Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Tokey Awards

Tokin Woman is proud to bestow 

the following “Tokey” Awards for 2013, 

in recognition of the achievement, 

courage and compassion of the awardees 

(and in a few cases, the lack of enlightenment).

Oprah Winfrey

Bill Maher






Melissa Etheridge

Sanjay Gupta

David Downs, East Bay Express
Ryan Burns, North Coast Journal
Pot POWs

"I'm no fan of drug addicts, just thinking about them makes me so angry I need another Xanax."



Monday, December 16, 2013

Gracing the Emerald Cup

Scout, Grace Slick
The Emerald Cup's 10th Anniversary event at Northern California's Santa Rosa Fairgrounds last weekend was, by all accounts, a leap forward in acceptance and celebration around the cannabis plant. And oh yea, it was a great party too.

Music was provided by Big Brother and the Holding Company (sadly, without Janis Joplin), Canned Heat (who opened with a rocking "On the Road Again"), and Jefferson Starship (missing Grace Slick).

Slick was shoulder to shoulder with Janis as the strongest female rock and roll voice of the 60s. The girl could wail. On top of that, she wrote "White Rabbit" the rock anthem of its day with a haunting Bolero beat:

One pill makes you larger 
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you 
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall.  

Asked about the song, Slick said, "...[P]arents read us these books, like Alice in Wonderland, where she gets high, tall, and she takes mushrooms, a hookah, pills, alcohol. And then there's the Wizard of Oz, where they fall into field of poppies and when they wake up they see Oz. And then there's Peter Pan, where if you sprinkle white dust on you, you could fly. And then you wonder why we do it? Well, what did you read to me?" (SOURCE: Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane by Jeff Tamarkin, 2003 Atria Books)

Slick has now put down the mike and picked up a paintbrush, and her visual art is as provocative and powerful as her music. At the event, her presence was decidedly present with a Wonderland display of her paintings and prints, kindly brought by Fine Art Productions in Santa Rosa. (She is also represented by Saatchi Art.)

Monterey, Grace Slick

In Monterey, a visual record of the pre-Woodstock Monterey Pop festival of 1967,  Slick lights a J for David Crosby and Jerry Garcia, flanked by Mama Cass and Jimi Hendrix. The Who, Joplin, John Phillips, John Lennon, Ravi Shankar, Gandhi and Alice (with a bunny on her head) are depicted. It reminded me of The Cup, and of Marie Laurencin's Les Invitees, a painting of a 1908 hashish adventure.

The rabbit is a big part of Slick's iconography, and she's invented a character named "Rescue Rabbit" who, in one painting, carries cannabis to the Capitol building in DC and in another ("Shootin Dope") fires a gun at its medicine cabinet. Another image has Alice perched on a mushroom, chasing a rabbit on a path where Timothy Leary appears as the mad hatter and Ram Dass is the caterpillar. Slick paints Alice smoking a hookah herself (only the grouchy Queen abstains) in Marikkesh.

P.L. Travers as Titania in A Midsummer Nights Dream
Just in time for Christmas: Another magical children's character, Mary Poppins, will be back on the big screen in Saving Mr. Banks. I notice in the original Disney movie, the children get high at a giggly tea party on the ceiling, and jump into a psychedelic chalk painting. Poppins creator P.L. Travers was a bohemian who was greatly affected by Gurdjieff and hung out with hashish-taker William Butler Yeats, who fostered her interest in world mythology.

The Paris Review asked Travers, "What do you think of the books of Carlos Castaneda?" She replied:

I like them very much. They take me into a world where I fear I will not belong. It’s a bit more occult than my world, but I like Don Juan’s idea about what a warrior is and how a warrior should live. In a way, we all have to live like warriors; that’s the same as being the hero of one’s own story. I feel that Castaneda has been taken into other dimensions of thinking and experiencing. I don’t pretend to understand them, and I think I understand why Castaneda is so slow to give interviews and tries to separate himself from all of that. He doesn’t want to explain. These things can’t be explained in ordinary terms. . .

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How To Make An American Pot Party

After I gave a slide show presentation titled, "Women and Cannabis: A 4000-Year Herstory" at the First Annual Cannabis and Healing conference for women in Wilton, California, a lovely lady came up to me and said that the women spoke pot in the movie How to Make An American Quilt. It's true, both in the book and the movie, which takes place in a town called Grass, California.

"Sometimes in motel rooms between their children’s homes, Glady Joe and Hy drink whiskey and smoke a little reefer. It is their secret. They say it helps them sleep better in strange beds. They buy it from a grandchild in graduate school, a young woman named Finn Bennett-Dodd. Who has promised not to betray them to her parents or the other relatives. Finn understands that, more than the fact that pot is illegal, it upsets people when two elderly grandmothers indulge in this private ritual."    ---Whitney Otto, How To Make An American Quilt 1991

In the movie, sisters Glady Joe (Anne Bancroft) and Hy (Ellen Burstyn) smoke a joint on the porch with their grandniece Finn (Winona Ryder) after she arrives for a visit. They start talking about family secrets, and Finn asks: "Was it a mistake, letting you two smoke?"

This leads to giggles.

Bancroft is bogarting badly when Burstyn reaches over to ask for a toke. After she has hers, she's able to tell her story. Finn, who's come to do a master's thesis on her quiltmaking relatives while deciding whether or not to get married, gets a lesson in life at the quilting bee. A rare appearance by Maya Angelou as the master quilter is a treat; Lady Jean Simmons appears as Em and Lois Smith has a pivotal role as Sophia. 

Bancroft originated the role of Hellen Keller's teacher Annie Sullivan on Broadway in The Miracle Worker and was unforgettable as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. She brought class to everything she did, from The Naked Street (1955) to The Turning Point (1977) to the Queen Bee in Antz (1998). She finally worked with her wonderfully incongruous husband Mel Brooks in To Be Or Not to Be (1983), which is not to be missed. 

Burstyn is no slouch either: she was great in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, but never got good roles (The Exorcist? really?). She is down on drugs of any kind in her autobiography, saying they messed up a friend, and made the dismal Requiem for a Dream about a drug addict. She, and most of us, don't seem to understand there's a world of difference between a joint on the porch and holes in your brain.

Ryder, who played Jo in Tokin' Woman Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, always does interesting projects, like A Scanner Darkly and her work with Pacino (Looking for Richard and Simone).

UPDATE 8/16: Ryder is getting rave reviews for her role in Netflix's Stranger Things and is all the rage again with a generation that grew up on Beetlejuice and Heathers. Netflix is also airing American Quilt. 

Iris Tree: Poet Adventuress

Iris Tree photographed by Man Ray

You preach to me of laws, you tie my limbs
With rights and wrongs and arguments of good,
You choke my songs and fill my mouth with hymns,
You stop my heart and turn it into wood.

...Age creeps upon your timid little faces
Beneath each black umbrella sly and slow,
Proud in the unimportance of your places
You sit in twilight prophesying woe

So dim and false and grey, take my compassion
I from my pageant golden as the day
Pity your littleness from all my passion
Leave you my sins to weep and whine away!

Thus begins Iris Tree's first book of poems, published in 1919.

The daughter of famed English actor and impressario Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Iris was a free thinker and sybarite from an early age. In 1912, at the age of 15, she went to Milan where her sister Viola was studying singing. From there, she wrote to a friend: "I am rather a success here; my hair is admired...I am trying to keep as pure as possible but it's rather difficult. I am in love with a beautiful Italian called Ludovici who gives me lessons in the language on a crimson sofa."  A few weeks later she wrote, "I am having a glorious time, living a somewhat bohemian life and eating bohemian spaghetti....I want to do so many things and of course I shall end by doing nothing. Women never do anything except spoil the lives of men - that is their only consolation."

Back in England at the Slade school the following year, she and her friend Nancy Cunard secretly rented a studio where they "gave clandestine feasts and talked through the night by the light of guttering candles, reading poetry aloud and smoking cigarettes." (The Rainbow Picnic, Daphne Fielding, 1974) "Forbidden playgrounds were investigated..They drank beer in public houses and wine at the Cafe Royal."

Tree by Augustus John
Iris wrote:

I was born in 1897
I have a fringe -
I have whiskers - 
I have a studio in 
Fritzroy Street...
I have had 28 
lovers, some more 
some less...
I drink absinthe.
I borrow money.
I have loved men
I have loved women...
I am a soul.
I am an artist.
I am wanton.
I am a hypocrite.

At 17 she met her lifelong friend, Welsh poet and "King of the Bohemians" Augustus John at one of Lady Ottoline Morell's Thursday gatherings.  In an unpublished essay, In Praise of Augustus John, she wrote, "At Ottoline's there were all kinds of dress-ups. Her rooms were scented with pomanders, pot-pourri and packed with genii in full cry....John's basso profundo muttering rare but penetrating sentences...At first meeting I experienced an immediate intimacy as if I was part of his landscape which has remained in my vision ever since. "

Tree traveled with her father to Hollywood in 1915 (as revealed by Oscar Levant in his book The Uninportance of Being Oscar). Levant called her "a charming and witty woman." When she met her first husband Curtis Moffat in New York in 1916, he "looked like a prentice wizard of magus out of a fairy story, especially in the black cloak he habitually wore at night when he took her out to explore the more raffish quarters of the city: the Bowery, Harlem, Greenwich Village and the dockside." (Fielding)

In his memoir Chiaroscuro (1952), John writes of taking hashish jam supplied by Princess Violette Murat at a dinner party at the Moffats' home in Hampstead:

Having helped myself to the first dose I had almost forgotten it when, catching the eye of Iris Tree across the dinner table, we were both simultaneously seized with uncontrollable laughter about nothing at all. This curious effect repeated itself from time to time throughout the evening.

Iris may have written of the event, or a similar one, in her poem:

Shutting our lips upon a jest 
As we are sipping thoughts from little glasses, 
A gun bursts thunder and the echoing streets 
Quiver with startled terrors...

Much of Tree's poetry of the time deals with the horrors of WWI, juxtaposed against the wild and free bohemian life she was living, still railing against the bourgeoisie: 

You have never known
Delight of dying slowly,
Poisoned with raptures...
Nor felt your souls go blowing like balloons
Tossed by impulsive hands...
You have not felt the abandon
Of light love
Dragged by the hair across a slippery floor...

Contrary to her youthful assessment of women's worthlessness, Tree accomplished much in her life, as well as writing remarkable poetry and acting as muse and model to other artists.  She came to America to act in Max Reinhardt's play The Miracle in 1925, and there met her second husband, Friedrich Ledebur. The two roamed around California, gypsy style, with their son, then moved back to Europe where they were involved in the Chekhov Theatre Studio.

Around 1940 Tree relocated to California and rented a house in the Ojai Valley, the Shangri La where the movie Lost Horizon was filmed.  There she attended lectures by Krishnamurti, and along with him, Aldous Huxley and others, founded The Besant Hill School near Ojai.

Tree also established the Ojai theatre festival, where she played Lady Macbeth and "gave a magnificent performance, even though her stage fright was immeasurably increased by the presence in the audience of her friends Lillian Gish, Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo." She and other members of the Chekhov studio performed her play Second Wind.

French author Simone de Beauvoir wrote of meeting Tree in California in 1947 when her theatre company was preparing to perform Macbeth. "She was extremely beautiful, as I can see in a photograph taken by Man Ray. She traveled widely and always moved in artistic and literary circles," she wrote in America Day by Day. According to Beauvoir's biographer Deidre Bair,  Tree "enjoyed teasing that ‘the Mauvais Tempts [Bad Times] had arrived" with Beauvoir, who thought Tree was "fascinating, beautiful and intelligent, but she was not amused by her jest."

Tree's cameo appearance in La Dolce Vita
Tree owned an apricot ranch for a time, acquired a barn by the sea on an estate once owned by Robert Louis Stevenson, and once took up residence in an apartment built over the merry-go-round on the Santa Monica pier.  She appeared in the 1956 film version of Moby Dick in which Ledeber played Quequeg. She also appears in a cameo, reading poetry as herself, in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960).

The early 1960s found Tree living in Geneva with her son, where she hosted the Huxleys and followed Krisnamurti. Like Huxley, she lost many of her personal papers in California. "Another link between Iris and Aldous Huxley was that she too had taken mescalin," wrote Richard Morphet of the Tate Gallery. Her biographer Daphne Fielding describes encountering Tree in France where she tried a hallucinogenic mushroom said to produce "beatific visions in glorious Technicolor." Fielding claims Tree didn't really how to ingest them, but the chapter ends with someone suggesting she'd gone to the Pyrenees because, "Maybe it's good mushroom country."

At the end of her life Tree was forbidden to indulge in cigarettes, coffee and wine for medical reasons. "I feel a traitor," she said "abandoning Baccus the Mind-Shaker and Ganymede the Cup-Bearer." She died in England in 1968, her last words being, "It's here, it's here... Shining...Love...Love....Love."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Carol Burnett and Hawaii 4-2-0

Eighty-year-old comedy icon Carol Burnett plays a brain cancer patient who goes in search of medical marijuana on a new episode of CBS's Hawaii 5-0. 

Explaining to her nephew why she ended up in the slammer, Burnett's character says, "I needed some grass. How was I to know the guy was a narc?" She had to go to the street, she says, when "Those fascists at the dispensary wouldn’t take my card." [This is a problem for out-of-state medical marijuana users: their own state's cards aren't usually honored elsewhere.]

A subplot on the show had President Obama visiting the island for Thanksgiving; a joke about "the days of Strawberry Fields" followed.

Compounds in marijuana have been shown to kill brain tumor cells without negatively impacting the surrounding healthy cells.

Burnett joins other aging actresses (Polly Bergen on Desperate Housewives; Charlotte Ray on ER) celebrating the healing power of the holy herb on TV.

It might be Burnett's most controversial TV appearance since Friendly Fire, the 1979 drama in which she played a woman whose son is killed by friendly fire in the military.

It's interesting that she would take the role of a marijuana user, because she released a memoir earlier this year about her eldest daughter Carrie Hamilton, who's widely reported to have been addicted to marijuana, cocaine and quaaludes, starting in her teens.

Hamilton died of lung cancer in 2002, at the age of 38. Around 1978 she was a pot smoker, according to a 1979 People magazine story. A study in the American Journal of Public Health concluded, "In March 1978, 13 (21 per cent) of 61 marijuana samples from the southwestern United States were found to be contaminated with the herbicide paraquat, a pulmonary toxin, in concentrations from 3 to 2,264 parts per million. The source of the contamination was an aerial spraying program in Mexico, supported indirectly by United States funds." 

The CDC's website says, "If it is inhaled, paraquat could cause poisoning leading to lung damage. In the past, some marijuana in the United States has been found to contain paraquat." (No mention of the US Government's role in spraying paraquat.)

Friendly fire, indeed.

Burnett was deservedly awarded the Mark Twain Prize at a ceremony that aired tonight. (Twain was observed to be under the influence of hashish in 1865.)

Also tonight, Rhianna won the first-ever Icon award on the American Music Awards telecast.

Pot Smoker Adam Levine Named People Magazine's Sexiest Man of 2013

Musician and Victoria's-Secret-model dater Adam "Moves Like Jagger" Levine has been named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive.

Levine told the Belfast Telegraph in 2012, "I've done drugs. I smoked a lot of pot when I was younger. There is a place in this world for a little weed every once in a while. I've written songs after smoking a joint and it was good. More often than not it's absolute garbage." He added, "Cocaine just shouldn't be. It's brought no good into the world. I'm not saying, you should do drugs. I hope that's clear."

In April, Levine was mentioned in a hostile-work-environment lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by an unnamed security guard who claimed that Universal Music Publishing Group’s Santa Monica location was "infiltrated with pervasive drug use where you could smell marijuana seeping from various offices and openly used in common areas, and lounges." The guard claimed that when she complained about the weed smoke coming from one of the studios, she was told that "it's Adam Levine. You know from Maroon 5 ... He can do whatever he wants." In an official statement to The Hollywood Reporter, UMPG described the allegations as "absurd."

Levine isn't the first pothead to be named Sexiest Man.

Matt Damon took the honor in 2007. Damon grew up in a community house with his child psychologist mother and his stepfather, and said on BBC's Johnny Vaughan Tonight, "The first time I smoked was at home with my mother and stepfather. They were like, 'If you are going to do this, we'd rather you did this with us.'" Damon, who recently did a fine job reading a speech on civil disobedience by his friend Howard Zinn, appeared in Oceans 12, filmed in part in an Amsterdam coffeehouse.

"Gorgeous" George Clooney, 2006's Sexiest Man, also appeared in the Oceans movies and was quoted in 1997 saying, "I loved acid when I was at college. It was an escape. I liked mushrooms. They were like easy acid...Blow would dress you up for a party, but never take you there."

Matthew McConaughey, who was in named 2005, was arrested for pot possession in 1999 after police responded to a noise complaint at his home in Austin, TX and found him playing the bongos, with a bong at his side. In the nude.

Two years after Pierce Bronson was named in 2001, The Star published photos of the Irish-born dreamboat that were secretly taken by a fellow customer at the Dementia head shop in Malibu, where he picked out a bong. 

According to the book Harrison Ford: Imperfect Hero by Garry Jenkins, 1998's Sexiest Man asked a British interviewer in the 1970s, "You want a toke of this all-American reefer?" and went on to say he was smoking a strain of pot from Humboldt County, California.

Brad Pitt has twice been honored, in 1995 and again in 2000. Lately Pitts has been finding his fun in fatherhood, but he's smoked pot on film and reportedly said in 2006, “If someone wants to do drugs…as long as he or she isn’t corrupting minors or driving under the influence or endangering others, shouldn’t a person have that right?”

Sad to note right now that John F. Kennedy Jr. was named in 1988. Kennedy's friend and Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow told biographer Christopher Anderson that John had a "Bohemian streak" that included the occasional joint. "John was certainly not a pothead," Barlow said, "but he wanted to lead the life he wanted to lead." Don't we all, already.

UPDATE: Levine (pictured, with Gwen Stefai) gave a fistpump in support of marijuana legalization from the stage of the 2014 Emmys, where he was a presenter (and McConaughey was the butt of several pot jokes).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Was the Woman Who Smoked Pot with JFK Murdered by the CIA?

Mary Pinchot Meyer
Even Secretary of State John Kerry has said he doesn't believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone on November 22, 1963. Two women who died shortly thereafter—Mary Meyer and Dorothy Kilgallen—may have been collateral damage.

And Marilyn Monroe's death may have had a Kennedy/Kilgallen component.

The book John F. Kennedy: A Biography by Michael O'Brien (St. Martin's Press, NYC 2006) describes briefly an affair JFK had with Mary Pinchot Meyer, the former wife of CIA agent Cord Meyer and sister of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee's wife Tony. It says, "On the evening of July 16, 1962, according to [Washington Post executive] Jim Truitt, Kennedy and Mary Meyer smoked marijuana together." Truitt claimed he himself provided Mary with the pot.

O'Brien notes that during her affair with Kennedy, Meyer visited Timothy Leary, a fact confirmed in Robert Greenfield's comprehensive book, Timothy Leary: A Biography (2006, Harcourt), published on the 10th anniversary of Leary's death. Leary wrote in Flashbacks that Meyer told him she wanted to run an LSD session with a famous public figure, and after Meyer was found murdered, Leary theorized it was JFK and that she'd recorded the encounter in her diary.

Bradlee has confirmed that CIA agent James Angleton came to confiscate Mary's diary after she was shot in the head and heart while jogging in the park on October 12, 1964, two weeks after the publication of the Warren Commission Report. A young black man was arrested for the crime, and acquitted at trial for lack of evidence in July 1965.

Marilyn Monroe and Dorothy Kilgallen, 1960
A few months later, Dorothy Kilgallen, the "What's My Line?" panelist and journalist who some allege was the source of the rumor that "Puff, The Magic Dragon" is about marijuana, was mysteriously found dead in her bed (on November 8, 1965). Kilgallen was the only reporter to interview Jack Ruby, and she was telling people she would blow the lid off the assassination just before she died.

Days after a 1962 item in Kilgallen's gossip column had alluded to affairs between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys, Marilyn was also found dead in a similar manner as Dorothy. Marc Shaw, author of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, thinks Monroe's death was a practice run for Kilgallen's.

Candy Barr, the bodacious blonde Texas stripper who was imprisoned for marijuana possession in 1959, dated Ruby and had the same prosecutor and appellate lawyer (Melvin Belli) as Ruby. Around the time Monroe appeared in support of her husband Arthur Miller at the HUAC hearings, she reportedly smoked pot at a party in New Jersey.

Also died 50 years ago today: psychedelic pioneer Aldous Huxley, who asked for LSD in the end. Sheryl Crow sings about it in "Run Baby, Run."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2 Broke Girls, West Wing and Jocelyn Elders: Things I learned...

Jennifer Coolidge finds relief in cannabis cupcakes on 2 Broke Girls.
Growing up, I loved to read the Sydney J. Harris newspaper column, "Things I learned while looking up other things." I learn a lot of things that way myself.

Posting my story Gossip Girls Having Sex in the City on the NORML Women's Alliance Facebook page, I asked readers the question: In what other TV shows do women smoke pot together? I got answers about Nurse Jackie (a pill popper who once made an apple bong for a patient); ladies "toking it regularly" in the Showtime series Shameless; Gemma Teller (Katy Segal) "lighting up on the regular" on Sons of Anarchy; and Weeds, where Nancy occasionally does smoke (but seems to prefer wine).

I checked out an episode of Shameless, where Emily Rossum is sent to the salt mines to support the family her alcoholic dad won't. Not exactly empowering. I also saw the first episode of Sons of Anarchy where Gemma plots to employ her son in meth and gun running, and enables his girlfriend to OD on heroin. Not a role model, in my book.

I did get a tip that CBS's 2 Broke Girls had an episode with pot, and found a clip on YouTube (complete with Portuguese subtitles) from the show's "And the High Holidays" episode featuring the always-amusing Jennifer Coolidge munching marijuana cupcakes for her menstrual cramps. The perpetually perky Caroline (Beth Behrs) has some revelations about reality as a result of her own marijuana munching, which could have been interesting if the writing was better on this show. (As Tokin Woman Joan Rivers pointed out recently, TV writing is terrible of late.)

I decided to Google Kat Denning, the brunette star of 2 Broke Girls because she seems like a cool pothead type, whose character really lights up when it's discovered marijuana plants are growing in the girls' closet. Turns out the actress claims she doesn't drink or smoke, because she's already "an idiot" who doesn't need a stimulant to show her true feelings. (It's kind of nice she's so evolved; reminds me of Anais Nin's comments after taking LSD: Americans need it to open them up, but she already lives there.)

In the comments on the page with Denning's revelations, kemperboyd wrote, "Well that kills my weird fantasy of smoking a bowl with Denning, Allison Janney, Rashida Jones and a few other cool ladies, talking feminism and pop culture." iladelphian responded, "My mom smoked with Allison Janney in college."

So I got my Google on with Allison Janney + marijuana and came up instead with a page about a plot line in West Wing about a Surgeon General played by Mary Kay Place (who smoked pot with William Hurt in 1983's The Big Chill). The episode, which has Place's character almost getting fired for seeming to favor marijuana legalization, was doubtlessly based on the true story of Jocelyn Elders, Clinton's Surgeon General who was forced out of office after publicly promoting masterbation, condoms and reasonable drug laws.

Elders appeared at a press conference during the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Santa Monica in 1995. I was there, and had my hand up throughout, but wasn't called on to ask my question. The organizers announced the appearance was over but Elders stopped them, pointing at me and saying, "I want to take her question." I asked whether or not she supported Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative that was on the ballot the following November. She responded that she did, and a clip of her response was used in campaign ads for the proposition, which became the first medical marijuana law in the country.

During the event, Elders said while in office she went on a trip and when she returned, every piece of information about the drug war had been removed from her office. She lamented the antics of the "little boys" of Washington and said there was no one in that town we could turn to for an intelligent response.

Of former Health and Human Services chief Donna Shalala, who stood with Janet Reno and Barry McCaffrey to threaten doctors recommending medical marijuana after Prop. 215 passed, Elders said later, "She studied political science. That's the kind of science she practices." Shalala admitted to Diane Sawyer that she smoked pot in college, but now believes, “Marijuana is illegal, dangerous, unhealthy and wrong. It’s a one-way ticket to dead-end hopes and dreams.” Except in her own case, it seems.

The US has been largely without a Surgeon General of late (but has plenty of political scientists making medical decisions for the nation). Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who turned Obama down for the post, has now successfully advanced the cause of medical marijuana: his show on the use of CBD-rich marijuana for childhood epilepsy has resulted in FDA approval for an imported plant tincture to help children in need.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Miley Tokes, Gaga Chokes : All in 24 Hours!

How can a girl get attention these days in the media meatgrinder Penthouse once depicted on its cover? When a young woman has to resort to licking and riding construction equipment in the nude so that we'll listen to her song, it's our society that's really reached a new low.

You can't blame Miley Cyrus for needing to compete with the hired nude girls in Robin Thicke's idiotic "Blurred Lines" video, and you gotta admit she came in like a wrecking, twerking ball to take Thicke out, even casting a female dwarf as him in her performance last night at the European MTV awards in Amsterdam.

To cap it off, after winning "Best Video" for "Wrecking Ball," Cyrus pulled a joint out of a Chanel bag and lit it onstage -- and no one was talking about anything else. (TMZ has the unedited and edited-for-the-US nonsmoking version.)

Cyrus's blunt move out doobed Lady Gaga, who smoked onstage last fall at her concert in Amsterdam, saying, "It has totally changed my life and I've really cut down on drinking. It has been a totally spiritual experience for me with my music.”

But just when we were celebrating the reality that women could come out of the cannabis closet without repurcussions to their careers or personal lives, Gaga labeled herself as addicted to pot, grabbing back headlines she hasn't enjoyed exiting her egg.

How to get attention, ladies? Like Joni Mitchell did, or Grace Slick, or Chrissie Hynde: With talent and hard work. Let's stop watching our music on YouTube and open our ears and hearts to the sound again. We've got a lot more to fix than the pot laws.

UPDATE 12/7/2013 - Gaga's views on marijuana are getting as hard to keep up with as her fashion statements. She now says smoking pot makes her feel 17 again. What could be wrong with that? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gossip Girls Having Sex in the City (sans Pot, for the most part)

Oh, what I do for research.

I've just watched nearly every episode of Gossip Girl looking for marijuana and have come up nearly empty. I got hooked by the first episode where bad boy Chuck shares a joint with his buddy Nate. (The girls are apparently off gossiping, missing out on the fun.) The plot sickens when Chuck nearly date rapes an underage girl at a party, but his character is later redeemed when he finds his love for the scheming, goody-two-shoes Blair (who would truly benefit from chilling out with a phatty).

In a later episode, Serena (Blake Lively) is seen coming out of a Venice pot club, bag in hand, also with Nate (pictured). But rather than smoking it herself, turns out she's been tricked into procuring it for someone on the movie set she's working on, almost leading to the project's demise. Although all the Gossip Girl characters drink, Lively's been quoted saying she neither drinks nor does drugs, and her character is always trying to clean up her act.

Nate (played by Chace Crawford, who's been popped for pot) is joked about throughout as the stoner of the group, and in Season Four he turns on Raina Thorpe (played by Tika Sumpter, left), the only black Gossip Girl (I guess pot is deemed OK for ethnic groups).

In the Season Four crescendo, Serena's mother Lily is heading to prison (or what turns out to be an ankle bracelet worn in her penthouse) for sending an innocent man to the big house. Her sister Carol, offering support, promises to visit her inside and bring her some pot brownies.

In another episode, Blair's mother hosts an Arabian-themed party, complete with hookahs, to which her daughter turns up her pretty little nose. Blair is played by the multitalented Leighton Meester, who was born in prison while her mother was serving a 10-year sentence for smuggling marijuana from Jamaica.

It makes me think that writers and producers take seriously Hollywood's requirement that marijuana must have negative consequences to be included in the plot. The standard was revealed when the Meryl Streep movie "It's Complicated" got slapped with an "R" rating in 2009 because her character smokes pot and nothing terrible happens to her. Reportedly Streep also smoked medicinal pot in One True Thing, a film in which she plays a cancer patient who takes her own life with an overdose of morphine (I guess that consequence was bad enough for the censors).

Marijuana showed up in a couple of episodes in Sex in the City (1998-2004), notably one called "The Post-It Note Always Sticks Twice" (Season 6, Episode 7) wherein Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is broken up with by her boyfriend via a post-it note. To cheer her up, Samantha procures a joint and the two smoke it on the street.

Soon a cop comes by and begins arresting Carrie, but her friends talk him out of it when the post-it is offered as evidence of the bad day she's had. Giggling and jokes about bogarting that (banana) split ensue (pictured), and Parker actually does a good job acting like a stoner. In the following episode she decides "it was time to leave fear behind and have some fun," so she tries the trapeze.

Carrie smokes cigarettes on the show, tries to quit for a boyfriend, and goes back to the man she can share cancer sticks with. The show has been cited as a reason young women are drinking so much, and Kristin Davis, who played the good girl Charlotte on the series has said she's a recovering alcoholic. Nothing other than an occasional, amusingly presented hangover is ever shown as a negative consequence of alcohol, and I'm guessing the Carrie Gets Lung Cancer From Her Nicotine Habit episode won't be a sequel either. (NORML's Paul Armentano just re-debunked links to cannabis smoking and cancer.)

Samantha (played by Kim Cattrall), the naughtiest girl on the series, is the one who gets breast cancer on the show. In the second Sex in the City movie (2010), Samantha smokes a hookah in Abu Dhabi and encounters some very bad consequences indeed when the girls are all deported after she has sex on the beach. Parker's been making noises about a third installment; let's hope no one will have to get sick in that one to enjoy the safer substance.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A High-Living Princess: Violette Murat

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

Princess Violette Murat, c. 1928-30
Photograph by Berenice Abbott 
In his memoir Chiaroscuro (1952), Welch painter and "King of the Bohemians" Augustus John described a 1920s dinner party at the home of photographer Curtis Moffatt, "a bit of a sybarite" who married poet Iris Tree:

When he lived in Hampstead, Curtis used to give small parties at which sardines and wine were consumed -- and sometimes hashish. I had already tried smoking this celebrated drug without the slightest result. It was Princess Murat who converted me. She contributed several pots of the substance in the form of a compôte or jam. A teaspoonful was taken at intervals. Having helped myself to the first dose I had almost forgotten it when, catching the eye of Iris Tree across the dinner table, we were both simultaneously seized with uncontrollable laughter about nothing at all. 

 ...The crises of laughter continued with some of us till dawn, with further repercussions as I made my way home with Violette Murat, who had only been slightly amused by the night's proceedings. 

Violette Murat, who turned John onto hashish, was a Bonaparte princess who may have been a lover of Marie Laurencin. The book Cote D'Azur - Inventing The French Riviera includes the following insight into the lifestyles of the rich and famous in the 1920s: “Princess Violette Murat, friends say, not only bought her opium in Toulon, but also rented a submarine in order to smoke it in peace."

Murat is described at another famous dinner party in 1922, where VIP Marcel Proust met James Joyce and Stravinsky: "Princesse Violette Murat flounced out of the party, looking daggers at [Proust] as he arrived. Gossip about her meanness was rife, and she was mortally offended by rumours that one of Proust’s particularly parsimonious characters was based on her. With her strange lack of physical proportions, he once said of her 'She looks more like a truffle than a violet.'"

The Napoleonic family is large and convoluted; everyone has five names, with repetitious family names like Eugene. I've uncovered conflicting information about Murat but I think she is Violette (aka Cecile) Ney D'Elchingen, born September 9, 1878. Granddaughter of Napoleon's marshall Michael Ney, she was the wife of (Eugene) Joachim Murat (1875-1906), a descendant of the Joachim Murat (1767-1815) who married Caroline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister. Violette died in Paris on July 19, 1936.

Along with VIP Tallulah Bankhead, Murat was part of the Harlem renaissance in the 1920s. Berenice Abbott, who photographed (Eugene?) Murat (shown), wrote of her, “A very high liver. Oh, all kinds of wonderful tales are told about her….She…knew how to make an art out of living and that’s something stupendous. Anything she did became a vibrant, extraordinary event. I can remember seeing her go into a ten-cent store and buy the place out and have a fling doing it.”

NOTES: The 100th anniversary of the publication of Swann's Way, Proust's first volume in A la recherche du temps perdu (aka "In Search of Lost Time") November 14, 2013, will be celebrated the world over.

Born on November 13, 1913 in Paris, Princess Laure Louise Napoléone Eugénie Caroline Murat was a cousin of Violette Murat. In 1939, she married Fernand Auberjonois, a journalist who worked as a foreign correspondent for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade as well as NBC and Voice of America. The couple's son, actor Rene Auberjonois, is best known as Father Mulcahy in the movie M*A*S*H.

UPDATE 3/15 - Just discovered: Tucked in the corner of La Grand Odalisque by Ingres (1814)—a painting commissioned by Violette's grandmother and Napoleon's sister Caroline Bonaparte Murat—is what looks like a hash or opium pipe, along with what looks like an incense burner (complete with smoke). The fan the girl holds looks rather like a hookah mouthpiece.

The painting was “widely criticized” when it appeared, supposedly for the elongation of the girl’s figure (which almost looks like a grand pipe itself, with a big-ass bowl).