The Sporadic Beaver

Mi hechizo latinoamericano/My Latin American Mojo

January 9, 2018

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, La Tercera, Proceso, Roberto Ponce, diaries, Yoko Ono, Buenos Aires, René Portas, Beatriz Norma Iacoviello, Martín Aragón, Octavio Cavalli, Luis Kramer, Vanesa Preli, Adolf Eichmann, Bobby in Naziland, Vanity Fair, Iker Jiménez, Café Tortoni

América latina, para mí, es un universo alternativo, donde todo en lo que yo he estado trabajando, por los últimos 40 años, ha llegado a suceder en un lenguaje, que apenas puedo entender.

Cuando yo fui a la ciudad de México, en 2003, poco después que Random House Mondadori (desde entonces re-nombrada Penguin Random House), publicara por primera vez Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, y cuando retorné a México en 2005, y luego fui a Chile, los medios de esos países reaccionaron a mi visita, como si yo fuera el autor de Harry Potter. Mi rostro fue desplegado en toda la tv, los periódicos y las revistas en una extensión tan desconcertante, que la gente me reconocía en la calle, y así confirmé la verdad esencial de la antigua cita de Woody Allen: “El ochenta por ciento del éxito está apareciendo”. Y eso es especialmente cierto, si tú estás apareciendo en un lugar a 5,000 millas de distancia.

¿Pero seguiría mi hechizo latinoamericano funcionando, en 2017, para una edición española ampliada y re-traducida de Nowhere Man? La respuesta, estoy feliz de reportar, fue un resonante “sí”, y yo incluso no tuve que salir de mi casa para poner las cosas en marcha. Empezó en el cumpleaños de Lennon, el 9 de octubre —el día que la nueva edición fue publicada—, cuando el periódico chileno La Tercera divulgó un extracto de Nowhere Man, y lo continuó al día siguiente con una entrevista.

Un mes más tarde, un artículo sobre el libro en el semanario mexicano Proceso, de Roberto Ponce, basado en parte en una entrevista publicada en el sitio argentino Espectador, envió Nowhere Man a la cima de las listas en Amazon de México.

Entonces las cosas se pusieron surrealistas. Las noticias anunciaron por todo el mundo, el 21 de noviembre, que los diarios robados de John Lennon —los diarios que yo transcribí en 1981, y que habían servido como un mapa de ruta para Nowhere Man—, habían sido recuperados en una casa de subastas en Berlín. Yo no sabía que el chofer de Yoko Ono había, supuestamente, robado los diarios. (Él afirma que no los robó). Pensaba que los diarios habían sido devueltos a Ono en 1982. Aún más sorprendente fue que los medios españoles y latinoamericanos, estaban citando extensamente de Nowhere Man, dándome la clase de publicidad que el dinero no puede comprar.

Yo arribé a Buenos Aires para el lanzamiento oficial el 27 de noviembre. ¿Por qué Buenos Aires? Déjenme contar las razones: mi traductor René Portas y mi agente argentina, Beatriz Norma Iacoviello, viven allí. Argentina es un país que adora tanto a los Beatles como la literatura. (El apartamento de Beatriz y René está a la vuelta de la esquina, de donde Jorge Luis Borges vivió alguna vez.) Yo nací 12 horas después que Eva Perón muriera, y siempre he sentido una conexión con ella y la ciudad. Y como un bono extra añadido, mi amigo Avi Avner estaba en la ciudad, actuando como consultante principal de la Mossad, para la película Operación Final, sobre la captura de Adolf Eichmann en Buenos Aires, cual es asimismo un tema en mi libro aún no publicado, Bobby en Nazilandia.

Lo más destacado de los medios sobre mi estadía en la capital argentina, incluye una entrevista en vivo en el programa de Martín Aragón, Eternamente Beatles, con Octavio Cavalli sirviendo como mi traductor; una entrevista con Luis Kramer para su programa, Cinefilia; y una extensa entrevista grabada en video con Vanesa Preli de Radio Zonica, que aún no está al aire.

Había más por venir cuando retorné a Nueva York: un extracto del libro en Proceso, un artículo sobre eso en Cultura Colectiva y un episodio titulado “El misterio de John Lennon”, escuchado más de 72,000 veces, en el programa de radio de internet del periodista español Iker Jiménez, Universo Iker.

Porque yo trabajo para Vanity Fair en Nueva York, mi trozo de prensa favorito fue una pieza humorísticamente salaz, titulada “Los oscuros secretos sexuales de John Lennon”, de Alejandro Mancilla, que apareció en Vanity Fair de México. Inspirado por una crítica de Rodrigo Fresan, publicada en Página 12 en el 2000, el artículo es, más o menos, un estudio de las escenas de sexo en Nowhere Man. Su toque más surrealista es ver mi nombre en negrita, al lado de algunos como Louis C.K. y Miley Cyrus.

¡Yeah, baby, yo aún tengo mi hechizo!

Te invito a unirte a mí en Facebook o a seguirme en Twitter.

My Latin American Mojo

Latin America, to me, is an alternate universe where everything I’ve been working for, for the past 40 years, has come to pass in a language I can barely understand.

When I went to Mexico City, in 2003, soon after Random House Mondadori (since renamed Penguin Random House) first published Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, and when I returned to Mexico, in 2005, and then went on to Chile, the media in those countries reacted to my visit if I were the author of Harry Potter. My face was splashed all over TV, newspapers, and magazines to the disorienting extent that people recognized me in the street, thus confirming the essential truth of the old Woody Allen quote, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” And it’s especially true if you’re showing up in a place 5,000 miles away.

But would my Latin American Mojo still be working, in 2017, for a retranslated and expanded Spanish edition of Nowhere Man? The answer, I’m happy to report, was a resounding Yes, and I didn’t even have to leave my house to get things going. It began on Lennon’s birthday, October 9—the day the new edition was published—when the Chilean newspaper La Tercera ran an excerpt from Nowhere Man and followed it up the next day with an interview.

A month later, an article about the book in the Mexican newsweekly Proceso, by Roberto Ponce, based in part on an interview published on the Argentine site Espectador, sent Nowhere Man to the top of the charts on Amazon Mexico.

Then things got surreal. News broke all over the world, on November 21, that John Lennon’s stolen diaries—the diaries that I’d transcribed in 1981, and had served as roadmap for Nowhere Man—were recovered in an auction house in Berlin. I didn’t know that Yoko Ono’s chauffeur had allegedly stolen the diaries. (He claims he didn’t steal them.) I thought the diaries had been returned to Ono in 1982. Even more shocking was that Spanish and Latin American media were quoting extensively from Nowhere Man, giving me the kind of publicity that money can’t buy.

I arrived in Buenos Aires for the official launch on November 27. Why Buenos Aires? Let me count the reasons: My translator René Portas and my Argentine agent, Beatriz Norma Iacoviello, live there. Agentina is a country that worships both the Beatles and literature. (René and Beatriz’s apartment is around the corner from where Jorge Luis Borges once lived.) I was born 12 hours after Eva Peron died, and have always felt a connection to her and the city. And as an extra added bonus, my friend Avi Avner was in town, acting as chief Mossad consultant for the film Operation Finale, about Adolf Eichmann’s capture in Buenos Aires, which is also a theme in my still unpublished book, Bobby in Naziland.

The media highlights of my stay in the Argentine capital include a live interview on Martín Aragón’s show, Eternamente Beatles (Beatles Forever), with Octavio Cavalli serving as my translator; an interview with Luis Kramer for his show, Cinefilia (think Terry Gross and NPR); and an extensive videotaped interview with Vanesa Preli of Radio Zonica that has yet to air.

There was more to come when I returned to New York: an excerpt of the book in Proceso, an article about it in Cultura Colectiva, and an episode titled “El misterio de John Lennon” (“The Mystery of John Lennon”), listened to more than 72,000 times, on Spanish journalist Iker Jiménez’s Internet radio show, Universo Iker.

Because I work for Vanity Fair in New York, my favorite bit of press was a humorously salacious piece, titled “Los oscuros secretos sexuales de John Lennon” (“The Dark Sexual Secrets of John Lennon”), by Alejandro Mancilla, that ran in Vanity Fair Mexico. Inspired by a critique by Rodrigo Fresan, published in Pagina 12, in 2000, the article is, more or less, a survey of the sex scenes in Nowhere Man. Its most surreal touch is seeing my name in boldface alongside the likes of Louis C.K. and Miley Cyrus.

Yeah, baby, I've still got my mojo!

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Yes, I know…

December 8, 2017

Tags: John Lennon

…today is the 37th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. I’m going to commemorate it with a moment of silence.

Sí, lo sé…

... hoy es el 37º aniversario del asesinato de John Lennon. Voy a conmemorarlo con un momento de silencio.

Al aire en Buenos Aires/On the Air in Buenos Aires

December 7, 2017

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, Beatles, Buenos Aires, René Portas, Beatriz Norma Iacoviello, Martín Aragón, Octavio Cavalli, Luis Kramer, Vanesa Preli, Rolando Gallego, diaries, Mercado Libre

Ayer regresé a Nueva York después de una semana en Buenos Aires, donde, bajo la hábil orientación de mi traductor René Portas y mi agente argentina Beatriz Iacoviello, lancé la nueva edición en lengua española de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon.

En el transcurso de esa semana, que fue precedida por la recuperación de los diarios robados de Lennon en Berlín, yo fui entrevistado en vivo en la radio por Martín Aragón, presentador de Eternamente Beatles. (¡Gracias, Octavio Cavalli, por hacer que eso sucediera!) Otras entrevistas, que serán transmitidas en fechas futuras, fueron conducidas por Luis Kramer, presentador del programa de radio de larga duración Cinefilia, y Vanesa Preli de Radio Zonica.

Mi entrevista con Rolando Gallego de El Espectador Avezado está posteada aquí.

Acaso el momento más alentador de mi estadía en Buenos Aires, fue cuando vi Nowhere Man a la venta en un kiosco de la Avenida Santa Fe, junto a Esmeralda. El libro pronto se agotó, pero estoy seguro de que volverá a ser surtido en cualquier instante.

Mientras tanto, Nowhere Man está disponible en línea dondequiera que se vendan libros, incluyendo Mercado Libre en Argentina.

De una forma u otra, todo esto es realmente asombroso.

Te invito a unirte a mí en Facebook o a seguirme en Twitter.

On the Air in Buenos Aires

Yesterday I returned to New York after a week in Buenos Aires, where, under the skillful guidance of my translator Rene Portas and my Argentinean agent, Beatriz Norma Iacoviello, I launched the new Spanish-language edition of Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon.

Over the course of that week, which was preceded by the recovery of Lennon’s stolen diaries in Berlin, I was interviewed live on the radio by Martín Aragón, host of Beatles Forever. (Thank you, Octavio Cavalli, for making that happen!) Other interviews, which will be broadcast at future dates, were conducted by Luis Kramer, host of the long-running radio show Cinefilia, and Vanesa Preli of Radio Zonica.

My interview with Rolando Gallego of El Espectador Avezado is posted here.

Perhaps the most encouraging moment of my Buenos Aires sojourn was when I saw Nowhere Man on sale at a kiosk on Avenida Santa Fe near Esmeralda. The book soon sold out, but I’m assured that it will be back in stock any minute.

In the meantime, Nowhere Man is available online everywhere books are sold, including at Mercado Libre in Argentina.

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Robert Rosen lee del Preludio de "Nowhere Man"

November 20, 2017

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon


Me estoy preparando para mi viaje a Buenos Aires para lanzar la nueva edición en español de "Nowhere Man: los últimos días de John Lennon".

Empieza a difundir la noticia/Start Spreading the News

October 9, 2017

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, Amazon, René Portas, Buenos Aires, Eva Peron, Mary Lyn Maiscott

El lunes 27 de noviembre yo arribaré a Buenos Aires, Argentina, para el lanzamiento de la nueva edición en rústica en lengua española, de mi biografía de John Lennon Nowhere Man, cual fue anunciada oficialmente hoy, en el 77 cumpleaños de Lennon.

¿Por qué viajar 5,310 millas para presentar un libro, que Random House Mondadori (ahora Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial), publicó originalmente en 2003? Porque Nowhere Man no se ha impreso por años, y yo no puedo pensar un lugar mejor que Buenos Aires para celebrar su regreso. Lennon es amado en Buenos Aires, una ciudad donde los aniversarios de su nacimiento, el 9 de octubre, y muerte, el 8 de diciembre, son siempre conmemorados, y donde hay incluso un Museo de los Beatles.

Es asimismo una ciudad impregnada de mitos literarios y políticos, y aunque yo nunca he estado allí, siempre me he sentido conectado a ella, porque Eva Perón murió 12 horas antes de que yo naciera, el 27 de julio de 1952. Su muerte estaba en la primera página de todos los periódicos de Nueva York ese día. Y mi madre, quien idolatraba a “la dama de la esperanza”, siempre estaba hablando de Evita como si fuera una amiga personal.

Pero no se equivoquen: el objetivo primordial de este viaje es empezar a difundir la noticia, de que una edición re-traducida en español de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, se vuelve a imprimir después de una prolongada ausencia. Con un precio de $ 12.60 dólares, el libro está ahora disponible en Amazon España, Amazon México, Amazon USA, Barnes & Noble, y directamente en CreateSpace. (La edición e-book, por un tiempo limitado, se vende con descuento en $ 9.00 dólares, y la edición de Kindle Matchbook, como siempre, tiene un precio de 99 centavos si tú ya compraste el libro en rústica).

Mientras esté en Buenos Aires, yo estaré firmando libros en una serie de eventos, está atento a los detalles.

Así, sí, yo estoy deseando mucho conocer a mis lectores, los medios argentinos y a mi traductor René Portas. Yo asimismo espero mejorar mi muy limitado español, y quizás incluso aprender a bailar un poco de tango. Y sí, mi esposa, la cantante y compositora Mary Lyn Maiscott (a quien Nowhere Man está dedicado), se unirá a mí, y mientras esté en la ciudad, podría ser persuadida de tomar una guitarra, y cantar una o dos canciones de los Beatles.

Podría suceder.

Te invito a unirte a mí en Facebook o a seguirme en Twitter.

Start Spreading the News

On Monday, November 27, I will arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the launch of the new Spanish-language paperback edition of my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man, which was officially released today, Lennon’s 77th birthday.

Why travel 5,310 miles to present a book that Random House Mondadori (now Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial) originally published in 2003? Because Nowhere Man has been out of print for years, and I can’t think of a better place than Buenos Aires to celebrate its return. Lennon is beloved in Buenos Aires, a city where the anniversaries of his birth, on October 9, and death, on December 8, are always commemorated, and where there’s even a Beatles Museum.

It’s also a city steeped in literary and political myth, and though I’ve never been there, I’ve always felt connected to it—because Eva Peron died 12 hours before I was born, on July 27, 1952. Her death was on the front page of all the New York newspapers that day. And my mother, who idolized “la dama de la esperanza,” was always talking about Evita as if she were a personal friend.

But make no mistake: the primary objective of this journey is to start spreading the news that a retranslated Spanish edition of Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon is back in print after an extended absence. Priced at $12.60 U.S., the book is now available from Amazon Spain, Amazon Mexico, Amazon U.S., Barnes & Noble, and directly from CreateSpace. (The e-book edition has, for a limited time, been discounted to $9.00 U.S., and the Kindle Matchbook edition is, as always, priced at 99 cents if you’ve already bought the paperback.)

While in Buenos Aires I’ll be signing books at a number of events—stay tuned for details.

So, yes, I’m very much looking forward to meeting my readers, the Argentine media, and my translator, René Portas. I’m also hoping to improve my very limited Spanish and perhaps even learn to dance a little Tango. And yes, my wife, the singer-songwriter Mary Lyn Maiscott (to whom Nowhere Man is dedicated), will be joining me, and while in town she might be persuaded to pick up a guitar and sing a Beatles song or two.

Could happen.

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

(Justo como) empezar de nuevo otra vez/(Just Like) Starting Over Again

September 18, 2017

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, Amazon, 10 Mathew Street, René Portas, Yoko Ono

Una nueva edición impresa en lengua española de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, se está abriendo paso lentamente hacia las plataformas de venta de libros por todo el mundo.

Aunque la fecha oficial de publicación es el 9 de octubre, el cumpleaños de Lennon, Nowhere Man ya está a la venta en Amazon España, Amazon US y Barnes & Noble. Amazon México lanzará la edición impresa el 9 de octubre. Búscala ahí, vinculada a la edición Kindle.

Las copias de reseña están ahora disponibles y el aviso de publicación ha empezado a difundirse. El sitio de los Beatles, 10, Mathew Street, con sede en Madrid, ha posteado un artículo sobre el libro y mi próximo viaje a Buenos Aires para el lanzamiento. Ese viaje debe tener lugar a finales de noviembre-principios de diciembre. Tan pronto como los detalles se finalicen, yo voy, por supuesto, a postear sobre eso aquí.

La nueva edición, re-traducida por René Portas, quien hizo la traducción original para Random House Mondadori (ahora Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial), presenta una foto de cubierta del difunto Jack Mitchell, quien retrató a Lennon y Yoko Ono el 2 de noviembre de 1980 , un mes antes de que un fan trastornado asesinara al ex Beatle frente al Dakota.

Te invito a unirte a mí en Facebook o a seguirme en Twitter.

(Just Like) Starting Over Again

A new Spanish-language print edition of Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon is slowly making its way onto book-selling platforms throughout the world.

Though the official publication date is October 9, Lennon’s birthday, Nowhere Man is already for sale on Amazon Spain, Amazon US, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon Mexico will release the print edition on October 9. Look for it here, linked to the Kindle edition.

Review copies are now available and word of publication has begun to spread. The Beatles site, 10, Mathew Street, based in Madrid, has posted an article about the book and my upcoming trip to Buenos Aires for the launch. This journey should take place in late November–early December. As soon as the details are finalized, I will, of course, post about it here.

The new edition, re-translated by René Portas, who did the original translation for Random House Mondadori (now Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial), features a cover photo by the late Jack Mitchell, who shot Lennon and Yoko Ono on November 2, 1980, one month before a deranged fan murdered the ex-Beatle in front of the Dakota.

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Paparazzo of Porn

August 9, 2017

Tags: Beaver Street, Bill Bottigi, Izzy Singer, John Mozzer, Alan Adrian, For Adults Only

Back in the 1980s, John Mozzer was porn star Alan Adrian. He was also a photographer, a paparazzo of porn whose archive is now online. He recently sent me this photo of Bill Bottigi and "Izzy Singer," both of whom are major "characters" in Beaver Street. (I enclose Izzy Singer in quotes because at the time Beaver Street was published, he didn't want his real name, Neil Wexler, used in the book.)

Mozzer took the photo on April 15, 1987, at the downtown New York club Heartbreak, at a launch party for 2029, a German photography magazine published by Leslie Barany and Diane Brandis.

In Beaver Street, I describe Singer/Wexler as “the ingenious creative force behind Swank’s sleaziest stroke book,” For Adults Only, and a man who “possessed an unrivaled knowledge of the fair-market value of everything having to do with commercial sex.” Today he remains one of the last working writers in porn. You can check out his Website here.

Also in the book, I detail the controversial story of Bill Bottigi’s murder, 25 years ago.

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Legal Marijuana and Tobacco Industry Paranoia:
A 1979 Time-Capsule of Investigative Journalism

July 12, 2017

Tags: marijuana, tobacco, 1970s, investigative journalism

A tin of marijuana cigarettes from the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina.
I wrote the article and sidebar below, about the tobacco industry's efforts to gear up for the legalization of marijuana, on spec for The Nation, in 1979. Since I couldn’t definitively prove that the tobacco industry was gearing up for marijuana legalization, The Nation passed.

A few weeks ago, I read the story for the first time in 38 years and found another flaw: I’d buried the lead. I should have begun with the Philip Morris corporation’s legal action against a small Long Island drug-paraphernalia manufacturer. But who knows if even that would have made a difference?

This time capsule of amateur investigative journalism has never been published. I’m publishing it now, exactly as I wrote it then.


Armies of journalists have invested a great deal of time during the past 15 years attempting to unravel a web of marijuana rumor and misinformation so complex it defies clarification. They’ve met with little success. Chasing bizarre leads into every segment of government and industry, occasionally managing to dispose of some of the more ludicrous rumors, they’ve created a paranoiac atmosphere where new rumors—as absurd and tantalizing as the ones they’ve put to rest—breed like bacteria in a petri dish.

The most widespread, persistent rumors concern the tobacco industry’s plans to gear up for the inevitable legalization of pot. It’s not true, for example, as Time magazine reported on January 11, 1971 that “One of the very biggest cigarette makers is experimenting with pot cigarettes in Puerto Rico.” Nor is it true, as James Ridgeway reported in the April 1971 Ramparts, “Justice Department officials asked Philip Morris to design and make a marijuana cigarette for test purposes.” It’s entirely believable, but probably not true either, as Jack Anderson said in his syndicated column of July 22, 1976, “Tobacco companies have set aside choice southern land for future marijuana harvests, competent sources say.”

No solid evidence has ever been documented linking the tobacco industry to marijuana. Yet, they remain terrified of even the vaguest associations, and vehemently deny everything. Stories like the ones printed in Time and Ramparts have provoked the industry to treat the press with contempt and hostility, an attitude that invariably spawns more rumors.

The trail of every rumor linking the tobacco industry to marijuana always leads to the same place: the Research Triangle in the pine woods near Durham, North Carolina. An industrial park conceived 20 years ago, its purpose was to stop the “brain drain” of PhDs from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University to greener, out-of-state pastures. The Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is one of the many corporations located within the park. Its research ranges from the “study of catastrophic illness addressing spinal injury” to “data analysis and survey procedures for measuring pupil’s English language proficiency” to clinical studies of marijuana, which have been going on since 1969, funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) to the tune of $220,000 per year. It has a reputation of being one of the top research laboratories in the world. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that this is where the government has chosen to set up its joint-rolling factory—in the heart of tobacco country.

The government has chosen to set up its joint-rolling factory in the heart of tobacco country.


Commonly known as Durham’s third cigarette maker (along with American Tobacco and Liggett & Meyers), it’s no secret what’s being manufactured in RTI. Rumors of potential rips offs, hijacked marijuana shipments, kidnapped employees and links to tobacco companies abound.

“Security is a delicate area,” said Dr. Monroe Wall, President of Chemistry and Life Science. “You don’t want the Mafia to come down here and raid the area.”

“Our attitude isn’t one for paranoia, but we have reason to be apprehensive sometimes,” added C.X. Larrabee, Public Relations Director, referring to the rumors.

Three years ago, RTI acquired from one of the local tobacco companies an old cigarette rolling machine and a retired employee familiar with the “Rube Goldberg–like” instrument who helped convert it for the production of marijuana cigarettes. Originally, Dr. Wall said that they appealed directly to the tobacco companies for assistance in setting up the operation, but “paranoid” about any associations with marijuana, they refused. It took several months to get the machine operational.

Now, also under NIDA contract, Columbian, Mexican and Jamaican dope is shipped in 60 kilo barrels and crates marked “First Class Registered Mail” to RTI from the government pot farm at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. There, under the auspices of project director Dr. Carlton Turner (who denied rumors that tobacco companies frequently request information on growing marijuana), about 1,000 kilograms of 50 to 100 varieties of the most potent pot on the planet—some five times stronger than anything you can cop on the street—are growing on 5½ acres or rich, Mississippi topsoil.

The Research Triangle Institute rolls about 100,000 joints per year.


RTI rolls a ton of marijuana per year, about 100,000 joints, and processes some into liquid and pills, which are mostly used for glaucoma research. It’s a five-man operation and two people are needed to run the machine which, churns out 1,000 perfectly rolled 9-gram joints per minute. The size of non-filter cigarettes, stamped at one end with a thin red line and an “M” for marijuana, the carefully monitored THC content (the major psychotropic agent) ranges from 1% to 2.5%. (Average street dope, according to NIDA is .8% THC content.)

“If we sold the 2.5% THC marijuana on the street for $75 an ounce,” Richard Hawks, a chemist in NIDA’s research division commented, “people would be getting a bargain.”

Rolling goes on four or five times a year. Joints are packed 350 to a container the size of a coffee can. Some is stockpiled in a bank vault. The rest is distributed at no expense to researchers in the United States and Europe—provided they’re licensed and involved in legitimate research programs—and to a government pharmacy in Washington DC where Bob Randall, a 28-year-old glaucoma victim, the first and once the only legal pot smoker in the country, fills his prescription for 70 joints per week, which he receives in brown prescription jars with “child-proof” caps.

RTI officials stressed that their research is “legitimate,” “there’s nothing to hide,” and there are no links with the tobacco industry. Yet, they did everything possible to hide two simple, perhaps even trivial facts: Who supplied the rolling machine and who supplies the rolling paper. In tracking down this information, it becomes clear why a cloud of rumor hangs over RTI. Why should it take one month and more than 100 phone calls to ascertain information which in the end seems meaningless? The search for the information, not the information itself, indicates somebody is working very hard to cover up links between RTI and the tobacco industry.

As it turned out, the rolling machine came from the American Tobacco Company via Gonzalez International of Baltimore, a used machinery firm that specializes in tobacco machinery. The rolling paper is supplied by Ecusta Inc., a division of Olin Inc.—hardly astounding information.

Originally, officials at American claimed they knew nothing about one of their cigarette rolling machines being used to roll joints at RTI. Though, after being told his company was identified as the source of the machine, Cleveland Kern, the manufacturing director, recalled the entire transaction and remembered that RTI even asked to borrow one of their employees to set up the machine. But a superior in the corporate hierarchy quickly contradicted him. “We disposed of the machine to Gonzalez,” Robert Stinnette, assistant to the chairman of the board, claimed. “What they did with it after that is their business.” He was not able to explain how Mr. Kern knew the machine was being used at RTI.

The case with Ecusta was more complex. “They are doing a favor for the government and for science,” Dr. Wall explained. “The amount of paper they supply us with is negligible. They make no money off it. They don’t want their name associated with marijuana. If it is, we’re afraid they’ll withdraw the supply. Because of what the paper is used for, it was difficult to find a supply.”

Ecusta, located in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina, the largest of three rolling paper manufacturers in the country, wasn’t difficult to find. A secretary answered the telephone. She thought I was a potential customer referred to them by RTI, whom she recognized as a customer. Then she realized I was a reporter and transferred me to the marketing director who claimed he “wasn’t aware RTI was an account of ours.” Later, though, he confirmed it.

If the amount of paper they supply to RTI is “negligible,” why did a secretary immediately recognize the name? Perhaps the amount isn’t negligible. One of the many rumors flying about suggests RTI manufactures 500,000 joints per year, not 100,000.

RTI felt confident if Ecusta was publicly identified as the source of their rolling paper, the company wouldn’t hesitate to cut off their supply and legitimate marijuana research would be “seriously damaged.”

An Ecusta spokesman said they wouldn’t cut off the supply under any circumstances, but quickly added, “We don’t pander to the marijuana trade,” implying his concern for rumors that they did pander to the marijuana trade. Ecusta supplies paper to US Tobacco, the makers of Zig-Zag, a perennial joint rolling classic.

A lot of people believe a rumor fueled by ex–California Governor Ronald Reagan, who said, in 1972, that 14 tobacco companies have already registered trademarks like Acapulco Gold and Panama Red for use on marijuana products after legalization. Mr. Reagan was apparently unaware it’s impossible to register a trademark for a non-existent, or worse yet, illegal product.

It is true, though, that the General Cigar and Tobacco Company has registered the trademark “Tijuana Smalls” for their commercially successful little cigar. It’s been suggested that this trademark is being used only temporarily. Once marijuana is legalized, General Cigar can switch the trademark from cigars to pot. Though possible it’s unlikely. Switching names is a terrible business practice that only leads to consumer confusion. Imagine the shock of a loyal Tijuana Smalls smoker whose favorite little cigar suddenly appears on the market with a 2% THC content and has him hallucinating long before his fifth puff.

The latest breaking marijuana rumor, though, is the most believable to come along in years. It’s public record that Philip Morris Inc., an international conglomerate with revenues of $6 billion per year, has blocked a trademark application for “The Lid,” by Brasshead Inc., a small Long Island paraphernalia manufacturing company. Philip Morris claims it interferes with its product, Lido cigarettes.

You’ve probably never heard of Lido mentholated cigarettes. Philip Morris originally registered the name in 1957. Test marketing of the product began in 1969, in Venezuela, Costa Rica, and the United States, and still continues today. Though Philip Morris marketing executives prefer the term “diminishing results,” Lido has been a commercial disaster. Twelve hundred packs were sold in the United States in 1978. In Venezuela, sales between 1974 and 1977 dropped from 36.5 million packs to 9.9 million. Clearly, Lido cigarettes are going nowhere fast. Yet, test marketing continues, and in 1975 the trademark was renewed for another 20 years.

Brasshead Inc. of West Babylon, Long Island, a tiny member of the $350 million a year drug paraphernalia industry, was formed in 1970 by Mike Michaels, its 30-year-old president. Michaels, in 1975, came up with a relatively innocuous product called “The Lid,” classic street slang for an ounce of pot. In a zip-lock plastic bag, he packages a small, wooden hash pipe, extra screens, a roach clip, and rolling papers. It retails for $1.99. When he tried to register the trademark “Lid,” Philip Morris formally objected, in part because it said that Lid so resembled Lido that it was deceptive, would cause the consumer to confuse the two products, and would lead to the belief that Philip Morris manufactured both products.

“We’re not interested in marijuana because we can’t make enough money on it,” a Philip Morris spokesman said. “People can’t smoke 20–30 joints a day.”


How anybody can confuse a kit for getting stoned with a pack of mentholated cigarettes known mostly in Venezuela and Costa Rica may very well be one of the more intriguing questions of the day. Philip Morris doesn’t have a particularly good answer. “We’re not interested in marijuana because we can’t make enough money on it,” a spokesman said. “People can’t smoke 20–30 joints a day.” It’s a straightforward trademark case, they claimed, and as always, they’re ever-vigilant in protecting trademarks because they don’t want to see the laws eroded.

Michaels finds the case absurd. “Why should Philip Morris bother us on a trademark they’ve more or less abandoned here?” he wondered. “Maybe they’re trying to save the name in case marijuana is legalized. To me the name isn’t even important. I can call it ‘Bib’ and still sell the same amount. It’s a matter of principle.”

A number of patent lawyers agree the case is “peculiar.” Nobody has ever heard of one quite like it, in which a major conglomerate, protecting a trademark for a doomed product, contests a distantly related trademark by a much smaller company.

It seems entirely possible that when marijuana is legalized, Philip Morris could simply drop the “o” from Lido and call a marijuana product “Lid.” If Lido cigarettes should suddenly vanish from the marketplace, unlike Tijuana Smalls, you can be sure nobody will miss them, not even Philip Morris. A phone call to its Park Avenue headquarters revealed only one person who ever heard of the product. It took several days to locate him.

There’s one provocative rumor that will probably never die no matter what’s proven or disproven: Tobacco companies stand to make the fortune of the century when marijuana is legalized. Pot, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a $48 billion a year business, the third largest in the country, behind only General Motors and Exxon, which are tied for first at $53 billion. Naturally, like good businessmen, tobacco moguls are gearing up on all fronts—production, advertising, marketing, and agricultural. When legalization hits, they’ll be ready to roll joints within the hour.

Tobacco companies have already made one of the fortunes of the century. In the process of promoting lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease, they’ve also drawn intense criticism from such people as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph Califano, a vigilant anti-smoking campaigner. Companies insist that the last thing they want is more government heat from marijuana, which some studies show is more harmful to the lungs than tobacco because it’s inhaled more deeply and remains in the lungs longer.

“We don’t need marijuana,” tobacco companies say, claiming they’re so rich and diversified, if cigarettes were outlawed tomorrow, they wouldn’t go out of business. Philip Morris, for instance, not only makes Marlboro, Benson and Hedges, Merit, Parliament, Virginia Slims, and Multifilter, but also Miller Beer, Lowenbrau, and 7Up.

Rumor naturally lurks behind the DEA’s claim that pot is a $48-billion industry. The enforcement of marijuana laws, the DEA’s principle obsession, is as much a business as selling marijuana itself. It keeps men working. They claim $48 billion in order to wangle a bigger budget from Congress. Without grass, the agency would be forced to exclusively pursue more dangerous drug criminals, like heroin and cocaine smugglers, who are more difficult to collar because their contraband is trafficked in much smaller quantities.

More realistic estimates from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORMAL) and Penthouse magazine peg marijuana sales somewhere between $4 and $12 billion, which at least holds a respectable position on the Fortune Top 100.

For the time being, at least, it’s possible that tobacco companies really aren’t gearing up for marijuana. Legalization, according to NORMAL—who already has brought about decriminalization in 11 states—is at least 7–15 years off. Before legalization can occur, international treaty obligations, which call for the prosecution of drug criminals, must first be repealed, and then, legalization would still be two years off. The tobacco companies know there’s no reason to stand poised with a finger on the joint-rolling button. If a crash program were invoked, it’s estimated that they could be rolling marijuana cigarettes in six to nine months.

Getting High in the White House
Only God knows how many reporters have been looking for drugs in the White House since Jimmy Carter took office. With a son who was thrown out of the Navy for toking up on board ship, a Rolling Stone endorsement by notorious gonzo journalist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who promptly told High Times about snorting cocaine with the White House staff and press corps, and the sudden departure of Drug Advisor Dr. Peter Bourne for writing bogus Quaalude prescriptions for a White House secretary and snorting cocaine with NORMAL Director Keith Stroup, the paranoia there is intense. Just call up the press office and ask about pot. It doesn’t matter what the question is. As soon as they hear “marijuana,” the answer is, “No drugs are used inside the White House and anybody found doing so will be fired.

Former speechwriter for the Secretary of the Air Force, Bob Rosen, a New York based freelance writer, recently completed a book on the Pentagon, Ground Zero Paranoia.

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Journey Through the Past

June 13, 2017

Tags: Robert Attanasio, Erotic Review, Observation Post, City College of New York, 1970s, art

All three parts of "The Provocateur," my series on artist and filmmaker Robert Attanasio, are now posted on Erotic Review.

In the 1970s, I worked with Attanasio on Observation Post, the radical student newspaper at the City College of New York. We published a lot of controversial material, much of it having to do with pornography and religion. Working on OP changed the course of our lives, but we drifted apart after graduation and eventually lost touch. I hadn’t heard from Attanasio in 30 years. Then, in February 2015, he contacted me and we reunited. By November he was dead—from cancer.

“The Provocateur,” adapted from a book I’m working on about the moment in the 1970s when the student left gave way to punk, is a retrospective of my relationship with Attanasio, and a journey through his art and film.

Click here to read Part I, Part II, and now Part III.

Attanasio appears at the beginning of this episode of The Madness of Art.

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Los últimos días de John Lennon

May 27, 2017

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, René Portas, Random House Mondadori

Yo he estado trabajando en una nueva edición impresa, de Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon en lengua española, programada para salir a la venta el 9 de octubre de 2017, en el 77 cumpleaños de Lennon.

René Portas, quien tradujo la edición original en lengua española, publicada por Random House Mondadori en 2003, ha hecho una traducción actualizada y mejorada, que incluye cinco capítulos extra.

Aquí está la foto de una primera prueba. La nueva foto de portada fue tomada por el difunto Jack Mitchell, en noviembre de 1980, poco antes de que Lennon fuera asesinado.

Si tú no puedes esperar hasta octubre para leer la nueva edición impresa, una edición e-book está ahora disponible en iTunes, Kindle y todas las otras tiendas que venden e-books.

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I've been working on a new print edition of the Spanish-language Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon, scheduled to go on sale October 9, 2017, Lennon's 77th birthday.

René Portas, who translated the original Spanish-language edition, published by Random House Mondadori, in 2003, has done an updated and improved translation, which includes five bonus chapters.

Here’s a photo of an early proof. The new cover photo was taken by the late Jack Mitchell, in November 1980, shortly before Lennon was murdered.

If you can’t wait until October to read the new print edition, an e-book edition is available now from iTunes, Kindle, and all other stores that sell e-book.

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.