Let me see if you can find the link between the following persons. Truman Capote, Cecil B. DeMille, Eddie Fisher, Alan Jay Lerner, Representative Claude Pepper of Florida, Otto Preminger, Emilio Pucci, Anthony Quinn and Tennessee Williams. Not sure?
How about these names, Eusebio Morales, the former Panamanian Ambassador to England; Prince Stanislas Radziwill, President Kennedy’s brother‐in‐law, Presidents John F Kennedy and Harry S Truman, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Igor Stravinsky, Howard Cosell, Mickey Mantle, Winston Churchill, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, and Andy Warho? Still wondering? They were all methamphetamine users, some more than others.
Here are some more “users”; Judy Garland, Richard Burton, Nelson Rockefeller, Leonard Bernstein, Spiro Agnew, Otto Preminger, Sam Giancana, Ingrid Bergman, Peter Lawford and Marilyn Monroe. It’s a fact. They all used Meth intravenously. They didn’t snort it, they didn’t smoke it and they didn’t swallow it, they shot up with a big long needle.
These folks were America’s cream of the crop. They were the top names in theater, sports, politics, movies and art. Of course Meth was legal in those days. But that doesn’t change the fact that many of these famous people may or may not have been so noteworthy if not for Methamphetamine. Would Andy Warhol have been so clever and cutting edge if he hadn’t used Meth? Would Mickey Mantle have been a superman baseball player? Would Leonard Bernstein have had the passion and drive which made him one of America’s best known conductors? It’s certainly an interesting question.
In the case of President John F Kennedy, the injections ruled his life and he was administered and self injected several times a day from his campaign till his death. In fact, both he and wife Jackie were extremely dependent on its energy and pain relieving properties. During the first of JFK’s inauguration balls, (there were three) Jackie had completely run out of energy to the point where she sat, behind closed doors, slumped in a chair waiting for her fix. Ten minutes after being injected, she was glowing, energized and ready to dance, until the next ball where she once again needed a fix.
JFK was injected just before he debated Nixon on live TV. He was getting injected on Air Force One, on the way to meet Russian Premiere Khrushchev for their historic conference. His personal Meth dealer and doctor traveled everywhere JFK went, staying at the best hotels and coming and going in almost total secrecy. Bobby, JFK’s brother and Attorney General knew. J Edgar Hoover knew and JFK’s personal physician knew.
Shortly before JFK died, he self injected Methamphetamine too many times in one day. With his staff (no pun intended) staring in disbelief, he took his clothes off, and started walking down the hallways of the Carlyle Hotel in New York. The secret service agents were stunned as the President grew more manic. He ran up and down the long hallways stark naked and stark raving mad. Finally he was tackled, and a doctor was called who administered a massive barbiturate injection to the drooling and depraved JFK. I know this all sounds like fiction but it is entirely true.
Here are some more Meth users you may have heard of; Yul Brynner, Paul Lynde, Shelly Winters, Richard Nixon, Rosemary Clooney, Peter Lorre, Phyllis McGuire, Jerry Lewis, Judyth Exner Campbell, Marlene Dietrich, Van Cliburn, Bob Cummings, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Eddie Albert and Anthony Quinn.
In the case of popular actor Bob Cummings, his addiction ruined his career, his status in Hollywood and ultimately his life. He died broke and unwanted, ravaged by his addiction. In the case of famous Hollywood director Cecile B DeMille, he had a few injections and decided it was the worst thing he had experienced in his life. Others like Judy Garland were using till the day she died, of an overdose. The Beatles all used meth in pill form during the first years of the band’s career. They stopped only because they were introduced to marijuana by Bob Dylan in 1965.
Who was the “Johnny Appleseed” of Meth to all these “patients” and more? His name was Dr. Max Jacobson. A German Jew who escaped Hitler’s purge, he became the Meth supplier to the stars, Hollywood stars that is. Hitler is another Meth addict and was injected daily by his doctor. Meth is extremely potent but with continued use one needs more and more. It makes you stay awake for days, sometimes a week or more. Then like all things that go up, they must come down. And come down hard. It’s called the crash for good reason. The body just goes and goes until it is completely exhausted and you “crash” for days. However, with people who can’t afford a few days sleep, they just have to continue with stronger doses of the drug.
A common side effect of Meth use is a hyper sexual state of arousal quenched only after multiple orgasms. This accounts for JFK’s legendary libido and almost cost him his office on more than one occasion. In his hyper sexual state, JFK had to have partners and lots of them. Another side effect, at least for pregnant women on the drug is premature birth with under developed respiratory systems in the baby. Many babies born under these conditions, premature and addicted to Meth, died soon after. Jackie lost a baby or two under these exact conditions. I propose that it was her addiction to Meth that caused the deaths of her babies. It just seems incredible that all of these famous, creative, important people, some with the power to destroy the planet were all using Meth! We’ll never know how these people would have done without it.
Meth isn’t the only drug that inspired great works of art or literature. Charles Dickens, celebrated author of Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist was addicted to opium. Opium was the drug of choice for many famous and celebrated novelists of the Victorian era. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in an opium haze. English poets John Keats, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley were all addicted to opium and produced many of their greatest works under the influence of that drug. Opium is the precursor of morphine and heroin. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was another avid user of the stupor inducing drug. Smoking opium was all the rage in the upper class circles of London theater types.
Vincent Van Gogh produced some of the most valuable works of art but unfortunately didn’t live to see his own success; in fact Vincent perfectly manifested the phrase “struggling artist”, spending most of his adult life as a depressed and mentally ill man. According to the Van Gogh Gallery an addiction to absinthe and a prescribed drug Digitalis (used to ease his epilepsy) may have been one of the reasons why the color yellow is such a prominent presence in his paintings – take the paintings The Yellow House and Starry Night, for instance. The chemicals in absinthe and Digitalis can cause one to see in yellow or see yellow spots. Van Gogh was also a raging alcoholic.
Despite its wide spread and legal use, alcohol has many fans and addicts down through the years. Here’s a short list of some of our best known and most loved alcoholics. There was Ulysses S Grant, novelist Stephen King, Alexander the Great, Leonard Nimoy, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Betty Ford, Ernest Hemingway and Elizabeth Taylor. Alcoholism has caused many deaths as well. Here are some who died of drink; Richard Burton, Mickey Mantle, actress Veronica Lake, Beat Generation author of On the Road, Jack Kerouac, Jazz singer Billie Holiday, country music legend Hank Williams, rock drummers John Bonham and Keith Moon, legendary stage actor John Barrymore and comedian W.C. Fields to name a few.
Cocaine is another popular drug with creative type people. Robin Williams, Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey Jr, Whitney Houston, John Belushi, Angelina Jolie, Mamma’s and Papa’s singer John Phillips, Thomas Edison, and author Hunter Thompson are some of the hundreds who snorted or injected the drug.
LSD is another cultural drug phenomenon with some of the most influential persons in history. The Beatles, Jack Nicholson, Steve Jobs, comedian George Carlin, Joe Rogan, Cary Grant, Bill Gates, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Aldous Huxley and Alan Ginsburg are a few of the trippers who had positive profound experiences on LSD or mushrooms.
I’m not even going to explore the marijuana users…way too many. What made the world go round? It seems like drugs was and is a huge part of it. The other area I’m not going to explore in this rather light hearted piece is the vast government run drug empire. That’s for next time.
What’s my point in this article? I think it’s important to realize that drugs, like anything have their place and time in history. It seems more than a coincidence that drugs have been an integral part in the creative process for hundreds of years. There are more articles and books demonizing drugs than one can count, and they ring true for many of us. Let’s not forget that some of our most beloved and creative powerhouses in the arts and literature, science and screen have used drugs to elevate their creative juices above and beyond the daily world of non drug users.
Let’s be clear; there are plenty of non drug using creative people as well aren’t there? But would we have had a Hemingway, Sinatra, Van Gogh and the rest without the drugs they used? What would America’s roster of great artists looked like if we had locked them up for a nickel bag of coke or meth? If we made a list of all the famous and celebrated people in the last 400 years and then removed all the ones who used drugs who would be left? It kind of makes me wonder.