Stories of the wild life of Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson stretch out as far as the eye can see. The notorious actor was as celebrated for his acting talent as he was his off-set antics.
Those antics weren’t reserved for any particular person or situation but they almost always involved narcotics, including the time he once offered HRH Princess Margaret a line of cocaine. But when Nicholson crossed paths with one drug, in particular, it would completely change his life.
Jack Nicholson arrived in Hollywood in 1954 alongside his sister June. With him he brought an unquenchable thirst for the limelight and extraordinary talent for acting. He quickly began to assimilate himself into the culture and worked a number of runner jobs at different studios.
It was there that he could watch and study countless auditions before his very eyes, something the actor says removed a lot of his preconceptions of stars. In California, as the sixties began to fully take shape, Nicholson and his actor buddies Harry Dean Stanton and Bruce Dern began to experiment with drugs. Namely, cocaine, marijuana and LSD.
Nicholson has never been afraid of drugs and their mood-altering ability. In fact, most of the time he has revelled in it, shared the notion vicariously and even partaken in hallucinatory drugs while rafting with his kids. But while cocaine and marijuana played major parts in his hedonistic seventies and eighties, it was one acid trip that sent Nicholson on his legendary path.
According to Marc Eliot’s memoir Nicholson, LSD was an integral experience for the acclaimed actor. “Jack’s experiences with the drug were life-changing. He believed after taking it the first time that he had seen the face of God. He also had castration fantasies, homoerotic fantasies, and revelations about not being wanted as an infant.” In summary, it opened his mind.
Soon enough the drugs became less recreational and more habitual with the star even naming his different quality of drugs “upstairs” and “downstairs” drugs. The “upstairs” batch being reserved for friends and lovers while the “downstairs” drugs were kept for guests. The narcotics would begin to weigh heavily on the man’s career and health yet it has never seemingly deterred Nicholson.
Perhaps because his attitude has always stayed the same towards his own control over the drugs or perhaps it’s because one acid trip changed his life forever. Either way, for good or for bad, without Jack Nicholson taking that trip we would never have seen such a vibrant legend.