Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who's Got the Mary -- Jane?

On Jay Leno's show (March 15), "Glee" star Jane Lynch chatted about the Vanity Fair post-Oscar party at the Sunset Towers, where everyone looked good but were boring to talk to. "I ended up in a corner somewhere, and somebody lit up a marijuana cigarette," Lynch said. After the partiers sat at her table, "and all of a sudden everyone's saying, 'Jane's got pot!"

"I don't smoke I don't drink and I'm writing a book about how I don't do those things," Lynch explained, while chuckling about the incident with a non-shocked Jay. "It was being smoked around me, and I stopped breathing, I didn't inhale."

Turns out, it may have been a different Jane who did the inhaling.

Gatecrasher at the New York Daily News reports of the party:

"During one trip to a bar in the back of the tent, we recognized the familiar aroma of marijuana, and then caught sight of 'Easy Rider' star Peter Fonda standing in the corner with his sister’s boyfriend, music producer Richard Perry. Inches away, Jane Fonda (seated next to 'Glee' star Jane Lynch) used one hand to shield her mouth while puffing what looked like a handmade cigarette.

"At a nearby bar, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short stood chatting. O’Hara reportedly grinned and asked, 'Do you smell the weed? We’re blaming it on Peter Fonda'.”

Peter Fonda, of course, produced and starred in Easy Rider, in which Jack Nicholson played an innocent trying pot for the first time. Jane played a similar role in 9 to 5, as a divorced woman empowering herself in more ways than one.

"You don't mind if I turn on, do you?" Fonda (pictured) asked Rex Reed before puffing some of "the real thing" on New Years Eve, 1969, the day she found out she won a NY Film Critics Award for her performance in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? "Hey, it's no secret that I've smoked pot," Fonda wrote in her 2005 autobiography My Life So Far. 

Nicholson criticized America's War on Drugs in a recent interview with a British newspaper, and said he still smokes pot. "I don't tend to say this publicly, but we can see it's a curative thing," Nicholson told the UK's Daily Mail.

Friday, March 25, 2011


TMZ has unearthed a 1992 tape of Whoopi Goldberg describing how she smoked pot before the Oscars when she won Best Supporting Actress for "Ghost". Saying she smoked "a wonderful joint" when she wanted to relax before the show, "It was the last of my homegrown, and honey, when they called my name..."

Not only did she get to monster-hug Denzel Washington, she gave the most sincere acceptance speech ever. "I wanna thank everyone who makes movies," she said. She graciously acknowledged her co-star Patrick Swayze, who finally started to gain weight after he tried medical marijuana for his cancer in 2009, but sadly, too late to save him.

After the speech, "My mother called me and she said, you smoked, didn't you? Your eyes were just glistening," Whoopi relates. "So I got the Oscar tape to see if you could tell--and you couldn't."

"I know you're not supposed to admit that you smoke pot...they'll call me 'dopehead'...but just because I say that I do it doesn't mean you have to," she said with mock sincerity to chuckles from her interviewers.

Whoopi came out in support of Michael Phelps during that flap, admitting to "having smoked" on The View.

I very much hope Whoopi won't back away from this statement, but rather use it to open debate on our unjust marijuana laws. It will be interesting to see if she talks about it on The View next week (11 AM on ABC). Monday's show with guest Kiefer Sutherland would be a perfect time to discuss the difference between hard and soft "drugs".

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Farewell To the Exceptional Elizabeth Taylor

UPDATE 12/15: It's been revealed that Taylor ran a "buyer's club" for AIDS patients.

10/15: Taylor is included in the new book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory 

Ten-year-old Taylor in Jane Eyre (1943)
Elizabeth Taylor, who graced the screen as a child in Jane Eyre and National Velvet, and as an adult in films like Giant, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, and Cleopatra, has died.

Taylor won several humanitarian awards for her work raising over $10 million and much awareness for AIDS at a time when no one wanted to acknowledge the disease. She is remembered for her addictions to alcohol and painkillers, and according to one biographer, smoked pot.

Taylor with Christopher Lawford
According to Ellis Amburn's 2000 book,
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World: The Obsessions, Passions, and Courage of Elizabeth Taylor, Liz's experimentation with marijuana began in mid-1973, when she partied with Peter Lawford and his son Christopher, hitting hot spots like Candy Store in Beverly Hills. Peter's friend Arthur Natoli recalled, "[Lawford] and Elizabeth used to turn on together. They were high on pot a lot. I don't know if he supplied her." (Christopher has since gone onto a career as an addiction recovery advocate.)

Taylor's fourth husband Eddie Fisher was revealed to be a pot smoker by his daughter Carrie in her 2008 book Wishful Drinking. In his 2008 autobiography, Tony Curtis says marijuana was very popular in Hollywood around the time of his 1971 bust for carrying pot through Heathrow airport.

Taylor was 19 in 1951 when she was cast in A Place in the Sun opposite Montgomery Clift. She had a lifelong devotion to Clift, who smoked marijuana (as did James Dean). According to Patricia Bosworth's biography of Clift, Libby Holman, the 16-years-older actress with whom Clift was involved, "got into the so-called exotic states of consciousness in the twenties with Tallulah Bankhead...Paul Bowles recalled discovering a supply of 'very good grass' in a humidor in Libby's brownstone the day Allen Ginsburg and Peter Orlovsky came to call." Bosworth wrote of Holman's home during the time she and Clift were involved, "Marijuana, cocaine and mescaline were available at the Treetops."

Twenty-year-old Taylor in Ivanhoe
Taylor next appeared in Ivanhoe, based on the Sir Walter Scott novel. She played Rebecca, a Jewess and the daughter of a money lender who supports Ivanhoe's quest to unseat King John in favor of King Richard. When Ivanhoe is wounded in battle, Rebecca heals him, since she "knowest the craft of herbs, and the force of elixirs." She is then brought up on charges of witchcraft, in order to smear Richard. 

"I was taught healing by Miriam of Manassas. But I have always sought to use that skill in the service of man to relieve his pain," Taylor as Rebecca says in her defense at trial. "If this convicts me of witchcraft and with me my people, then may God have pity on every man who seeks mercy and justice from his fellow man. For the only merciful power in this world is death, and the only justice is beyond the grave." She is nonetheless sentenced to be burned at the stake, until Ivanhoe saves her as her champion. 

While in England filming Ivanhoe, Taylor began dating her second husband Michael Wilding. According to Amburn, "Elizabeth sometimes ditched Wilding to slip off to Oscar Levant's Beverly Hills house with Monty, where the pianist serenaded them with Gershwin tunes as they whiled away afternoons and early evenings." Sounds like a pothead's dream date to me.

Thirty-year-old Taylor as Cleopatra 
In 1963 the epic film Cleopatra was released with Taylor resplendently formidable in the title role. It's quite likely that Cleo used cannabis, as depicted in the more modern HBO series Rome (but not in Taylor's portrayal, though much incense was burned at altars therein).

Taylor was also a powerhouse as a bohemian Big Sur artist in The Sandpiper (1965), by once-blacklisted screenwriter (and Very Important Pothead) Dalton Trumbo. According to Kirk Douglas, when sniping columnist Hedda Hopper complained about Trumbo's screen credit at the film's premiere, Taylor turned around in her seat and said, "Hedda, why don't you just shut the fuck up?"

According to How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor and Hollywood by William J. Mann, Taylor suffered from a painful congenital anomaly of the spine, and was shot up with drugs like novocaine and hydrocortisone, and given prescriptions for the painkillers Meticorten and Demoral, in order to keep her films like Giant shooting on schedule.

As a newlywed in Mexico, Taylor's husband Mike Todd had to carry her up to the roof to watch the fireworks tribute to the couple because she was recovering from a spinal fusion to treat a herniated disc. After Todd died in an airplane crash, his crony Fisher sent the despondent widow to Dr. Max "Feelgood" Jacobson, whose "vitamin injections" to the stars were filled with at least 30 mg of amphetamines combined with steroids, hormones, placenta and bone marrow. 

Sweet Bird of Youth (1989)
It's a shame Taylor didn't live in a time when marijuana was more acceptable than the more harmful substances she seems to have used more frequently. On the set of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) she was encouraged to drink as much as her character did, and writer Ernest Lehman also suspected she was "taking something" to elevate her mood. Happy with her high-energy performance (which won her a second Oscar), Lehman wrote in his journal, "Whatever the pill is, I am very much in favor of it."

In 1989 Taylor appeared in a TV version of Tennessee Williams' play "Sweet Bird of Youth" (pictured), as the aging actress Alexandra Del Lago whom a young hustler (Mark Harmon) tries to blackmail over her hashish habit. 

Her last film appearance opens Elton John's 2001 video, "Original Sin":
Oh, it's carnival night
And they're stringing the lights around you
Hanging paper angels
Painting little devils on the roof

Oh the furnace wind
Is a flickering of wings about your face
In a cloud of incense
Yea, it smells like Heaven in this place
I hope that's the Heaven Elizabeth is in today. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When Louise Cooked

Photo: From Rhythm for Sale by Grant Harper Reid
Even when I try to look up a male pothead these days, it seems I find a female. I checked out Milton Berle's autobiography after reading somewhere he'd smoked pot: Turns out he tried it only once, on a date with Harlem exotic dancer Louise Cook, which elevates her to VIP status.

Berle says of Cook, "She was known as one of the greatest belly dancers in the world, and her act was sensational, with everything going like a flag in a hurricane." VIP Louis Armstrong wrote, "Ol Louise Cook—I shall never forget her, and her Dance. She was so wonderful in her 'Shake dance she would take 5 and 6 Encores."

Cook was married to Herbert Mills of The Mills Brothers and appeared in Oscar Micheaux's breakthrough 1931 film The Exile. Watch her dance in the film.

Read more about Louise.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sitcom Sativas

I always thought Phoebe on Friends was the unsung stoner chick of the group. The most original character on the show, she was a guitar-strumming sweetheart with off-the-wall logic that everyone loved.

Phoebe was played by Lisa Kudrow, who went on to arguably the most interesting post-Friends career: she starred in an ahead-of-its-time faux reality TV show and now executive produces "Who Do You Think You Are?" a show where celebrities conduct geneological research live (last week's episode had Lionel Ritche discovering one ancestor was a white slave owner who provided in his will for the education and housing of his great grandmother, a slave, and her child).

Other than Ross (David Schwimmer) outing himself on Thanksgiving to his parents as a college pot smoker (something we should all do), I never caught a pot reference on Friends, until perhaps the other night, when "The One With Phoebe's Uterus" (Season 4, episode 11) re-aired. The episode stars Teri Garr in her final performance as Phoebe's birth mother, who Phoebe consults for advice when she is asked to act as a surrogate mother for her brother and his wife. Upon entering her house, Phoebe says in another context something like, "I didn't know you did pot," which Garr shrugs off.

Phoebe shows her total commitment to the values of the 60s when she suggests she and her fiancee donate their wedding money to charity. 

Friends was in the news when their pot dealer was busted on the set. But so far, the only cast member who has come clean as an occasional smoker is Jennifer Aniston, the only Friend to win an Emmy for her performance, and certainly the one with the most successful film career.

Meanwhile, Gossip Girl actress Michelle Tractenberg reportedly had to do some research when her "longtime pal" Topher Grace of That 70's Show asked her to play a pothead in the upcoming film Take Me Home Tonight.

"I play a goth stoner chick and I don't know anything about the weed," she told on Feb. 15 at a party celebrating her recent Maxim cover. So she polled her friends, "who are apparently a bunch of f--king stoners," she told Us.

Despite depicting weekly smoke-filled circles in the basement and casting Tommy Chong, That 70's Show never showed viewers its bong. And marijuana was never mentioned, even when Stephen is arrested for "holding" when he takes the rap for cheerleader Jackie (Mila Kunis). 

UPDATE 4/15 - Thanks to Netflix airing all 10 seasons of Friends, I've been able to watch and catch a few pot references, confirming Phoebe's and Ross's marijuana connections. 

In the Season One episode, "The One With the Stoned Guy," Phoebe drives Jon Lovitz to Monica's apartment so she can cook him dinner. She reveals that Lovitz's character smoked a joint on the way over, and demonstrates that she knows the vocabulary. "You know, lit a bone? Weed? Hemp? Ganja?" 

In Season 2, Episode 9, wherein Monica is baking Christmas cookies claiming they speak to people, Phoebe comments, "A plate of brownies once told me a limerick." "Were those funny brownies?" she is asked. "Not especially, but you know what, I think they had pot in them," is her response. Two episodes later, Marlo Thomas, guest starring as Rachel's mother, asks, "You know what we should do? Does anyone have any marijuana?" (but Phoebe isn't in the room). 

Season 3's nods to marijuana include Monica asking Phoebs the question, "Did you make brownies today?" in Episode 7. In Episode 10, Ross pioneers selling Girl Scout (here: Brown Birds of America) cookies to stoners and becomes known as "the cookie dude" on a nearby college campus. During the episode, Monica says she became overweight as a child after she joined the Brown Birds; she and Ross talk about the cookies he sells her like they're a drug.  In Season 4, Episode 2, Ross, who's gone the rationalist route, asks Phoebe, "You aren't taking your grandmother's glaucoma medicine again, are you?" 

Season 6, Episode 6 dresses Phoebe in a T-shirt with a Green Cross on it, just before she runs like a crazy woman, embarrassing Rachel. But by the end of the episode, Rachel, wearing a green shirt, also runs goofy to prove that she's not "uptight" -- and finds out she likes it. By 1999, when the episode aired, the Green Cross had come to symbolize medical marijuana. The writers were aware that was the year because in the following episode, Ross mentions it while commenting on a new girlfriend's "groovy" black light posters. All this leads up to "The One Where Ross Gets High" in which Monica tells their parents that it was Ross, not Chandler (now her boyfriend) who smoked pot in college. Ross's excuse for laying the blame on his friend is, "I don't know, I was all high." 

It was revealed by the Wall Street Journal that in the year 2000, our then-drug “czar” Barry McCaffrey “secretly paid television networks to propagandize its anti-drug message.”  The scripts of "ER," "Chicago Hope," "Beverly Hills 90210" and other programs were altered to include anti-drug messages and in return, the networks were allowed to sell advertising time that had been promised to the government. Was "Friends" on the take? 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Studies and Connections

Celebrating Women's History Month, I checked out the Women's Marijuana Movement website, which has lots of good info and links, notably their facts page on marijuana vs. alcohol, their testimonials and links.

On the NORML Women's Alliance site, I found articles and reports on marijuana and pregnancy, breast cancer, and teens. On the "Women and Their Role in Cannabis Culture" page I found this interesting anthropologcial study from Marlene Dobkin de Rios. Both sites have email sign-up lists you can join.

More on the marijuana/running connection raised by Alanis Morisette in an earlier post: Time magazine reports that those who exercise more may crave marijuana less, which fits with recent findings that the runners "high" may be produced by cannabinoids.

A fascinating article in Time interviews researcher Mitch Earlywine, who thinks male pot smokers act dumb because they're told they are, while women want to prove the stereotype wrong.

I'm for that!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

RIP Suze Rotolo, A Modern Muse

Yesterday, Terry Gross aired an interview she'd done on Fresh Air with Suze Rotolo, the woman who appeared arm-in-arm with Bob Dylan on the cover of his 1963 album "Freewheelin' with Bob Dylan."

Rotolo lived with Dylan for four years and is credited in his autobiography with influencing his life, activism and art. "Meeting her was like stepping into the Tales of 1001 Arabian Nights," he wrote. She inspired his songs “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “One Too Many Mornings” and “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.”

According to the New York Times, Rotolo lived in downtown New York her entire life, and worked as a teacher, a painter and a book illustrator.

In her memoir A Freewheelin' Time, Rotolo writes, "I swear it was [Canadian folk musician] Ian Tyson who offered up the first taste of marijuana when Bob brought him to the flat one afternoon. Ian had a friend back home who had introduced him to their stuff you could smoke that would get you high. Bob didn't think I should try it until he had tested it, but later on I did."  Writing about sitting around with Tyson and his partner Sylvia listening to records, Rotolo wrote, "We reveled in the joy of discovering something we had never heard before. And this wasn't just for music; it was about books and movies, too. We were a young and curious lot, but we all acted cool and hip and knowing."

After someone dosed her drink with LSD without her knowledge, on a night when she had "smoked and drank some but not excessively," Rotolo never voluntarily tried acid. She wrote, "In the folk music world in the early days, it was a slow lope into marijuana use, and drug use in general. Booze was still it with the older crowd, and we were emulating them, but eventually drugs got equal billing. By the time the next group of Village explorers came on the scene, booze was on the way out, particularly with anyone who had been to college."

Rotolo signs off her book with the words, "We had something to say, not something to sell." In 2004, using the pseudonym Alla DaPie, she joined the street-theater group Billionaires for Bush and protested at the Republican convention in Manhattan.

Suze Rotolo died last week at the age of 67.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Women's History Month Celebrates Female Cannabis Connoisseurs

In honor of Women's History Month, Very Important Potheads has added profiles of several female conoisseurs to its website, including musician Alanis Morisette (pictured) and VIP of the month Isabelle Eberhardt. Also honored as VIPs are Susan Sarandon, Cameron Diaz, and Lady Gaga, joining 65 other profiles of Marijuana Mamas published on the site.

Lady Gaga's remarks on 60 Minutes before this year's Grammy awards echoed Morisette's when she told High Times magazine in 2010, “As an artist, there's a sweet jump-starting quality to [marijuana] for me...So if ever I need some clarity... or a quantum leap in terms of writing something, it's a quick way for me to get to it.” The singer/songwriter/actress also told Runner's World magazine of the clarity-bringing properties of a good run, which is interesting because the New York Times has just published a summary of studies that indicate that cannabinoids, not endorphins, are responsible for the so-called "runner's high."

The recently discovered Isabelle Eberhardt was born in 1877, the illegitimate daughter of a Russian noblewoman and her children’s anarchistic tutor. Raised to be an independent thinker, her short but eventful life proved she was. At the age of 20, she left France for Algeria where she smoked kif, embraced Islam and picked up a sword to join a revolt against French colonialists in 1898. Dressed as a man, Eberhardt explored the region, sending dispatches in the form of crystalline short stories like “The Seduced,” a heartbreaking tale of a young Arab who joins the army and returns to see his family's land usurped. A compilation of Isabelle Eberhardt's stories and reviews of her work, Departures, is published by City Lights (San Francisco).

Very Important, which profiles over 200 prominent cannabis consumers from history to the present day, is celebrating its 10th year of publication in 2010. Last year, its blog won a Top Marijuana Blog award from, and its author Ellen Komp was nominated for a Jack Herer award for Outstanding Hemp Awareness in Journalism. VIPs has merged its blog with and is focusing on the female.

Read more and see a list of famous female marijuana users with links.