Lou Adler is trying to find a place to erect a gargantuan rolled joint, preferably on the roof of a prominent building in Los Angeles. He attempted to put the 33-foot-long, 3-D doobie atop the Roxy, which makes sense not only because of the abundance of big ads on the Sunset Strip and his ownership of the club but because it was a frequent spot for his buds — the inimitable Cheech & Chong — to perform.
Alas, the permit requirements in West Hollywood appear to be too rigid, so at press time he was still looking for a spot. Adler’s 1978 film, Up in Smoke, celebrates its 40th anniversary this week with a DVD/Blu-ray re-release, so he, Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin have joined forces with the Grammy Museum for an exhibit to mark the milestone: “Still Rollin’ — Celebrating 40 Years of Up in Smoke” opens Friday, April 20 (4/20).
Though the fantastic fatty is meant as marketing for the film, if it gets to be seen in L.A., it will punctuate more than the iconic movie. In many ways it will be a testament to Cheech & Chong’s role in bringing marijuana into the mainstream and ultimately, in its legalization.
In the four decades since, Cheech & Chong have sparked attention for cannabis culture like no other, first as part of their live stage show, then on records and finally in films — Up in Smoke, Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie, Nice Dreams, Things Are Tough All Over, Still Smokin’, Cheech & Chong’s The Corsican Brothers, Get Out of My Room, and Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie.
“It was something that no one had ever seen before,” says Chong, who credits the almost psychic connection he shares with Cheech for the success of their various projects. “We’re both amateur mind readers. Our lowbrow humor was very easy for each of us to read and understand. I can say a word or even just a look and we both know what we’re thinking. We developed that while we were on the road doing our live act, doing records and in the studio. It was all fun and games. We just love being with each other.”
They’ve been through a lot along the way, too. Chong, of course, went to jail for selling bongs on his website. Then he got cancer. Currently cancer-free, he credits pot with playing a part in his recovery. Marin went on to star in the classic movie Born in East L.A. without his partner, though the original song was from a Cheech & Chong album. It was a huge hit and allowed the actor to later score roles that transcended the stoner stereotype and his Mexican background (such as a detective on Nash Bridges, Hurley’s dad on Lost and several Disney cartoons, most memorably voicing one of the hyenas in The Lion King). Chong’s best-known role post-C&C was more to type, as an aging hippie on That ’70s Show, though he was forced to take the last two seasons off due to the bong bust.
Now that weed is legal in California, where both Cheech and Chong live, no one has more right to take advantage. Hocking a lot more than the smoking vessels that put him the slammer, Chong now sells Chong’s Choice, high-quality medical cannabis sourced from local growers available via his website in prerolls, flower jars, THC oil and infused breath strips. Marin, meanwhile, touts Cheech’s Private Stash, offering buds and prerolls via his own site.
“I went to jail for the sins of the world,” the 79-year-old Chong says, jokingly, by phone last week, though his nine months behind bars was no joke. “But it all worked out well. I enjoy being a martyr.”
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News