"I get no kick from cocaine," Cole Porter wrote in a song for the 1934 musical "Anything Goes." "I'm sure that if / I took even one sniff / it would bore me terrifically, too. / But I get a kick out of you."
For use on the radio, however, the first line became: "Some like that perfume from Spain." Or, in another version, "Some like that bop-type refrain," with the line about sniffing changed to "I'm sure that if / I heard even one riff . . ."
"It sounds a little bit silly, doesn't it?" said music historian Carl Scheele of the Smithsonian Institution. "It was one of Cole's best songs."
But by the mid-'30s, cocaine had lost its turn-of-the-century luster. "You just didn't say cocaine on the air," said historian Dwight Bowers. "Americans can't deal with the fact that we have decadence and we can have art, too."
Cocaine is extracted from the dried leaf of the South American coca plant. For centuries, Peruvian Indians have chewed the leaves for a mild lift, enabling them to work at high altitudes without minding the cold or becoming hungry.
"Drinking a cup of coffee would do the same thing," said Dr. Mark Gold, founder of a national cocaine hotline, "but the harmful thing is the use of it as part of a slavery ritual. They're given coca leaves and work at high altitudes for relatively no money."
In 1888, in a paper called "Cocaine at Home and Abroad," the British physician H.H. Rusby offered this account of the use of coca leaves based on his visits to South America:
"It is observed that when through poverty or other cause a foreigner is obliged to work beside the Indian laborer, he usually finds himself unable to do so with comfort until he resorts to the use of coca.
"Afterwards, he usually abandons its use, although one of my men, an American, contracted a habit, and, American-like, indulged it to excess."
Around that time, patent medicines containing coca were being sold in the United States to treat everything from toothaches to hemorrhoids. It supposedly cured colds and helped people sober up after drinking alcohol.
There were also wines containing coca, most notably one called Vin Mariani, which, according to The Journal of Southern History, "in due course would win testimonials from three popes, Sarah Bernhardt, Thomas Alva Edison and William McKinley."
And, of course, tiny amounts of cocaine were in the original formula for Coca-Cola.
In 1906, the federal government required products containing coca or refined cocaine to include it on the label, a signal of official disapproval that prompted many manufacturers to drop coca as an ingredient. Such products were taxed as drugs. In a celebrated trial in 1911, Coca-Cola sued the government for back taxes, claiming every trace of cocaine had been removed, and won. People were already turning against cocaine, the historical journal reported, as a "threat to social order," and the makers of Coca-Cola decided to emphasize its qualities as a beverage.
Then in 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act made cocaine illegal, and U.S. use went underground, although it never disappeared.
It burst back into the public eye in the 1970s, as sports figures and actors began to use it and sometimes got into trouble.
In a scene in his 1977 film "Annie Hall," Woody Allen sneezed into a stash of the drug, blowing it about the room.
Actor Richard Pryor was almost killed in a fireball of freebase cocaine in 1980. After two years of spotty performance, Washington asketball player John Lucas said in January, 1982 that he had a cocain problem. A few months later, comedian John Belushi died of an overdose of cocaine and other drugs.
Writer Truman Capote, in a series of interviews with Lawrence Grobel during the two years before his death in 1984, said he wrote much of his last unpublished book, Answered Prayers," while using the drug.
he writing part was good," he said, "but suddenly, instead of making me calm, which I need to be...it made me extremely nervous and it was not good for me.I stopped because of my work--it interfered with my work by mading me physically nervous, which is the one thing that I cannt abide.