Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Putting a Sassy Stamp on It: Sarah Vaughan Gets USPS Approval

UPDATE 4/16: Two days after Vaughan's 92nd birthday, her US postage stamp was released.

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

The Washington Post has leaked a list of luminaries for whom US postage stamps have been approved or are in the works. Listed as "in design development" are VIPs Janis Joplin and Steve Jobs. Approved subjects not yet in the design stage include VIPs Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. BushJim Morrison, Fats Waller, Freddie Fender and John Lennon.

Another honoree on the list who was not previously known as a Tokin Woman is the incomparable jazz singer Sarah Vaughan (pictured left).

According to Sassy: The Life of Sarah Vaughan by Leslie Gourse, in 1943 Vaughan joined the Earl Hines band, which featured Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker ("Bird"). Gillespie told people, "Sarah can sing notes that other people can't even hear," something he also said about Parker's sax playing.

Sarah, the band members say, wisely never had anything to do with heroin, though "undoubtedly she smoked marijuana with Bird and some of the other men on the road.....all night long, she liked to have a party, either in her room, or in Johnnie Garry's, or at some place in town. Sometimes the party was a marathon, with Sassy hanging out for three days at a time, never going to sleep, taking part in every kind of refreshment available--cigarettes, drinks, food, marijuana, maybe cocaine if there was any."

British jazz singer Annie Ross, who worked with Vaughan in the 1950s, was interviewed for Gourse's biography, which says, "As a very young woman, Annie, like Sassy, had enormous energy for a life in the fast lane; together they stayed up all night, drinking and smoking. Sassy liked marijuana and cocaine."


(Above: Vaughan dueting on the Ed Sullivan show in November 1957 with Billy Eckstine, who was targeted for a marijuana bust, as was his wife June.)

Buster Williams was 20 years old when Vaughan hired him in 1963, generously buying him a bass to play in her band. Gourse writes that Williams smoked marijuana for the first time with Sarah. "She had the uncanny ability to make her voice shimmer," he said.

Vaughan was still enjoying marijuana in April 1989, when Katie Neubauer, an organizer for the Tri C Jazz Fest in Cleveland "was wandering around backstage at the theater when she smelled heady marijuana smoke. She followed the scent to Sassy's dressing room, where the star was also enjoying a glass of brandy. Sassy then walked onstage and gave a magnificent performance. Katie was amazed that Sassy could perform so well while under the influence of brandy and marijuana." Afterwards, while Vaughan was chatting with scholarship funders at a cocktail party, Katie overheard Clark Terry say, "I wish that I could do with my trumpet what that woman does with her voice." Vaughan then presented Katie with a bouquet of roses she'd been given, saying "I can't take these on the road."

Asked by Dick Cavett if she could live up to her old nickname Sailor, "Sassy grinned, completely at ease, candid and articulate, and said she could outcuss Popeye, the Sailor Man. Would she give a sample? 'I most certainly will not,' she said with her very ladylike sweetness."

Born on March 27, 1924 Vaughan died in 1990. Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins called hers "the voice that happens once in a lifetime, perhaps once in several lifetimes."

Sarah's contemporary Ella Fitzgerald, who recorded "When I Get Low, I Get High" in the 1930s, already has a postage stamp.

P.S. I just read that Stuff Smith's "If You're a Viper," recorded by Fats Waller in 1943, was first recorded by blues singer Rosetta Howard in 1938. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Miley Cyrus Tours in Cannabis-Leaf Leotard

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

Miley Cyrus, recipient of the 2013 Tokin Woman "Blunt Move of the Year" award for toking up onstage at the European Music Awards, has tweeted out an interesting wardrobe choice (left) from her 2/14 Vancouver concert to her 17 million followers.

Perhaps celebrating the fact that the US government has issued regulations allowing marijuana businesses to open bank accounts, Cyrus then crawled around in piles of money, while wearing cowboy boots emblazoned with dollar bills.

As CelebStoner.com points out, Cyrus also has a marijuana-themed website for her tour. And yeah, she's still sticking out her tongue.

Cyrus will take the stage in Tacoma, WA on Sunday before traveling to California for shows in Anaheim, Los Angeles and Oakland.

The singer recently announced she was proud of herself for refraining from smoking cigarettes for the past two months.  "I just want it to be back to where it's, like, organic, good weed," she told Ronan Farrow for the March issue of W Magazine. (For that, she's touring in all the right places.)

Cyrus also tweeted a picture of a guy smoking a huge pipe with the hashtag #superbowl on February 3.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Daughter of Marijuana Smuggler Wins At Olympics

Californian Julia Mancuso has become the most-medaled female skiier with her bronze win at the Sochi Olympics.

According to Wikipedia, Julia's father, Ciro Mancuso, was arrested and convicted of running a $140 million marijuana smuggling operation when Julia was five years old. Mancuso's sentence was greatly reduced because of his cooperation with the government in cases against other alleged organization members, and his lawyer Patrick Hallinan. As a result of his assistance to the government, Mancuso was reportedly allowed to keep $5 million in proceeds from his trafficking business.

It's kind of reminiscent of Shakespeare's father, who became a civic leader while smuggling illegal wool. When the government cracked down on the practice, young Will's education was interrupted and he was unable to attend a University, like his rival Christopher Marlowe. Source.

A new documentary about marijuana smugglers called Grounded just won a prize at the won Best Feature at the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival and an Audience Award at The Skyline Indie Fest.

Also see: Seeming Stoners Win First-Ever Slopestyle Snowboarding Gold Medals

Father of US figure skater Jason Brown's coach is a "hippie" pot-grower

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Seeming Stoners Win First-Ever Slopestyle Snowboarding Gold Medals

The first US Gold Medal at the Sochi Olympics went to 20-year-old Sage Kotsenburg, who hadn't even been expected to make the team. "Whoa how random is this, I made the finals," Kotsenburg tweeted, and told reporters "I'm so stoked to be here," at a post-win press conference, leading to puzzlement by Russian translators.

On a course so controversially dangerous that one of the riders broke his collarbone in practice, Kotsenberg decided at the last minute to try a trick he had never performed before for his Olympic run. He called his brother named (no kidding) Blaze to get his approval before attempting a backside 1620 Japan (which entails rotating 4 1/2 times) and winning the gold.

The following day, Jamie Anderson of South Lake Tahoe, California -- a clear favorite to win the women's slopestyle competition -- also won a gold for the US. Anderson called the opportunity to compete in the games "mind blowing" and said she was going into the event with "an open heart and open mind." She ended her interview with "namaste" and a flashed a peace sign.

Slate.com reported:

Based on the personalities of the two American gold medalists, it seems like being a slopestyle competitor is good for the soul. Despite all the pressure, Anderson—just like Sage Kotsenburg the day before—was maddeningly chilled out, sounding like a stereotypical stoner during interviews. In fact, her blissed-out attitude probably puts a lot of stoners to shame. 

It’s little wonder that British bronze medalist Jenny Jones calls Anderson “a bit of a hippy,” as Reuters notes. She wears “mantra beads” around her neck that were made by her yoga teacher in Breckenridge, who “made them for me with sacred energy put into them.” Anderson also wears a large quartz crystal she describes as “a powerstone” and a triangular moonstones, explains the Washington Post. And that’s just for starters. “You should see what’s in my backpack,” she said, according to Yahoo Sports. “A medicine bundle.”

The first-ever "straight" snowboarding medal was won by Canadian Ross Rebagliati in 1998, but he was almost stripped of his medal after testing positive for marijuana after the race. Rebagliati admitted that he had smoked marijuana in the past, but said the positive test was the result of accidentally inhaling nearby marijuana smoke at a going away party in his hometown of Whistler, BC. The Olympic committee allowed Rebagliati to keep his medal and he is now opening a medical marijuana dispensary specializing in "Ross's Gold."

Last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency that governs Olympic drug testing raised the threshold for marijuana tests from 15 ng/ml to 150 ng/ml of urine. Rebagliati had 17.8 ng/ml of THC in his urine and would have passed by today's standard.

Meanwhile, the author of an article in the National Law Review frets about workplace safety in the wake of the legalization wave. But if these Olympians are any indication, maybe the problem is that our workers aren't smoking enough to embrace life with the proper enthusiasm.

Also see: Daughter of Marijuana Smuggler Wins At Olympics.

Update 2/14: The US men's team were "stoked" to sweep the podium in slopestyle skiing, leading Bill Maher to joke it's "a sport invented by white stoners who call each other 'brah'." In the women's halfpipe snowboarding competition, Kaitlyn Farrington and Kelly Clark of the US team took the gold and bronze medals. Teammate Hannah Teter came in fourth, calling it "a bummer."

2/16:  An article about the relaxed standard for marijuana drug tests at the Olympics says, "Officials say that means an athlete who smoked some weed before the Olympics, or inhaled second-hand smoke, wouldn’t likely test positive in Sochi. Someone who failed the new test would have to be 'a pretty dedicated cannabis consumer,' WADA officials have said.

"Officials acknowledge that they have had problems finding the right balance between athletes who use marijuana to cheat and those who just enjoy a toke every now and then. Arne Ljungqvist, who heads the IOC’s medical commission and is also on WADA’s board, said the changes came after a long debate about the drug."

Ljungqvist said WADA came to the conclusion that “marijuana can be a performance enhancing stimulant and it is therefore forbidden in relation to a competition.” However, because marijuana “is a socially more or less an accepted drug being used in social context” the threshold for a positive test during competition was increased.

"Marijuana has been controversial for years at WADA and there have been plenty of calls to drop it from the banned list," the Globe and Mail article stated. "Just about everyone agrees that taking marijuana immediately before a competition wouldn’t help, but some argue that dope can reduce stress, speed recovery and provide other advantages."

UPDATE 2/21: Anderson is considered "snowboarding's queen bee," says Forbes. She won gold again in 2018, a third Olympic medal, and 17 X Games medals, making her the winningest woman in X Games herstory. 

Anderson came back after a crash in 2019 that caused her to suffer a facial contusion to again win gold at the X Games Aspen in 2020. Olay Body has now dubbed her a “winter warrior,” someone who "pushes past the bitter cold to overcome anything and be fearless in her skin."

“I think it only takes a handful of role models who are like, ‘It’s cool to party and all, but I value feeling good and letting my body heal and recover and being able to perform at my highest level,’” Anderson told Forbes. “It seems to be in snowboarding it’s more so trending to be really healthy and conscious because everyone just wants to feel good.” The Jamie Anderson Give Back With Love program was established in 2013 to "offer scholarships and help kids get into sports and live healthy, active lifestyles."  

Anderson, who just turned 30, lives with her boyfriend, fellow pro snowboarder Tyler Nicholson, in Whistler (Rebagliati's home town). 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pussy Riot Tries It (in the Netherlands)

During a remarkable interview on the Colbert Report, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina of Pussy Riot talked about their release from jail in Russia and their tour of prisons in other countries, speaking out about human rights abuses.

After they noted that there is a giant gap between the wonderful prisons in the Netherlands and those in the US, Colbert said, "I think all the prisoners in the Netherlands get to smoke pot, so people actually have a wonderful time while they're in there."

"Yeah, we had a great time there too," Masha said knowingly.

"We sang a fun song in a church," was the succinct way the young women answered the question about why they were jailed. Among their fun songs, they said, was one called "Putin Piss Off."

The mock conservative Colbert joked he would edit out any parts of their interview criticizing his friend Vladimir. They responded, "That's OK, we're making our own taping right now." Told in that case they would be searched, they said, "We've had two years of practice hiding things from searches."

The women called their release a "public relations stunt" for the Sochi Olympics and called attention to the 12 people imprisoned after the May 6 protest in Bolotnaya Square, serving terms ranging from 5-6 years. "While this is happening, no PR stunt can fix Russia's image."

Watch Part One of the interview here, and their comments about the Netherlands below:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Musgraves Follows Her Arrow -- To a Joint and Two Grammys

UPDATE 11/19: Musgraves crushed it at the 2019 CMA awards, where she had beautiful things to say about the female creative spirit, and how the earth needs it right now, while picking up one of two big awards. She also dueted with Willie Nelson, and the evening's hostesses joked about her enjoying "Willie's Reserve":

UPDATE 9/19 : Sheryl Crow's kids thought Kacey Musgraves' marijuana was bad skunk

UPDATE 4/19: Kacey Musgraves as Bongs: A Twitter Thread

UPDATE 5/18: Musgraves guested on "Hello Sunshine" with Reese Witherspoon, who said she loves "Follow Your Arrow" because it was the first country song she'd heard about alternative lifestyles. 

UPDATE  5/16: 


Musgraves says one of the first songs she wrote after she moved to Nashville was "Burn One With John Prine."

UPDATE 7/15 - Musgraves has a new album sprinkled with pot references "like dab hits," along with a Willie Nelson duet, says CelebStoner. She will tour this summer starting July 9 in the US and UK. 

UPDATE 12/14 - Adding to her award count, Musgraves scores a Tokey for Best Video from Tokin Woman. 

Singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves was nominated for four Grammys this year and on January 26 she won two: Best Country Album ("Same Trailer Different Park") and Best Country Song ("Merry Go Round").  The 25-year-old newcomer performed the song she co-wrote with Brandy Clark, "Follow Your Arrow," on the nationally televised awards ceremony, with the lyric:

Make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls
If that’s something you’re into
When the straight and narrow 
Gets a little too straight  
Roll up a joint or don't (I would) 
Just follow your arrow 
Wherever it points

The fresh-faced Musgraves looks a lot more like Princess Kate than a stereotypical pothead. The video for "Follow Your Arrow" features Musgraves in Daisy-Duke-short shorts, a cowboy hat and toy guns, reminiscent of the act of VIP Candy Barr. Like Tokin Woman Besse Smith on her 1937 recording of "Gimmie a Pigfoot," Musgraves waits until the last verse to add her own reefer admission. She sang it with the "I would" on the show.

In March 2013 the Hollywood Reporter called Musgraves "The Weed-Smoking, Ball-Busting, Girl-Kissing Country Singer," and reported in 2011, when "she signed to Lost Highway Records, the boutique division of Universal Nashville...for left-of-center artists" she "was doing sit-down acoustic gigs" playing songs with lyrics like, “My idea of heaven is to burn one with John Prine.” (The first song on the first John Prine album was "Illegal Smile.")

"Mild evocations of lesbian smooching and marijuana may not seem radical outside the world of mainstream country," the Reporter continued. "But it seemed like a huge risk when Musgraves chose that song, of all the ones on her album, to perform at a UMG luncheon for hundreds of country radio programmers at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium last month. Any doubts she had about performing the song disappeared when attendees started laughing uproariously after the first line and applauding furiously after the first chorus. Afterward, the radio types were all abuzz about what a brilliantly catchy and clever ditty it was… and how they could never play it on their stations." (Country fans: call your local stations and request this song!)

Musgraves' "Same Trailer Different Park" album jumped to No. 12 from No. 28 on the Billboard chart after the win. The "Follow Your Arrow" video has had 2 million views (see it below):

Monday, February 3, 2014

Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and Jenny Reefer

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
Born on February 3, 1874 was the hostess with the mostest, art collector extraordinaire, avant-garde writer and wit Gertrude Stein.

Much has been made of Stein's longtime companion Alice B. Toklas and her hashish fudge, a recipe for which appears in The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, published in 1954When Toklas's American publisher objected to the "illegal" recipe, she reportedly feared many would assume Stein's writing happened while under the influence (which certainly seems possible, if you read it).

Toklas disavowed knowledge of the recipe, writing in a letter to Donald Gallup* composed on 12-19-21 October 1954, "I hope you were as shocked as I was by the notice in Time of the hashish fudge. I was also furious until I discovered it really was in the cook book! Contributed by one of Carl's most enchanting friends—Brion Gysin—so that the laugh was on me. Thornton [Wilder] said that no one would believe in my innocence as I had pulled the publicity stunt of the year—that Harper had telegraphed from London to the Attorney General to see if there would be any trouble in printing it." Hear Toklas reading the recipe and commenting about it in a 1963 interview.   

It's possible that Stein and Toklas were more conduits for a younger generation of partakers, like Gysin and his friend VIP Paul Bowles, who lived with Stein and Toklas for a time. The Lost Generation was, after all, mostly lost in liquor. However, among Stein's art purchases was the first painting ever sold by Marie Laurencin, which appears to be a painting of a hashish party held in 1908.

Robert Indiana's costume for Jenny Reefer.
An interesting character by the name of Jenny Reefer appears in "The Mother of Us All," a 1947 opera about the life and career of suffragette Susan B. Anthony for which Stein wrote the libretto. Reefer is described as "a mezzo-soprano; a comical feminist, outspoken and opinionated." Sounds like a pothead to me.

Stein and Toklas's greatest significance was in bringing expatriate writers and artists together at their Parisian salon. That tradition was carried on by 1970s superagent and pot lover Sue Mengers, of whom CBS President Leslie Moonves said,  “She was the modern-day Gertrude Stein. People would gather and exchange ideas and talk about things that were not talked about anywhere else in town.” Tokin' Woman Mama Cass Eliot was also compared to Stein. 

Kathy Bates played Stein in Midnight in ParisPat Carroll played her in the one-woman show Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted in 1989 to rename a block of Myrtle Street between Polk Street and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco as Alice B. Toklas Place, since Toklas was born one block away on O'Farrell Street.

Agnes Moorehead as Endora in TV's Bewitched
In the 1968 film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, Leigh Taylor-Young turns Peter Sellers onto pot brownies, causing him to transform.

An episode called "Tabitha's Weekend" that aired on TV's Bewitched on March 6, 1969 has this interesting exchange: Endora (the grandmother witch) is offered cookies by Darrin's (straight) mother. "They're not by chance from an Alice B. Toklas recipe?" Endora asks. When told they were not, "Then I think I'll pass," is her answer. Tabitha, the junior witch, then turns herself into a cookie. (Mrs. Stevens suffers from headaches and gulps the more prosaic sherry.)

Perhaps this is why Rob Thomas, the singer/songwriter of the highly successful band Matchbox Twenty, called his first band "Tabitha's Secret." (Thomas tells CelebStoner he's a "huge" pothead and advocate for legalization.)

*Donald Gallup was a well-known scholar of American Literature, who served as the curator of the Yale Collection of American Literature for over thirty years. In 1940-41 he and Robert B. Haas prepared for the Yale University Library A Catalogue of the Published and Unpublished Writings of Gertrude Stein, and he and began collecting Stein and Toklas's materials after meeting them while he was stationed in Paris during World War II. In 1958 he succeeded Carl Van Vechten as the literary executor of the Stein estate. 

Apparently Gallup and Van Vechten (presumably, the Carl of mention) had a hand in producing Alice's cookbook. Toklas wrote, "It's not necessary to tell you that the pieces selected and their arrangement move me deeply. Gertrude always used to say—Let's put them first into groups and then break them up by contrasts—which is just what you have done. You and Carl have done such marvels because of the purity of your purpose which permits inspiration to flow unimpeded. Thank you—dear Donald." 

Gertrude and Alice met the younger painter and writer Brion Gysin in the 1930s when he lived in Paris. Toklas wrote Gysin in Tangiers on 26 February 1952, giving motherly advise about finances, and calling Jane Bowles [the wife of VIP Paul Bowles, a friend of Gysin's]  "strange as an American but not as an Oriental." She signed off, "Affectionate good wishes to you—dear Brion always." Bowles had lived with Stein and Toklas. On 24 February 1954 she wrote to Gysin offering help with a UNESCO investigation being conducted on him. On 11 June 1957 she wrote congratulating him on a New York showing, signing it, "So many good wishes to you and fond love." On 27 November 1958, in a letter to Ned Rorem, she wrote that Gysin "is here [in Paris, or maybe staying with her] and painting beautifully—working hard." 

On 14 March 1953, Toklas wrote to her friend Louise Taylor, letting her know that in order to receive an advance on the cookbook, she needed to come up with 12,000 more words, and so was opening up a chapter to contributions from friends. She asked Taylor if she could include Taylor's Circassian Chicken recipe, and said she would be including contributions from the Van Vechtens, Marie Laurencin, Isabel Wilder, and "undoubtedly" Brion Gysin. She complained in the letter of exhaustion from jaundice; Toklas was in ill health and so depended on contributions from friends. The book has a section titled, "Recipes from Friends," in which the Hashish Fudge recipe appears, attributed to Gysin and misspelling cannabis as "cannibus." 

On 24 April 1953, Toklas wrote to Carl (who she called "Sweetest and only Papa Woojums") about the "difficulty in getting the miserable cook book finished" which had been a "tormenting and very unsatisfactory effort." (In this letter she recounts the last words of Baby (Stein). "About Baby's last words. She said upon waking from a sleep—What is the question. And I didnt answer thinking she was not completely awakened. Then she said again—What is the question and before I could speak she went on—If there is no question then there is no answer."

Source: Letters of Alice B. Toklas: Staying on Alone. Edited by Edward Burns. Vintage Books Edition, January 1975.