Remembering David Bowie’s 1976 Pot Arrest

RIP David Bowie, who helped make weird cool and psychedelic “new age” rock mainstream. And of course, he did both while under the periodic influence of cannabis (and uh, plenty more).

And like most rockers in the days of prohibition, Bowie was rocked by his own mini-marijuana scandal in the mid-70s. While on tour in ’76 as alias “Thin White Duke” in Rochester, New York, Bowie and co-conspirator Iggy Pop were relaxing, soaking up 6.4 ounces worth of joints after a show.

Alas, Bowie and Iggy forgot to towel their door, so “four vice squad detectives” raided their room, and booked them both, leading to the above, infamous mug shot. Here’s how that went down:

the cops found 182 grams (a little over 6.4 ounces) of marijuana there. Bowie and three others — Pop, a bodyguard named Dwain Voughns, and a young Rochester woman named Chiwah Soo — were charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

(Crazy. 40 years ago, that amount of weed definitely would’ve landed a non-celebrity in jail. Fortunately, Bowie was Bowie. Still, that’s an insane charge for what’s not even a half pound of nug).

Bowie and Pop were booked under their real names, David Jones and James Osterberg Jr. The group spent the rest of the night in the Monroe County Jail and were released at about 7 a.m. on $2,000 bond each. They were supposed to be arraigned the next day, but Bowie left town to go to his next concert in Springfield, Massachusetts. His lawyer appeared and asked for the court’s indulgence, explaining the heavy penalties for breaking concert engagements. He promised the judge that Bowie would appear the following morning, March 23.

Bowie showed up for his arraignment looking dapper in his Thin White Duke clothing. It was then that his mug shot was taken — so we’ll never actually know what Bowie looked like when he was unexpectedly dragged into jail at 3 a.m. The police escorted the rock star in and out of the courtroom mostly through back corridors, shielding him from a crowd of fans who showed up at the courthouse. [OpenCulture]

Nothing came of the arrest, and no known incidents followed. Bowie blazed a trail in music, and hopefully that pot blip didn’t slow Bowie’s roll down.

Light one up for Ziggy Stardust and let your weirdness out today.



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