publicist insisted on sitting in on all discussions but whatever. Jack Lemmon played Henry Fonda‘s role (juror #8) in that production, and I was sitting next to Scott as we watched Lemmon and a few others rehearse a scene. When Lemmon bungled a line, Scott leaned back in his chair, exasperated and muttering, “Jesus, Jackie…”

Scott was right about a drinking life being highly enjoyable except for the downside aspects — it can be. I was never into any hard stuff until the early ’90s, which I began to succumb to vodka and lemonade as a 9 pm reward for a long day’s labor. Otherwise I loved raising a nice glass of wine at dinner or afterwards. Paris and Rome are extra-wonderful places if you’re imbibing.

That said, my seven and a half years of sobriety have been blessed, all things considered. The clarity of mind and soul, the feeling of orderly well-being, etc. As much as I loved sipping the vino, there’s a part of me that wishes I’d embraced sobriety 15 or 20 years earlier.