Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ava Gardner and Ganga

A new book, Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, reveals that the sultry star tried marijuana with co-star Robert Mitchum around 1951, when the two were filming My Forbidden Past.

"I adored him. He was outrageous," Gardner told Peter Evans about Mitchum. "On the set, in front of reporters, he'd call to his makeup man: 'Hey, bring me some of that good shit, man.' He didn't give a fuck.

"Out in the Valley working on location one day, he said, 'Sugar, have you ever tried this stuff?' He was smoking a joint. I said no, I never have. There was plenty around when I was with Artie [Shaw] but he wouldn't let me touch it. He said I got high enough on booze. Anyway, Bob said, 'I've got some really great shit, really great. I want you to try it.' So we went to this old van where they carried all the equipment. I smoked a couple of sticks. Bob taught me how. You take a little air with the hit, deep, deep down and you hold it and hold it and hold it....

"Anyhow, I didn't feel a goddamn thing, nothing whatsoever. Bob was flying. He was fine and dandy. On the way home we stopped at a bar—dry martinis were the thing in those days—and once I'd had a martini, I felt as if I was sitting two feet above the stool. Everything I reached for was a little off, a little to one side. It took the martini to bring on the feeling of the pot. Bob did his best to convert me to marijuana. I tried, but I never got into it." (Perhaps, like me, she thought she was supposed to feel tipsy after she first smoked, instead of being attuned to the subtle effect of an expanded consciousness.)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Macy Gray Gets Stoned

Macy Gray has brought her distinctive voice and style to a new single, "Stoned," now available on iTunes, from her forthcoming album "The Way."

Born Natalie McIntyre in September 1970 in Canton, Ohio, the 6-foot-tall black girl didn't fit in with her mainly white classmates at her Ohio prep school. She moved to Los Angeles and was a mother of three with a rocky marriage when she catapulted to fame on the strength of songs like "I Try," for which she won the Best Female Pop Vocal Grammy in 2001.

The singer admittedly didn't handle her fame well, indulging in excesses but denying rumors she used hard drugs. She told one interviewer that drugs play an important part in her creativity. "I think everybody needs a little oblivion. It is important to get out of your mind sometimes so you meet a different side of yourself. I have had some really incredible revelations on drugs but at the same time they can do horrible things to you, like make you have to spend a lot of money on rehab."

The "Stoned" video shows Gray smoking and giggling while looking at online pictures of other famous stoners, including Tokin Women Miley CyrusMartha Stewart, Marilyn MonroeMaya AngelouOprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and Rhianna. And it looks like she's seen VeryImportantPotheads.com because the video picks up the Bob Marley and Bill Gates photos from their pages there:

Gray has been diagnosed as bipolar, a condition for which many report relief from cannabis, although studies show mixed results. A 2012 study found marijuana can improve cognitive functioning in those with bipolar disorders.

Gray covered The Toyes song "Smoke Two Joints" in 2012. In 2013 she was named in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by a security guard from Universal, alleging rampant marijuana use at the company's headquarters.

Starring recently in The Paperboy (2012) with Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman, Gray also has a successful acting career. In Little Lake for first-time filmmaker Jasmin Sharon, she plays a "hippie psychic" who assists a young girl's coming of age.

Gray is touring in California starting at the end of August, then nationwide. Read more.

CelebStoner names Gray's "Stoned" video in its Top 10 Stoner Songs of All Time.

Amy Tan's Wild Past with Pot

Novelist Amy Tan on NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" spoke about the time, at the age of 16, she was arrested in Switzerland for marijuana. "Everybody smoked pot and hash over there," she said. "I thought it was legal."

To get out of jail, "I had to promise I would listen to my mother and always obey her," she said. Her mother promptly narced out Amy's 24-year-old boyfriend and "he and all my friends were arrested and deported." Still, she joked, she was relieved "because I really did want to break up with him."

Playing "Not My Job" on the show, Tan answered the first quiz question wrong, because, she reasoned, "A lot of people like to get high."

Of course, there were many jokes and a question about the New York Times's endorsement of marijuana legalization this week.

Friday, August 1, 2014

"Unstoppable" Ralph Nader Highlights Drug War Reform

Ralph Nader in Action at Berkeley Post Office Protest Photo: Berkleyside.com
Seemingly tireless consumer rights crusader Ralph Nader spoke on July 30 to a packed, appreciative house at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley that gave him three standing ovations. At the age of 80, Nader is showing no signs of slowing down, having appeared earlier in the day at a protest to save the Berkeley post office building from the rapacious clutches of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's developer husband.

Nader's new book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State advocates for finding common ground between groups on issues, despite differing ideologies on others. It's a strategy that's worked for him in the past, starting with the "strange bedfellows" coalition of environmentalists and fiscal conservatives that halted Tennessee's Clinch River Breeder Reactor in 1982.

Opening with the Aldous Huxley quote, "Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored," Nader said we must smash the myths that control us and end the "divide and rule" strategy.  He argues for hiring full-time advocates to lead the charge, starting with auditing the defense department, ending corporate bailouts, tying the minimum wage to inflation, breaking up big banks, and reining in the "electronic child molesters" who bombard children with commercialized TV.

"It all starts with the quality of citizenry," he said, adding, "It's all about self respect and sharing credit. Seeking justice is a major source of human gratification." He noted the email campaign that halted a potential war with Syria as an example of the power of citizen action. He pointed to Eric Cantor's stunning defeat, despite being outspent by 27:1, and said the Koch brothers are losing in their push for a surtax for solar panels. "Money doesn't vote," he reminded the crowd, urging them to get out and knock on doors to get out the vote. "It's called work," he said.

Nader notes that both the left and the right have been critiquing the War on Drugs for years, from William F. Buckley, Jr. and Milton Friedman to Kurt Schmoke and Kevin Zeese. "The classification and prosecution of drug use as a crime has activated and corrupted law enforcement, encouraged a truly self-defeating form of big government, endangered urban neighborhoods and many thousands of lives, and drained billions of dollars a year from taxpayers," he writes. He notes that many of the reforms recently proposed by AG Eric Holder are similar to those enacted by Texas Governor Rick Perry, and that a dozen Democrats and Republicans joined forces on a bill to legalize the growing of industrial hemp in Congress.

Nader mentioned in his talk that 15 states have passed juvenile justice reforms with left-right support. That day, Rand Paul and Corey Booker introduced such reforms at the federal level, citing drug war issues. Nader said concern for our children is a unifying issue; 80 organizations have now called for an end to the drug war in order to protect children.
Ralph Nader is a big reason I'm an activist today, and  I got to meet him once, at a party at Tony Serra's law office. Prompted by CalNORML director Dale Gieringer to ask whether or not he favored marijuana legalization, Nader responded, "Not legalization. Regulation."

The unstoppable Nader guested HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher on August 1.

UPDATE: SF Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders asked Nader for his views on drug legalization.

NORML founder Keith Stroup writes in his new book that he worked for Nader and partied with Nader's Raiders back in the day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Biography Calls Hillary An "Enthusiastic" Pothead

National Review's blog reports that Weekly Standard Online editor Daniel Halper's new book Clinton, Inc., which hits bookshelves today, quotes an unnamed friend and law-school classmate of Hillary Clinton who says: "If she hasn`t acknowledged it everybody else will tell you: She was an enthusiastic pot user."

According to the Washington Post, when asked by Halper how often Clinton smoked, the answer was, "I don't know, I'm not in the position to say that. But it was just, she was known to be one of the people. And please don't cite me on this by name ... if you talk to other people who knew her reasonably well in law school they will tell you that most people at that time, an undergraduate or in law school, would have been pot users, ranging from the casual and social to the enthusiastic. I think she would have been more enthusiastic, certainly more than Bill."

At least two earlier biographies of Clinton peg her as a pot smoker. Clinton denied ever smoking pot in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour last month.

Clinton did an interview with Larry Mantle of KPCC public radio in Southern California on July 22, where she said when asked about marijuana legalization:

"Honestly, I don't think we've done enough research yet to say what the effects are and what they could be on different people with different physical or psychological issues, different ages — yes, medical first and foremost, we ought to be doing more to make sure that we know how marijuana would interact with other prescription drugs and the like. But we also have to know how even medical marijuana impacts our kids and our communities.

"But the states are the laboratories of democracy, and we're seeing states pass laws that enable their citizens to have access to medical marijuana under certain conditions, so we have the opportunity to try to study those. And then Colorado and Washington have proceeded to permit recreational use. And at the same time, we're seeing the beginnings of important criminal justice reforms.

"So I'm a big believer in acquiring evidence, and I think we should see what kind of results we get, both from medical marijuana and from recreational marijuana before we make any far-reaching conclusions... I think the feds should be attuned to the way marijuana is still used as a gateway drug and how the drug cartels from Latin America use marijuana to get footholds in states, so there can't be a total absence of law enforcement, but what I want to see, and I think we should be much more focused on this, is really doing good research so we know what it is we're approving."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

RIP James Garner, Actor and Marijuana Lover

Ladies, if you're looking for the perfect man, you needn't go much further than James Garner. Tall, dark, and handsome with a sexy, soothing voice and a laid-back style, it turns out the actor, who has died at the age of 86, was "a life-long user of marijuana, celebrating its emotional support and physical help with his arthritis."

Know for his TV roles in Maverick and The Rockford Files, and for films like The Great Escape, Garner made an "explosive revelation" in his 2011 autobiography The Garner Files: that he has smoked marijuana for much of his adult life.

Garner wrote: “I started smoking it in my late teens. I drank to get drunk but ultimately didn’t like the effect. Not so with grass. It had the opposite effect from alcohol: it made me more tolerant and forgiving.

“I did a little bit of cocaine in the Eighties, courtesy of John Belushi, but fortunately I didn’t like it. But I smoked marijuana for 50 years and I don’t know where I’d be without it. It opened my mind and now it eases my arthritis. After decades of research I’ve concluded that marijuana should be legal and alcohol illegal.”

Still, he said: “I’ve had to work hard at that easy- going manner you see on screen.” (I think the marijuana helped.) He's also being called "witty," "wise cracking" and "understated" in his obits.

Those are three more pothead traits, as was his political activism: in 1963 he marched on on Washington for civil rights along with Diahann Carroll and Paul Newman (pictured), and he said his favorite role was in the anti-war film The Americanization of Emily.

During an interview with Charlie Rose, Garner talks about being a "card carrying liberal" and says he met his wife Lois Clarke while working on the Adlai Stevenson campaign. Rose concludes, "There is something uniquely and to-his-bone American about James Garner." (He was right: Garner's grandfather was a full-blood Cherokee.)

Sally Field said Garner was "hands down" the best kisser she worked with; reportedly Doris Day and Julie Andrews said so too. Jean Simmons once said she wished her husband, a heavy drinker, was more like Robert Mitchum, another laid-back actor who was also a lifelong marijuana smoker and enthusiast. Like Mitchum, Garner—born James Bumgarner as the son of an Oklahoma carpet layer—was on his own at an early age, drifting through various jobs until he was discovered by an agent while working as a gas station attendant.

On a 1974 "Rockford Files" episode with guest star Shelly Fabares, Garner as Rockford searches his couch cushions for his car keys, and instead pulls out what looks like a pipe. Glancing furtively at his client (Fabares), he pockets the pipe and puts his hand back into the couch, pulling out a bra instead.

"What's My Line" panelist Arlene Francis pronounced Garner the most-liked actor ever, and a 1985 profile called him "immensely likable." Loved by the ladies, he was also a man's man: a three-time pace car driver at the Indianapolis 500, he served in the Army during the Korean War and earned two Purple Hearts. As an actor, he earned many more hearts.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Paul Mazursky, Who Brought Marijuana to The Movies

Before Easy Rider portrayed marijuana smoking on film, and long before American Beauty, Peter Sellers played an uptight Jewish lawyer whose life is pried open by Leigh-Taylor Young's pot brownies in 1968's I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!

It was the breakthrough film for Paul Mazursky, who wrote and nearly directed the cult classic. Mazursky died yesterday, and all his obituaries linked him with marijuana because of that film.

Growing up in New York, Mazursky worked as an actor, appearing in the seminal Blackboard Jungle (1955). Venturing into stand-up comedy and writing, he wrote for Danny Kaye before moving his office to the Sunset Strip, where the hippies he saw inspired his Toklas screenplay. He followed up with his directorial debut, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), based on experiences he had at Esalen. In that film, unlike Easy Rider, the women (Natalie Wood and Dyan Cannon) also get in on the pot-smoking fun.

In his 1999 book Show Me the Magic, Mazursky describes going to the jungle to take Ayahuasca, and mentions that a shamanic healer used tobacco smoke, "not weed," during the journey. Although he describes himself as a "Greenwich Village hipster" (and his mother as "a hipster, a gypsy, a beantik, a hippie"), he doesn't mention that he smoked marijuana himself. Perhaps it went without saying.  Or maybe he preferred psychedelics.

In the book, he describes a very interesting exchange with famed director Federico Fellini, when Mazursky was planning a trip to Italy and wanted to know whether to visit Florence or Venice. "Do you want marijuana or LSD?" Fellini asked. "Firenze is like marijuana. You will be very happy there. Venezia is not like any place you have ever experienced. She is like an acid trip." "I think I'll take Venice," Mazursky replied.

George Segal and Kris Kristofferson, playing the new boyfriend of Segal's ex-wife, smoke together and form a goofy bond in Mazursky's 1973 film Blume in Love. In his feminist-minded An Unmarried Woman (1978), a 15-year-old girl (Lisa Lucas) matter-of-factly states, "I smoke pot sometimes" upon meeting her mother's new boyfriend, played by Alan Bates. "I do too," he responds. "Got any?" she asks.

Among the remarkable films Paul Mazursky left us are: Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Moscow on the Hudson, Harry and Tonto, Enemies: A Love Story and Moon Over Parador. He even took a stab at Shakespeare in Tempest  (1982).

Mazursky's voice opens the movie Antz (1999), playing the psychiatrist who diagnoses the dissatisfied ant Z (Woody Allen) as the insignificant creature he is. But Paul Mazursky was more like what Z becomes, the little guy who broke the mold. 

The 2019 movie The Last Laugh, wherein Andie McDowell turns Chevy Chase onto marijuana and more, and Richard Dreyfus tokes and jokes his way through, is dedicated to Mazursky.