I don’t have a college degree or a Ph.D., but I’m savvy enough to know that a lot of what passes for “political correctness”—as they call it in the academic world and elsewhere—is bull shit. All the above is by way of saying that I don’t think that my notorious calendars, which featured marijuana plants and young, gorgeous, intelligent women, known as “The Grape Ape Girls,” wasn't anywhere near politically incorrect. But the calendars weren’t “Little House on the Prairie,” either. I produced them for three years: 2013, 2014 and 2015 with a total of ten women: Liberty, Stephanie, Alma, D’Arcy, Deedee, Martha, Linda, Taylor, Tiffany, Shoko and my wife, Ako, who is shy and didn’t want to be photographed and included with the others. She agreed under great protest.
I selected all the women, individually, except for Deedee who brought in Linda. I took one look at her, opened my wallet and said, “Okay. Linda’s in.” You can’t break up a friendship. The eight women made up a kind of cross section of females in the Emerald Triangle. Liberty was the daughter of a vet. She was sexually assaulted at 16 and rescued by her grandfather. She went into the U.S. Air Force, retired and now lives with her kids and husband in Texas. Tiffany worked in a Ukiah coffee shop and had fantastic tattoos all over her body. She was like a leprechaun. D’Arcy posed biting the bud of a 12-foot high plant. Deedee, who is six-feet tall, posed next to the same pot plant which towered above her. I first saw Taylor in Ukiah, walking across the Natural Foods Co-op parking lot. I noticed she had a great belly button tattoo and insisted that she join the team. Shoko, who was Japanese, the same as my wife, worked at a local restaurant. Alma, a Latina, had a job at Big Daddy Garden Supply in Ukiah. Martha would not take any money.
I did the calendars because I wanted to promote myself and my brand, Grape Ape, the best cannabis strain ever, in my opinion, and to raise awareness about the fact that vets weren’t supposed to smoke weed. They could die for our county, but they were not permitted, by government rules and regulations, to puff on a joint, either medically or recreationally. That sucked. The calendars were also meant to be a spoof. It was good, clean fun. The women all kept their clothes on. There was nothing lewd, obscene or pornographic about the images, not even by the standards of the U.S. Supreme Court, though with the Trump appointees that might change. My sales pitch to each and every woman: “Hey, you’re beautiful! Wanna make a couple hundred bucks?” They all asked, “Doin’ what?” I said, “Hug a big pot plant, smile for the camera and keep your clothes on.” They had to show ID so I knew they were 18 or older. Every year, we gathered right before harvest, so the plants were big and sticky and spicy.
I don’t especially like the Emerald Triangle’s pot princesses—the young, gorgeous women who hook up with rich, older growers—but if the people involved are consenting adults and practise safe sex then it’s okay with me. I just don’t like sneaking around. People should be honest with one another. If a couple has an agreement that they can have a so-called “open relationship,” more power to them. No sexually transmitted diseases please. Also, I like that old folk saying: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Back to the calendars. Hippie Ron Greystar from Willits took the photos and did the brilliant design. His wife, Angela, was part of the team. I got to know Ron and Angela and their kids, River, Sky and Reed, pretty well, especially when my wife and I and our kids stayed with them after I was raided one year, exiled from our house and wanted to lie low. Ron took the photos in Lucerne in Lake County and in Forestville in Sonoma County. The women got to pick what they wanted to wear when they posed. Most chose jeans and work boots. They were encouraged to bring a boyfriend, girlfriend or a chaperone. They all wore my purple “Grape Ape” T-shirts.
The calendars were printed in Texas. I paid Ron $1,000. The women received $250 each, plus a quarter-pound of buds and money for gas. To print one hundred calendars set me back $900 dollars. When friends saw them, they asked, “Where’s mine?” I gave most of them away. I hardly have any left. Someone said, “You should have made a calendar with older women wearing more clothes.” A San Francisco gay friend asked, “What about a guy calendar.” I said, “I haven’t progressed that far, not yet.” Somebody else said, “Oh, Oaky Joe is corrupting and objectifying women.” I don’t think so. I know objectifying when I see it.
I don’t mind Playboy centerfolds. I have never read the articles. I just look at the pictures. I don’t object to gigolos, either. They perform a useful service and as for women in the sex industry, otherwise known as whores, prostitues and hookers, let's not demonize them, especially if and when they practice safe sex, use condoms and take care of their bodies. Sex workers are some of the most honest and real people I have ever met. What is it they say about whores? The world’s oldest profession! The world’s second oldest profession? Marijuana growers! Good clean pot and beautiful, sexy women go hand in hand, naturally.
(Joe Munson and Jonah Raskin are the authors of “Oaky Joe Munson’s Marijuana Adventures and Misadventures.”)