Wednesday, June 29, 2022

"Elvis" and Marijuana

The new Baz Lurman movie “Elvis” gives inklings into what the star might have become without the influence of his manipulative manager “Colonel Tom Parker” (not his real name or rank), and the forces that demonized the singer for moving his body too freely onstage to the music he made. 

Marijuana is mentioned in the film as Presley (Austin Butler in a pitch-perfect, career-making performance) begins to gain fame, and becomes controversial for his too-exciting performances. “The press says I smoke marijuana,” he says, implying it's untrue. 

Just before that line is uttered, a still photo is shown of the real Elvis from a July 1, 1956 interview he did on the show "Hy Gardner Calling." On that program, New York Herald Tribune columnist Gardner asked Presley about his appearance that night on the Steve Allen show, something alluded to in the movie, with Allen requiring him to appear in a tuxedo and serenade a basset hound with “Hound Dog.” 

Gardner asked Presley if he'd ever performed in a tuxedo before, to which he replied, “It's the first time I've had one on.” During the interview where he denied a connection between rock and roll and juvenile delinquency, Elvis was asked about the rumor that he had once shot his mother. “That one takes the cake,” was the reply. 

Gardner then addressed another rumor, saying, “Several newspapers say that you smoke marijuana in order to work yourself into a frenzy while singing.” Elvis just laughed and said, “I don't know.” “You won't even bother answering that?” Gardner asked. No response, or denial. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Monterey Pop, Michelle Phillips, and Marijuana

Phillips performing at Monterey Pop.
This is the 55th Anniversary of the Monterey Pop festival, which preceded Woodstock by two years as an epic rock and roll and counterculture event. Marking the first major American appearances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Who, and Ravi Shankar, it was also the first large-scale public appearance of Janis Joplin and the introduction of Otis Redding to a mass American audience. Also playing at the three-day charity event were The Mamas and the Papas, Jefferson AirplaneSimon and Garfunkel,  The Grateful Dead, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Canned Heat, Steve Miller and Laura Nyro, among others. 

The D.A. Pennebaker documentary Monterey Pop is currently viewable on HBO Max and other platforms. In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Instrumental in planning Monterey Pop were Cheech and Chong producer Lou Adler and Tokin' Woman Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, who has never shied away from controversy and speaking her mind about drug taking. 

Asked on Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect in 1996 during a program on which Timothy Leary was scheduled to appear near the end of his life, "What was wrong with the brown acid at Woodstock?" she sweetly replied, "I don't know, but I was at Monterey Pop, and there we had Sunshine Owsley acid, and there was nothing wrong with that at all." (Owsley was the famous LSD chemist nicknamed "Bear" and the reason for bear imagery on Grateful Dead posters.) Phillips mentioned Tokin' Woman Candy Barr as also going to prison for a joint, as did Leary. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Tonys Take a Toke

The (somewhat) gender-reversed Broadway revival of “Company” (shown) has won the 2022 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Marianne Elliott also won for directing the show, and Patti LuPone and Matt Doyle took home acting Tonys for their roles in the play, which was the final Broadway production the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim worked on before he died in November.

Sondheim's lyrics for "Gee, Officer Krupke" in 1957's West Side Story include the lines: "My grandma pushes tea," and "Dear kindly judge your honor / my parents treat me rough / with all the marijuana / they won't give me a puff." In "I'm Still Here" for the musical "Follies" he penned, "Reefers and vino, rest cures, religion and pills. And I'm here." 

Larry Kert, George Coe and Terri Ralston
in the original "Company"
The original 1970 production of "Company," a series of vignettes revolving around Bobby—a single character—and five couples who are his friends, contains a scene where Bobby gets his friends Jenny and David high. Stay-at-home wife Jenny (the angel-voiced Teri Ralston), who has never tried marijuana before, asks for another joint. She is discouraged by David, who tells Bobby that Jenny does not like marijuana, but partook it to show her love for him. (Bobby was played by Larry Kert, who first got Sally Kellerman high.) 

In the revival, Bobby is now the female Bobbie, and in her scene smoking marijuana with David and Jenny (Christopher Fitzgerald and Nikki Renee Daniels), "it’s now David (not Jenny) who is the 'registered square' who’s getting high for the first time – and thank god for that, because Christopher Fitzgerald’s physical comedy while his reality adjusts on Maui Wowie makes this one of the most memorable stage moments of the year," writes reviewer Jonathan Mandell. It's a sign of progress that women can now be depicted as experienced marijuana smokers, but it's kind of too bad that the male actor got the juicier role. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

James Joyce's "Ulysses" at 100: Was Leopold Bloom a Stoner?

Joyce's sketch of Leopold Bloom, wth the line from Homer,
"Tell me, Muse, of that manyminded man, who wandered far and wide."

This year is the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce's epic modern novel Ulysses, which was published in Paris by Sylvia Beach on February 2, 1922—Joyce's 40th birthday. 

Ulysses chronicles a day in the life—June 16, 1904—of the Dublin-based character Leopold Bloom, with parallels to the Homeric tale of the same name. "The novel's stream of consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose—replete with puns, parodies, and allusions—as well as its rich characterisation and broad humour have led it to be regarded as one of the greatest literary works in history; Joyce fans worldwide now celebrate 16 June as Bloomsday." According to Declan Kiberd, "Before Joyce, no writer of fiction had so foregrounded the process of thinking." [Wikipedia]

José Francisco Batiste Moreno in his astonishing paper Leopold Bloom's Tea-Pot presents evidence for Bloom, and Joyce, being influenced by hashish. In 1902, Joyce hung out with hashish-taking authors William Butler Yeats  and Arthur Symons in Paris, "a city once again overcome by the deliquescence of hemp; especially the colorful artistic life of Montmartre, that around the turn of the century was experiencing a new cycle of a true psychotropic revolution based on the green hempen pill."

In 1902, Joyce went to Paris with an introduction from hashish-taking author William Butler Yeatssome say to follow in the footsteps of Verlaine and Baudelaire (who also took hashish). Joyce reportedly spent time with Yeat’s party buddy Arthur Symons in "a city once again overcome by the deliquescence of hemp; especially the colorful artistic life of Montmartre, that around the turn of the century was experiencing a new cycle of a true psychotropic revolution based on the green hempen pill." The “Circe” chapter of Ulysses is said to "rework the visionary literature of Gérard de Nerval and Rimbaud," two more French hashish-takers. In Homer, the goddess/enchantress Circe turns men into pigs with a drug. Of nepenthe, the drug used in Homer by Helen to make soldiers banish the grief of battle, Joyce seems to have borrowed from Shelly's interpretation of it as a love potion. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Murdoch Media Blames Marijuana for Mass Shootings

In 2012 after the Sandy Hook school shooting, media mogul Rupert Murdoch tweeted, "When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?" But now, ten years later, Murdoch's media outlets are busy pointing fingers of blame for the Uvalde, TX school shooting not on the AR-15-style guns the killer purchased legally days after he turned 18, but on marijuana. 

The trial balloon was a letter to the editor that was published in the Wall Street Journal on May 31:

Your editorial fails to mention one important factor: cannabis use. Cannabis, psychosis and violence are intimately related. With the legalization of cannabis, you can expect violent incidents to increase, regardless of the weapon of choice.

Gabe Syme, Phoenix

No Gabe Syme + Phoenix shows up in a Google search. Gabriel Syme is the name of the anarchist hero of the 1908 G.K. Chesterton novel The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. The 2000 video game Deus Ex features several excerpts from the book. A Twitter account from "Hitler, North Dakota" @gabrielsyme08 has weird (mock?) White Supremacy posts and another with a bodybuilder and the line, "Time for another 200 mg of caffeine."

The same day as Syme's letter appeared in the WSJ, Laura Ingraham, who broadcasts on Fox News, asked on her show, "Why are people not talking about the pot psychosis / violent behavior connection?" Ingraham drew from a book by disgraced anti-vaxxer Alex Berenson to draw a connection between marijuana, mental illness and violence. She repeated a claim by Berenson that the New York Times had removed a reference to Uvalde shooter Salvadore Ramos being angry at his mother and grandmother for not letting him smoke weed. (The claim, supported by screenshots, seems to be true; the story had 13 different contributors and probably got updated as breaking news; I have not seen a response from NYT.)

The following day, Whoopi Goldberg called out conservatives' latest lame attempt to claim something other than assault weapons are to blame on The View. "It's not that people are smoking too much weed. You know that, Laura," Goldberg said. "People who smoke weed are not carrying AR-15s. They don't even know where they put them."