A Night Out with “The Narcotic Farm”
On Saturday November 8 at 7 PM, The Sanctuary for Independent Media hosts a multi-media presentation of "The Narcotic Farm"--featuring the creators of a new book and documentary film about the U.S. Narcotic Farm in Lexington, KY.
The U.S. Narcotic Farm just outside Lexington, KY, was a legendary meeting place for America’s drug addicts. This performance interweaves verbal, visual, and musical memories of a place that was a crossroads for drug addicts from 1935-1975.
Authors Nancy Campbell and JP Olsen will read and screen portions of their works on this historic place, mixed with live jazz performed by Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius (piano), Linda Brown (bass), and Jonathan Greene (woodwinds).
The list of Lexington Narcotic Farm musician alums reads like a who's who of jazz: Chet Baker, Tadd Dameron, Joe Guy (Billie Holliday’s husband—she wasn't at the farm but rather at Alderson, the women’s prison in WV), Elvin Jones, Stan Levey, Jackie McLean, Red Rodney (Charlie Parker’s sideman), Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins. And there's an interesting connection to MC5 (Wayne Kramer is the narrator of the film and part of the seminal pre-punk band,); he spent time at Lexington in the 1970s).
You might find this month's Jazz Times interesting; it has a photo feature on The Narcotic Farm. They also excerpted the chapter, "The Greatest Band You Never Heard."
There was a story about the project on NPR called "Americas First Drug-Treatment Prison Revisited" this weekend.
Narcotic Farm website.
Our press release:
TROY--The author and the filmmaker of a new book and a video documentary airing on PBS called "The Narcotic Farm: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug Addicts" are presenting a multi-media performance/premiere with live jazz music at The Sanctuary for Independent Media on Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 7 PM. Admission is by donation ($10 suggested, $5 student/low income). The Sanctuary for Independent Media is located at 3361 6th Avenue in north Troy (at 101st Street). Call (518) 272-2390, email info@MediaSanctuary.org, or visit www.MediaSanctuary.org for directions and more information.
The U.S. Narcotic Farm just outside Lexington, KY, was a legendary meeting place for America’s drug addicts. This performance interweaves verbal, visual, and musical memories of a place that was a crossroads for drug addicts from 1935-1975. Author Nancy Campbell and filmmaker JP Olsen will read and screen portions of their works on this historic place, mixed with jazz from musicians incarcerated at Narcotic Farm--performed by a live band!
A federal prison in Kentucky was a temporary home for thousands, including Sonny Rollins, Peter Lorre and William S. Burroughs as well as a lab for addiction treatments such as LSD.
From 1935 to 1975, just about everyone busted for drugs in the U.S. was sent to the United States Narcotic Farm outside Lexington, Ky. Equal parts federal prison, treatment center, research laboratory and farm, this controversial institution was designed not only to rehabilitate addicts, but to discover a cure for drug addiction.
Now a new documentary, "The Narcotic Farm," reveals the lost world of this institution, based on rare film footage, numerous documents, dozens of interviews of former staff, inmates and volunteer patients, and more than 2,000 photographs unearthed from archives across the country. The film will appear on public television stations across the country throughout November. A book accompanying the documentary includes rare and previously unpublished pictures of "Narco," as the institution was called locally.
According to the book, the institution became a premier center for research into drug addiction and treatment, advancing everything from the use of methadone to treat heroin withdrawal to drugs that blocked the action of opiates. Along the way, Narco was frequented by legendary jazz musicians such as Chet Baker and Sonny Rollins, as well as actor Peter Lorre and beat generation writer William S. Burroughs, who recounted his experience in his first novel, "Junkie."
The documentary also chronicles how the Farm was shut down when Congress discovered that researchers there were using patients as human guinea pigs in CIA-funded experiments into LSD. Drug research on federal prisoners is now illegal.
Still, the filmmakers note accomplishments at the institution remain milestones in addiction science and treatment. Its most important contribution might be how it transformed the way society views addicts—"as people suffering from a chronic, relapsing disorder that affects public health," says book co-author Nancy Campbell.
Nancy D. Campbell is an associate professor in the Department of Science and technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who studies the history of drug addiction research. She lives in Troy NY.
JP Olsen is a filmmaker whose work has appeared on The Discovery Channel and many other stations. He lives in New York City.
The Sanctuary for Independent Media is a community media arts and production center located in an historic former church in Troy, NY. The venue is an intimate and acoustically excellent space which seats about 150. The Sanctuary hosts screening, production and performance facilities, training in media production and a meeting space for artists, activists and independent media makers of all kinds.
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Hi res photos of the U.S. Narcotic Farm:
Scientific American slideshow of Narcotic Farm:
[This press release is based on a Scientific American article by Charles Q. Choi.]