Sir Michael Parkinson: My wife told me I was ugly when I was drinking

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·2-min read

Sir Michael Parkinson said he was thinking about “people I knew who had become tragically involved with the booze”, including his friend George Best, when he decided to stop drinking.

The veteran talk show host added the most important factor was his wife Mary, who told him he was “ugly” when he was drinking.

Speaking to Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson on her LBC show An Inconvenient Ruth, Sir Michael was asked if his close relationship with footballer Best provided a moment of clarity in his own relationship with alcohol.

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George Best in 1972 (PA)

Sir Michael, 85, said: “I think it did in a way. George wasn’t the only example. I grew up in Fleet Street, in television at a time when heavy drinking was not frowned upon, well it was frowned upon, but it was there all the time.

“Several of my friends in both print journalism and television were fairly heavy drinkers.

“I didn’t want to end up… I pulled out at the right time and I must say that when I pulled out, I had in mind people I knew who had become tragically involved with the booze.

“The killer, as far as I was concerned, psychiatrists can make of this what they want, but I might remember it as being the thing that stopped me, was Mary my wife.

“She said to me one day, ‘do you know what happens to you, the worst thing when you drink?’ No, says I. She said, ‘you become ugly.’

“And that did me. Ugly! Oh yes.”

Ruth Davidson (LBC)
Ruth Davidson (LBC)

He added: “It was necessary, it was needed, it was required because like all drunks, you don’t see yourself as other people do.

“You have an imaginary concept of yourself as this jolly fellow, pouring down, ‘oh look at him’, but it’s not like that at all.

“Particularly if you’re married to that person, then they see that ugly side of him or her, and I needed reminding of that.

“I should have been bright enough to understand it but I didn’t because drunks have this great self-deception, but it pulled me up short.

“As much as anything else, any psychiatrist I may have gone to or any cure I might have tried, that was the one which put the handbrake on.”

The full interview is on An Inconvenient Ruth on Sunday at 9pm on LBC.