High Times Greats: Abbie Hoffman On Cocaine

The American social activist’s open letter from prison.
High Times Greats: Abbie Hoffman On Cocaine
Abbie Hoffman in 1989/ Wikimedia Commons

In November, 1981, High Times published Abbie Hoffman’s open letter to Representative Leo C. Zeferetti at the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., directly from his confined space at Cell l-B-32 at Downstate Correctional Facilities in Fishkill, New York. On the occasion of Hoffman’s birthday on November 30, 1936, we’re republishing it below.

Dear Congressman:

Let me introduce myself. My name is Abbie Hoffman and I am currently a prisoner in the Downstate Penitentiary in Upstate New York doing 1 to 3 years on a coke rap. For 16 years, while posing as civil-rights and antiwar subversive, I was in reality one of the biggest coke dealers selling to Hollywood celebrities. Through the years I kept very careful account of each and every user, assembling a list of 150 satisfied customers, many of whom themselves became dealers (called in the trade ”subdealers”). I stashed this list in a bank vault in Beverly Hills thinking someday it might come in handy. Now is the time. Like all convicts, I hate prison. There’s no broads and the food sucks, so I’m ready to turn state’s or nation’s evidence. But for a price, of course. I’ll get to that later. First, as my patriotic duty and as evidence that I’d be a good witness and that I know the coke scene, I’ll sweeten the pot with some advice and hot tips.

You need me. I have believability. Who’s gonna believe Richard Pryor; a guy who tries to kill himself by holding a lighter to a bottle of rum? No way! You believe that, you’ll believe Chrysler’s working on a car you’d like to buy. Then that Cathy Lee Crosby. Ha! A bit player who couldn’t act her way out of a blind date. I mean, would you go to a hearing with Cathy Lee Crosby? Forget it. You need me ’cause I know what from what.

Okay, for starters, where does all this cocaine come from? I was asked that by the prosecutor in my case and I refused to tell, but prison oils the tongue. Congressman, cocaine comes from South America. Now, if you could make the Panama Canal the Great Panama Wall, it’d be finito on la old cocaina. Savez! But I don’t think it’s possible with spending cuts—and if I recall, we gave that canal away. So the answer to how that cocaine gets from South to North America lies in the Cuban connection. J. Edgar Hoover guessed this to be true. I know it’s true. However, this testimony I am offering to Sen. Jeremiah Denton and his committee on subversives, terrorists and young Democrats. Sorry.

Now, why do they use so much cocaine in Hollywood? Another good question. They use cocaine because Hollywood is such a laid-back (sleepy) place they need a way to wake up real fast. No-Doz just doesn’t make it. Coke lets you be asleep but entertain the illusion that you are wide awake; since Hollywood is an entertaining illusion anyway, it’s the perfect drug. That’s why the list is important.

By the way, since coke is white, I suggest your committee call what you’re doing whitelisting. This will have the advantage of not confusing your important work with what happened in the ’50s. The list contains no less than 26 Academy Award winners, 12 Grammy winners, two Golden Globe winners, nine leading men, five following ladies, four sex symbols, eight baby moguls (two Jewish), 16 has-beens, three deal makers and four TV actors who play policemen. Two of these are subdealers who, ironically deal to eight other TV actors who play crooks. That should get the Moral Majority wet!

I mean, the names on my list are not just regular Americans, mind you. They tend toward your subversive-chic type. And most of this is a secret. They’re the type of people who at coke parties talk about how Charlton Heston caps his teeth and how Frankie has never forgotten the time he walked in on Ava Gardner (his wife at the time) and Lana Turner making love. You know, the folks who refuse to appear on the Jerry Lewis Telethon: bad types. They make Vanessa Redgrave look like a Girl Scout.

Here’s a clue to spotting stars on coke. See, everyone thinks coke has to do with the nose. Sure, it goes in there, but that’s like saying New York’s about the Lincoln Tunnel. It ain’t the nose, it’s the eyes, Zef. Now go to some movies. Sit up real close and watch the faces of the actors. Look at the eyes. See that little dark circle in the middle? If it’s bigger than the outer circle, that’s coke! Also watch to see how wide open the eyes are. Your average eye is open maybe a half inch (a quarter inch on downers). Coke eyes are open a full inch sometimes—even as much as two inches, depending on quantity, quality, body weight and religious background. For some reason only very skinny people seem to use cocaine. So right away you know Orson Welles, Marlon Brando and Carol Burnett are not on the list.

There are other ways to spot cocaine users. Watch for people walking into rest rooms with mirrors. Why do they need mirrors? Rest rooms have mirrors. Well, they put the coke on the mirror, see, and chop it up. The mirror makes it look like twice as much. I can’t explain it better, but it’s an important part of the drug ritual. They always, by the way, chop it up with Gillette razor blades, so if you are into paraphernalia busting you can make this an issue. The Schick people (big Falwell-Reagan backers) will love you. There’s also spoons. Say you’re at a dinner in the Hills and you hear someone say “Pass the spoon.” Subpoena the fucker right on the spot. Those people are rich enough for separate soup spoons; only coke spoons are passed. They carry their tiny spoons chained to tiny brown bottles in which is kept the evening’s supply. The dealers have all agreed to use these tinted bottles so the junkies can’t see if the coke is all used up or not. This way they throw the bottle away with some cocaine still in it, or they get so mad when they can’t get that spoon inside the shrinking bottle that they spill a lot. And that means moola from pasadola. This stuff costs six times as much as gold! Besides, in Beverly Hills they don’t want to hear from gold: That you can’t get up your nose.

Also, while you’re at the movies, look for code lines. For instance, in nature movies, if someone says, “When will it snow?” that’s coke! Snow is coke, see, in drug lingo. Or like a gangster movie they say, “Blow that guy away” (as opposed to “Blow that guy”). Again, “blow” is coke. The writers and producers are signaling the dealers that their supply is dangerously low (confirming reference: TV Guide).

I knew, of course, several other dealers. Many dealers. They come from all walks of life. For example, probably most of the dealers in Hollywood are dentists. They buy the stuff legal for $18.75 an oz. (as in Wizard of) and sell it for $2,500 sealed (that means factory wrapped). If your committee reads a little-known study by Merck and Mallinckott of the University of Southern California School for Dental Hygiene, they will find that people in Hollywood go to the dentist five times the national average. Root canals? Wrong. Snow-blow. The dentist rubs it on the patient’s gums and they get almost as high as the bill. So if you hear Hollywood types say “Have you seen your dentist lately?” write down their names.

This, of course, only scratches the surface of what I know. Another guy on the block here in prison was the chief dealer for the New York Knicks. That’s a basketball team—sort of, anyway. This guy said he cut the shit so bad with powdered Tylenol that they couldn’t slam-dunk for beans. He says the Celtics’ dealer was more honest, hence they get higher—and higher counts in basketball. Same in the National Football League. I mean loaded. I’ll just drop two tidbits well known in the coke trade (or coke zone, as it’s properly called). Pete Rozelle has a piece of everything going down or up, if you catch my drift, in pro football. Fidel Castro is a personal friend of Rozelle’s and he vacations in Colombia. Check his passport if you have any doubts. The second tidbit revolves around Pittsburgh Steeler lineman Mean Joe Greene. You just go up to Mean Joe and confront him. Say, “Mean Joe Greene, you’re nothing but a low-down coke junkie.” I guarantee he’ll drop on his knees, confess his sins and spit out names faster than he sacked quarterbacks last year. Then give him some coke. He’ll give you the shirt off his back. You know what the ads say: Coke adds life! (In New York it adds 15 to life!)

Well, it’s lock-in time and pencils in the cells are contraband. By now you can see I know coke from talcum powder, so let’s do some business. But as we’ve all learned in the ’80s, everything has its price. I’m sacrificing just about all my friends rich enough to lend me money. I could end up the Elia Kazan of this generation. People will say “Abbie Hoffman sneezed” (“squealed,” in the coke zone).

Now you think I want my freedom. Nah, that’s in the cards anyway with the Denton deal. Maybe you think I want a new identity like in that James Caan movie. Wrong again, I’ve had loads of new identities. You got to get the list. Without it you’re washed up. I mean, drive-in schlock—send it to Hong Kong on the has-been express. You need me more than I need you to get ratings. Ask Barbara Walters and I could wear the black-and-white-striped prison suit and shave my head. So what I want after you’ve cleaned out Hollywood and done your job and become real famous—you know what I want? Universal Studios. Why? Because I want to make movies that will entertain people. All my life I’ve wanted to entertain people and I never really got the chance. There were always these left-wing collectives holding me back. You know: people with messages. So that’s it, Congressman, the list for Universal. Even-Steven. Trust me, baby, it’s a good deal.

Abbie Hoffman
81A-1671

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