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LOOKING FOR A GOOD TIME, BUT WITHOUT THE VICES

" . . . We've given up cigarettes, we've given up wine

"We've given up caffeine and sworn off desserts

"I don't try to seduce you, we don't even flirt

"We're too good to be happy, too straight to be sad . . . "

-- From Carly Simon's song
"Happy Birthday"
THE NEW Year's Eve celebration is only three days away, but as 1990 fades into the sunset, would-be revelers are painfully aware that raising hell is risky business.

They worry about AIDS and a host of other diseases, alcohol and drug abuse. There are dire warnings about smoking and being around people who smoke.

The concerns are not confined to the party crowd. We can't even go out for dinner anymore without worrying about foods laden with cholesterol, bacteria and dangerous chemicals. We have to guard against overindulging in everything from red meat to white wine.

Candy ruins our teeth, fish may be filled with mercury, and watch out for harmful germs lurking in tap water. And if we can find something safe to eat, then we have to worry about eating too much of it and gaining weight. Obsessive dieting can be just as harmful, leading to eating disorders.

Cannot distribute vertically
ut the vices
"The world is quite hostile for anyone still looking for a good time," said M.G. Lord, syndicated cartoonist and columnist for Newsday, who claims we are turning into a nation of prigs.

Cannot distribute vertically A prig, she explains, is "a born-again non-smoker who neither drinks, dances nor has sex -- unless it is absolutely necessary."

She also defines a prig as a "God-fearing social animal who wears state-of-the-art running shoes, and demands a tasteful life and tasteless food."

How long must we suffer through a priggish lifestyle?

"It will get worse before it gets better," said Ms. Lord, author of "Prig Tales" (Avon, $6.95).

Having a good time remains a challenge in the era of "just say no" -- but it can be done. One example is Danny Gare, a star player for the Buffalo Sabres back in the '70s, when he was young, rich, famous and a party animal.

"On the ice I worked hard, and off the ice I played hard," Gare says now.

It was fun while it lasted, but today Gare lives a much slower lifestyle.

At 37, he says his family -- wife Mary Anne, daughters Danielle and Kelly -- is the center of his life. He runs a restaurant business, broadcasts hockey on the radio and offers his time to charity efforts.

What does he do for kicks?

"Spend an evening at home with my wife and two daughters, watching television. Sometimes we go out to dinner. That's what I enjoy most. Who wants to get drunk? At my age, I drink too much and I'm sick for a week."

Many people think the same way, and that's why First Night Buffalo will celebrate its second drug-free and alcohol-free New Year's Eve, Monday from 5 p.m. until midnight at Buffalo Place.

This kind of activity is not limited to New Year's Eve.

Bars serve alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks ranging from wine coolers to light beer. Many have wine bars, where wine with a meal is now served by the glass instead of the bottle.

There are alcohol-free seating sections for local professional sports teams, and the Bills have announced they will not sell beer during playoff games at Rich Stadium. There are non-alcohol dances for teen-agers, and roller rinks have become places to hang out without getting high.

Instead of being addicted to drugs, many adolescents are hooked on video games.

"The kids today are much more aware of the consequences of acting crazy," says Sally Montague, 38, of Kenmore, the mother of four children ages 8 to 13. "When I was a teen-ager it was the normal thing to smoke a joint. It's not like that anymore."

These days, Ms. Montague works for anti-drug causes. "I've discovered you can get off on life," she says. "I'm happiest when I can do things with my children."

Ms. Montague's attitude about drinking also has changed. "I don't want to get drunk. It's just not fun anymore," she said. "People are frightened of alcohol. I'm scared to death to drink and drive."

Others have jumped on the bandwagon. The signs are everywhere, including downtown Buffalo, where in the past few months two new nightspots -- Scott's and the Calumet Arts Cafe -- have opened. Both stress healthful food without an emphasis on alcohol.

Movies have long served as a healthy entertainment alternative. Current films such as "Dances With Wolves," "Home Alone" and "Ghost" are packing them in.

Entertainment has also moved into the safety of the home. Sales and rentals of videocassettes continue to soar. Video recorders, computers, compact disc players, tape decks and audio/video systems have changed the look of living rooms and family rooms.

"The best fun might be staying alive and enjoying your family and friends, and not enjoying momentary thrills of intoxication," said Dr. Brian S. Joseph, a local psychiatrist in private practice who teaches at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine.

But when it comes to having a good time, have young people learned the lessons of their elders?

"Not really," said Terri Lamb, 21, of Buffalo. "A lot of people my age think they are invincible. They hear about the dangers of AIDS and what drugs can do, but they never think it will happen to them. So they take their chances."

When Ms. Lamb goes to bars, it's not so much to drink as to socialize and listen to music. "You still want to have a good time, but within reason," says Ms. Lamb, who in her free time likes to read and take in an occasional movie.

It doesn't take much to make Kevin Moore, 21, of Buffalo, happy. "I just like to sit around with a bunch of friends and talk or play cards," he said.

"These days, no matter what you do for fun, there are limits. Nobody wants to end up like John Belushi."

Lest we think we've turned into a nation of prigs, Joseph reminds us that, "Like it or not, drug abuse is still widespread and it is not going to go away." The same holds true for alcohol abuse, he adds.

Joseph admits that society is a little more concerned about these vices and "people are thinking about it, but not to the point of eradicating serious problems."

" 'Just say no' is not a bad idea, but hardly the way to deal with these complex problems," he says.

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