A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I spent a few years in the business of helping others, shall we say, adjust their perspective. In the late seventies and early eighties I lived in Playa del Rey, California, a small town with an inordinate number of bars squeezed into a couple of blocks less than a quarter mile from the beach.
I frequented one of them more than the others, as it was almost literally across the street from my front door and, in the business I was in, I only needed to be able to get home quickly once in a while. The bar is still there and, if you watch TV, you may have seen it in a few shows. It’s called “The Prince O’ Whales.” I practically owned a stool there and had asked them to carry The Glenlivet when I first started frequenting the place. They were kind enough to oblige me and I have no idea how many cases I personally went through in the few years I spent much of time there.
However, this post has precious little to do with where I lived, how I survived, and how much Scotch I drank in my thirties. It’s actually about an article that was printed in the November 12, 1981 edition of Rolling Stone. It was written by P.J. O’Rourke. If you were an adult around that time, and you’ve not encountered this before, you may really enjoy it; it’s quite funny . . . and mostly (reasonably close to) the truth.
I have searched high and low for a reprint or a .pdf or URL where I could find the article in its entirety, but it doesn’t seem to exist online. Fortunately, I had made a copy of the pages and recently I took the time to re-type the entire article. I thought it was excerpted from his book “Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People,” but it appears the first edition of that book was in the late eighties. Regardless, I have always found O’Rourke’s sense of humor—at least on this subject—pretty damn entertaining. Enjoy!
Beyond cocktail coquetry.
Cocaine and etiquette are inseparable; they go together like cocaine and, well, more cocaine. But why should courtesy be so important when “Sinus highballs” are passed around? Why shouldn’t we behave the way we behave with other drugs—burrow stupidly in the refrigerator as though we’d smoked marijuana or run naked through the streets killing policemen as though we’d taken PCP? There’s no firm answer: In fact, cocaine would make killing a policeman easier, since he’d be much less likely to turn into a 9-eyed moon demon while we’re trying to wrest the gun from his holster. Yet such behavior could not be less appropriate to the ingestion of “Alkaloid Chitchat Flakes.
Cocaine demands gentility from its partakers, perhaps because it’s such a sociable drug. MDA is a sociable drug, but it makes people so sociable they’ll screw a coffee-table leg. That’s not good manners if the table has an expensive lacquered finish. Or it may be the price of “Talk Talcum” that inclines us to courtliness, though heroin, too, is costly, and repeated use of that turns people into Negroes (Reagan administration statistics clearly show.) Most likely it’s the special magic cocaine performs upon us all that ignites our civility and refinement. Cocaine makes us so intelligent, so quick, witty, charming, alert, well-dressed, good-looking and sexually attractive that it would be unthinkable to be rude under its influence. True, there are exceptions. Cocaine doesn’t always do that to you. But it always does it to me. And that’s plenty of reason for people to behave.
THE FUNDAMENTAL NEED FOR SELF-SACRIFICE . . . AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IMPORTANT PEOPLE
The most important thing to understand about cocaine is, no matter how wonderful it makes us feel or how interesting it makes us act, it is bad for our bodies. This is the basis for all etiquette surrounding cocaine use. And this is why it’s never bad manners to go off alone and fire some “Nose Nikes” and not share them. To risk your own health while protecting the well-being of others is the only honorable thing to do. For the same reason, when offered someone else’s cocaine, you should Electro-Lux as much as possible for their sake. If there isn’t any left to take, they will be less inclined to destroy their mucous membranes, become psychotic, suffer heart palpitations or die from an overdose.
However, for reasons unknown to medical science, there are people cocaine does not harm. Important people who might be able to help someone’s career are never injured by cocaine, no matter how much they’re given. Neither are famous writers or actors or other personalities with whom many people would like to be friends. Also unaffected are extraordinarily good-looking, sexy people. In other words, the type of person reading this article seems to be immune to cocaine’s deadly consequences.
The detrimental effect of a “Cerebellum Blizzard” on others, though, cannot be overstated. There was a washed-up musician who hung around a well-known New York nightspot mooching drugs. He turned into a dangerous psychopath and tried to bore several people to death. My own younger brother took too much of my cocaine, and the result was a painful bloody nose. Another unfortunate case involved a vendor of the item itself. He had, no doubt, sampled too much of his own wares and began to threaten people with violence just because they owned him small sums of money . . . well, relatively small. A mysterious informant—who, honest, felt really bad about it—was compelled to turn him in to the police. (Jail is a famously discourteous place.)
THIRTEEN COMMON PROBLEMS OF ETIQUETTE EXAMINED
1 – How to Serve
Nothing is more awkward than taking out a vial of “Granulated Money” in a bar or restaurant and having everyone you know expect to get some. If you try to pass the “Powdered Trapeze Act” to some people and not to others, you may get hit over the head with a bottle. And that’s bad manners. Instead, excuse yourself inconspicuously, saying something like, “Well, I sure have to go to the bathroom, and so do Robert and Susan and Alice, but Jim and Fred and Bob don’t have to go.”
Parties present the same problem. In the past, such secluded spots as coat closets and dark corners of the butler’s pantry were used for spontaneous lovemaking. Nowadays, these nooks and crannies are crowded with people taking drugs. But there is still charm in an old-fashioned excuse. If you would like to give a “Peruvian Speed Bump” to Eileen, an attractive woman who’s a power in the entertainment industry, but not to her unemployed boyfriend, Mark, you can always say: “Excuse me, Mark, I thought Eileen might like to blow me in the laundry room.”
2 – When to Serve
One of the delights of an “Adenoid Snack” is that it’s appropriate at any time of night or day, often for several days and nights in a row, though perhaps everyone’s favorite moment to take cocaine is right after a great deal of it has been taken already.
An increasingly popular time to make your snout play “Selsun Blue” with the “Dandruff of the Gods” is before an elaborate dinner. This brightens table talk, lets guests enjoy staring at the food and arranging little lumps of it in patterns on their plates, and gives the hostess many valuable leftovers. (An oyster souffle, for instance, can be reheated and fed to the pets.)
Another favorite moment for an “Inca Pep Rally” is the second the dealer arrives with the gram. However, some people find it difficult to figure out when that will be. This is because cocaine dealers operate on Dope Dealer Savings Time, which is similar to Daylight Savings Time. Just as Daylight Savings Time is one hour later than Standard Time, Dope Dealer Savings Time is one hour later than you could possibly imagine anyone being.
3 – What Implements Should Be Used?
There are any number of devices on the market for taking cocaine. Some are amusing or even useful in carefully measuring portions to make sure everyone gets too much. But most sophisticated drug users still prefer the rolled-up $100 bill. Better yet is a $100 bill folded over and placed inside a wallet. If you have a great, great many of these, people will find a way to get cocaine up your nose.
4 – What Else Should Be Served?4 –
Most people enjoy a couple of thousand cigarettes with their “Face Drano.” Other mix “Indoor Aspen Lift Lines” with multiple sedatives to achieve that marvelous feeling so similar to not having taken drugs at all. But everyone, whether he wants to or not, should drink plenty of whiskey or gin. If you smell strongly of alcohol, people may think you are dunk instead of stupid. (Whatever you serve, overflowing ashtrays, wads of bloody Kleenex and empty Valium bottles can be arranged to make an attractive centerpiece.)
5 – Who Pays?
There’s considerable debate about this. Some say the guest should pay for cocaine as a way of saying thank you to the host. Others say the host should pay for cocaine as part of the entertainment. Most people, however, believe society should pay for cocaine by having to watch maniacally self-indulgent movies, fragmented TV sitcom plots and fractured and pathetic live performances by brain-broiled comedians and pop musicians wound up tighter than a Hong Kong wristwatch.
6 – Topics of Conversation
. . . one of the things you’re really getting into is cable TV which is going to be like the rock & roll of the Eighties because everybody’s going to be hard-wired into 240 channels and there’s this huge market for software already which is why you’ve got this programming development deal together that right right now is a class at the New School but is almost sold to Home Box and is going to be an hour a day that’s part news but like part entertainment too like this New Wave group that you’ve already done three minutes on with mini-cam on quarter-inch but you might turn that into a documentary plus maybe a docudrama for PBS because it’s this sound that’s sort of Western Swing but punk but ska which is all in the interview you got with the bass player that you’re going to publish in this magazine you’re starting which will be all the complete cable listings for all of New Jersey with public access stuff that isn’t listed anywhere plus like interviews too and . . .
Just because your mouth is moving much faster than your brain is no reason not to carry on an engaging conversation.
7 – Romance
If you have taken too much cocaine and are unable to become aroused, try talking into your partner’s genitals. This gives a fair imitation of oral sex. However, if you have taken even more cocaine, try not to rape anyone you know.
8 – An Important Question
If a man gives cocaine to a woman, is she then obligated to go to bed with him?
9 – Another Important Question
If a woman gives cocaine to a man, is he then obligated to go to bed with her?
Jeeze, I didn’t realize it was this late! I’ve gotta run—gotta get up and go to work in the morning. Plus I feel like I’m coming down with something. Mind if I do another line before I go?
10 – How is a Dealer Introduced?
It can be a problem knowing how to introduce your dealer. Is he a friend? Is he an employee? Or is he a dead pumpkin if he sells you another load of Dexamyl cut with Portland cement? In fact, there’s no proper way to introduce your dealer socially, because no one ever deals cocaine. They just have a little extra. You see, a very special friend of theirs—who was in Peru on different business entirely—brought back, as a personal favor, some incredible rocks, which are also pure flake and happen to be crystals, too (unless this gram-ette of alleged narcotics is so hopelessly filled with muck that it’s indistinguishable from Nepalese temple hash—in which case it will be given an exotic name like “Mudlark of the Andes” and a spurious history having to do with Spanish conquistadors and Indian headhunters). So no one ever deals cocaine, but they’ll give you this little extra they’ve got, for you know, what they paid for it, which is unfortunately $150 a gram, but really, man, this is special stuff, like the Indians used to get by rubbing a coca bush between two Spanish conquistadors’ heads.
11 – Is It Polite to Refuse?
It’s probably not bad manners to refuse cocaine. It might even be very gallant to turn down a spoonful of “Platinum Maxwell House,” but it’s hard to be sure, because, so far, it’s never been done.
12 – What to Wear
Many people believe it doesn’t matter what they wear while taking a dose of “Brain Tabasco.” Some people even take it in the nude (not counting a gold Rolex). But, as in every other social situation, clothes do matter. Richard Pryor is an example of inappropriate cocaine dress. If he had been wearing a nice, conservative Brooks Brothers suit and an oxford-cloth shirt, he would have escaped most injuries. Unfortunately—as is so often the case in today’s increasingly informal world—Mr. Pryor was wearing a polyester sport shirt decorated with Jamaican bongo drummers and dyed in colors visible only to bees. This went up like a torch. Wool, long-staple cotton and other natural fibers have superior flame-retardant qualities.
13 – What is the Polite Way to Refer to Cocaine?
Never call it “tootski.”
September 2nd, 2021 at 4:24 am
Thank you so much for finding and sharing this classic. I have been searching for it for years. It’s up there with his His Speed Performance Characteristics of Pickup Trucks in Republican Party Reptile.
September 2nd, 2021 at 6:39 pm
Glad you found it, Robert. Like you, I did a lot of searching for the original. I could not find it and, fortunately, I had kept a photocopy of it and was able to type it out for my post. I also just looked for the article you mentioned, “Speed Performance Characteristics of Pickup Trucks” and I can only find listings for libraries where a magazine in which it was published might be available. I’ll keep looking, because I would love to read it. Thanks for commenting. Much appreciated.