Dope Girls: The Birth of the British Drug Underground

Dope Girls: The Birth of the British Drug Underground

Marek Kohn

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 1862076189

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


As entertaining as it is enlightening, Dope Girls vividly records the scandals and moral panics in Britain that followed the end of the First World War, as drug use—especially of morphine and cocaine—was transformed into a national menace. The cast of characters includes Billie Carleton, a West End musical actress, whose highly publicized death from an overdose in 1918 fueled public anxiety; Brilliant Chang, a Chinese restaurant proprietor; and Edgar Manning, a jazz drummer from Jamaica—identified as the villains of the affair and invested with a highly charged sexual menace. Around them swirled a raffish group of seedy and rebellious hedonists. Britain was horrified and enthralled—the drug problem was born, amid a gush of exotic tabloid detail. A cult classic in Britain, Dope Girls remains both timely and instructive.

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Pemberton Billing stands as a particularly tart snub by a jury to a judge, since Lord Darling was one of those named by the defendant as being listed in the Book.(9) The fears of an invisible menace were further compounded by the increased presence and visibility of foreigners during the war. There were refugees from Belgium, hundreds of thousands of colonial (and later American) servicemen, and, by the end of the hostilities, about 20,000 black people. Some of these were soldiers;

older man, and was now a dress designer. In his studio photographs, whether in costume or a suit, he appeared 'nicely poised', as Belcher's counsel nastily put it. At the trial, Sir Richard Muir alluded to De Veulle's friendship with 'a person of extremely debased character ... associated with persons of perverted sexual practices' (possibly a reference to Don Kimfull).7 Jury and public were left in no doubt as to what sort of man Reggie De Veulle was. Ironically, that might have helped save him

night, headed 'Cocaine Girls In The West End', later the same day that the Express story appeared. As in the Express, the word was that clubland was terrified by the heat brought down on it by the Kempton tragedy. The reporter could not persuade a single hotel porter to sell him a bottle under the counter after hours, though he got into a club near Cambridge Circus which served watered-down whisky at two shillings a glass. At half-past three, he went on to another club off Shaftesbury Avenue,

and trying to plot a way out, it is not overly concerned with the roots of that crisis, put down seventy-five or a hundred years ago. One of the originating premises of this book was the idea that, to help understand our current position, it would be worthwhile to take a look at where the journey began and the course it subsequently followed. Dope Girls is about how drugs acquired their modern meaning in one particular place and time: Britain - which is to say London, since the phase was

replied.(49) With the spectre of the Victorian frockcoat haunting the Home Office, this was the stage at which the two sides evolved into their full archetypes. Having worn their hair bobbed for a number of years, young women now adopted the boyish look as a whole. 'The short skirts, bobbed hair, and flat chests that were in fashion were in fact symbols of immaturity,' Quentin Crisp pointed out; '... They knew that they looked nothing like boys. They also realised that it was meant to be a

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