In honor of the pair’s visit to Route 66, ABQ Free Press compiled a list of five lesser-known facts about Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.
BY RENE THOMPSON
Iconic stoner duo Cheech and Chong play their classic, comedic tunes at Route 66 Casino’s Legends Theater (14500 Central SW) on May 14, starting at 8 p.m. VIP tickets to this 18-plus event have already sold out, but silver, gold and platinum tickets are available at $28, $37 and $50 respectively.
The comedy and music duo met in Canada in the late ’60s. Cheech and Chong went on to create a franchise with nine albums, including two Grammy nominations, and eight feature films. In honor of the pair’s visit to Route 66, ABQ Free Press compiled a list of five lesser-known facts about Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.
Everyone knows Tommy Chong’s persona as the ultimate stoner who not only advocates marijuana use but also sells his own lines of medical and recreational marijuana and paraphernalia. Fewer know about his soul band The Calgary Shades.
In an interview with cannabisculture.com, Chong said, “The Calgary Chief of Police called the President of the Legion and ordered us to a meeting at the mayor’s office, where they mentioned complaints of trashed homes, brawls, underage drinking, rowdy mobs and vandalism, all blamed on The Calgary Shades. The chief told me there in front of the mayor, ‘All of Calgary thinks it would be a good idea if you and your band left town.’”
Cheech Marin’s birth name was Richard Anthony Marin, and his nickname Cheech was in fact diminutive for “chicharron,” a pork rind snack. He grew up in South Central L.A., and his father, Oscar Marin, was a 30-year veteran of the LAPD.
The actor who played one of the biggest stoners of all time had a cop for a dad. Marin owns one of the largest collections of Chicano art in the world. He has collected since the ’80s, and pieces from his collection are often featured in museum shows.
The duo split up in 1985, and Marin went on to star in films like “Born in East L.A.” and “The Shrimp on the Barbie,” but it took over seven years for them to even sort of reconcile. If not for the stellar casting of animated film “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” in 1992, wherein both voiced characters, Cheech and Chong might have gone without ever working together again.
Marin and Chong didn’t actually reunite until 2003, when both appeared on an episode of “Biography” and said they were willing to put the past behind them. They planned to make another movie that year, but then Chong’s bong company was seized by the feds. He took a plea deal and spent nine months in jail.
Chong has beaten cancer twice, and he says he owes his recovery to cannabis. In 2012, he announced that he had prostate cancer, and in 2015, he battled colorectal cancer. Chong has repeatedly testified that his use of cannabis oil and buds while undergoing cancer treatment was what ultimately saved his life.
Many actors have had cameos in eight Cheech and Chong films, four of which Chong directed himself, including Paul Reubens (a.k.a., Pee Wee Herman), Strother Martin (“Cool Hand Luke”) and Tom Skerritt (“Alien”). Comedian Sandra Bernhard’s acting debut was in “Nice Dreams” before going on to star in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy.”
Other celebs and icons who made appearances ran the gamut from LSD advocate Timothy Leary to actress Evelyn Guerrero.
Even Chong’s wife Shelby was in most of the movies. Chong’s daughter from his first marriage, Rae Dawn Chong (“Quest for Fire”), never acted in his movies, but she did go on to star in, write and direct her own films.
For more info about Cheech and Chong’s upcoming show, visit holdmyticket.com/event/238273-cheech-chong.