BoozeTown: The Disneyland For Drinkers That Never Happened

in #history6 years ago (edited)


Imagine a place like Disneyland, but for alcoholic adults. A city for drinkers called BoozeTown where the drinks never stop flowing. Themed bars as far as you can see. Pirate’s pub. Old West saloon. Casablanca club. Medieval Times pub. Cuban dance club. And a jungle themed bar where monkeys would be doing whatever monkeys would be doing in a bar – probably getting drunk!

This was the brainchild of Mel Johnson during the 1950’s, a drunken Moses he planned to lead his followers to an alcoholic utopia.

Mandatory bar closing times infuriated him. He deeply believed that an adults rights shouldn’t end at an arbitrary time, that a person should choose their own time to stop – not by government decree. He was also an insomniac and wrote in his journal:

“There is nothing worse in this world than to be awake during the small hours and have no place worth going to.”

He was the son of a rich playboy father who lived in London and a sickly mother who resided in Cincinnati. Neither took great care with raising him, so it fostered an independent side that was often at odds with structured control of schools. He was often expelled from them for antisocial behavior. Not to say he wasn’t smart, by all accounts he was very intelligent – he was accepted in Harvard but dropped out after two years.

When WWII started he wanted to be a fighter pilot so he joined the US Army Air Corps in 1942. He was given a job as a radio operator instead, and sent to England. His antisocial behavior surfaced again when he was discharged in 1944 for attempting to burn down the officer’s club.

After the war he travelled the globe, spending time living and drinking up the world. London, Dublin, Barcelona, New York, Havana, Paris, Rio, New Orleans were some of the places he enjoyed to stay. Eventually he realized he was looking for the perfect drinking city, what he called the El Dorado of alcohol. That’s what he realized, his El Dorado was a myth just like the legendary city of gold that many Spanish explorers spent their lives trying to find. The city he was looking for just didn’t exist, so he would have to build it himself!

His rich father had passed and left him $250,000 which he had doubled by flipping uranium mines to the government. A good sum in those days, and he thought about buying a nightclub in New Orleans but realized that his dream was bigger and going that small would just lead to disappointment. He needed a plan, to find a place to build it and he needed more money - investors.


At first Mel was going to plan BoozeTown out with straight north/south and east/west roads but he realized from his time in the old cities that the random layout of those cities was why they were so fun. Getting lost leads one towards new adventures that they otherwise would never have chanced upon. Also all streets would be named after alcohol related themes, with anti-prohibition names prominent in his thoughts – so names like 21st Amendment Ave and Repeal Rd. One place would be named after the creator of prohibition, the sewer treatment plant.
A great moneymaker would be the distillation and brewery that would be created, also a winery if the soil and climate was appropriate.

The city would have its own currency, called Boozebucks, and everything within its borders would use this money. It would be backed by the store of alcohol, “liquid gold”, that would be created and aged in the city. The older whiskey is the more valuable it is right? That would protect against inflation.

There would also be the police, called the Party Police, but these wouldn’t harass the drunks(something Mel was intimately familiar with) – they would help them. He wrote that they would help people home when necessary and make sure they got to bed safely. He even wrote about an idea he had for the BoozeTown militia, called the Brotherhood of Bacchus, filled from BoozeTown residents especially ex-military. What their purpose would be is unknown, maybe to protect against the people that would protest a place such as BoozeTown as sinful – this was the 1950’s after all.

No children would be allowed into BoozeTown. Parents could leave their children at a large daycare/summer camp outside the main gates before heading inside to live it up. Also there would be the BoozeTown Bugle, a newspaper that would only write about things happening inside the city so as to escape the life outside.

Mel also was a firm believer in the legalization of gambling and prostitution, things that adults themselves should be able to decide to participate in or not. Activities he knows tend to happen often with a population of drinkers. If the local government wouldn’t approve such things, he would create underground areas for these happenings to take place.

Speaking of underground places, as was at the forefront of many minds during the 1950’s he was also wary of an impending atomic war. So all buildings would have a fallout shelter built beneath them and interconnected by tunnels and to an underground distillery to keep the good times coming at the end of the world.

He envisioned all this happening in three stages.

1: The city would be built as a resort for drinkers. Just hotels, entertainment, and bars. Oh, and Mel’s headquarters – a giant martini shaped building with an olive tree garden at the top.

2: Once that was popular and bring in the cash he would use that money to build infrastructure. There would be an electric trolley system, “The BoozeCruise”, to bring the drinkers from bar to bar. He also wanted a series of moving sidewalks to help people along, ensuring a steady stream of laughs from watching drunks try to get on and off it.

At this stage the distillery and brewery would be built. He wanted the local stuff to be the best in the world, and while all booze would be welcome, he wanted to corner the market with his hooch. He wanted people to be so happy with BoozeTown that they would choose the local stuff most of the time. Did i mention the local brews would be fortified with vitamins and minerals so that anyone missing out on proper food would be getting some from the drinks? 'Cause that was in his plans too.

3: Once the fun side was complete, he would build residential condos and houses. He thought that such an environment would attract “retirees, scribblers, artists and other goof-offs.” He believed that alcohol lubes the creative process and BoozeTown would become a Mecca for actors, writers, painters, and other artists. Famous people would be drawn to his city, and others would follow to perhaps glimpse them. He hoped that BoozeTown would be the birthplace of the next generation of world renown works.

Understanding that famous people don’t always want to be around the public, he would have secret clubs where the rich and famous could mingle amongst one another.

He wanted it to be in or near the United States, but somewhere with lax laws on drinking and warm. This naturally leads to states like Nevada or Louisiana, but Mel wanted it in his home state of Ohio. He found a parcel of land near Steubenville Ohio, but the strict drinking laws there forced him elsewhere. After trying to convince authorities about the huge influx of tax dollars they would receive and still getting nowhere – his ideas were too wicked for them to allow it. So he then focused on northern Nevada and an island off of Mexico.

He estimated he would need $5 million to complete phase one, and he only had about $500,000. Walt Disney had built a paradise for kids called Disneyland for $17 million. He had major corporate backers for the family friendly vacation resort. Mel thought if kids could have a fantasy land, surely adults deserve their own too. He needed to secure enough investors.

The first thing he did was have a bunch of BoozeTown napkins, matchbooks, maps, and posters created. It is through his first fundraiser was held in Cincinnati in 1951 for the wealthy living there. What better way to show them what fun drinking was than to throw a party! All his events were parties full of alcohol it helped people see his vision but, unlike him, they usually sobered up. So he took to the road again, he had been a world traveler and he knew many people. They would see the possibilities of his dream. Fund raisers were held in chalets in the Alps and costume parties in the capitals.

Just imagine, a resort entirely centered on the culture of alcohol. A boozer’s paradise built expressly to facilitate drinking and the good times that naturally follow. Where the bars, clubs and liquor stores never close. Where the police force is there to help drunks, not hassle them. Where even the street names salute sweet mother booze: Gin Lane, Bourbon Boulevard and Scotch Street. An adult playground like no other. Just imagine. - Mel Johnson

People say his biggest problem was himself. He seemed to be going crazy. If he became frustrated during his presentation he would abruptly stop and shake his fist in the air and curse God. Potential investors had to sign a non-disclosure agreement before he would even let them hear his plans. He feared that if someone else knew about BoozeTown they would build their own version. He also just wanted their money, and not their input. He refused to budge on his ideas, which stifled many possible investors. It was his baby, and it would only be grown his way.

He also believed that both the government and the Mob were watching him. That Hoover was watching him for his radical ideas and the Mob to see if he was any threat to Las Vegas. When the press wrote articles there was usually some form of derision in the piece. The Plain Dealer wrote at the end of their article the Mel should seek psychiatric help.

He wrote that he was close to funding three times during the 50’s. Once a group of cattlemen turned into “professional bluffers and bull-shitters”, an organization of European businessmen became “a gang of swindlers, and a noblewoman turned into “a lunatic with little money and a fake title”.

He blamed everyone else but himself and gave up on his dream in 1960. In 1962 he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and placed into a mental hospital. He died after four years.


Las Vegas was just being built up from the tiny dusty desert town in the 1950’s, it bears little resemblance to the Las Vegas of today. It was mainly focused on gambling with alcohol as a companion. Could a similar place that focused on the drinking with gambling as one activity been a hit as well? Could it have rivaled Vegas for the adult vacation destination?

So many great writers were heavy drinkers. Hemingway, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Bukowski, Faulkner, Kerouac, Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, and so many more. Would the writers of then and today been drawn to such a place as BoozeTown? Where the authorities would not harass someone just for partaking in an intoxicating substance. I think it was worth a shot.

Really, all Mel wanted was to do what he liked as long as everyone else agreed. Somewhere he could drink with like-minded folks and not worry about the law. Is that too far fetched? No one would have been forced to go there, they would have sought the freedom within. While drugs were not thought about much during the 50’s, I am sure they would have been welcomed as well.

Who knows, if history happened a bit differently maybe some of us would be planning our next trip to BoozeTown: Where It's Always Happy Hour.

But in the end it really was just another El Dorado and a life lost to the search of it.

How do you all feel about his ideas? Let me know down below.

This post has been dedicated to our resident drunken storytellers @modernbukowski for his friendship, and @rockyromano for the laughs.




Cheers to your article . . .

In today's modern world of no morality he would have found easy funding ! ! !

You might be right @crok, funding might be easier to come by nowadays

"If he became frustrated during his presentation he would abruptly stop and shake his fist in the air and curse God. "

I'm trying to imagine how that would go over at any of the entrepreneurial events I occasionally attend. Maybe the best vision comes from this stand-up comic (the very last bit).

Ha, Iliza is pretty funny. If you look at the pic of Mel in the post you can see Gary Busey eyes, so yea he was prolly getting crazy there :D

Cool post about a hidden history! I suppose Oktoberfest is about as close to Johnson's vision as we can get today.

I'm sure Oktoberfest would have been a huge holiday at BoozeTown! But I would say that Las Vegas filled the mold of it as best it could.

Hey, @getonthetrain.

What a great entertainment centre that would have been. As you mention, the closest thing we got is Las Vegas but looks like Mel had a great plan in mind!

Brilliantly structured and written post as is your standard now. One of the best and most consistent blogs Steemit has to offer. Very well done, brother!

Thank you @ezzy, I always am happy when I see you left me a comment! :D

I try to only put at least semi-decent stuff out there.

His antisocial behavior surfaced again when he was discharged in 1944 for attempting to burn down the officer’s club

Which every enlisted man has thought about doing at one point or another...
"You want us to paint the grass green?"

  • Disneyland DOES have a drinking club...actually a restaurant that serves booze...Club 33

Mel also was a firm believer in the legalization of gambling and prostitution, things that adults themselves should be able to decide to participate in or not.

A true visionary. Too bad he couldn't have put the town together.

Sure, we all think about it but actually trying to do it is another matter altogether.

Yes but Club 33 didn't open until 1967 - after Mel died. It is like his idea for the secret club for famous people, maybe they heard about it from Mel! :D

What can I say, I've never felt so honored!! Sounds like a great idea!! :)

Love your posts man, so many laughs :D

Oh man, that sounds exactly like the place where I belong to! Amazing post, this one is my favorite for obvious reasons. Not to mention how honored I feel like! 10/10 Thanks mate!

My pleasure buddy :D

I liked your article. Helps you like mine ♥ @siams

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