Thursday, May 13, 2010

A/K/A Tommy Chong

I watched the documentary A/K/A Tommy Chong, and I have to say it was one of the best documentaries I have seen in a long time. It documented the arrest and imprisonment of Tommy Chong for selling bongs through the internet. The government spent 12 million dollars to take Chong down. It was a travesty of justice. It discusses the way the government set him up, then raided his house with a SWAT team. His 8+ months in prison. How they tried to make an example of him due to his fame. The good news is that Chong became an activist after going to prison, prior to that he had never really been an activist for marijuana legalization.

When this event happened I was disappointed with Tommy for taking the low road in my opinion and trying to make a deal and apologize, etc. I felt like he should have taken it to trial and made it known that selling a pipe is not a criminal act and he should not serve a day in prison and demanded a jury trial. Unlike many activists he had the money to take it all the way and get more attention to the issue than anyone else really could. However, watching this documentary gave me more appreciation for what he did do. Being more of an activist myself I would have handled it differently than he did, but I appreciate what he did. Now that I have seen this movie I can see that if nothing else making this movie is him making a serious statement against the insane war on drugs.

3 comments:

Josh said...

http://www.eyeweekly.com/film/film/article/91510

check this out...sad, but true. and it's only the tip of the iceberg...

Fester said...

Thanks Josh, no wonder I had never heard of the movie until I happened to be scrolling through the online TV guide that you have with a DVR. So even this bit of serious activism could have been better if Chong had actually made an effort to promote it even a little. It is sad because I always did like Cheech and Chong, but always did feel like they fell short in the activism department (especially Chong since he still discusses marijuana in his rutine, where Cheech is not asked about that much anymore as having moved on to other projects and it would not fit in an interview about his role in the golden girls for him to also say "legalize pot" in some form).

This has always been a close issue to me because of a family member going to jail over pot when I was a kid. Chong has the voice to steer the country towards legalization if he were to use it. He has little to lose and a lot to gain by becoming a serious pro-legalization activist and it seems he is still dropping the ball.

The sad thing is he probably believed that by not being an activist, he was keeping himself safe from arrest.

Josh said...

when tommy was in prison he was pissed off that NORML was selling "free tommy chong" t-shirts and not giving him a cut. i did my best to convince him to be grateful they were getting the message out there to a political passionate audience.

prior to serving his time, after his indictment tommy speaks a lot in interviews and out-takes about how he'd never voted in his life. coming from a VERY political background and family and having lived through 911 in new york city, i was EXTREMELY motivated by the political elements in chong's story and i felt very strongly that tommy needed to finally become political and not just a money-driven commercially focused entertainer (which is what he and cheech have ALWAYS been.) and so i pushed him to meet with the MPP people and pushed him not to care so much about NORML using his value in the pot community to sell their t-shirts and that effort paid off because he came to realize i was right and moved in a political activist direction. but honestly, he did this in large part because that's his core demographic commercially; the marijuana movement community. those are the people who knew cheech and chong and actually gave a damn what they had to say on the topic...and pay to hear him talk about it... when i brought tommy to the norml conference in san francisco he was a BIG draw and it was a HUGE event and he was literally mobbed by his fans there and he realized i was right.
sadly (and typically) his continued interest in this community is really PURELY commercial. my mother -- a politically radical feminist lawyer -- was the first to notice that in my doc, shelby talks about how cheech and chong got started and says, "we wanted to be rich." i'd known tommy since graduating film school and had known him and worked with him in a commercial context so i wasn't paying attention to that initially, but after awhile, and now, it's overwhelmingly obvious to me he's all -- and only -- about the money (aka a fiat currency based on global patriarchal hegemony backed by the military industrial complex...)

it was always about the money for cheech and chong, from the very beginning. thinking back critically on their legacy, they were probably the first entertainers -- certainly comedians -- to exploit the counter-culture for personal gain and not because they had any inherent sympathy for its underlying philosophical values. also, i'm just remembering, shelby chong (tommy's wannabe diva wife) allowed me to tape her interview when she says this thing about wanting to get rich in the car -- on the condition that i film her getting botox injections at her beverly hills plastic surgeon and film a promo for her "age defying woman" show.

i have the out takes to prove it, fester. and i got in endless fights with shelby (and tommy) while i was cutting the film when she'd ask me if i included her getting botox injections in my timeline and i'd tell her no, because i felt it was off the political subject of the film -- and she'd scream insults at me...

yeah...tommy convinced me to pass on a huge distribution deal with the promise that he'd promote the film and then once the deal was off the table said "give it to me or i won't promote it."

you do the math...