Netflix’s Narcos, which chronicles the bloody war between the DEA and Colombian dug kingpin Pablo Escobar, has revived the internet’s interest in the golden age of cocaine. The 1970s and 1980s were the salad days for the so-called “white lady,” a drug which took the place of mind-altering substances like marijuana and LSD in popular culture during those more cynical decades. Most inconveniently, however, “happy powder” became illegal in America in 1914, so it was not possible to directly advertise the stuff in the backs of even the hippest of magazines. What could be advertised, however, was cocaine-related paraphernalia: spoons, straws, razor blades, scales, mirrors, and even contraptions called “nose douchers” which promised a “civilized alternative to wet fingers.” Surprisingly, this type of advertising is still technically legal in most of the United States. Nothing wrong with selling spoons and mirrors, right? The World’s Best Ever has compiled a gallery of such ads, which originally ran circa 1976 to 1981. The findings are staggering. The hucksters thought of everything, from 14-karat-gold coke spoons to special nasal sprays intended to heal coke-sore nostrils. And, just as in “regular” advertising, sex sells, as in this ad that seems like it was masterminded by Tony Montana himself:
And everybody likes cute cartoon drugs with comically oversized Mickey Mouse feet, right?
The image gallery is a stark reminder that there is nothing which cannot be made more appealing through the magic of advertising, even a substance which is already so appealing that it’s physically addictive. The language of these coke-related ads is strikingly similar to any other banal magazine ad from the era. “Whether you do a gram a month or an ounce or more,” says one retailer, “if you don’t know about us by now, you should.”