Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Josephine Baker: a stoner at the Pantheon

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Joséphine Baker, a free woman with 1000 faces, will enter the Pantheon today by virtue of her rich life as a music hall artist, resistance fighter, anti-racist activist and adoptive mother of 12 children from all over the world.

One of the pleasures of her life, however, is most often being shut up: she was a cannabis user.

In ” Josephine: The Hungry Heart“, The authors Jean-Claude Baker and Chris Chase relate a discussion with Phillip Leshing, who was then bassist in the orchestra of Buddy Rich:” I remember that once, Josephine invited several of us to come in his dressing room to try very good reefer [ndlr : des joints]. I went with Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, the trumpeter, and Buddy Rich, and we smoked weed with Josephine Baker… but the marijuana didn’t affect her performance. Never. ”

According to Phillip Leshing, Josephine Baker “had this wonderful golden love cup made for Buddy and the band, a trophy, like a Academy Award, with our names engraved on it. And she was full of marijuana. She gave it to us after the last performance at the Strand [le club new-yorkais dans lequel ils se produisaient en mars 1951] “.

The authors speculate that Baker may have first smoked cannabis with his lover Georges Simenon, who used to mix hashish with tobacco in his pipe, or with the Prince of Wales in Paris, at the when he came to Rat Mort and came out “with his feet in front of every night – dead drunk and stoned”, according to another lover, Claude Hopkins.

A Californian dispensary pays homage to part of its history: Joséphine and Billie’s, a return to the “Teapads” of the black communities of the 20s and 30s, of the Cannabis Clubs where people gathered to enjoy jazz and cannabis. “While feeling connected, relaxed, valued and safe”.

Josephine Baker has a cannabis dispensary in her name

The interior of the speakeasy “Josephine & Billie’s,” which is accessed by a password at the entrance

For Whitney Beatty, co-founder of the speakeasy, Josephine Baker and Billie Holiday “were two women of color who were persecuted for their cannabis use. But what seems really important to me is that they were persecuted and yet they used their art to fight this injustice. They have rejected the mainstream. They wrote their own rules and left the door open for those who came after them. ”

To the grateful homeland stoners!

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