Monday, January 19, 2015

Jim Croce and Cannabis

The Pennsylvania-born Jim Croce was a working man's poet, and a master of the long phrase, penning lyrics like, "'Cause I got them steadily depressin' low-down, mind-messin', workin at the car wash blues" or "And the roller derby program said that she was built like a 'frigerator with a head." The artist whose song "Time in a Bottle" was the theme of my 1975 high school prom remains current: a character on Amazon TV's Transparent "married" Croce at the age of 4; his song "Operator" was heard on the show's pilot program.

Croce's wife and musical collaborator Ingrid describes evenings with Jim passing a joint around with friends, trading songs and stories in the 2012 biography I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story.

During one such session, Jim treated the group to his song "Careful Man," with a cigarette dangling from his lip:

I don't gamble, I don't fight,
I don't be hangin' in the bars at night,
Yeah, I used to be a fighter but
Now I am a wiser man.
I don't drink much, I don't smoke,
I don't be hardly mess around with no dope.
Yeah, I used to be a problem but
Now I am a careful man.

After Croce died in a tragic plane crash in September 1973, small amounts of marijuana were found on two of the other passengers. Ingrid had to sue for insurance payments the aviation company tried to deny her because pot was on the plane. She won, and now works as the chef of the San Diego eatery Croce's (pictured) where great music and a delightful atmosphere are to be found. Last Saturday, it was Jazz Brunch with the splendid guitarist Patrick Berrogain.

Croce's death came months after his song "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" hit #1 on the US charts, and one day before his single "I Got a Name" was released.  

In "Hard Time Losin' Man,"  Croce displayed his wonderful sense of humor, singing:

Friday night, feelin' right
I head out on the street;
Standin' in the doorway
Was a dealer known as Pete.
Well he sold me a dime of some super fine
Dynamite from Mexico
I spent all that night
Just tryin' to get right
On a ounce of oregano.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Modern Marijuana Family

Tonight's Modern Family had a cute plot about the low-class marijuana dispensary owners who move next door to the uptight Claire and her doofus hubby Phil (pictured).

After their neighbors park a monstrous boat in their driveway against city code, Phil and Claire attempt to break (unleaded) banana bread with them and convince them to launch the vessel elsewhere. When negotiations break down Phil resorts to bringing his father to camp out with his RV on the street.

The plan backfires when Phil's dad (Fred Willard) and his senior buddies start partying with the offending neighbors. The next morning, the boorish boat owner buries the hatchet with Phil, only to find out Claire has "narced" them out. The episode might have been titled, "Can't we all just get a bong?"

Marijuana has popped up before on the show, as in this clip.

UPDATE 2/15: The Wall Street Journal has taken notice.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Queen Latifah Portrays Empress Bessie Smith

This is what I call near-perfect casting: Queen Latifah (pictured) playing Bessie Smith in the HBO biopic Bessie, to air this spring.

Born to a large, poor family in Tennessee, Bessie joined a traveling minstrel show at age 14 and was mentored by Ma Rainey. She was soon performing on stages all over the country as The Empress of the Blues. "She was unquestionably the greatest of the vaudeville blues singers and brought the emotional intensity, personal involvement, and expression of blues singing into the jazz repertory with unexcelled artistry," writes PBS on their Ken Burns Jazz page.

“Bessie Smith smoked ‘reefers’ throughout her career, as did many others in the music industry,” wrote Buzzy Jackson in A Bad Woman Feeling Good. “[S]he was more than merely famous, she was a living symbol of personal freedom: she did what she liked; she spoke her mind, no matter how outrageous her opinion; she flouted bourgeois norms and engaged in alcohol, drugs, and recreational sex.”

In 1933, Smith recorded “Gimmie a Pigfoot” featuring Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden. In the last verse, instead of asking for a pigfoot, Smith sings, “Gimmie a reefer”:

Queen Latifah (aka Dana Owens) has graced the airwaves, films and TV since her groundbreaking 1989 debut All Hail The Queen set the standard for female rappers, and paved the way for future women in hip-hop to make their way onto the charts. Her standout performance in the 2002 film adaptation of Chicago earned her nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a SAG Award. Her jazzy The Dana Owens Album was nominated for a Grammy in 2005, the year she hosted the awards show.

In 1996 she was arrested with marijuana and a gun in her car. The CHP officer who made the stop "asked Miss Owens if she had been smoking and she said yes."

Latifah was first offered the role of Bessie 22 years ago when she a "full-on rapper" who didn't know who Smith was. Now she says she identifies with her. "I know what it's like to play through the pain, to keep your head immerse yourself in music," she said.

Monday, January 5, 2015

What Were the Addams Family Smoking?

From my youthful TV watching, I seem to recall Morticia (Carolyn Jones) and Gomez (John Astin) of "The Addams Family" (1964-66) smoking regularly from a Turkish hookah. One researcher claims the hookah was scrubbed from later re-runs, but I've found this video showing them smoking: 

Based on a series of New Yorker cartoons by Charles Addams that debuted in 1938, the TV series is enduringly popular in reruns; an animated series (starting with an appearance on Scooby Doo in 1972) followed, as did two films and a musical.

Despite being offbeat and morbid, the Addams Family were loving and accepting. Just like pot smokers.

A hookah also appeared regularly on the TV series Bewitched from the same era, smoked by Endora and Dr. Bombay.