The moment David Bowie and Dennis Hopper smuggled cocaine into a psych ward for Iggy Pop, 1975
Even if you’re not a David Bowie fanatic, there’s a good chance you might have heard of this incredible story and, if you haven’t, then buckle up because it’s a wild ride. It involves not only the late great Starman but actor and Easy Rider legend Dennis Hopper sneaking drugs inside the building of an incarcerated punk legend in Iggy Pop back in 1975.
Did I forget to mention that while David Bowie, Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell were smuggling cocaine in the psych ward for young Iggy, they were doing so while wearing spacesuits? Yep, it’s one of those kinds of stories. One of those monstrously ludicrous rock ‘n’ roll escapades that is so unfathomably ridiculous that it simply has to be true. And, invariably, involve either David Bowie, Dennis Hopper or Iggy Pop.
At the time, in 1975, Iggy Pop had involuntarily entered himself into a psych ward following growing, and seemingly unstoppable, issues with drug addiction. His substance abuse had not only begun to jeopardise his career but his life too. It was decided for his own good that he would visit a facility to help treat him. When your back is against the wall, anyone will tell you, friends are usually few and far between. Normally, a few will come through for you.
For the forefather of punk, Iggy Pop, those friends were none other than Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell and the legendary David Bowie. But while they were good friends, happy to commit themselves to Iggy’s cause, whatever that may be, they weren’t necessarily good influences and contributed to some seriously dubious moments of ‘friendship’.
The Stooges’ man had his back against the wall after nosediving into a cocaine addiction after the group disbanded and left Iggy stranded in L.A. without a hope in hell, let alone a band to play with. Surrounded by the growing cocaine problem in California, the rock and roller struggled to find any resolve to quit drugs as his surroundings continued to support his addiction.
The band’s break-up may well have been the catalyst for Iggy’s deep dive into depression and addiction but a lot of the foundations were set long before the group disbanded. Afterwards, Iggy spent his days completely out of his face, ignoring music and crashing every party he could. It would lead to an endless spiral that finally culminated in Pop sleeping on the couch of former Stooges man James Williamson before finding his place on the streets.
Iggy was arrested several times for various misdemeanours along the way and found himself in court facing either prison or rehab—not a great choice. Iggy Pop, faced with a difficult decision, decided on rehab. It was during rehab that he was diagnosed with hypomania and, although much better than prison, he struggled to connect at the UCLA facility. His doctor at the facility, Dr Murry Zucker, shared this on what he thinks might make up the frenetic brain of Iggy Pop: “I always got the feeling [Iggy] enjoyed his brain so much he would play with it to the point of himself not knowing what was up and what was down,” he commented.
“At times, he seemed to have complete control of turning this on and that on, playing with different personas, out-Bowie-ing David Bowie, as a display of the range of his brain. But then at other times, you get the feeling he wasn’t in control – he was just bouncing around with it. It wasn’t just lack of discipline; it wasn’t necessarily bipolar, it was God knows what”. Iggy was not in a good shape and was clearly swept up in the glamour of rock and roll. It also appears so was everybody else, with nobody’s story exactly straight.
From David Bowie’s 2012 book The Golden Years, it is said that actor Dean Stockwell visited Iggy Pop at UCLA alongside Bowie with the pair allegedly dressed up in space suits, completely stoned and screaming: “We want to see Jimmy. Let us in!”. It’s the kind of rock tale that makes for permanent legendary status for all involved, but is all as it seems?
According to Iggy, they were actually let in on account of the staff at the facility being starstruck by the pair, after all, at the time, Stockwell and Bowie were gigantic stars. When inside the ‘Lust For Life’ singer’s room, Bowie and Stockwell duly broke out the blow and decided to share with Iggy who gladly took the peace parcel from outer space. Although, from Bowie’s account, it was actually the Easy Rider legend, Dennis Hopper who accompanied the Starman
“If I remember it right, it was me and Dennis Hopper. We trooped into the hospital with a load of drugs for (Iggy) him,” recalled the singer. “This was very much a leave-your-drugs-at-the-door hospital. We were out of our minds, all of us. He wasn’t well; that’s all we knew. We thought we should bring him some drugs because he probably hadn’t had any for days!” It caught Bowie in a time in his life where cocaine was beyond a joy, it was a necessity.
Now, it would be easy for us to sit back here and judge Bowie for smuggling in the coke. In fact, in all honesty, we probably should judge him, it’s not exactly the smartest thing to do. But when looking back at the annals of rock and roll history these are the stories that will tickle us forever.
We can do so because of the huge positive impact Bowie is known to have had on Pop, from Iggy’s own words: “By 1975, I was totally into drugs, and my willpower had been vastly depleted. But still, I had the brains to commit myself to a hospital, and I survived with willpower and a lot of help from David Bowie. I survived because I wanted to.”