May 15, 2017

Cary Grant Drops Acid, Revisited

There's a new documentary about Cary Grant dropping acid, something I wrote about in 2011. I also highlighted Steve Jobs's shared experience of tripping and how people who have made the psychedelic journey are put off by people who have not.

For those of you who have already confronted the collective unconscious, there's not much new material, but plenty new about Cary Grant from other sources.

Cary Grant used to say that he was a self-made man and had pulled himself up by his own boot straps. While he came from humble roots and a mentally ill mother, only God could make a face like his.

My favorite stories about Cary Grant come from literary actors, those exceptional talents who know how to write. Frank Langella wrote in his gregarious Dropped Names that Tony Curtis said of Cary Grant: "He was one of my idols. The guy turns out to be a fucking bore."

Langella recounts how Mel Brooks said the same thing of Grant: "I thought I'd kill myself if I had to eat a meal with this guy again." Every time I see Langella interviewed, I feel the exact same pain as watching De Niro be interviewed. The interviewer is inevitably not up to the task.

David Niven recounts several Cary Grant stories in his beautifully written autobiography Bring On The Empty Horses. He describes Grant as a 'will-o-wisp,' at best elusive to pin down as a person. Niven describes a Grant as relentlessly bent on self-improvement:

  • "'I just think myself thin - and it happens', he was fond of saying, but he conveniently forgot his frugal eating, his daily work-outs and his appointments with the masseur."
  • "Some of us suffered stoically through his days of the carrot." Niven recounts the happy explosion of the carrot juice machine after Grant had declared "Today we'll have nothing but carrot juice."
Niven ends with Grant's LSD therapy and the result: "It seemed to the rest of us a most hazardous trip for Cary to have taken to find out what we could have told him anyway: that he had always been self-sufficient, that he had always been loved, and that he would continue to give a damn about himself."

Last week I pointed out the curiously public crisis that Brad Pitt is undergoing. Now we have Cary Grant to remind us that people who make their living in the public eye invite sardonic commentary as they move through life's trials.