To the general public, Malcolm X is an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. But to Quincy Jones, he was 'Detroit Red' the weed dealer of the Midwest. At least that's how Jones first met the activist back in the early 50s, when he played trumpet for Lionel Hampton's jazz band, which used to arrange seats on the tour bus based on everyone's favorite vices.
"The band bus with Lionel Hampton got 33 people on it," Jones told Chris Heath of GQ recently. "The front half of the right side, we call them the holy rollers. The weed smokers behind them, that's us. The boozers here and the junkies there. Every time we'd go to Detroit, at the Majestic hotel, standing in front, with his Italian shit on and amber glasses: Malcolm X. Detroit Red. That's where we bought our dope. It was before he went to prison....He was the dope dealer. That's how he went to prison."
And that's not the only smoke sesh that Jones dished on during the GQ interview. Here are 10 other insane things we learned about Quincy Jones from the long and revealing chat.
1. Smoking Up with Marlon Brando
Some of that Malcolm X weed might have made it's way into the hands of Marlon Brando, who smoked up with Jones after a show one night.
"He had a red fedora on, had just smoked a joint," Jones said while recalling the first time he'd met Brando. "He'd just done A Streetcar Named Desire, and he was going up to Harlem that night."
So Jones and the others went along to watch what happened when the promising white actor strolled into a bar in one of the blackest of black neighborhoods in New York.
"He was the only white dude in the whole place. So he went in the joint, all black, and he saw a booth over there with a guy with a hat on and five girls. He didn't realize the guy was a pimp. And he went over, put his charm on 'em, and said, 'I'd like to dance,' took her out on the floor for about 30 minutes."
Brando had a blast, but the pimp wasn't impressed with him wasting his employee's time.
"Marlon looked back over and the guy was staring at him, right? He'd smoked a joint so he got paranoid, you know, so he went back over to the guy and said, 'Look, I was a gentleman, man, I came and asked you first, man, right?' And the guy was not looking at his face. He had a toothpick and was looking at his belt buckle. Said: 'The name ain't man, it's Leroy. L-E-R-O-motherfucking-Y.' At that, Marlon turned around and freaked out. He got paranoid—got outside and ran 15 blocks, nobody after him. So we called each other Leroy till the day he died."
2. Pot Parties with Charlie Parker
Brando isn't the only celeb that Jones smoked up with. He also used to hang out at Charlie Parker's nude pot parties.
"I used to go to things with Charlie Parker," Jones revealed. "Man—boy, he'd have everybody smoke some weed and he'd have, like, the founders of Sears Roebuck, the ladies walking around the pool, all of them nude, man. Him playing alto, buck dancing around the pool."
3. 60 Step Sobriety Program
Jones tried many other drugs in his day, including a brief period where Ray Charles got him hooked on heroin at the age of 15.
"Ray had me on heroin for five months," Jones said, but he quit immediately after completing a step program. Not the 12 Steps from Alcoholics Anonymous but the five flights of steps that he fell down once in a heroin-induced haze.
"I fell down five flights of stairs, and I said, 'That ain't gonna work,'" Jones told Heath, adding that the fall was all he needed to sober up. "I fell down five flights of stairs, brother. I didn't need any more inspiration than that. Shit, it's the last time I did it. Because I can stop like a motherfucker. Anything. Cigarettes. Alcohol. I just stop, man."
4. Ray Charles' Testicle Injections
If only Ray Charles had that same willpower. According to Jones, the R&B legend's heroin habit got so bad, he used to inject smack into his testicles.
"I've seen him shooting in his testicles, man. Because heroin's a strange drug. Ray, all of his veins were dried up and black, and he's shooting himself in the testicles, man....He had a guy do it. It was horrible."
That is, without a doubt, the best anti-drug PSA ever.
5. Sinatra Couldn't Fight
Aside from toking with Brando, and shooting up with Ray Charles, Jones also cut loose by drinking with Frank Sinatra. The two usually had a blast unless Sinatra tried to start a scrap, which was embarrassing for his friend because Ol' Blue Eyes needed a ringer to help him win a fight.
"I'd see him try to fight—he couldn't fight worth a shit. He'd get drunk, and Jilly, his right-hand guy, stone gangster, would get behind him and break the guy's ribs. Man. What memories. We had a good time, though. We'd do one-nighters, I'd fly with him on his Learjet, he said, 'Let's get on the plane before Basie's drummer's cymbal stops ringing.…' Six Playboy bunnies on that [plane]."
6. Hitler's Coke Problem
No, Jones never hung out with the notorious dictator, but he did chat about the dead despot once with Leni Riefenstahl — director of the Nazi propaganda film 'Triumph of the Will.' Jones — who says he's a huge fan of Riefenstahl's work — met up with her in Berlin to chat about Hitler and the movie.
"She said she used 211 cameras. I said, 'Why?' She said, 'We were doing a recruitment film for Hitler—think I'm going to tell Hitler, "One more time, Adolf!"?' And then she told me something that really hit home. She told me everybody in the Third Reich was on cocaine. See, I worked for pimps when I was 11, and they used to do that, too—they'd take cocaine because it raised the propensity for violence, from the primate brain. That's the primate in us, the four F's: Fright, Fight, Flight, and Fuck. I never understood why sex and violence were so commercial—it's the primate brain, the animal brain. Heavy."
7. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial Minstrel Show
Strangely, the issue of racism didn't really come up when Jones chatted with the Nazi propagandist Riefenstahl. But it was a topic of conversation when Steven Spielberg showed Jones the original prototype for E.T.
"They made that little monster, and he looked too much like a brother. That's why the second one had blue eyes," Jones explained.
8. Bubbles Once Bit Rashida Jones
One of Jones' all-time favorite collaborators was Michael Jackson. But he hated working around Jackson's pet chimp Bubbles, which once bit Jones' daughter — and future 'Parks and Rec' star — Rashida.
"The chimpanzee, whatever the fuck it was, he was a pain in the ass. He bit Rashida. My poor baby," Jones recalled.
Dave Chappelle needs to turn this into a sketch, stat.
9. Master Chef
On top of cooking up platinum records, Jones also prides himself on his culinary skills.
"Shit, I've got some great dishes, man," Jones said. "I cook gumbo that'll make you slap your grandmother."
But he didn't always eat well. Growing up, his family was sometimes so poor that his stepmother used to send him out to catch rats for dinner.
"We used to eat rats, man — I'm telling you....[But] when you're 7 years old, you don't give a fuck, you know. She'd send us down to the waterfront and tell us, 'Just get the ones with their tails moving, because you know they're alive.'"
10. He Hates Taylor Swift Tunes
When it comes to today's music, Jones is impressed with a lot of the talent out there.
"I love Kendrick Lamar, I love Bruno Mars, I love Drake, I love Ludacris, I love Common. Mary J. Blige. Jennifer Hudson."
But he isn't a fan of Taylor Swift's music, which sounds lazy and uninspired to his Grammy-winning ears.
"We need more songs, man. Fucking songs, not hooks....Since I was a little kid, I've always heard the people that don't wanna do the work. It takes work, man. The only place you find success before work is the dictionary, and that's alphabetical."