Channing Pollock? George Raft? Tug McGraw? Stan Bowles? George Best?
Dear Quote Investigator: George Raft was my favorite film star from the Golden Age of Hollywood. He often played gangsters and was memorable in “Some Like it Hot”. Raft was known for his high income in Tinseltown and for his wild profligacy. The quotation that interests me appeared in his obituary in 1980 [RFT80]:
Raft … made, and squandered, about $10 million in his movie career, and later joked: “Part of the loot went for gambling, part for horses and part for women. The rest I spent foolishly.”
Did Raft really say this or is it part of his legend?
Quote Investigator: Yes, QI thinks Raft did say it, but he probably was not the first person to do so.
This exact quote appears in a profile of Raft written when he was 71 years old for Parade, the mass circulation Sunday newspaper magazine, dated 1966 October 23 [RFT66]. Raft says he purchased a racehorse for the star Betty Grable.
There is more evidence that Raft did utter the quip contained in an autobiographical book by Joe Franklin the host of a long-running talk show. Franklin says that Raft told him a close variant of the quote that includes alcohol [RFT95]:
George Raft told me on my show that he spent all of the $10 million he made on women, horses, gambling, and whiskey – and the rest he spent foolishly.
Interestingly, the full-text databases of today reveal that this joke has a large number of variations. For example: the money is spent on wine, whiskey, booze, liquor, women, horses, gambling, the finest duds, and three mustache curlers. The spendthrift is identified as George Raft, a hobo, a marine, a cat skinner, or a sailor.
The earliest version of the gag that QI has located appears in Reader’s Digest in August 1936. The text was submitted to the Digest for publication by a person named Channing Pollock [RDP]:
Do you remember the sailor who, asked what he’d done with his wages, answered, “Part went for liquor, part for women, and the rest I spent foolishly.”? – Channing Pollock
Who is Channing Pollock? There is an entry in Wikipedia and an entry at the Internet Movie Database under that name for a playwright and drama critic. But it is not certain that the joke submitter Channing Pollock is the same individual. The creator of the joke may be another Pollock, or someone earlier in time.
Top-notch researcher Bill Mullins found another citation in the same year and month in a periodical for magicians [MAG]:
The scene was the St. Marks lobby during the post-convention party in Oakland. A magician passed the remark that he had spent a lot of money at the Seattle convention. “How did you spend your money,” asked one of the boys. “Well,” was the reply, “I spent some on liquor, some on women and the rest I spent foolishly.”
The jest in various permutations continues to be popular. One memorable instance appeared in Sports Illustrated magazine in 1975 and was delivered by the baseball pitcher Tug McGraw when describing what he would do with his plush salary [TUG]:
Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other 10% I’ll probably waste.
An article dated 1995 on the website of the UK paper The Independent contains a version of the saying attributed to the footballer Stan Bowles by Frank Worthington [IFW] (Thanks to commenter Zythophile for mentioning Bowles):
“I’ve squandered fortunes in my life on birds, booze and gambling. But, as my old pal Stan Bowles liked to say, it’s better than wasting it.”
Frank Worthington, 1993
Another similar saying has been attributed to the famous Manchester United footballer George Best of Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 2000 the London newspaper “The Times” published a reference called “The Times Book of Quotations” that contained the entry below. Although the words were attributed to Best no specific citation was given [TTGB]:
Best, George (1946- )
I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.
In 2002 a profile of Best on the BBC website used the same quotation [BBCGB]:
But he had turned his back on a top level career within nine years, retiring to a life of alcohol and indulgence at the tender age of 26.
“I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered,” he famously said of his lifestyle.
In conclusion, there is direct evidence that George Raft and Tug McGraw used versions of the expression. Other sports personalities have been associated with the saying. It was created or popularized by Channing Pollock by 1936. Thanks for your question.
[RFT80] 1980 November 29, Nashua Telegraph, Deaths and Obituaries: Raft Eulogized, UPI, Page 7 (GNA Page 4), Nashua, New Hampshire. (Google News Archive) link
[RFT66] 1966 October 23, Reading Eagle, Parade magazine, George Raft at 71 by Lloyd Shearer, Page 4, Reading, Pennsylvania. (Google News Archive) link
[RFT95] 1995, Up late with Joe Franklin by Joe Franklin and Richard J. Marx, George Raft, Page 64, Scribner, New York. (Google Books snippet view) (Verified on paper)
[RDP] 1936 August, The Reader’s Digest, Illustrative Anecdotes III, page 46, Volume 29, Number 172, The Reader’s Digest Association. (Google Books snippet view) (Verified on paper) link
[MAG] 1936 August, Pacific Coast Magic News, Volume 2, Number 10, Page 7, Column 1.
[TUG] 1975 April 21, Sports Illustrated, They Said It edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum, Page 16, Time Inc. (Sports Illustrated Vault Online) [Quotation included in the Yale Book of Quotations] link
[TTGB] 2000, The Times Book of Quotations, Category: excess, George Best, Page 249, Times Books, HarperCollins, Glasgow, UK. (Verified on paper)
[IFW] 1995 September 10, The Independent (UK), Demons on the Loose by Andrew Baker, London, United Kingdom. (Website: The Independent: Sport, independent.co.uk, Accessed January 14, 2011) link
[BBCGB] 2002 December 8, BBC Sport, Sports Personality 2002: Simply the Best, news.bbc.co.uk, United Kingdom. (Accessed 2011 January 10) link
Update history: On January 14, 2011 material about Stan Bowles and George Best was added to this entry.