Back in 1980, people rarely scored their coke from women. Rarer still was a magazine that interviewed the seldom-seen “women in white.” Lesley Morrison spoke with two of them for the December, 1980 issue of High Times.
Cocaine has always been pictured as a male-dominance drug. In classical Peruvian times, it was the top Inca honchos who smugly chewed their coca cuds while the virgin maidens of Riobamba and Titicaca were sacrificed in gaudy fertility ceremonies to ensure an abundant harvest for next season’s crop. When Europe discovered coke a hundred years ago, repressed Victorian docs like Siggy Freud snorted it to erase their weirdo repressions, to raise their minds up off leather bicycle seats and soiled silk hankies long enough to Perpetrate the Act on their long-suffering sweethearts. Even today, most people conceive the woman’s role in the coke trade to consist of nervously muling Bolivian-woven handbags full of snort past airport dope dogs, while the men have all the fun, counting the money and shooting the guns and dropping each other in the river.
In reality, the modern cocaine scene abounds with sleek, chic young strumpets of snort. If you don’t hear much of them, it’s because they commonly give good weight, cut clean and lightly, keep tight security, and discreetly disdain to engage in the kind of macho bluff-and-threat numbers that provoke gunplay and drownings among male coqueros. These new “ladies of the white ” have, in fact, brought an unprecedented level of professionalism and glamour to the industry which has gained the respect of even such hide-bound traditionalist dope movers as Lesley Morrison.
Morrison, whose intermittent and unpredictable dispatches from the uttermost fringes of the global narcotics trade have made him a High Times legend, surprised us doubly this time by filing this interview from deep in the heart of darkest Manhattan. “Liz and Camille,” he explained on the tape, “dwell in a tasteful jet-powered houseboat on the Hudson with a stirring view of the George Washington Bridge, the midtown skyline, and spacious New York harbor, through which they regularly hydrofoil in broad daylight to retrieve consignments of coke buoyed next to Grancolombia pleasure liners. The interview was conducted just after one such midday sortie, with the goosebumps and pretty glistening water droplets still freshly sprinkled about their comely bikini marks. If before this I had harbored vague chauvinist resentments against women homing in onto the coke fraternity, I confess that I have been thoroughly—and very deftly —blandished out of them.”
Liz: Want another blow?
High Times: Yes, I’d love one, thanks.
Camille: This coke is our latest product. I may be biased, but I think it’s some of the best coke that’s been around in a long time.
High Times: What country did it originate from?
Camille: It actually came in two different shipments. The total was 80 kilos. Each was individually sealed in plastic.
High Times: Did the coke have a lot of rocks in it?
Ladies: A lot… a lot of rocks.
High Times: I guess that’s good for sales.
Liz: Uh-huh, cosmetics means a lot. It’s easy to sell when anything’s pretty, including oneself.
Camille: We tested this coke to see if the rocks were reconstituted. Reconstituting is a popular method now of making rocks out of coke that’s already been cut. It looks as if they are pure natural rock formations. The microscope is an excellent way of finding out if the coke was reconstituted. That’s where cosmetics comes in. The reason for making rocks out of the shake or loose coke is that people want to see rocks and the South Americans know it. They oblige the buyer by making the rocks synthetically and, while they are at it, adding cut to it before making the rocks.
When it gets to the States, there are people who do the same thing to the coke—add more cut to it and reprocess the coke to make more rocks. It’s really disgusting. That’s why I think there is no pure coke found in America anymore.
High Times: What do you look for, cosmetically speaking. What is the most salable coke in town? Rocks? Flakes?
Camille: Depends on who you’re selling to. I used to think it was rocks, but now I see that not everybody feels that way, especially dealers. There’s flake that’s almost all one consistency. No rocks, but tastes good, looks good—in fact, looks beautiful, with iridescent flakes that shine beautifully.
Liz: Camille, who was it that had coke that was so shiny we were suspicious?
Camille: It was that guy from Miami. He said that the last time he was in New York, people had tired of his huge rocks and wanted flaky coke, so that’s what he brought this time. Sure was flaky, wasn’t it? The time before that he remembered people demanding rocks—the bigger the better—so he had the labs make up the coke with huge rocks. Remember, we lent it to High Times for the centerfold with the girl holding it in her hand: “Ooh la la cocaine,” I think it was called.
Anyway, he walked in and knew we were going to love it. No one had ever seen such huge rocks—they were boulders. He confessed to me that he could have his lab make up any kind of coke we wanted—shiny, hard-brittle, soft and thuddy.
High Times: Sophisticated cutting’s become much more prevalent nowadays. Is there anything people can do to protect themselves against that?
Liz: Well, it depends upon how you’re buying it. If you’re buying a gram of coke and it’s from a friend, you hope—you assume—they know what they are talking about and that they will sell you coke that’s not cut to shit. And if the seller doesn’t know, well, you’re out a hundred bucks. Knowing how sophisticated the methods are now, I wouldn’t just buy something on hearsay. I try not to lay out money up front anyway, and I’d do a number of tests before buying in weight.
Camille: Nothing shocks me anymore. I recently saw a good friend of mine making his own press. He was ready to cut coke I had sold him and make new rocks out of the cut coke.
High Times: Obviously the profit incentive is there.
Camille: Really. That’s looking at it in a cold-blooded way, yet that’s what I’ve learned about the cocaine business.
High Times: About terminology: When you see the traditional roundish rock, but it flakes, do you call it a rock? Or is it a flake? What do you call it? A rock of flake?
Liz: I’m not sure if it would be a rock or flake. I get real simple with terms, like calling it the hard stuff and the soft stuff, referring to rock and shake, or powder and flake. Call it anything you want, just don’t call me late to the mirror.
Camille: You can tell if there’s cut in the coke when you’re making lines on a mirror. Coke that’s been cut a lot doesn’t make smooth, straight lines—the lines come out broken up and clumpy. Yet we’ve gotten around that, too, by heating the cut until it’s liquefied again. When it dries, it crystallizes in a different way and makes real smooth lines and has an extra bit of shine to it. And coke that’s a bit damp will make the same choppy, clumpy lines, whether cut or not, so that blows that theory.
High Times: What do you think people are looking for in coke? Do they want speedy coke, mellow coke? Does the average buyer want a specific head?
Camille: I think it’s an individual thing. Because some people want it speedy, some people want it smooth and mellow, coke they can sleep on, eat on, fuck on. Some people want to really be aware of feeling it rushing through their bodies, like speed.
Today I tasted some coke that I’m sure had speed. In fact, the person offering it was saying with pride that the percentage was 85 percent pure coke and 5 percent speed, and as a selling point noted that the 5 percent speed was pure crystal meth.
High Times: So what percentage do you think the average Joe or Jane on the street is getting of real cocaine when they put a hundred bucks down?
Camille: It depends if they are buying from someone who’s buying from us or even two steps further. Let’s say we sell a half ounce to someone who in turn will sell eighths or quarters to someone who will then sell grams, with each person stepping on it along the way. The person buying the gram at that point will probably be getting about 40 percent worth of coke based on us starting with 80 or 85 percent.
High Times: I personally think your estimate is high. From what I’ve seen, I’d say the average street gram seems to be about 25 percent, sad to say.
Camille: Maybe so. I think maybe we are unique among dealers in that when we do occasionally sell grams, we give the same percentage of rocks and shake in that gram as we do on a whole ounce. And we don’t cut it that much, either. Maybe three grams tops on the ounce.
I know people who think we’re crazy for our methods of dealing in general. At the level we’re dealing now, if we sell a gram, the person buying it, according to experienced dealers, shouldn’t have anything to say about it Even a 50-50 ratio is more than most gram buyers expect Yet we give a minimum of 65-35 (65 rock, 35 shake) on anything we sell. We take pride in being righteous dealers. We feel if everyone would only tighten up on their ethics in dealing with one another, cocaine dealing wouldn’t have the bad reputation it has.
High Times: Do you look for a bite? Do you think a bite or sting to it gives you an idea of how good it is?
Liz: No, not really. Although sometimes someone will offer me something and say, “This is pure coke, look how it makes your eyes fall out,” you know? When you get that sting that hurts and makes your eyes tear? It’s a pain that shoots up your nasal passage and makes your eyes fall out!
I remember a Colombian offering me some and saying it was pure, pure coke when it stung like that. Yet our present product is really smooth, and we know it’s really good coke and there are people who agree that it’s pure because of how smooth it is—because it doesn’t sting. So who knows?
High Times: Do you think that you ever really see pure coke not supplied by a pharmaceutical house?
Camille: No, I don’t think so. I used to think so, but not anymore. Not since I read Snow Blind. I was shocked at what he says about the coke being worked on even in Colombia. In the labs there, they’re already doing everything under the sun to it. They’ve become really devious. Maybe they always were, but it’s like they’re always aware of what people want in the States, like rocks, or shiny coke—whatever. They do all of that before it’s exported to make it attractive to the buyer.
High Times: What kind of cut do they use down there?
Camille: Mannitol, probably. I don’t really know. It has to be something very subtle because I can’t taste it when we get it. Let’s break a rock and snort that and see if it bites. [Sounds of snorting.] I think it’s really the first blow of the day that really bites, and then as the day progresses and your nose becomes anesthetized, you feel it’s really smooth. I don’t know. We’ve tested this coke under a microscope with special filter lenses that show up the cut as beautiful color and the coke as a clear substance.
High Times: Do you find that most people are snorting just garbage?
Liz: Yeah, for sure. The average person buying a gram is probably getting something that’s no more than 40 percent pure.
High Times: Do you think we’re ever going to see a price resistance on the part of the buying public, either at the gram level or the ounce level?
Liz: No. It’s a commodity wanted by a lot of people nowadays, and they go along with the price hikes as with anything else. Inflation has hit the drug market also.
High Times: What do you see a good gram going for in New York right now? A gram of good toot.
Liz: I sell a gram for $125.
High Times: Do you think that two years ago you would have sold that gram for $100?
Liz: Yes, and four years ago that same gram would have gone for $80.
High Times: Do you find that coke is in more plentiful supply now than it was four years ago?
Camille: Well, the demand for coke is higher, so there is more of a supply with more people going into the business. Supply and demand—the American way.
High Times: Speaking of people who’ve gotten into the business, in some industries you get a stereotype salesman, like a member of the record industry would be a different type than a member of the insurance industry. How do you find your fellow dealers as a group? Are they nice people?
Liz: Yeah, they’re nice. As far as I’m concerned. But I’ve always been intrigued by the underground. I’m talking about the people that I deal with. The people I deal to are from all walks of life.
High Times: How would you characterize the “typical” coke dealer?
Ladies: Let’s see. Male, slick… [Laughter.]
High Times: Let’s look at that. Do you find yourselves the only two female dealers around? And are your ethics different because you’re women?
Liz: No, not really, although there are very few women dealers.
High Times: Do you think women dealers are more likely to deal with each other? Is there anything unusual in the way women deal?
Liz: No, not really. Remember, today at Rick’s, he told us that we were different than the typical coke dealer he’s dealt with. He said we were real easy to deal with. People get a little weird when they’ve been handling coke for long periods of time. After a while they get freaky because of doing a lot of coke. It’s different than other drugs.
I remember a good friend warning me not to get into dealing coke, that it had a bad karma connected to it There was always violence attached to it, all negative things. You know, like pot is a mellow drug to deal. Well, not drug… It’s a mellow herb, or a mellow illegal substance… In fact, I never liked to get involved in dealing pot because it was so bulky—but we’ve been dealing some herb, too, lately. Maybe that accounts for our mellow vibes!
High Times: Do you find that your customers mention the vibes because they’re used to dealing with men?
Camille: No, not because of men, because of coke in general and the vibes attached to it The person today who made the nice remarks had been dealing with a woman before, and he felt the coke had changed her.
High Times: How about women? Do you find that women deal with each other?
Liz: I love dealing with women. I think women love dealing with women. Actually, most men would once they get over themselves. Women are more patient, I find.
High Times: More patient in dealing or in general?
Liz: In general, I guess. [Laughter.]
High Times: Do you find yourself dealing with a lot of women in particular?
Liz: Well, I find myself dealing with more women, but I wish there were more women to deal with. There aren’t too many women dealers.
High Times: Why is that? Is it because it’s traditionally a male role?
Liz: Yes, plus not too many women are scoundrels! Traditionally, throughout history, you don’t find women pirates, or bank robbers.
Camille: Coke in general has a stigma attached to it. It’s a powdered money. When a coke person is in a room and the blow is flowing from that source, it’s like having eight ounces of gold hanging from your neck. It has a certain status attached to it
Liz: It’s not like that so much anymore, is it?
Camille: Sure. When was the last time you were in a room and someone other than yourself put some coke out on the table? Other than someone who deals?
Liz: Well, sure, someone who deals. But there are a lot more people who are into coke than ever before, and they tend to find each other; so just as a joint is passed around, I think coke is being passed around just as frequently. Maybe I’m traveling in limited circles. Is it still called the rich man’s habit? I would think not.
Camille: For a woman, there’s a definite pattern in dealing with males in any business. The American male has been exposed to women dealers a lot longer than the macho Latins we spoke about before. Men have dealt with women on so many other levels than the traditional roles. So when it comes to drugs, although it may take them a minute to get beyond themselves, if you drop a ki on their lap, they still come around.
Liz: I think they respond to wherever you are coming from. There are some men who’ll never get past dealing with a woman. But the majority will consider it incidental. It really depends on you as a woman and how much you’re aware of. It doesn’t pay to go into it with a defensive attitude and have the man respond in kind.
High Times: How about the other way around? Do you ever see a deal going by smoother because you bat your eyelashes a little bit?
Camille: I don’t know if it’s even that. Some men I know have said they’d rather deal with a woman, that it’s easier.
High Times: But is your sexuality to your advantage?
Liz: No, but it’s believed that women are not as good business people as men.
Camille: I don’t agree. There’s no sex involved in who is a good business person.
High Times: Liz, does your old man mind you running around dealing with other men? A lot of your dealing must be transacted at night, given the type of drug coke is. Does that bother him?
Liz: Well, the hours are difficult. We love being together and it takes me away from him, but he loves me and there’s no question as to what I am doing. He knows I’m strictly business. I’m sure we’d have an easier relationship if I was straight, with a straight job. He has a straight job. He’s very liberal, he understands that I enjoy what I do. It might be easier if he knew I was in an office during the day, instead of downtown, uptown, all around town. Besides, he likes blowing free coke.
High Times: Do you find that since you’re a coke dealer people expect you to turn them on a lot or impose themselves on you?
Liz: Well, I don’t think my friends impose themselves on me, and only my friends know that I deal coke. Although it is something that’s pretty much expected of me. I’ve seen it in dealing with or interrelating with other friends that are dealers and how I felt at different times of my life when I was out of the business and my friends would come over. I knew they were dealing and nothing went out on the table, you know. I’d wonder why, and if it was a question of money I’d bring it up. But at that point, well, I knew—you get a feeling that someone has a stash and they’re not bringing it out. But my friends never have a problem with me. I blow a lot of coke, I enjoy it and like to share it.
High Times: We all acknowledge that dealing started with almost entirely males, and lately it’s been changing more and more. Do you find that men tried to keep women out of the club, so to speak, or were they openly welcome?
Liz: I don’t think they were openly welcome, but they pretty much are accepting it. I think they were surprised to find it happening. It’s even a surprise to me when I look around and see so many women dealing. Things I hadn’t considered before are opening up to me. It’s as if one day women woke up and said, “Wow, I can do this? Things they used to pass on to men to handle, connect people to do business together and get a percentage, they’re now handling themselves, and making a living out of it. A pretty good living, wouldn’t you agree?
High Times: Another blow would be fine right now.
Ladies: Be our guest.
Featured illustration by Joel Naprstek.