In May 2007, Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht was forced to resign his position as CEO of HBO, where he had overseen the development of such shows as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex and the City, and The Wire. Albrecht’s resignation came soon after he was arrested in Vegas for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, followed by the revelation that HBO had paid to settle a similar incident involving Albrecht back in 1991. At the time of his arrest, police “said he smelled of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet, and slurred his speech,” and in the days that followed, Albrecht sent an e-mail to HBO employees explaining that he was entering AA. In a new profile in GQ about Albrecht’s comeback at Starz, he “apologizes, again, for causing embarrassment and pain to his family and his colleagues,” says he has “shame about what happened in Vegas and deep regret about how much it cost him,” and — oh! — that he never had any trouble with alcohol: “After years of reflection and working with specialists, I have recognized that alcohol is not an issue in my life. What I really needed to get at the heart of was my complicated and often very difficult love relationships with women.” And as if to prove just how much alcohol isn’t a problem, Albrecht proceeds to drink extensively with a reporter from GQ. Let’s see just how much!
Amy Wallace, who wrote the profile, gets Albrecht drinking, and talking about drinking, quite often. To wit!
“I need food,” he proclaims. “And some Irish wine.”
“But right now, after flying all day and working all afternoon, he’s beat. Smiling broadly, he announces, “I want a drink.”
He’s already had one. Three taster bottles of Irish whiskey were waiting for him in his Four Seasons suite when he checked in, and he says he sampled them all. Powers was his favorite, he says, leaning forward to ask if the cabbie agrees. The driver demurs—he’s a Jameson’s man. “Jameson’s was my second choice,” Albrecht replies. As for Bushmills, he adds, it didn’t measure up.”
“Albrecht takes charge of a big table of colleagues and friends. Over a couple of bottles of Côtes du Rhône, which he orders for everyone and swirls before tasting.”
“I ask if he realized immediately that life as he knew it was over [after the Vegas incident]. “Well, first of all, I wasn’t drunk, so I was thinking clearly, but I was, in some sense, in a state of shock,” he says.”
“When I ask him what led him, after thirteen years of sobriety [from 1989-20020], to raise his first glass, he says he realized alcohol wasn’t, in fact, a problem for him. AA teaches that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, even if you’re clean. Albrecht disagrees. “I’m very comfortable with the decisions I’ve made regarding alcohol,” he says.”
“The statement about his alcoholism [that he sent to HBO employees] was released on Tuesday, over the strong objections of his daughters, he says, because it wasn’t true. “I said those things in an effort to help keep my job. I was so ashamed that I just did what anybody told me to do.”
Profile subjects, please note that it is unwise to drink with reporters, especially reporters interested in the existence or nonexistence of your previously documented, now disowned “drinking problem.” To remember for next time!