Gone To Pot

header

Though ITV’s 2017 reality show, Gone To Pot — a series that sends celebrities to learn about marijuana — looks like classic Patreon material, I must admit, I’ve been putting it off. I usually cover things I’ve at least some cursory knowledge of, and as someone who doesn’t even drink, let alone smoke weed, I feel I don’t have the appropriate expertise. I’m not some reactionary weirdo; it’s just not for me, and consequently, I may be about shatter my image as the swaggering literary hedonist whose brilliant, prolific output could only be achieved by a diet of pharmaceutical-strength narcotics and pansexual swinging. Alas, this is such unfamiliar territory, I don’t even know what to call it. Weed? Pot? Cannabis? Gear? What’s the slang these days? “One packet of Lyndhurst’s please, my good dealer!” It’s like starting a new school and not knowing if you get beaten up for wearing your backpack with one strap or both.

The other reason for my hesitancy is a general dislike of weed culture. Anyone who makes a substance or foodstuff their entire personality is the worst kind of bore; craft beer drinkers, and people who made an active decision to walk this Earth as The Coffee-Liker, their daily Instagram stories flooded with boomerangs of brown liquid and stickers that say “WOW!” People whose ‘thing’ is weed seem to be suffering arrested development, forever the kids showing off in IT class by printing out clip-art of Bob Marley, and kicking around in Spliffy jackets. Growing up, I feel like every conversation anyone had between the ages of 16-20 consisted of positing “Mate, imagine if [relatively boring-seeming person] smoked weed! Imagine them with a spliff!

01

Prior to writing this, I decided to do some extra research, and hit the streets to glean information from the local youths that hang around lampposts, spitting. Apparently, there’s a particularly virulent brand of skunk round here called Pence’s Piss, with other popular strains such as Reboot Cadfael, Dean Gaffney’s African Cleaner, and Just Fuck Off, You Paedo.

I needn’t have been concerned about my own lack of street knowledge, as Gone To Pot was obviously made by your mum, chatting away to your school chums about ‘the old wacky baccy’ and getting the munchies, while they wait for you to come down from the bathroom. There’s an unrelenting Summer of Love soundtrack, with every onscreen caption in that bubbly Woodstock font. All the travelling’s done in a tour bus decorated with psychedelic swirls, peace signs, and the word LOVE, and every inch of the interior’s adorned with colourful throws and giant flowers. Dreamcatchers hang from the ceiling; arriving celebrities are draped with leis. This is weed culture in a Poundland fancy dress outfit, its fingers held up in a peace sign, going “yeah man, peace man, I’m a hippie…

02

The cast too, are endearingly innocent to the ways of marijuana, or as the Ric Flair of darts, Bobby George calls it, “happy baccy.” Riding with Bobby for the three-week tour of all things 420 are a group of aged minor celebrities with similarly shocking levels of drug inexperience, given that showbiz supposedly runs on wild coke parties. For Christopher Biggins, a human teddy bear locked in a permanent wheezing fit of raucous laughter, this is a comeback of sorts, recently shouldered from his perch as national treasure, after getting thrown off Big Brother for accusing bisexuals of spreading AIDS, and jokingly warning a Jewish contestant not to get gassed. Biggins aims to find out whether medicinal marijuana can help with his bad knee. Likewise, Pam St. Clement is riddled with arthritis, and a perfect fit for the show, considering EastEnders‘ love of the comedic ‘stuffy character takes drugs by accident’ plot. Connoisseurs of the trope may consider the genre peak Dot Cotton’s misadventures with some ‘herbal tea,’ but for me, no onscreen portrayal of drugs is as powerful as the time Martin Fowler was given LSD by Nick Cotton, in events portrayed via Martin’s POV of his brother making funny faces into a fish-eye lens. Finally, rounding off the group, there’s Linda Robson off Birds of a Feather, and Fash.

John ‘Fash’ Fashanu, Fash the Bash, is an extraordinarily weird man; a top-level oddball who carries himself with both the wide-eyed innocence and know-it all arrogance of a child, like he made a wish at a Zoltar machine, right before making another one, asking to be a massive prick. So otherworldly, like every day is his first on Earth, I suspect most will think it’s an act and he’s doing a ‘bit’. Not just a prude, but a wildly intolerant religious bigot, who once paid his now-dead gay brother £75,000 to stay in the closet and save his embarrassment, Fash is your classic target for “imagine him on the weed though, be mad wouldn’t it?!” Greeting the arrival of the bus with an “amen, brother,” he claims, like old muggins here, to have never taken drugs or been drunk, but has a dim view of those that have. With that old classic, “I don’t need drugs because I’m high on life,” And where does Fash stand on weed? “I classify marijuana with cocaine, heroin, any other of the a-listed drugs.”

03

As such a zero tolerance hard-liner, the real story of the show is Fash’s struggle though an endless series of visits to weed dispensaries and grow farms, and how that affects his attitude towards “smoke heads” as despicable junkie scum. We begin, of course, in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, birthplace of the counterculture, and where a fresh-out-of-jail Charles Manson picked up his first followers. “I can actually smell wacky baccy!” shrieks an overexcited Linda Robson, likely soon to be giggling off the fumes, like year 9 girls on a school trip, drunk on shandy. Even I’m beginning to feel pretty hip, as Bobby imagines what it might be like to smoke some, with a “yeah baby, alright man!” But not everyone’s so open to experimentation, as Fash confesses to camera that he’s nervous about admitting to the others he doesn’t want to smoke, because, well…

Before the first of many, many trips to a dispensary, the gang list their ailments to a Skype doctor, who signs each a medical note for just $100 apiece. Boy did they get rinsed! I got a thorough examination over webcam by a urologist I met on ChatRoulette, and it only cost me a tenner, though I did subsequently get blackmailed for £20,000 in bitcoin by Chechnyan mobsters. Now eligible for medicinal usage, the first-time buyers stock up on cannabis oils, brownies, and weed-infused sweets. All except for Fash, who refuses everything but a bro-handshake from the hipster behind the counter, coming off like a real Poo Poo Boy in the process.

04

A permanent ingénue, forever shocked by the world around him, he’s aghast at the speed at which the others transform into filthy druggies, chucking a-list funny cigarettes into their baskets like a speed run on Supermarket Sweep. But then, we get to the crux of the matter, as Fash finally confesses his true reasons for staying away from that demon weed. Despite all the talk of morals and Christian faith, Fash’s opposition is actually a safety issue; the safety of others, concerned he may “take some weed,” and as a result “I may go completely out of control.” Fearing another Helter Skelter, Fash’s terror at endangering innocent victims increases at a grow commune operated by a group of nuns, the cartoonish Sisters of The Valley, who believe the plant to be a spiritual gift from Mother Goddess. With Pam and Bobby taking their first ever honks on an actual joint, a frightened Fash just says no, further explaining, with complete sincerity. “I might become extremely aggressive and start using martial arts… I’ve got 16 years, 4 black belts, so that would be horrible.”

Terrified he’ll take a single toke and snap out of a weed-madness fugue to find himself standing over a pile of dead nuns, Fash considers even medicinal use too much of a risk. But as an ex-footballer with bad knees, he’s seen the benefits from his new friends, with Biggins bragging of a very fast nightly piss, having rubbed cannabis oil all over his thighs. As a result, he seems to be considering it, and soon, a now-shirtless Fash is having CBD oil massaged into his skin by the stoned sisters. However, in that morning-after regret typical of overdoing it on a big sesh, second thoughts quickly follow. “What’s really disturbing me, is the connotation that for the next 3 or 4 days, everybody will be smelling marijuana, thinking I’m a junkie.

05

To be fair, Fash’s Reefer Madness notion of an immediate psychotic break on ingesting marijuana was initially shared by the rest of the group. Putting droplets of cannabis oil under their tongues, each seemed to be expecting that hard cut to their pupils shrinking into pinpricks, and the real world peeling away to reveal a moving patchwork of cartoon rainbows, mandarin music and talking bunnies. But unlike Fash, once they’ve had their first puff, the others are quick to embrace it, immediately going full Cheech and Chong, and leaving him open mouthed, making noises like he’s at a firework display when watching them inhale. This hedonism hits its pinnacle when the group meet pink-haired 94-year-old edibles chef, Nonna Marijuana, giving us this phenomenal exchange, with Fash introducing himself to the very spritely old lady with a patronising decibel-level normally reserved for trying to rouse an actual corpse.

“FASH! FASH! I’M FASH!”

Flash?

“FASH!”

Flash?

“FASH!”

What knowledge I lack about drugs, I make up for in experience with memes. One thing I’ve learned from them is the behaviour of edibles, with those two-panel images of someone scoffing pot brownies and feeling fine, followed by a second frame depicting the moment ‘when that edible hits’, where they’re trapped in a Photoshop blur and clinging on for dear life. Nonna cooks a feast, with lashings of weed mixed into the butter, and though Fash eats the ‘clean’ alternative, Biggins and Bobby, a couple of big lads who never turned down a free dinner, gobble down about fifteen helpings. It’s now that Fash takes an enormous step. “To debate marijuana,” he says, “I must know what it’s like.” Know thy enemy, indeed, and with a deep breath, he succumbs to a few spoonfuls of marijuana ice cream, ensuring poor old Nonna’s imminent death from a flurry of demented karate chops. Like a man sitting on a ticking bomb, he holds his breath and waits. And… nothing happens.

06

Two hours later, the memes are all true, and when the edibles hit, it’s an ugly sight. Fash’s mouthful of ice cream leaves him unharmed — Awooga! — but Bobby and Biggins undergo what I’m informed is known as a well-bad whitey. Not laughing for the first time in his life, Biggins weakly begs for help, even sicker than he was when the driver inquired of little old England “do you you guys have bidets?” to the furious reply of “we invented them!” As a poor production assistant holds a plastic bag to catch the vomit of a sobbing Bobby George, a staggering, vacant Biggins, caked in sick, has to be helped into his deathbed. The morning after, with everyone shook, Bobby describes last light’s events as “100 sea-sicks at once.” It’s only lucky Fash didn’t overindulge too. Christ, they’d had to have rolled out the tanks to stop him.

07

But are there two hollower words than never again? Despite their near-death experiences, we follow the group through various hippie communes and grow factories, where everyone’s having a grand old time of it, with Bobby, Linda and Pam in particular puffing away like Cyprus Hill. Meanwhile. Fash is constantly fucking around on his phone, and in every scene of bus frivolity, can be seen in the corner, head down, fingers tapping away. Most likely, the sight of an ODing Biggins has him starting an online petition to make possession a hanging offence. But then he meets a little girl in a wheelchair, stricken by 1,000 seizures a day, until cannabis oil did what traditional medicine couldn’t, which opens his eyes to the benefits of medicinal marijuana, and leaves him in tears. Before we know what’s happening, they’re at a party in the Hollywood hills, and old Poo Poo Boy’s quaffing back a brownie. “What I don’t want,” he tells the chef, “is to take enough to put myself out of control.”

By morning, he’s shooting smack into the head of his penis with a dirty needle. No, don’t be silly. As the tour continues, we’re treated to more classic reality TV that’s so weird it sounds made up. Pat Butcher tags along to a SWAT raid on an illegal grow farm; Bobby George invites his mate Engelbert Humperdinck to a BBQ and mistakes ‘Bel Air’ for ‘bell-end’; Fash gets told off by a cop for picking up chemicals seized from a Mexican drug cartel. Then it’s off to the millionth weed farm, this time state-licensed, like moving up from Walt’s van to Gus’s underground lab.

08

Even on an industrial scale, it’s still run by a bloke with a massive ratty beard and man-bun of white-boy dreads. When they visit a farm foods superstore, it filled with edibles, bongs, pipes and t-shirts; a weed-bore paradise. The guy behind the counter wears a beanie and Spider-Man jacket, and every customer is a scruffy hipster with flesh-gauged ears and sleeve tattoos. I shouldn’t judge appearances, being that I resemble a back alley crack dealer from an episode of Diagnosis: Murder, but damn if everyone involved in the legal weed industry doesn’t look exactly like they’d be depicted by a conservative newspaper cartoonist.

The gang split into groups, with Fash, Linda and Bobby off to Denver’s International Church of Marijuana, an ornate building painted up like a Grateful Dead cover, where ‘services’ consists of a dozen unbearably tiresome stoners with Counting Crows hair and steampunk goggles on top hats, lazing on pews in camo getting blazed. By the time Pam and Biggins join a ‘mobile cannabis lounge’, filled with another background cast of gross unkempt beards, trucker hats, and flannel, huffing on custom bong rigs, I’m 18 again, listening to my friends go on and on and on about weed all the fucking time, and never wanting to do anything but hang out at creepy older men’s houses to smoke. This is when I realise. It’s me, isn’t it? It’s always been me. I’m the Poo Poo Boy.

09

There’s one final moment of television magic, when Fash gets a chance at clay pigeon shooting, excitedly decked out in hunting gear, but on realising it’s up a mountain, becomes too afraid to move within 20ft of the edge. Though his hands and feet may be deadly weapons, he cowers behind a production truck, literally clinging to it, while Linda merrily blasts away with a shotgun. Fash addresses one of the guides; “Brother, how can we fix this so I can have a go?” When told “you just gotta do like everybody else,” Fash replies, in classic nonsense-wisdom, “we’re not all born the same, brother.

10

The trip concludes with the celebrities taking a (not legally-binding) vote on whether weed should be legalised in the UK, with a unanimous yes for legalising on medical terms. Regarding recreational use, the only surprise on Bobby, Biggins and Linda raising their hands, is that they’re even able to, considering the Snoop Dogg amount of stuff they’ve been putting away the past few weeks. And for my vote? Having sat through hours of people in dirty hoodies smugly exhaling like they’ve just written the world’s greatest symphony, I’m all for bringing back full prohibition. If Christopher Biggins wants to use his I’m a Celebrity trophy as a bong, he can do it at an underground speakeasy like everyone else. “Millard, mate, that’s going a bit far,” you think. Is it? Soon after Gone To Pot finished shooting, Mr. Clean himself, John Fashanu ended up locked away in a Nigerian jail. Sure, it was for an alleged land sale scam, but I’ve seen the memes. ‘When the edible hits…‘ Think on, yeah?

This piece first appeared on my Patreon, where subscribers could read it a month before it landed here. If you’d like to support me for as little as $1 a month, then click here to help provide the world with regular deep dives about weird-bad pop culture, early access to my podcast, and all kinds of other stuff.

There’s a ton of content, including exclusives that’ll never appear here on the free blog, such as 1970’s British variety-set horror novella, Jangle, and my latest novel, Men of the Loch. Please give my existing books a look too, or if you’re so inclined, sling me a Ko-fi.

~ by Stuart on June 16, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: