Now and then at High Times, the planets align. Readers respond overwhelmingly to a cover and sales go through the roof. It happened when Cypress Hill appeared on the February 1993 cover, after the group burst onto the hip-hop scene with unabashedly pro-pot raps. Likewise, the three covers featuring the late Jack Herer, the granddaddy of the modern cannabis movement, sold huge. But Jenna Jameson’s spectacular success as a High Times cover model surprised everyone.
Ashley Boudreaux, a frequent HT contributor, pitched the story. She had worked for Adult Video News and had encountered a number of porn stars who smoked pot. She penned “Triple XXX Taboo,” which ran in December 2001, and I took the shots for the story. But if the feature was going to be a cover story, we needed a powerful, provocative image. We decided to approach the most famous porn star in the world, Jenna Jameson.
She said yes, but was unsure about posing with pot or smoking a joint. She was nervous about what the reaction might be — a reflection of the title of the story. At the time, pot and porn were viewed in equally unsavory terms. Still, it was a little surprising — and amusing — that Jenna was concerned about her image. She ultimately agreed to pose with a single pot leaf.
Just prior to the shoot, I was traveling in Nebraska. By chance, I was told of a field of feral hemp growing uninterrupted in idle farmland. I found the field, “harvested” about 20 huge fan leaves, pressed them, packed them in my bags and flew to Jenna’s home in Arizona.
The fact is I wasn’t sure what Jenna looked like. I’d seen her photo online, but usually her face was in the throes of passion, making it hard to get a good idea of who I’d be working with. When I arrived, she was lounging in her spacious house with a friend. She wasn’t wearing makeup and, frankly, I wasn’t sure which of the women was Jenna. But she solved my dilemma by introducing herself.
Without makeup, she was normal looking, almost ordinary. But after donning her war paint, the transformation was jaw-dropping. She posed in front of the adobe wall of her Southwestern-style home in the backyard and provided us with a steamy, iconic image that seemed to wilt the leaves. (Actually, it was the triple-digit heat.)
Jenna wasn’t just posing. She spoke openly about the benefits of cannabis and related her own experience of providing her grandmother with cannabis in her final, cancer-stricken days.
A month after the photo shoot, 9/11 occurred. Our October and November issues died on the newsstands as a result. The shell-shocked nation was hardly interested in High Times during those dark days. But when Jenna appeared on the cover to end 2001, the issue skyrocketed. Maybe America had had enough of gloom and doom. Maybe a sex star was the perfect choice to jolt readers out of their funk. Whatever the reason, the December 2001 cover stands as one of our highest selling issues of the new millennium. And, not wanting to waste a good thing, we ran another photo from that shoot on the “Best of High Times” issue that celebrated my own “Girls of Ganja” portfolio.
Yes, I’m sure we offended some those who felt putting a porn superstar on the cover of High Times was an abomination. However, the umbrella of the cannabis community is huge and everyone who champions the plant responsibly is welcome.