Vintage advertisements for exotic drug paraphernalia aimed at people with more money than sense.
The 1970s, as we never tire of pointing out, were a different country – perhaps even a different planet. It was the decade where, for the first time, anything went – and we pretty much mean anything. What might have been taboo a few years earlier came into the mainstream, and it would take the whole of the decade and into the 1980s for some sense of control to be put back into place. And while much of the Seventies liberation is much missed now, we’ll admit that some things did get a little excessive as censorship and morality went into freefall and no one quite knew where to draw the line.
Cocaine was then, as it is now, the drug of choice for the middle classes and the artist, the expensive and exclusive intoxicant that somehow meant that you were more of a sophisticate than the grubby heroin addict or the lowly pothead. While coke users today will maintain a degree of circumspection – at least in public – users in the disco era were shameless. Cocaine was a glamorous status symbol, and what’s the use of a status symbol if you can’t flaunt it? So an entire industry emerged serving the cocaine user, who might not always be in entirely the right state of mind to see that spending anything up to few hundred dollars on some tatty paraphernalia was not a great idea. Indeed, looking at some of the cocaine tat on the market, you have to assume that the manufacturers were banking on the same level of coked-up bad decision making that brought us films like Roadie in order to sell their wares. After all, while cocaine itself couldn’t be sold openly, why not attempt to hoover up the rest of the money floating around in a wash of bad decisions and self-aggrandisement?
That this sort of thing was openly advertised – with varying levels of subtlety ranging from the considerable to non-existent – in head mags, porn mags and other lifestyle publications that were already on the edge of both respectability and legality.
The cocaine years – at least in terms of flagrant, fashionable use – didn’t last far into the new Conservatism of the early 1980s, though of course they came back in the 1990s and you won’t find a media party anywhere in the world that doesn’t have an excess of runny noses and apparent incontinence. But this sort of advertising – as crass, as tasteless, as self-important and as arrogantly self-aggrandising as any a cokehead you could hope to meet – are certainly of their time.