News & Politics

‘I Was a Dealer’s Old Lady’


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May 3, 1973, Vol. XVIII, No. 18

A dealer’s old lady
by Elaine Louie

I was a dealer’s old lady, as were many of my friends. We were part of the radical chic. We weren’t gunmolls. On the contrary, we were middle-class women gone vaguely hip. Some of us taught school trying to radicalize education in America; Mary was a model; Hazel was an astrologer; Eloise is a crochet artist, selling her clothes at Serendipity; and Patricia is a free-lance artist and photographer. Nonetheless we fell in love with dealers, although we didn’t do it purposefully.

Presumably we fell in love with the man, but falling in love these days is committing yourself to a life-style. So either overlooking the hazards or blithely succumbing to sex, dope, and revolution, we chose men who just happened to be dealers only to discover that dealers are the subtlest of chauvinists. Or, as Hazel my astrologer put it, “I know he loved me. I know he respected me, but I was only as free as I was allowed to be.” The word is “allowed” because dealing is a male-dominated trip. It’s a gentle chauvinistic world tucked somewhere between capitalism and sheer adventure. And who, mythically speaking, have been our capitalists and our adventurers? Men, of course.

Dealers’ women, then, are as conditioned as everyone else. Rather than attach ourselves to a corporate genius, and failing to find a rich artist, we marry dealers. No Westchester Man for us. We reject capitalism in the straight sense only to be capitalists all over again. We call it survival against the system, kidding ourselves, of course, since dealing is nothing but a money-making trip. Or, in radical rhetoric, a piggy trip, and so we oink too.

The rationale of radical righteousness re drugs goes like this. Coke dealers risk heavy penalties since cocaine and junk are, in some states, considered hard drugs; therefore, they’re considered “heavies.” However, dealing grass, hashish, and the psychedelics is okay since these drugs change consciousness, so to speak. Dealers cite Leary, Alpert, Huxley, and Don Juan the Yaqui Indian as high priests. Therefore, dealing is not only revolutionary, it’s spiritual. Further, argues one musician/dealer now incarcerated, it’s from the earth, therefore organic and deserving to be recycled. But the alleged revolutionary quality of dealing is that it’s outside the system. Though we call it revolutionary, others call it criminal, and once grass is legalized wherein lies the revolution?

The leisurely quality of dealing your way to riches is seductive. The money’s made not from 9 to 5, but from noon to dawn, the civilized hours. And there’s a freedom in not taking orders and not hearing the shriek of an alarm clock. Seeking romance, we want sensuality; surely dealing has that sensual aura as part of its mystique.

Further, dealers and their women like adventure. In a Nixon era, things look pretty bleak. So dealers create their own adventures by whizzing off to far-off places usually to score some dope, but sometimes to vacation. They’ll go to Mexico for a super scam or South America to sell 1000 tabs of acid. Clearlight goes for $1 a tab here, and $5 a tab in Rio de Janiero. A thousand tabs, bought at $750 here, plus air fare which is another $750, is a $1500 investment. But the gross profit is $5000, rendering the initial investment a mere pittance. Conversely, a gram of 85 per cent pure cocaine can be bought directly from the Bolivian Indian for as low as $3 and sold in New York City at $70. Even a toddler can see dealing makes money.

Even if the woman doesn’t go along for the ride, she’s vicariously an essential part of the adventure. She answers the phone, the recipient of loving, paranoid messages.

“I love you.”
“Where are you?”
“What’s happening?”
“It’s heavy.”
“What’ll I tell your friends?”
“It’s happening.”

…All dealers’ women have at one time or another threatened divorce or separation in order to get them to stop dealing. Just one more scam, the dealers plead. Some Colombian is coming in cheap. There’s a field of grass in Michoacan just waiting to be plucked. Someone’s fronting me three kilos of coke. Always one more fortune to be made. And they look at us lovingly and agree with us. Right, you’re absoLUTEly right. It’s a nowhere scene. I’m tired, you’re tired, we’re getting paranoid. (Once I saw my husband levitate two inches off the waterbed in a pique of paranoia.) But just one more time. No, of course I don’t want to be a dealer forever. Yes I do want to play music, or write, or travel, and yes, I want to have time to play with the kids.

The communal notion of having a man partake as a full-time parent is one of the enticements of being with a dealer. He’s home! This almost compensates for the lack of privacy, because in true romantic fashion, we choose the romance of a new idea over the more staid notion of territory and privacy. We’re not plain old housewives and mothers. We’re counter-culture people. Our children shall know their fathers. And their fathers’ customers.

One crisp fall afternoon, we went to visit a friendly dealer who lives on West 10th Street. He was cleaning house — without bitching. His wife and sister-in-law had gone swimming at the Carmine Street pool. This same dealer was also a beautiful father. Until he was busted for the fourth time, tried, convicted, and sentenced.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 29, 2011

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