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03/08/2005 Archived Entry: ""The Pleasant Probation of Tommy Chong""

"THE PLEASANT PROBATION OF TOMMY CHONG."

Tommy Chong never was much of a stoner, but one of his most popular characters ("Man") was. So when Tommy's son Paris put Man's face on the surfaces of seditiously shaped blown glass (bongs, pipes) and was blatantly entrapped into sending 5,000 bucks' worth across state lines to undercover feds, Ashcroft's Justice Department took the opportunity to send Tommy to the Wackenhut-managed Taft Correctional Institution for nine magical months, to punish him not only for financing and promoting his son's glass-blowing studio but for, as the federal prosecutor put it, "glamorizing the illegal distribution and use of marijuana" in entertainment products that "trivialize law-enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and use."

At the time two years ago it might've seemed to anyone watching the ensuing "mission accomplished"-style press conference that Ashcroft was, well, confused. By bringing up Chong's so-called glamorizings and trivializings as aggravating factors, the Justice Department appeared unable to distinguish creator from creation, portrayal from endorsement. The result was that, of the 55 people similarly Ashcrofted all over America in "Operation Pipe Dreams" (yes, that was the sting's actual name), only one was incarcerated: Tommy Chong.

But he has a great attitude in the aftermath. This long interview peters into reporterly self-indulgence toward the end, but the first half is great. And I like Tommy Chong.

Saw Cheech & Chong in person once. Festival seating on the concrete floor of a big fair exhibition building. They were on a tiny, barely raised stage. I was at their feet. Much as I laugh over their movie Up in Smoke, I thought they were 10 times funnier in person.

Posted by Claire @ 04:53 PM CST
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