Already an Internet legend of sorts, at least in the minds of unredeemed boozehounds and womanizers, Tucker Max added to his infamy last month with the debut of his New York Times bestselling collection of dubious drunken tales, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
Max's stories have been passed around by e-mail for years, and his website, tuckermax.com, was the target of a widely reported lawsuit a couple of years ago, when the subject of one of his yarns, a former Miss Vermont, took exception to his lurid screw-and-tell compositions. Her suit was dismissed, and Max's tale about her remains one of his most famous.
But the most popular of Max's stories remains one he wrote about an epic night of drinking and vomiting, an anecdote that's passed around by fratboys like some kind of unattainable standard of heroic stupidity. On Max's site, the infamous "Sushi Pants" tale occupies the top spot among his most-requested fables.
Max, 31, recently moved from Chicago to New York, but "Sushi Pants" takes place in South Florida, where Max spent one of his most eventful years living in Boca Raton, not only puking uncooked fish but cavorting with the Miss Vermont, Delray Beach resident Katy Johnson, who would later take him to court.
In "Sushi Pants," Max describes carrying a Breathalyzer on a four-hour vodka binge to plot his intoxication. Determined to blow a .20, he enters into machismo contests with other patrons that quickly propel his blood-alcohol level to the troposphere. Starving and stumbling, he ends up at a sushi restaurant where a lingerie party is taking place. Pants are lost. More shots are poured; raw fish is consumed and regurgitated, yielding disastrous results. But for local readers, the lack of certain details in the yarn which sushi restaurant, for example, was the setting for the episode? had us wondering if Max's story was full of holes.
So we asked him. Is any of "Sushi Pants" or his other tales actually true?
"Of course," he tells New Times, sounding frustrated, like he gets that question all the time. But he rapidly provides plenty of hard, local detail, recounting a night that began at City Oyster in Delray Beach and passed through nearby Sushi Yoshi before he ended up in a dirty puddle, sans pants, at 8:15 the next morning.
"Let me be clear," he writes in the story. "It was in my top five drunkest nights ever. I was completely shit-housed. I threw up multiple times, some of them through my nose."
Bob Beal, manager at City Oyster, says he knows Max well but wasn't at the restaurant the night of his epic drunk. "You know, Tucker is kind of a crazy guy. That could be a true story," he says.
But Max is definitely wrong about Sushi Yoshi, a Boca Raton restaurant that isn't stumbling distance from City Oyster. The closest sushi joint to City Oyster is a place called Kyoto.
"I honestly cannot remember the name," Max says. "It's only like 30 yards away, but Kyoto sounds familiar. They have these lingerie parties all the time. They should remember that at least."
When we called up Kyoto and asked about that, an employee who had been there at least three years had no recollection of Tucker Max or lingerie nights.
Maybe he'd had too much sake.
Max may have moved on from South Florida, but he's still represented here. His father, Dennis Max, 60, is a well-known local restaurateur who's had a hand in a dizzying number of well-known local dining ventures (see Gail Shepherd's review of Max's Grille in Mizner Park in the Dish section of this issue).
The elder Max says he's proud of his son, even if he doesn't dwell on the details of Tucker's tales.
"I'm not really part of the group that goes home and reads about his exploits," he explains. "As a father, you know, you don't want to read all that."
But plenty of people do, apparently. "Not only in the restaurant but all walks of life, even people my own age, come up and say to me, 'Oh, so you're Tucker Max's dad.' It seems like young people all over know who he is," Dennis says.
Adds Tucker: "If my cell (number) got out, I would never see the end of drunk dials from college students."
Dennis is happier to recount his son's less salacious accomplishments: National Merit Scholar, a graduate of Duke Law School, winner of a scholarship to the University of Chicago. Dad admits that he didn't expect Tucker's career path to involve so much debauchery.
"I always thought he was going to be a lawyer," he says. "My expectation was that he would do something a little bit more mainstream. But every father just wants his child to be happy, to be doing what they want and pursuing their passion which he is."
Even, apparently, when that pursuit found his son under the gazebo in front of his father's Mizner Park restaurant, pawing his dinner date in public. Dad found no fault. Nor was he perturbed when Tucker and his date copulated in her Ford Explorer parked 20 yards away. Dennis did get steamed a few months later, though. While Tucker and his gal were on another date, she pulled Tucker into a bathroom stall at the restaurant for a blowjob. Turns out a couple of waiters complained. Dad still "thought it was funny," according to Tucker.
But when his son posted the whole adventure (which includes much, much more wantonness) in graphic detail, Dennis thought his son had made a big mistake. "That was not a very smart move on his part by using her name," he says.
Tucker not only named the woman in these adventures Johnson, who had been named Miss Vermont USA in 2001 but he painted her as a dimwitted slut infected with potentially psychopathic traits. Johnson sued and alarmed some Internet-freedom activists when she won a controversial temporary injunction against Max's website. But after further legal wrangling, she eventually dropped the matter.
In the end, evil triumphed: Max's "The (Almost Banned) Miss Vermont Story" is still a popular fixture on his website, along with photographs and video of the couple and tales of their sexual encounters.
In response, Johnson launched her own website, which she uses to promote a cartoon series, Starrlettes, aimed at 8- to 12-year-old girls. Johnson's teenaged cartoon characters promote values to the school-age set, including self-esteem, responsibility... and abstinence.
"It shows maturity to keep your purity!" Johnson's site proclaims.
Johnson didn't return a call from New Times.
As morally reprehensible as they may be, Tucker Max's stories also can make for fine reading.
Most refreshing is his knack for sizing up Boca Raton's gold-digging desperadoes: "women [who] have circled the drain a few times, and no manner of plastic surgery or trips to the spa can hide that despair that years of whorish behavior and emotional prostitution leaves in the eyes."
And what may be most redeemable about the man is his ability to be just as savagely disparaging about himself.
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He admits to traveling with a busted moral compass. "[I] am only just beginning to develop enough maturity to empathize with the emotions of others, a necessary predicate to compassionate behavior," he explains on his site. "I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions... and just generally act like a raging dickhead."
Seen through that prism, the ribaldry of stories like "Tucker Tries Buttsex, Hilarity Does Not Ensue" or "Tucker Has Moment of Reflection, Ends Poorly" represent not just frat-boy rowdiness but some rare peeks into a twisted version of the hero myth.
Like a liquored-up odyssey, each Tucker Max adventure is marked with trials, conquests, and confrontations on the path toward some sort of self-enlightenment the author knows he's going to require later in life. The journeys he takes his readers on is studded with scenes of pig-like rutting, apeish chest-beating, and copious amounts of bodily fluids and functions. This nightmare world nonetheless allows him (and us) to experience his deepest, darkest desires. Such as getting drunk and getting laid, as many times as possible.
What dad wouldn't be proud?