Between 1983 and 1986, Toby Beavers probably had more fun than anyone in New York, as a partial owner of the Surf Club, a hot spot for the young investment banker crowd. Mr. Beavers enjoyed the women, the champagne, the stimulants, the limousines. He partied with Mick Jagger and Rick James while the serious money kept rolling in. It seemed like his job was, simply, getting drunk every night. Then it all sort of ended, and Mr. Beavers fled New York. Now the balding 44-year-old lives with his wife and kids in Charlottesville, Va., where the bars close early.
His last visit to New York, on June 18, was pretty amazing. He rented out the Supper Club, filled it with a couple hundred friends, and put on his debut show as a Frank Sinatra-style singer, complete with a big band he had hired. It cost him about $40,000, all told. It was a charity gig, benefiting Dream Yard, an arts-in-education charity, in the memory of his brother Nick, who committed suicide in 1995; but the show was also Mr. Beavers’ attempt to launch a lounge career for himself on the charity circuit.
The afternoon before the show, he went to church. He cried, prayed, gave $10 of the $15 in his wallet, and, leaving, he felt like a million bucks. That evening, Mr. Beavers was in his room at the Edison Hotel, feeling jittery. An alumnus of the Betty Ford Clinic, all he wanted was a shot of Jack Daniel’s, but he was afraid to ask his wife, Terri, for permission.
Wearing a pale yellow Brioni double-breasted jacket and black tuxedo pants, he went on stage at 11 P.M.. He looked like he needed that shot of Jack Daniel’s, but his old pals in the audience did not heckle. A few songs into the show, he did some patter: “I’m the happiest married bachelor, but I haven’t forgotten my theme song.” He turned to the 26-piece band and they hit the first notes of “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love I Love the Girl I’m Near.”
Mr. Beavers’ friend Alex Donner, who sings for real at places like the Algonquin, assessed him from the sidelines. “He’s a little flat,” he said. “He has intonation problems, he’s slow, poor mike technique, but he has wonderful presence-he’s got it. The guy has what you can’t buy, which is charisma.”
At 1 A.M., after the show, Mr. Beavers was sitting at a booth above the stage and downing Budweisers. “I’m trying to get it together as a charity singer,” he said. “And pay back some dues-because my family has always been a taker. My father was renowned as a sort of handsome playboy around town, but he was a notorious businessman and never giving really to charities.”
“I want you to make money,” said his wife Terri. “More people have said the most fabulous things about your performance. Everyone wants to handle you now.”
Mr. Beavers continued with a self-pitying rant about how awful he was, etc.
“He’s been drinking too much,” said the wife.
The next day, he was at Nello, a restaurant in the East 60’s. He had switched to a Bloody Mary. “First of all, I don’t remember anything that happened last night,” he said.
He explained his whereabouts since the days of the Surf Club.
“We had like six houses, a farm in Nova Scotia, a plantation in Louisiana and the house in Watch Hill [Rhode Island]-a fabulous place, beautiful small cottages, you know, a very closed community. We were like gypsies, all we were doing was driving back and forth to places, live here for a while, and try to look like big swingers, and then get in a car, drive 20 hours, start weed-whacking, get the place looking great.”
“Why did you have to leave New York?”
“You walk outside and your face is filthy, no one’s cheerful in the morning, the only birds you hear are pigeons and sparrows, it’s just terrible.”
“So live in Virginia and roll into town every few months?”
“Right! Then I got Washington, my friend is the biggest playboy down there. I mean, he is an animal , knows every girl in Washington, so you go out and he always finds some fabulous party. Then I have to get back in my car and go see my kids. You know, the first thing they do is punch me in the balls-ha-ha! Welcome me home, with a hangover! Ha-ha-ha!”
“Why drink so much?”
“Well, I like to do it because I don’t get depressed doing it. I like to do it because it’s great fun. Shit comes out of my mouth that I wouldn’t even think of, you do things you would never do sober, you have fun, and you’re just laughing and everything is always better. Sex is … everything! I could no more have sex sober than fly to the moon. Try talking dirty sober. Ha-ha-ha-ha! Someone’ll whack you! ‘Who are you calling a whore?’ Ha-ha-ha-ha!”
Two pretty blondes passed by the table. They were so pretty it depressed me. “Depressing,” I said.
“They’re probably miserable, too. Ha-ha-ha! You know, it is so expensive to date now. You take her to lunch here, it’s $100. You take them out, it’s $150, $200. And then you’re not going to marry them on the first date, then you have to keep doing it, and if you’re a swinging guy, you gotta do it at least three or four nights a week to keep your image up, and that’s why I had my own nightclub, because I didn’t have to go out.”
A waiter walked by and let out a roaring sneeze.
“Ha! Ha-ha-ha-ha! All over the pastries!”
“What’s life like now?”
“I’m rushing back to meet with the admissions committee at the Farmington Country Club on Monday, and obviously my reputation has not preceded me down there. Thomas Jefferson designed it. Beautiful. Fabulous golf course. Every day, I drive the kids to school. I come back, do the shopping, cook. I take cookbooks to bed with me instead of Penthouse . Ha-ha-ha-ha! Do a little cleaning, singing, make the rounds of the thrift stores. Take the kids to the woods, catch frogs, snakes, swimming in the pond and brooks. That’s all we do. Then I’ll cook some dinner and watch public television, until I go to sleep.”
“What was an average day like 10 years ago?”
“Get up, wash my cock. Ha-ha! I would wake up, look at the girl next to me, try to remember who it was. You wake up, look outside, if it was daylight, you went back to bed. Soon as it got dark, shower, shave, go out to dinner. I did this from ’83 to ’86, then I went to Betty Ford, then I started dating my wife, so I had to be fairly behaved.”
The two blond ladies got up to leave. One smiled at him.
“You know,” he said, “I have this attitude-I know it’s wrong. But if you like to drink and you can handle it, get up in the morning and be nice to your wife and children, and you do it maybe once or twice a week, ha-ha! Put one on. I mean, that’s great fun, and every one of our parents did it. And I know a lot of people agree with me, but they don’t say it. They would say, ‘That guy’s a sicko,’ having been to Betty Ford, you know. ‘He needs help!’ But I couldn’t imagine my life not drinking and having fun. During the day, I garden and do healthy things, and when the sun goes down, brother, you destroy everything you did that was healthy. Huh-ha-ha-ha!”