A Pill “Bigger Than Life”

by Steed Dropout
Sept. 22, 2013
Berkeley, Ca


“Bigger Than Life,” ’56, Dir. by Nicholas Ray was as shocking as any of his films and an unheeded warning about prescription drugs.

Two hours ago, I just popped three of the same pills which caused school-teacher James Mason’s life to “spin out of control” in Ray’s cautionary tale.

Coming back from Sunday church service, he roars, “God was wrong” and is not stricken dead.

I’m waiting for my life to go blooey so I can tell you about it.

I also popped some antibiotics for the same reason as the cortisone—a potentially dangerous ear-infection.

my doctor said I would be “horny” whatever that is, and warned me to avoid using the drug at bedtime because my heart will race.

So far, I only notice acute hearing and rising irritability. I am having an internal conversation with George Pauly, founder of Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue Repertory Cinema, 1967-1984. Pauley had looked forward to Bigger than Life when it screened at the Pacific Film Archive seven years ago. We saw it together.

Pauley is dead. If you don’t believe me, read my obit.

Let’s say I mis-reported his death. I’ve done that before—1959 in an obit in the Illinois State (Springfield) Journal, where I saw the dead man depositing a nickel in the parking meter after my obit ran. Just one middle initial off.

I recently ran into one of Pauly’s first assistants at the theater. We agreed we both missed him, but she added a twist. “You can talk to him, whenever you want,” she said. She’s always been 60’s-screwy.

Pauly was a great listener. I’ve loaded my monologue to him with laugh-lines, like won’t I improve my bench press on cortisone? I fail to lift the table, though. Pauley laughs. And Mason was right, God was wrong. He needed pills for that?

I couldn’t stifle my cackle at PFA, when Mason quarrels with God, although under the influence.

Now it’s God’s turn to have his way with me, although I’m under the influence.


Horny hasn’t happened and my pulse is normal. The Mason character kept increasing his dosage because he wanted to get bigger than life. They didn’t give me enough pills for that.

I feel marijuana-stoned but without the dope.

I’ve twice asked the guy next to me to stop clicking his pen.

I’m contemplating adding marijuana to the mix, but something restrains me. Another memory. This one, 1967, where I scoff at the effects of weed by baking a cake with an entire weed-ounce (a lid) and eating the whole thing.

“Who would do something like that?” I asked famous pot-doc Tod H. Mikuriya (d. ’07).
“Doctors,” he intoned in his booming bass voice. “Doctors have no respect for drugs,” he added.

He was stoned at the time.

Let’s say I’m playing doctor, with far less than a lid.

I’ll get back to you on that.

These views do not reflect those of publications in which my work appears.

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