Sunday, December 27, 2020

Tokin' Women and Other Luminaries We Lost in 2020

Dawn Wells (12/30)
Wells, the perky and petite brunette who played Mary Ann on TV's Gilligan's Island, was caught with a stash box and several half-smoked doobies in her car in 2007. Wells claimed the pot was not hers, but she was rumored to be the person who mailed a package of pot to Bob Denver (Gilligan) at his West Virginia home. Wells died at age 82 due to complications of COVID. 

Patricia Ann Steward (12/30)
Known as "The Duchess of Hemp," Steward was an activist, entrepreneur, and compatriot of Jack Herer (The Emperor Wears No Clothes: Hemp and the Marijuana Conspiracy). We corresponded after John Prine died this year, with her reminiscing about smoking pot with Prine at the club she owned in Arizona.

K.T. Oslin (12/21)
Oslin made music history by becoming the first middle-aged woman to rise to stardom in Nashville. She was 45 years old when she scored a hit with “80’s Ladies” in 1987. The song made her the first female songwriter in history to win the CMA’s Song of the Year prize, and she was the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1988. (Source.)

We were the girls of the 50's.
Stoned rock and rollers in the 60's.
Hunny, more than our names got changed
As the 70's slipped on by.
Now we're 80's ladies.
There ain't been much these ladies ain't tried.


David Lander (12/4)
Lander, who made us laugh as Squiggy on "Laverne and Shirley," was an MS sufferer and advocate for medical marijuana. Lander said he and his partner Michael McKean (Lenny) created their characters for the show while high.


Alex Trebek (11/8)
The longtime Jeopardy! host accidentally ate too many pot brownies upon arriving in California, and stayed away from cannabis afterwards (too bad; it might have helped with the symptoms of his pancreatic cancer). Reports that he used or marketed CBD were specious.

The prolific Beat poet di Prima was a Lioness of Letters who was named San Francisco's poet laureate in 2009. In her epic poem Loba she wrote (seemingly of the goddess Parvati):
They call me drunkard, though I drink no liquor
I drink her nectar only; my mind reels
I sit day and night at the feet of Shiva's consort
High, not dulled with the wines of earth.

Marge Champion (10/23)
Champion was the dance model for Disney's Snow White, whose journey included eating a poisoned apples and seeing dwarves (similar to some descriptions of DMT trips). Marge and her husband Gower were an enchanting dance team in movies like "Showboat" and "Lovely to Look At." She died at the age of 101, proving that dancing keeps you young.

Johnny Nash (10/6)
Best known for his sweet 1972 hit, "I Can See Clearly Now," was one of the first non-Jamaican artists to record reggae music in Kingston. Here he covers Bob Marley's "Stir It Up." 

Tommy Rall (10/6)
Dancer and singer Rall played a bad boy who couldn't behave in "Kiss Me Kate" and danced a dazzling duet with Bob Fosse in "My Sister Eileen." This interpretation of "Black Magic" starts and ends with Rall smoking something. 

Joe Morgan (10/11)
Cincinnati Red Joe Morgan was the National League's MVP in 1975 and 76. Critical of steroid and drug abuse in baseball, Morgan was kneed in the back and knocked to the ground as a suspected drug smuggler at LAX in 1988, an incident he attributed to racism. 

Helen Reddy (9/29)
The Australian singer best know for the 1970s anthem "I Am Woman" became one of the world's highest paid entertainers at a time when a woman could not get a credit card or a mortgage in her own name. Accepting the 1973 Grammy award for best female pop vocal, Reddy said: "I would like to thank God, because she makes everything possible."

Juliette Gréco (9/23)
The inspiration for "Michelle" by The Beatles, French chanteuse and actress Gréco lead a bohemian lifestyle, inspiring Jean-Paul Sartre and Marianne Faithful, and dating Miles Davis. Her signature song "Déshabillez-moi" translates to "Undress Me."

But don't be like all men
in too much of a hurry...
Devour me with your eyes
But with restraint
So that I get used to it
little by little. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (9/18)
The tiny powerhouse Supreme Court Justice, aka Notorious RBG, dissented from a case overruling a medical necessity defense for medical marijuana and spoke out against unwarranted searches and seizures. (Artwork: DriSkee Art.)

Frederick "Toots" Hibbert (9/11)
Bonnie Raitt told Rolling Stone that when she first met the beloved Jamaican singer, “he was literally hidden behind smoke on the couch...The stamina of that guy blows me away, his vocal prowess... especially because he smokes herb. Or maybe that has something to do with it." Raitt tweeted this video of her favorite performance with Toots on the Tonight Show. 

Diana Rigg (9/10)
Best known for her portrayal the early feminist badass Emma Peel on TV's "The Avengers," the Tony-award-winning Rigg had a long and illustrious acting career. Her final project was the 2020 TV Miniseries "Black Narcissus," based on the Rumer Godden novel about Himalayan nuns and their passions, and titled for a psychedelic daffodil. 

Kevin Zeese (9/6)
A former legal counsel and executive director for NORML, Zeese co-founded the Drug Policy Foundation and the website He served as press secretary for Ralph Nader in 2004 and was instrumental in organizing the 2011 Occupy encampment in DC. The Kevin Zeese Emerging Activists Fund sponsors young activists and frontline grassroots organizations that work for economic, racial and environmental justice and peace. Hear David Rovics' song "The Last Words of Kevin Zeese."

Gail Sheehy (8/24) 
Best known as the author of the influential 1976 book Passages about the stages in people's lives, Sheehy studied anthropology with Margaret Mead and penned biographies and character studies of both Bush presidents, Margaret Thatcher, Anwar Sadat, and Mikhail Gorbachev. Her biography of Hillary Clinton (Hillary's Choice) suggests Clinton inhaled

Cathy Smith (8/20)
Likely the inspiration for The Band's song "The Weight," Smith was 16 years old when she met members of the group, and she helped them evade a marijuana charge by seducing their arresting officer in 1965. She dated Gordon Lightfoot and Hoyt Axton, and dealt drugs while working for the Rolling Stones in Los Angeles. In 1982, Smith regretfully admitted to injecting John Belushi with the speedball that killed him. Patti D'Arbanville played her in the 1989 movie Wired.  Read more

Trini Lopez (8/11)
The Dallas-born musician and actor refused to change his Hispanic surname and had a string of hits like "Lemon Tree" in the 1960s. Here he turns the folk classic "If I Had a Hammer" into a dance number. "It's a hammer of justice, it's a bell of freedom..." Lopez died at the age of 83 from complications of COVID.

Pete Hamill (8/5)
NYC-based Irish-American journalist Hamill frequently traveled to Mexico, and he wrote a book about Very Important Pothead Diego Rivera. He dated Linda Ronstadt, Shirley MacLaine, and Jackie Onassis and penned eloquent liner notes for VIP Bob Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks" album; his bestselling book A Drinking Life announced that he gave up alcohol in his 30s.

Alan Parker (7/31)
Parker directed the brilliant and terrifying Midnight Express about an American student imprisoned in Turkey for smuggling hashish. He also directed Tokin' Woman Madonna in her award-winning performance in Evita and filmed Diane Keaton smoking a joint in the bathtub in Shoot the Moon. 

Ruth Weiss (7/31)
Dubbed "The Beat Goddess,"  Weiss was a child refugee from the Holocaust who innovated reciting poetry to jazz music. "We definitely enjoyed our smoke sessions in the Albion woods," says performance artist Sherry Glaser. 

Most remembered as the angelic (but meek) Melanie in "Gone With the Wind," Olivia de Havilland was as spirited as she was beautiful in her eight pictures with Errol Flynn, including 1939's "Dodge City" (pictured). Flynn tried marijuana with Diego Rivera; de Havilland said much later he lost the twinkle in his eye. Too much booze and not enough weed?


Annie Ross (7/22)
Jamie Lee Curtis tweeted, "The world lost a great jazz singer. Annie Ross. I could win any lip synch battle to TWISTED." Joni Mitchell, whose version of Ross's composition "Twisted" is complete with a Cheech & Chong cameo, posted a tribute too. More About Annie.

Jawara McIntosh (7/17)
Jawara McIntosh, better known as Tosh 1, died three years after being beaten and left in a coma by a fellow inmate while he was serving a six-month jail term in Bergen County Jail in New Jersey on a ganja charge. His father Peter Tosh penned the Reggae anthem "Legalize It." 

Celebrated Chicano novelist Anaya wrote a mock epic poem The Adventures of Juan Chicaspatas, a "phantasmagoric marijuana dream." His popular 1972 young adult novel Bless Me, Ultima, about a curandera (a woman who heals with herbs), was banned and even burned as profane and anti-Catholic.

Milton Glaser (6/26)
The first graphic designer to be awarded the National Medal of Arts, Glaser's influential designs included a psychedelic Bob Dylan poster and the "I Love NY" campaign. This 1970 Glaser ink drawing is titled, "Fanciful Marijuana Smokers." 

Though he changed the lyrics when he sang it later in his career, Charlie Daniels stood for freedom (and weed) when he wrote, 
A poor girl wants to marry 
 And a rich girl wants to flirt 
 A rich man goes to college 
 And a poor man goes to work 
 A drunkard wants another drink of wine 
 And a politician wants a vote 
 I don't want much of nothin' at all 
 But I will take another toke

A site somewhere pegged Maestro Morricone—who wrote masterful musical scores for 400 films like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and The Mission—as a marijuana smoker, but I have not been able to confirm it. He also scored the movie Two Mules for Sister Sara in which Shirley MacLaine appears to smoke weed (dressed as a nun). 

Longtime San Francisco progressive organizer Jane Morrison was instrumental in securing Democratic club endorsements for California's breakthrough Prop. 215, legalizing medical marijuana in 1996, by telling the story of her sister using marijuana smoke for her asthma while growing up in Oklahoma. 

Hugh Downs (7/1)
The beloved, longtime newscaster Downs helped with hemp activists' efforts in the 1990s when he read in his velvety voice a 20-minute story about hemp on his ABC News radio broadcast in November 1990.

Carl Reiner  (6/29)
As a director, the prolific Reiner took a pothead (John Denver) and cast him as a grocery store manager who sees God in the delightful 1977 movie Oh, God.

Grinspoon's breakthrough books Marihuana Reconsidered and Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine lent gravitas from a Harvard professor to the marijuana reform movement. His "outing" of Carl Sagan and others as pot smokers inspired my website VeryImportantPotheads, which spun off into this blog. Read more. 

Elly Stone (6/11)
A Broadway performer best known for her interpretations of Jacques Brel songs, Stone began experimenting with LSD-assisted psychotherapy to combat anxiety in her 60s and became an advocate of that treatment.

Monique Mercure (5/16)
During a six-decade career, prominent Canadian actress Mercure appeared in more than 100 projects including the 1991 David Cronenberg film version of William S. Burrough's Naked Lunch (pictured, smoking a cigar) and VIP Robert Altman's Quintet.  

Lynn Shelton (5/16)
Shelton, the beloved actress/writer/director/producer who died unexpectedly at the age of 54 from acute myeloid leukemia, was a co-producer and director of Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere, in which Kerry Washington plays a pot-smoking artist. 

Astrid Kirchherr (5/12)
Artist and photographer Kirchherr befriended The Beatles when they performed in Hamburg, and dated their then-bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. She photographed the band and was considered a collaborator, influencing their style—including giving George, and then the others, the famous "mop-top" haircut.  

Jamaican singer and songwriter, best known for her 1964 ska hit "My Boy Lollipop," was the Caribbean's first international recording star, and its most successful female performer.

Knight appeared as Heavenly Finlay in the 1962 movie Sweet Bird of Youth, in which Paul Newman tries to blackmail an aging actress over her hashish habit. Towards the end of her career, Knight played an older woman who gets to enjoy cannabis tea without ramifications in Grandma's Boy. Read more.

Lee Konitz (4/15)
Saxophonist and composer Lee Konitz was an influential part of the cool jazz movement of the 1940s and 1950s, playing with many of the greats, including on Miles Davis's Birth of the Cool sessions. "Pot is not at all like alcohol for me," Konitz said. "Alcohol is stultifying—it just makes me heavy and insensitive. Pot makes me supersensitive.” He died of complications from COVID at the age of 92. 

John Prine (4/7) 
Prine, whose "Illegal Smile" became an anthem for pot smokers everywhere, succumbed to COVID in April. Here's he's serenaded by Kacey Musgraves with her song "Burn One with John Prine." 

The girl with Dravet's Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, became a poster child for access to CBD medicine that helped control her seizures. 

Mark Blum (3/25)
Blum was pitch perfect as the suburban spa salesman Madonna turns onto pot in Desperately Seeking Susan and as "Union Bob" in the pot-friendly series Mozart In The Jungle. He succumbed to coronavirus in March. 

Kenny Rogers (3/20)
Rogers, who had a successful solo career and dueted with Dolly Parton, started with The New Edition and this trippy tune, which was used for a dream sequence in The Big Lebowski. 

The Peabody award–winning journalist asked the question, "Will the government's ads keep kids off drugs?" on her CNN TalkBack show in 1998, where then drug "czar" Barry McCaffrey admitted a drug-free America is impossible.  

Orson Bean (2/7)
Orson Bean, the comedian and "To Tell the Truth" panelist, recalled smoking marijuana with Lord Buckley in the late 1940s. His near-final screen appearance was on TV's Grace and Frankie (pictured). 

Kirk Douglas (2/5)
Douglas helped break the Hollywood blacklist by hiring Very Important Pothead Dalton Trumbo to write the screenplay for the 1960 film Spartacus, depicting a Thracian rebel and his priestess wife

Terence Hallinan (1/17)
Pictured here with "Brownie" Mary Rathbun, Hallinan was only district attorney to endorse California's Prop. 215, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996; his successor as San Francisco DA, Kamala Harris, continued his liberal policies. From a raucous progressive family, he dated Janis Joplin and as a defense attorney his colorful case load included Patty Hearst.

Marsha Kramer (1/25)
Kramer played Margaret, Jay's assistant on TV's Modern Family. In her final appearance, Margaret says she is ready to retire: "I just want to sleep, tend my cannabis garden..." She died at age 74 just after the episode aired. 

Buck Henry (1/8)
Henry, who brought humor to SNL and the movies through his writing and acting, penned the screenplay for The Owl and the Pussycat, starring Barbra Streisand as a hooker/actress who turns on a bookstore clerk/writer to pot. Read more. Charles Webb, author of the novel The Graduate, also passed away in June 2020. Henry co-wrote the screenplay for, and appeared in, the film (pictured). 

Wurtzel's 1994 memoir Prozac Nation was a blockbuster; I loved her witty follow up Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women. She died at 52 from metastatic breast cancer. 

Trinity County, CA marijuana farmer and constitutional scholar B.E. Smith was the first patient to be prosecuted by the federal government for growing his plants. Photo: Malcom MacKinnon.

1 comment:

Sherry Glaser said...
Please mention my recently departed friend ruth weiss. A genius and a pioneer beat poet. We definitely smokeda a couple of joints a long the way.