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."