The cops were hiding in the bushes outside a bungalow at 8443 Ridpath Drive, peeking in the windows scoping actress Lila Leeds in her scanties having her hair styled by her roommate, dancer Vicki Evans. The cops, Det, Sgt, Alva Barr and Det. J. B. Mckinnon were working on a tip-off that tonight there was gonna be a reefer party with some big name Hollywood bad boy whose arrest would deliver them kudos down the precinct and a shitstorm unto the Studios.
The LAPD was being squeezed to crack down on the drug use rife among the Hollywood’s boho cognoscenti. Every two-bit actor and lounge room muso was getting high on some kinda illegal DOPE. This had to be stopped, it was sending out a bad influence on middle America.
Lila Leeds was bottle blonde perfection, the sort of girl who left men drooling. She was pitched as the next Lana Turner, but being pitched as someone else is never the same as being pitched as yourself—it meant you were a copy and a copy is always expendable. Add in a few cat fights at the Mocambo and an accidental overdose to her resume and Lila knew she was on her last chance to make it big. Then she met Robert Mitchum—tough handsome Bob Mitchum with the sleepy-eyed look that gave girls goosebumps. Lila figured with Bob things might just be on the way back up. Mitchum was in a temporary split from his wife—she’d moved back east with the kids leaving Mitchum to his own devices in Hollywood—working hard and making the most of his time alone.
‘It’s a bust!’: Mitchum and Leeds arrested.
September 1948, Mitchum was out house-hunting, getting the tour from part-time friend and real estate agent Robin Ford. Mitchum had seen Lila a couple of times—they’d hit it off as both liked to party, both liked to booze, and both liked to smoke weed. Mitchum suggested a reefer party some night and a date was set. Lila told Vicki about the plans. Mitchum told Ford. One of them snitched.
As Vicki fixed Lila’s hair, Mitchum phoned to say he was on his way up. Lila had two new boxer puppies who scampered out to meet Mitchum and Ford as they pulled into the drive. Lila put the puppies out on the closed-in back porch. Mitchum asked for the lights to be dimmed, said he thought he’d seen someone prowling around the bushes out front. He checked but saw nothing. Detectives Barr and Mckinnon had moved when the boys had arrived, taking up position at the back porch, just itching for the back door to be opened so they could make their arrests.
Mitchum dropped a pack of smokes on the living room table. Lila opened it up—brown and white, she said, before lighting them up. Later she recalled how Vicki Evans hadn’t taken a smoke when offered, only asking “Will they knock me out?”
Out back the pups started yapping at the cops lurking in the bushes. Vicki said she go let them in. As she opened the back door, Barr and Mckinnon burst in. Mitchum picked up a table and got ready to hurl it at the intruders. “Police officers! Freeze!” Mitchum froze. The spliff in his fingers was smoked right down and it burned his fingers. No one moved, only Vicki said, “Gee, it’s just like the movies!”
Mitchum and Leeds up before the judge.
Mitchum, Lila, Vicki and Ford were taken downtown. Their statements read as if they’d been written by a B-movie screenwriter. Mitchum supposedly said:
“Yes, boys, I was smoking the marijuana cigaret when you came in. I guess it’s all over now. I’ve been smoking marijuana for years. The last time I smoked was about a week ago. I knew I would get caught sooner or later. This is the bitter end of my career. I’m ruined.”
While Lila Leeds is quoted as saying:
“I have been smoking marijuana for two years. I don’t smoke every day. I was smoking that small brown stick when you came in. I’m glad it’s over. I’m ruined.”
Even Ford ‘fessed up to being “ruined.”
The cops were all yukking it up and back slappin’ that they caught their big tough guy movie star. This bust at the hillside “reefer resort” was going to put an end to drugs in Hollywood and the pernicious influence of bad boys like Mitchum on godly American youth. The truth though is that hardly anyone knew Mitchum smoked weed—certainly no one in the hinterlands of smalltown America had any inkling about the actor’s penchant for “reefers.”
‘Just the facts, Bob…’
As if to signal a job well done, the Chief of Police went on a fishing holiday. But it didn’t go exactly as the cops had hoped.
More Mitchum and marijuana after the jump…