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When Iggy Pop Went Into Rehab, David Bowie And Dennis Hopper Brought Him Drugs

Music | February 23, 2021

Musicians Iggy Pop and David Bowie pose backstage after Pop's concert at the Ritz, New York, New York, 1986. (Photo by Larry Busacca/WireImage)

What kind of friend brings you cocaine when you're in rehab? For Iggy Pop, it was David Bowie. In an episode that defies belief, Bowie strolled into the facility where Iggy was desperately trying to get well and supplied his mate with just what he didn't need. 

So Bowie wasn't exactly being helpful -- he was also aided by one of the most notorious druggies in entertainment, actor/director Dennis Hopper. At least, that's how one version of the story goes; in another, Bowie's accomplice is actor Dean Stockwell. It's that kind of story, a pretty simple narrative with some faulty memories, but it was the early '70s and these were some of the hardest partiers in rock 'n roll. If you remember it, as they say, you weren't really there.

Rock ‘n’ roll is a genre full of madness itself, with plenty of wild tales to be told, but this one takes the cake.

Iggy Pop Set The Precedent For Punk Rock

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Born James Newell Osterberg Jr., Iggy Pop was known to be one of the craziest drug addicts in the rock ‘n’ roll and punk scenes. His abuse was so severe that people did not understand how he was still living. Iggy was the frontman of one of the first and most iconic hard rock -- some call it proto-punk -- bands in history The Stooges, who set the stage for not only how punk music would sound, but also for what punk culture would be. His wild and fairly legendary stage antics, which included surfing the crowd, physical contortions and exposing himself, were enough to make sure you didn't let your parents attend a Stooges’ concert with you.

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Having released their third (and, as fate would have it, final) album Raw Power in 1973, the band performed at a concert at The Michigan Palace in Detroit in 1974 to a very hostile crowd of bikers. Iggy took the hostility personally and reacted by insulting the crowd furiously on the microphone and even added the lyrics “You can suck my a**” to the tune "Louie Louie."  Someone in the crowd was heckling him so intensely that the singer leaped off the stage and tackled him before beating him until he needed medical attention. It was soon after this wretched show that The Stooges officially broke up, which sent Iggy’s drug addiction into a much greater downward spiral that led to a deep depression. He lost complete musical motivation and wound up homeless for some time sleeping on the streets and was arrested multiple times for drug-related misdemeanors. 

David Bowie And Iggy Pop Had A Lifelong Friendship

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Iggy Pop had met starman David Bowie in 1971 and they remained close friends until Bowie’s death in 2016. Iggy has credited Bowie for completely saving his life and picking him up after all hope seemed lost. It was Bowie who encouraged Iggy to reunite The Stooges after an earlier breakup, and after the official collapse of Iggy’s band, Bowie invited him on his tour to lift his spirits. Bowie even went on to produce Iggy’s first two solo albums The Idiot and Lust For Life in 1977, which both became massive successes. “He resurrected me,” Iggy Pop stated for The New York Times. “The friendship was basically that this guy salvaged me from certain professional and maybe personal annihilation -- simple as that.” Bowie even had the rare opportunity to meet Iggy’s parents who thanked him for helping Iggy get through these trials. From then on, Bowie inspired Iggy’s creative input and stood by his side as he got his career up and running again. However, around this time Bowie too was heavily relying on drugs to assist his imagination.

Iggy Pop Decided He Wanted To Get Sober When He Checked Himself Into Rehab

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By 1974, Iggy Pop did not even trust himself anymore with his drug addiction and had his own realization that this abuse was ruining his career and sending him into a dangerous place. After yet another arrest, the court gave him the choice to land either in prison or rehab. Iggy chose the latter and checked himself into the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. Dr. Murry Zuker found Iggy to be a fascinating case, as he stated that the singer's brain bounced around so much that at times it couldn’t tell which way was up or down, and so Iggy was diagnosed with hypomania.

Bowie And Dennis Hopper (Or Dean Stockwell) Snuck Drugs Into The Facility 

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Because of Iggy’s issues he lost a lot of friends, but Bowie was always there for him, although not always in the healthiest ways. According to Bowie, in 1975 he and Easy Rider star Dennis Hopper (although Iggy has recalled it was actor Dean Stockwell) made a surprise visit for their buddy at the hospital. Ziggy Stardust and whichever actor it was showed up wearing spacesuits and were already out-of-their-minds high as they demanded “We want to see Jimmy!” Because of their stardom, they were excused from the usual pat-down, which sure saved them from a ton of trouble as they were holding a load of cocaine. When they entered Iggy’s room they busted out their drugs and Iggy joined in on the blow. Bowie recalled, “This was very much a leave-your-drugs-at-the-door hospital. We were out of our minds, all of us. He wasn’t well; that’s all we knew. We thought we should bring him some drugs because he probably hadn’t had any for days!” Bowie’s cocaine addiction at the time did not help the situation too much. 

Bowie And Iggy Both Became Sober

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Although the visit at the psych ward was not exactly the most supportive moment of their friendship, Bowie did greatly impact Iggy’s life in a positive way and saved him from completely destroying his life, which Iggy was on the road to doing. Something must have worked because Iggy never had to return to rehab or a psych ward after the time he spent at UCLA. Bowie eventually defeated his dependences and also assisted numerous other addicts in becoming sober including Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor and Guns ‘N’ Roses guitarist Slash. For the past few decades Iggy Pop has been 100% sober and still continues to pound out albums and tour rigorously. He released his eighteenth and latest album Free in 2019, and will probably continue to give the world great music for the rest of his life.  

Tags: Cocaine | David Bowie | Dean Stockwell | Dennis Hopper | Drugs | Iggy Pop | Rare Facts And Stories About History | Rehab

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Emily Morenz

Author

Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.