Monday, August 28, 2023

75 Years Ago: The Pot Bust of Robert Mitchum and Lila Leeds

Leeds and Mitchum with their lawyers at their 1949 marijuana trial. 

On the evening of August 31, 1948, movie star Robert Mitchum went to visit 20-year-old starlet Lila Leeds at her bungalow at 8334 Ridpath Drive in Los Angeles. "Unbenownst to them, two officers, A.M. Barr and J.B. McKinnon of the Los Angeles Police Department's Narcotics Division, were hiding in the yard. The two had been conducting surveillance for eight months on members of the film industry and their hangers-on," writes George Eels in his biography of Mitchum. 

Mitchum frequented after-hours clubs in LA that served grass, according Eels. "His use of grass earned him membership in a group that considered themselves hip and scorned nonusers as square johns and janes....Yet even they were taken aback by Mitchum's increasing boldness. Never before had they seen a prominent star make himself such a high-visibility risk, strutting around as he did in a straw Stetson and cowboy boots, with a reefer tucked behind each ear or carrying a package of cigarettes in which the regular ones were alternated with hand-rolled joints." 

"When Mitchum arrived [at Leed's house], he flopped on the sofa and tossed a pack of cigarettes onto the coffee table," Eels continues. "Barr claimed Leeds picked it up and looked inside. 'Oh, you've got brown ones and white ones too,' she said, 'I want some of the white ones.' She took two joints from the pack, lit them and gave one to Mitchum." Barr and McKinnon were let inside by Leeds's roommate and made their high-profile arrests. 

Mitchum poses for cameras in jail. 
At L.A. County Jail, the laid-back actor, who had just turned 31, greeted newspaper reporters and photographers with, "Yes, boys, I was smoking a marijuana cigarette when they came in," adding, "I knew I'd get caught sooner or later." When the booking officer asked his occupation, Mitchum replied, "Former actor." Sergeant Barr chilled Hollywood with his statement, "We're going to clean the dope and the narcotics users out of Hollywood! And we don't care who we're going to have to arrest." Mitchum, meanwhile, was stripped and shackled, and left stark naked to be questioned by a psychiatrist. The next morning he cancelled a speaking engagement scheduled for the steps of City Hall to celebrate National Youth Day. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Republican Candidates Fall Over Each Other on Fentanyl

Candidates at the first Republican presidential debate (sans Trump) were falling all over each other to say they would fix the fentanyl problem by toughening up border enforcement and even going over to Mexico to take out cartels. DeSantis said he'll shoot and kill anyone bringing fentanyl across the border; also on Day 1 in office he'll use US Special Forces across the Mexican border to go after fentanyl labs. "Would I treat cartels as foreign terrorists organizations? You bet I would." Pence also said he will "hunt down and destroy" drug cartels, and Tim Scott mentioned fentanyl too. 

Former DEA chief and Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson was a surprising voice of reason, talking about how he negotiated with then-Mexican-president Vicente Fox over drugs. He called for education and treatment, as others have. Hutchinson was also the only candidate who didn’t raise their hand when asked if they would support “the elephant not in the room” for the nomination should he be criminally convicted. He pointed out that Trump might not be constitutionally eligible to take office, and Christie, who said he raised his hand reluctantly, then said, “We need to stop normalizing Donald Trump’s conduct. It’s beneath the office of the Presidency.”

Saturday, August 19, 2023

"The Ranch" and the Reefer


In my continuing series, "Streaming Shows I Catch Up With That Turn Out to Feature Weed," I've been watching The Ranch (2016-2020) on Netflix. I got sucked in by the theme song "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," sung by Lucas Nelson in duet with Shooter Jennings, whose dads Willie and Waylon won a Grammy with their hit version of the Ed & Patsy Bruce song in 1978. 

Set on a Colorado cattle ranch, the show stars its co-producer Ashton Kutcher, who played the dumb jock Michael Kelso on That '70s Show. Here he plays Colt, a prodigal son who returns to work at his family's ranch after his spotty semi-pro football career ends. Kutcher said that growing up in Iowa, the show he most related to was Roseanne, about "the ideals and beliefs and values" of a small-town family, "and that's what we set out to make a show about." 

Also starring as Colt's brother Rooster is Danny Masterson, who played the smart-ass pot dealer Hyde on That '70s Show. Their characters are (somewhat) grown-up versions of their sitcom ones in this show with a lot of heart and humor, featuring guest spots from Fez (Wilmer Valderrama, here playing a Mexican worker who gets deported after the boys get into a bar fight), Kitty (Debra Jo Rupp as Colt's wine guzzling, Xanax-popping mother-in-law), and Red (Kurtwood Smith, playing a neighbor with cancer who talks about how strong his medical pot is).  Another recurring character is the family lawyer played by Martin Mull, who expresses a fondness for magic mushrooms. 

The Ranch is soaked in alcohol, with the characters guzzling Budweisers and whiskey throughout, and Debra Winger co-starring as the boys' mother Maggie who runs a bar in their small town. Marijuana is first mentioned in the series, which has been praised for its country music soundtrack, when Maggie sings along to Ashley Monroe's "Bring Me Weed Instead of Roses" while waiting for her estranged husband Beau (Sam Elliott) to come visit her (Season 1, Episode 10).

Explaining why she suddenly left Beau, Maggie tells him, "Next thing you know I'm ordering two beef and cheddars and and a Jamocha shake at an Arby's in Utah. I skipped the part where I smoked a joint in the parking lot....I needed to go somewhere and figure out what I wanted to do with my life." She tries to convince him to spend time traveling with her, but Beau, a no-nonsense rancher who loves steak and his Ford, and says things like, "I'll visit Mt. Rushmore when they put Ronald Reagan on it," can't be budged from his ranch. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Barbie: War and Pink


The Barbie movie starts out cleverly with a 2001: A Space Odyssey spoof, showing the origin of the doll as a baby doll so that girls could play at being mothers. As Helen Mirren points out in the narration, this wasn't always fun. "Just ask your own mother." Coming in like a monolith is Margot Robbie as the original Barbie doll in her iconic black-and-white swimsuit and high heels (to match her high-heeled feet), whereupon the girls see their future as stylish and in-command women.  

We then travel to Barbie Land, where all the Barbies live in pink plastic houses, while running the show in all professions, including the President and all the Supreme Court justices, as well as doctor, lawyer, and astronaut. Robbie as "Stereotypical Barbie" travels around in her pink car prettily applauding her sisters' successes. Meanwhile, Ken (Ryan Gosling) and the other Kens exist purposelessly while "beaching" (hanging out on the beach). 

A moment of self-realization leads Barbie, Inanna-like, through a portal to the Real World, and when Ken comes along, he quickly discovers that gender roles are reversed there. Meanwhile, Barbie discovers she hasn't been the empowering role model to girls she'd thought she was, and hooks up with working mother Gloria (America Ferrera, much slimmed down and prettied up from her "Ugly Betty" days) and her daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) to travel back to Barbie Land and set things right. Except that once they return, Ken has turned it into a patriarchal nightmare, with the Barbies relinquishing their power positions to become good little girlfriends mooning over their Kens while they all play guitar and sing Matchbox 20's song, "I wanna push you around." Meanwhile Will Farrell as the Mattel CEO tries to scold Barbie back into her box and Barbie Land by calling her a Jezebel, and she has a Proustian flashback.  

It's a lot like life. Girls play with Barbies and imagine they'll grow up to have perfect, empowered lives like their dolls do, with great wardrobes. Then we often realize it's easier to get boys' attention by ditching all that and being attentive to male needs. 

In the movie, Ferrara's character recites a monologue about the tightrope modern women must walk, and she and Robbie's character capture and deprogram her fellow Barbies with Gloria's help. Just before a vote on matriarchy vs. patriarchy, they distract the Kens by sparking their jealousy and setting them at war against each other while they win the vote.

It's a lot like our history (or herstory, as I like to say). As Joseph Campbell put it, "There can be no doubt that in the very earliest ages of human history, the magical force and wonder of the female was no less a marvel than the universe itself; and this gave to woman a prodigious power, which it has been one of the chief concerns of the masculine part of the population to break, control, and employ to its own ends." So while women were thought to be the sole creators of life we were indeed everything, until men figured out they had something to do with paternity and took over, waging war over Helen of Troy and such.  

The problem I have with Barbie is that its solution is a war among men—something we've had quite enough of already—and switching back to putting only one sex in charge. (I guess that the Lysistrata anti-war technique wouldn't have worked in Barbie Land since they don't have genitals there.) It seems filmmaker Greta Gerwig's research didn't include reading Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade, where she makes a case for a partnership model of power sharing between the sexes going forward. At least Barbie apologizes to Ken for negating him in the end, saying, "Every night didn't have to be girl's night." And at least the "war" is fought with beach toys instead of real weapons. 

Monday, August 7, 2023

Celebrating Marijuana-Using Lefties on Left Handers Day

"I write with my left hand," opens a 2022 collection of essays titled A Left-Handed Woman by Judith Thurman, the award-winning biographer of Tokin' Woman Isak Dinesen. Thurman continues, "Left-handedness used to be considered a malign aberration ('sinister' is Latin for 'left'), and in the generations before mine, schoolchildren were routinely 'switched.' Enforced conformity, especially, perhaps, when it selects an inborn trait to repress or persecute, breeds intolerance for difference of all kinds. Singled out for bullying or conversion, a child internalized the message that she isn't 'right'.” 

Eudora Welty, whose novel The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973, wrote in One Writer's Beginnings, "I'd been born left-handed, but the habit was broken when I entered first grade." Her father "had insisted. He pointed out that everything in life had been made for the convenience of right-handed people, because they were the majority, and he often used 'what the majority wants' as a criterion for what was for the best." Her mother was also born left-handed, but "she had been broken of it when she was young," causing her to develop a stutter. 

There may be a connection between being left handed and enjoying marijuana; reportedly a joint was called a "left-handed cigarette" in 1920's jive talk.
 The first use of the term may have been in Bertha Muzzy (B.M.) Bower's 1922 book, The Trail of the White Mule, and it's made its way into podcastssong lyrics and current novels like Daisy Chains by Samantha Evergreen, containing this exchange: "You know she liked a good left-handed cigarette." "That's because she was actually left-handed." 

I've personally gathered thousands of signatures on pro-pot petitions, and I've noticed a preponderance of left-handed signatories, much more than the 10-12% of us in the general population today. It could be that being left handed brands us early on as different, providing an incentive to try something that was and often remains countercultural: using cannabis. The "enforced conformity" against cannabis users comes in the form of criminalization, ridicule, and drug testing

Or maybe it's brain differences. According to a 1995 paper in the American Journal of Psychology, left-handed males are better at "divergent thinking," and the greater their "sinistrality," the greater their divergence. (Funny that females didn't feel free to diverge.) Research conducted at the Illinois Research Consortium in 2008 found that right-handed people process information using analysis, while left-handed people do it using synthesis, solving a problem by looking at the whole and trying to use pattern-matching. Experiments on multi-tasking performance showed that when given two tasks to simultaneously complete, left-handers outperformed right-handers. However, when instructed to focus on one task at a time, right-handers completed the tasks more quickly. While left-handers showed more accurate memories of events, right-handers displayed better factual memory.

In 2021, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the Donders Institute in Nijmegen investigated brain image and genetic data of 3,062 left-handers and 28,802 right-handers. Left-handedness was associated with differences in brain asymmetry in areas related to working memory, language, hand control and vision. As MPI’s Clyde Francks explains, “Hemispheric specialisation is important for language and other cognitive functions. Various psychiatric traits involve increased rates of left-handedness, including autism, schizophrenia and intellectual disability – although of course most left-handed people do not have these.” Marijuana use can trigger schizophrenia in those predisposed to it. 

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Jeeter's Dwayne Wade Heading to NBA Hall of Fame, with Alan Iverson Inducting

A teaser tweet (post?) from 13-time NBA All-Star Dwayne Wade's cannabis partner Jeeter hints at a special offering to celebrate Wade's induction into the NBA Hall of Fame next weekend. 

Playing mostly with the Miami Heat, Wade won three NBA championships and was the 2006 Finals MVP. Widely regarded as one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history, he is Miami's all-time leader in points, games, assists, steals, shots made, and shots taken. 

Wade's limited edition line with Jeeter, the So Cal company that's said to be the top pre-roll seller in the country, was announced in December 2021. He has also started a wine company, and moved to California from Florida in part to support his trans daughter Zaya. He and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, picked up the President's Award at the NAACP Image Awards this year, something Michelle Obama tweeted out.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in July 2023

Angus Cloud (7/31)

Cloud, a native of Oakland, CA, was recruited into acting after being spotted on a NYC street by the director of the HBO drama Euphoria, in which played a "kindhearted" drug dealer to teenagers. At the end of season 2, Cloud's character was wounded and arrested. The coroner determined that Cloud accidentally overdosed on meth, cocaine, fentanyl and benzodiazepines.    

Paul Rubens (7/30)
The unique comic talent that brought us the delightful "Pee-wee's Playhouse" also appeared in Cheech and Chong movies. He died after a six-year battle with cancer.  

Patricia Ann Goldman (7/26)
A progressive Republican, Goldman began working in government as a senior at Goucher College in 1964, and led poverty and workforce programs for the US Chamber of Commerce from 1967 to 1971. She was appointed by Jimmy Carter and re-appointed by Ronald Reagan to the National Transportation Safety Board, where she served from 1979 to 1988, most of that time as vice chair. She was one of the few Republicans present at the founding meeting of the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971, and at the 1976 Republican National Convention she helped NWPC secure the continued endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment and tried to prevent the party platform from opposing Roe v. Wade. In 1995, she became the president of the WISH List, a political action committee raising funds for female Republican candidates in favor of abortion rights. After surviving ovarian cancer, in 1997 she co-founded and was the president of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. "I don't think a Republican feminist is an oxymoron," she said.  

Sinead O'Connor (7/25)
I'd just read and written about O'Connor's 2021 book Rememberings, in which she talks about her use of weed and its effect on her music. I nearly heard her perform live when I spotted her name (misspelled) on the marquee at San Francisco's August Hall while attending ICBC 2020, but the show was sold out. I swore I wouldn't let that happen again. But now I've lost my chance; we all have. She had a lot to heal from in her life, and has died at age 56 of as-yet-unknown causes. 

Tony Bennett (7/21)
The beloved, iconic crooner refused to record gimmicky songs and instead devoted himself to The Great American Songbook, bringing it to new generations starting with duets with Elvis Costello and k.d. lang on MTV's Unplugged. Recording this Grammy-winning duet with Amy Winehouse, Bennett calmed her down by bringing up Dinah Washington, noticing her influence on Winehouse's singing. Bennett was a lifelong liberal Democrat who participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march in 1965; Viola Liuzzo, a volunteer from Michigan who drove him to the airport after the march was murdered later that day by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Source. As reported by CelebStoner, Bennett used marijuana and other drugs, and spoke up for drug legalization days after Whitney Houston died, mentioning Winehouse and Michael Jackson also. “I witnessed that in Amsterdam,” he said. “It’s legal, and as a result there’s no panic in the streets. There’s no deals, there’s no ‘Meet me at the corner and I’ll give you something.’ You’re always afraid you’re going to get arrested. You have to hide. Why do that?”