“With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson. Without them, I’m fat and 60.” – Jack Nicholson
American actor Jack Nicholson has appeared in several masterpieces over the years, ranging from Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film The Shining to Martin Scorsese’s 2006 crime drama The Departed. With 12 Academy Award nominations, Nicholson is the most nominated male actor in the history of the prestigious institution and has three wins to his name. Before he became the veteran actor that he has matured into, Nicholson had established a notorious reputation for being a party animal: keeping a trailer on set just for sex and inhaling copious amounts of cocaine.
Once dubbed as “the guy men want to be and women want to bed,” Nicholson has been associated with some pretty wild stories including doing drugs in front of his own daughter. His house was called “the wildest house in Hollywood,” hosting several A-list celebrities and treating them to an arsenal of psychoactive substances.
For a number of years, Nicholson lived next to Marlon Brando and Warren Beaty on Mulholland Drive in Beverly Hills, earning the road the nickname “Bad Boy Drive”.
Humble beginnings and LSD adventures
It all began in the late 1950s and the early ’60s when Nicholson started acting in B-grade films and started developing a taste for the hedonistic lifestyle with Hollywood colleagues like Harry Dean Stanton who claimed: “Whenever I think of Jack from that period, I always see him with a cheap red wine on his lips.” With Stanton and Bruce Dern, he began to experiment with LSD, cocaine and marijuana.
In his memoir Nicholson, Marc Eliot writes, “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.”
No snacks, only milk…and drugs
Nicholson’s house became the focal point of a lot of Hollywood parties, conducting a stream of hedonistic indulgences constantly. The actor was no stranger to such events, attending “orgies” at Harry Dean Stanton’s place and hosting the same at his house. Guests were usually secretive about the activities but some complained about the lack of snacks in Nicholson’s massive refrigerator.
“There was round-the-clock partying, drinks, drugs, sex, lots of tea (of the smoking kind), and beautiful, hot, willing girls who loved to get just as high as the boys and have a good time,” biographer Eliot notes. “The refrigerator never had any food in it. Just milk (for Jack’s sometimes sensitive stomach), beer, and pot in the freezer to keep it fresh.”
Hierarchy of drugs
According to Nicholson, there was a clear distinction between two separate classes of drugs: upstairs and downstairs. The ground floor “resources” were available to anyone who attended the parties but the high-quality stuff was kept upstairs and was reserved for Nicholson’s close friends, VIP guests and lovers.
“I don’t know that that is a true story,” Anjelica Huston, Nicholson’s former girlfriend of 17-plus years, told Vulture in 2019 of the claim that Nicholson differentiated between guests by restricting access to drugs. However, Huston did admit that the actor was a regular cocaine user.
She said, “Very much so. Never took overt amounts, he was never a guzzler. I think Jack sort of used it, probably like Freud did, in a rather smart way. Jack always had a bit of a problem with physical lethargy. He was tired, and I think probably, at a certain age, a little bump would cheer him up. Like espresso.”
A crime scene
After his wife and unborn son were killed, Polanski indulged in substance abuse to cope with things but he ended up exemplifying human depravity. While guest editing the French edition of Vogue in 1977, the director preyed upon a 13-year old girl and persuaded her to participate in multiple photoshoots. During the second shoot at Jack Nicholson’s house, he incapacitated the minor with champagne and half a Quaalude before sexually violating her multiple times.
Although he was arrested for the felony and spent 42 days in jail, Polanski became a fugitive and fled to France in order to avoid facing charges. Since then, he has lived the life of a criminal and has avoided travelling to countries where it is possible for him to be extradited back to the US.
Jack Nicholson’s sexcapades
When it comes to his history with women, Nicholson’s reputation precedes him. Once described as “the most highly sexed individual” by Kim Basinger, the actor had an on-again-off-again thing with Angelica Huston for 17 years while dating many other lovers including Mamas & the Papas singer Michelle Phillips and Joni Mitchell. Nicholson’s friend Cher dismissed his behaviour by saying, “The thing about Jack is that he likes women more than any man I’ve ever known.”
While writing his memoir, Marc Eliot even discovered that Nicholson used to dab cocaine on his penis in order to enhance his sexual performance. “By following what he’d heard about Errol Flynn, he learned that by putting a dab on the tip of his manhood, he could last longer, and, because of the way women reacted to that, he also believed it intensified the sensations for them.”
Has age finally caught up with Nicholson?
The actor celebrated his 83rd birthday this year and has even confessed in recent years that his libido is not the same as it used to be due to the changes in the human body that old age brings about. “Look, I’m less rambunctious these days, not because of change in character, but your physiognomy changes,” Nicholson said in 2006. “I’m not as obsessed. I am not as, you know — I’m still very — I have the same libido. But whether you want it or not, that part of your life changes a bit. Throughout most of my life, though, I liked doing what I like to do. And I’ve been fortunate because that’s just the way it worked out for me.”
In 2017, Nicholson expressed his optimism for finding love at 80 but he knew it wasn’t very realistic. “I would love one last romance but I’m not very realistic about it happening. I can’t hit on women in public any more – it doesn’t feel right at my age…I would never complain about my life. It’s not like I’m starved of company.”