Chong recalls hazy days with friends


Since Tommy Chong is the Godfather of Ganja, he has smoked with famous friends ranging from Arnold Schwarzenegger to George Harrison, William S. Burroughs, Redd Foxx, Harold Robbins and Tony Dow, who played Wally on "Leave It To Beaver."

But Chong never went sideways with his friends Richard Pryor or Michael Jackson.

Chong gives me details on the smokier stars, while he and Cheech Marin prepare to take their farewell comedy tour to The Mirage on Friday and Saturday.

So what kind of high was Arnold, who now governs a state selling legal pot? He was a gentle laugher.

"He'd get quiet. His eyes would get all bloodshot," Chong says. "He didn't know very many English words, so we'd teach him all the bad words."

Chong says Schwarzenegger was a "big time" smoker.

"That was back when he was Mr. Universe, and I was Mr. Looking For A Job On Venice Beach," Chong says.

"He would take the fat off a chicken breast, because it was good for him. But he would also smoke a bunch of joints, because it was good for him."

Who else?

"I smoked in the same room with (Jimi) Hendrix. He was in the bathroom for long periods of time, so I don't know what he was doing."

Chong smoked with jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery ("he loved his pot") and Tony Dow ("a great sculptor and a nice smoker").

Every time Chong saw George Harrison, they smoked. The Beatle's demeanor never changed on pot, but Harrison smoked anyway, because it "reinforced" the way he felt "inside." (I'm not sure I understand what that means.)

He smoked with (no surprise) Timothy Leary and Redd Foxx.

"Redd Foxx -- he wasn't funny off stage. He was quiet. He was almost morbid. He was very soft-spoken. But when he got on stage, he just became somebody else.

"Redd loved his cocaine too much; that was his problem. He was the only guy seen with a double scoop. You know, usually it's one nostril, and then the other nostril?

"Well, there's two people -- Redd and Harold Robbins, the writer -- they used to use two scoops."

That's disgusting.

"Harold Robbins ... he told me his whole life story one night -- as cokeheads do."

Chong hung with subversive author William S. Burroughs, but Burroughs rode hard drugs while Chong cycled pot.

"He had the heroin down to a science. He knew how to clean up; he knew how to get back into it." (If you understand this lingo, you may want to try NA.org.)

Chong has known plenty of stars who didn't smoke with him. He palled around with drug-addled comedy legend Richard Pryor, but somehow they never lit up together.

Chong once offered a joint to John Lennon and Rod Stewart at a party. But Lennon was facing a U.S. immigration battle, so he passed. And gravelly throated Stewart didn't want to harsh his singing voice.

"That left me holding the big stinky one."

Chong never got high with the Rat Pack. He never got high with anyone in the Jackson family, although he knew them. Cheech & Chong helped discover the Jacksons, as unlikely as that sounds now (or maybe not).

"I always say, if Michael had been smoking a joint, he'd be on tour right now."

Instead, Michael died of a massive tranquilizer drip system.

"Awww, that stupid stuff," Chong says.

"He thought he was invincible. He really did. Him and James Brown. They're not invincible. Just because you can moonwalk doesn't mean you can do those drugs and walk away alive."

Chong turns 72 a week from today. I ask him how so many stars have died on drugs but he hasn't.

"I learned years ago, if you're gonna do drugs, you gotta be in really good shape," he says. "I've been working out on weights since I was 16."

That's partly why he and Schwarzenegger got along: weightlifting and smoking.

More importantly, Chong doesn't do hard drugs.

"At the end of my life, when everything else (physically) stops working, then I'm gonna try heroin," he says. "Heroin (could) be my way-out-of-this-world trip."

Medicinal pot is legal in a whopping 14 states. But before medical pot became legal, Chong went through pot abstinence for three years, when he was tried and imprisoned for selling bongs in the early 2000s.

"That's when I developed a prostate problem and my health started deteriorating," he says.

"The minute I started smoking again, my health came back. It really is a medicine."

Chong is presently "experimenting with drugs," but "only with pot" and in an unusual way.

"I'm seeing how little it takes to get me high. That's my goal."

You don't want to overdo it because pot is so strong these days that, he jokes, you can go on an acid trip merely by smelling a bag of sensimilla.

So even though the Godfather of Ganja still calls himself a pothead, Tommy Chong tokes sparingly.

"I don't want to get up and wake-and-bake and mess up my whole day," he says.

"At the end of the day, instead of going to watch television, I'll go into my man cave, carve little things out of wood, smoke a little toke, and listen to jazz."

That means he's a mad disciplinarian.

"You have to be!" he says. "I'm a writer. You know what that means. You have to have discipline in your life, or else you'll never get anything done."

Doug Elfman's column appears on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

 

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