The boys are back in town

They roam in packs. They wear false breasts. Anyone would think it's their last night of freedom.
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The Independent Culture
THE GROOM may end up tied naked to a lamppost or he could wake from a drugged sleep on a fast train to Aberdeen. Martin Clunes found himself washed up, minus clothes and penniless, on a beach in the Outer Hebrides in the film Staggered. But Lee Wearn's stag-night hell tops the lot - and he wasn't even the groom.

Lee awoke in the lavatory of a P&O ferry thinking he was about to land in Portsmouth, then found he was well on his way to Bilbao.

The party of 20 friends boarded the Pride of Bilbao in Portsmouth on Friday night and set sail for Cherbourg. They spent all night dancing in the ship's disco and drinking until the ferry docked next morning. "We were quite quiet by then as we all had a hangover," says best man, Phil Carter, 29, from Stubbington, near Portsmouth.

The party got back on board and the ship returned to England. But while the passengers were disembarking, Lee, 32, a transport worker who is also from Stubbington, was sleeping off his headache in the toilets. When he awoke and realised he had missed the landing, he assumed the ferry was heading back to France, that is until a crew member told him he was on the Atlantic Ocean bound for northern Spain. "It's disgusting," said Mr Carter. "P&O should have checked the boat."

It's a sorry tale and it won't be the last. For decades, British men have been using their friends' marriages as an excuse to behave badly. Months of preparation go into stag parties as friends do their utmost to give the groom the night of his life before all fun comes to an end. Common ingredients include false breasts, strippers, vomit and nakedness, all washed down with an extraordinary amount of alcohol.

"When you get a bunch of lads together on a mission to drink, something is bound to happen," says Ian Belcher, travel editor on lads' magazine Maxim. "You're with your best friends, who want to see you go out with a bang."

He once heard about a group of 20 readers who went on a 10-day double stag trip to run with the bulls at Pamplona. They set out in a van from a pub in south London wearing T-shirts bearing the legend "Fancy a Shag?" on the front, and "Yes You, You Fat Cow" on the back. The two grooms were dressed as the Queen. Within three hours of leaving one of the party had suffered a broken nose as the result of ``a playful head butt''.

Not content with swigging out of cans or bottles, they rigged up a system of tubes through which the alcohol could be poured into their mouths even faster. Whoever "lost" at the drinking contests had their body hair plucked.

As the trip went on, other ingredients were added to their drinking apparatus - the contents of ashtrays, body hair and urine. Surprisingly the party ran with the bulls without any mishaps.

Their behaviour isn't the norm, insists Belcher. "Plenty of men don't bother with a stag night. Some people think it's outdated. A lot of people now get married later and they're not so interested in being surrounded by vomit."

However, even top professionals use the opportunity to misbehave. In one incident a psychiatrist and a heart specialist were both arrested and charged with being drunk and exposing themselves after streaking during a stag night in July. Cardiologist Dr Daniel Blackman, 29, who was getting married, and Dr Graham Ingram, 30, stripped and went for a calm midnight stroll in the nude in Cork. The pair, who both work in Oxford, were ordered to pay pounds 150 to charity.

Doug Waters, owner of the Buccaneer Inn in Tenby, Wales, - voted the second best ``laddish'' resort in the world by Maxim magazine - refuses to let stag parties in.

"They're a pain in the backside," he says. "The locals get bored with it. They all think they're the first in the world to get up to what they do.

"They dress up as cavemen or women, they're away from home and don't know anyone so it's no holds barred. They're more trouble than they're worth. They're loud and they sing and it's quite intimidating for the other customers."

Keith May, landlord of the town's Three Mariners pub, however, welcomes stag parties with open arms, despite their fondness for taking "souvenirs" of the night, including tables.

"I think they're brilliant. They are out enjoying themselves and they spend money, which is why I'm in the business. They start on pints and then go on to cocktails and shorts."

When The Full Monty was released the men would strip whenever the soundtrack was played. Keith has now taken it off the juke box. Now, all he has to face is the sight of naked men chained to the railings when he closes up for the evening.

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