Nardwuar: So Tommy, what ever happened, how did you ever end up playing on a Joni Mitchell record?
Tommy Chong: Oh right, yeah, well her and Cheech had an affair one time, she liked Mexicans, so uh they were, they were, a number then I guess. She actually liked tacos alot, so she asked us if we'd be on a record, and she was on one of ours so we returned the favor.
Have you ever heard of Maclean and Maclean before? Canadian comedians?
Maclean and Maclean, they're a Canadian comedionic team, they had Burton Cummings sing for them once, I was just wondering if you new why he did, but I guess you've never heard of them.
I have heard of them as a matter of fact. They're Canadians aren't they?
Old school Canadians like yourself!
Are they from West Van?
No, I think that they're from out east.
Where, like Beggarville?
No I think it might be Halifax or something like that.
Halifax, well that's back east, eh!
Hey, who is Abe Stenanko, like he's a real guy isn't he?
Abe Stenanko is a cop from Vancouver, who busted every hippie in town, until I put him in the movies and got his ass transferred to Turkey.
His band the JB's?
The drummer, some famous guy.
Fred Wesley? Maceo Parker?
Maceo! No. Maceo played sax, didn't he, well they used to sit in. One night this other promoter had a club upstairs trying to go psychedelic, this is at the height of the Motown era, and he booked all these groups that later went on to become mega superstars, like Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones, and he had this club upstairs and he couldn't make any money with it. It's called the Red Nose Circus and my club was right below that in the basement, and our club would be packed and his club would be empty, with the Rolling Stones, they never drew anybody, it was amazing. One night all the James Brown band was playing on stage and I look in the back and I could see Mick Jagger and Keith Richards trying to get in the club and they couldn't get in cause it was to crowded.
James Brown, what do you think his drug of preference was, cause he was known to do angel dust.
Well James went through a bi-sexual period that was real funny, remember that song Please Please Please, well James had a gay lover at the time and he'd be on his knees, if you look at some film you'll see him on his knees and this guy would run up and throw a fur coat over him, and pick him up and carry him off the stage, remember that?, and then James would break loose and come running back, "Please Please" , he'd sing some more, the guy that would run out and grab him that was James' lover, James was a very heavy bi-sexual for the longest time and then he, James, I don't know what happened to him.
He was trying to open a bunch of burger restaurants in the ghettos, did you hear about that, what was that about?
Ah, James, man, you know, he's a, he's from the south, and he was like a down home brother, you know, not to many smarts, like the rest of 'em, you know, like the rest of us, anybody in rock and roll, we just new one thing, you know, music, and James was one of 'em. He's a cool guy though, I met him.
Have you seen him since, or do any of the old rock and rollers phone you up at all coming through town?
They got short memories, a lot of them, they don't remember, well, they're old fuckers too you know, like Joe Jackson, Micheal Jackson's father doesn't remember me, I met him one time -
Maybe he doesn't want to remember you,selective memory?
He's fuckin stupid man he doesn't remember me, he does not, I look him in the eye and he doesn't remember me, it's weird man, I think he - I don't know, whatever, you know Jermaine and all the rest, they do, cause they were like half way - they had half a brain you know.
When did, like, the Vancouvers break-up, was that your last band before movies started?
Ya, I got fired, I got fired, I had a, I was getting my green card, I had Motown pay for it, myself and the bass player, because you know how important a green card is, you know, working down in the States, so I had gig, I was backing up, Bobby had left, he went on with Smokey, and the Vancouvers were backing up a girl called Chris Clark, who was Barry Gordy's white girl of the month club, you know, so I had to leave town in the middle of the gig to go do an interview to get my green card, and uh, she fired me for leaving the gig, this is after I told her what I had to do, so I quit the band moved to Vancouver, and started an improv group, then I met Cheech.
Had Cheech been in bands before?
Ya, he was Little Caesar and the Chicanos, or something, he had a chicano band like a Ricky Valle kind of band, and he also was in Calgary, Brad Creek outside of Calgary, and uh, he's in a lot of bands.
Do you have any Brian Wilson stories?
(laughs) Cheech and I we were playing Vegas one time, we walked in the elevator and Brian was huddled in the corner, and I don't know how long he'd been riding the elevator for, but he just, kind of comatose in the corner, we never said anything we just kinda looked over and I said "Oh Brian".
Didn't you want to help him?
Naw, what can you do, he's fucked up...met Ted Nugent one time that was funny, just recently, I said in the elevator "Hey Ted, how are ya doin', I'm Tommy Chong" and Ted says "No, I'm Ted Nugent". And I said "No, Ted, I'm Tommy Chong" , and he goes "Oh, I'm sorry man, I'm deaf." He's deaf, he can't hardly hear!
What about Elvis?
Elvis sent us a Christmas card one time, and that's the closest I ever got to Elvis.
Who would send you Christmas cards, and why, just, who, celebrity to celebrity or any particular reason?
I think Elvis probably got into our movies and that was his way of saying, you know, hello, and that's about all I can think of.
What about Margaret Trudeau?
No, nothing on Margaret, no, I was doing movies when she was fucking Mick.
Did you get to go to the White House and meet Nixon? Any white house---
The closest I got to the White House, I was in the Swedish embassy with Peter Sellers, Peter was going with the daughter of the ambassador, I had a gig in Washington and Peter called me up and he said, he sent me a telegram saying that the Swedish Ambassador requests the presence of Sir Ashely Roachclip at the residence, and Ashely Roachclip was a character from one of our records. I went there and we had a great time, we played record, we got stoned, they kept ringing these bells that the maids would come in, you know, there's a bell there and it would say service, so we'd push it and a sleepy maid would show up about ten minutes later, we'd look around, "oh", "ya get us a beer", so she'd get us a beer, we had a good time, it was legal cause we were on Swedish territory so we could smoke dope.
So Tommy Chong, how were the Beatles, it's been rumored that Paul and John had some wild escapades in different rooms, did you ever hear anything about that?
I met John and Rod Stewart in a bedroom the same night at a party in Lou Athers house, and they were in there, I was going to find a place to smoke a joint, they were in there, John was sitting on the floor, he was into his Mai Ling era, you know, the chinese secretary and Rod was sitting on the bed, I think he was going or he had just met Brit Eckland at the time, and I come in and I "hey how are ya doin you guys" light up a joint and they freaked, they were afraid of the immigration, and John wouldn't take a toke and Rod wouldn't take a toke, so I said fuck ya, and I smoked it myself ! That's the only time I've met those guys.
Who's Bruno Gerussi?
The Beachcombers! A canadian superstar. Leslie Nielson?
I seen Leslie, I rode the plane with Leslie, recently, that was a weird feeling man, it was like being in the plane in the movie, you know, it was like Airplane, you know, he's sitting in the you know, it was like Airplane.
So what are you doing now?
Trying to get paid.
By Paul Hughes? How are you trying to get paid?
For the gig! That's why the bands are here, they're all trying to get paid.
How much does it, if I dare may ask, does it take to get Tommy Chong to come MC a concert like this ?
Not quite two figures, well close, but ya, two figures.
So are you living here right now, like do you go home right now to your house in Edmonton, do you have anywhere to stay?
I don't think so man, Edmonton?
No relatives anywhere? You said you were from Edmonton, or you went to school here?
Na, no more relatives anymore, they tore Chinatown down man, whatever relatives I had, they were living there, they're gone, in Calgary, I got some nieces.
Stompin' Tom Connors.
I like him man, I like his Ketchup song, is that him, yeah.
Good writer, great Canadian - , he knows more about Canadian bullshit than anybody.
All right, well, anything else you would like to add to our video documentation of Tommy Chong's evening here at Highwood 1993?
If I don't get paid I'm going to take a whole lot of Marshall amps home with me on the plane.
All right Tommy Chong....doot doola doot doo
Uh, doot doo.
Interview done in person, Edmonton, Alberta, Aug 14 1993.