Ed Driscoll

Two Universals In One

In the 1980s, Universal produced one of the most successful television shows of the decade, Miami Vice, which featured undercover cops fighting rampant drug use in southern Florida. (The series was cast with actors and guest stars who were no strangers to the show’s subject matter, themselves.)

Universal’s own take on drug use? They definitely see no evil, and would very much prefer if their employees also look the other way as well:

A former security guard at Universal Music in Los Angeles says she was fired for blowing the whistle on rampant drug use by the label’s artists.

The woman, who is suing her former employer, claims she was offered drugs by a variety of big-named stars as well as witnessed them using them.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, she claims that ‘artists and high profile celebrities began visiting the premises with drugs in hand and oftentimes offering drugs to Plaintiff, which she refused.’

She claims to have personally witnessed drug use or drug paraphernalia from Macy Gray, guests of Jamie Foxx, MC Ren, rapper T.I. and his wife Tiny’s entourage and heard about drug use involving Maroon 5 frontman and ‘The Voice’ star Adam Levine….

A spokesperson for Universal Music has described the allegations as ‘absurd.’

Musicians and actors using drugs? That’s craaaazy talk, man!

Speaking of which, given that Universal is now co-owner of NBC, as soon as I read the above story, I flashed back to this excerpt from Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s mid-‘80s book, Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, on SNL’s late seventies glory days, and the substances that fueled the show:

Cocaine, in fact, was a principal cause of the surliness the reporters sensed in Saturday Night. The drug itself made many of those who used it hostile. It also made them suspicious of the media, because now they had too much to hide. By the fourth season cocaine had become a staple on Saturday Night, an integral part of the working process there. Fears of a bust increased. In the fifth season Lorne actually posted a guard, a huge black man named Alvin, outside the elevators on the 17th floor. Ostensibly Alvin was there to keep away fans and other well-wishers, but few on the show doubted that an important part of his job was to prevent any sudden surprises from visiting law-enforcement officers.

Coke became the drug of choice on Saturday Night for several reasons. People had the money to pay for it now, and it was immensely useful in keeping them alive and kicking when fatigue was wearing them down. Cocaine is also the drug of success and ambition, a tonic to those for whom doubt and introspection serve no purpose. No accident that it replaced psychedelics in the Woodstock Generation’s stash boxes as flower children turned into young professionals. A key member of the show’s production staff found that she had to stop smoking pot when she worked on Saturday Night—ironically, since it was the first job she’d ever had where she could smoke pot—because it made her too sensitive, too soft in dealing with all the people calling in who wanted something. With cocaine she found she could tell them no very efficiently, very fast, with no emotion whatsoever. “Coke,” she said, “takes the heart out of people. It’s irrelevant if you’re hurting somebody. It’s all what you want to get across at the moment and who you want to listen to you.”

“Lorne” is Lorne Michaels, who created the show, and is now the de facto head of all of NBC’s late night programming. Saturday Night Live has long set the tone for all of NBC’s current programming.

And fortunately, tone is the one thing that today’s NBC-Universal is taking seriously, particularly the “liberal” network’s pledge for a new civility after Gabrielle Giffords was shot in early 2011. QED:

This was after former “Cop Killer” rapper turned cop-playing actor Ice T was caught earlier this week photographing himself clowning around with handguns, which for about thirty seconds in 2011 was considered the equivalent of racist hate speech on NBC.

Oh well, I guess for Law & Order: SVU it’s back to blowing the lid off the dangers of Big Soda.