Cocaine in the 80’s

So far cocaine has been featured in nearly every movie we’ve watched with the exception of the teen movies, and to be hones when I think of 80’s movies its hard to block out the image of Scarface sitting with face down in a gigantic white pile of powder. So I guess the question is: how rampant was cocaine use in the 80’s?


According to this rehab website, cocaine was the “most popular recreational drug in the 80’s”. The article even claims that cocaine usage was more rampant than alcohol use. That is a pretty hard core claim. The movies of the 1980s certainly seem to portray cocaine as a drug of the beautiful and the rich. What may be more relevant is the massive amount of modern movies that portray the late 70’s and early 80’s as a mecca of cocaine amidst a disco glamor backdrop. Movies like 54 which portrayed the famous nightclub in its heyday and Blow, a hard luck story about a cocaine smuggler portray a decade where drugs were everywhere: at every party, in every nightclub, and in a vial in the pocket of every Hollywood starlet.

One of the best examples of cocaine use amongst Hollywood youth is that of Drew Barrymore darling of the movie E.T who went to rehab at the ripe old age of 14 for cocaine usage and was often reported to be spotted in the popular nightclubs of the 80’s like Studio 54 snorting cocaine and smoking cigarettes.

coca drewdrew coca

We see cocaine use in 80’s movies like Wall Street where it is just part of the new world of making money. There are articles like this one where Dennis Quaid claims that cocaine was an expense built into movie budgets.

It seems coke was to the 19080s what pot was to the hippies of sixties and seventies, and nowhere is that better portrayed than in the films and social scene of Hollywood.

Polo Ralph Lauren


As Madonna said, eighties culture was most certainly a “material world” and status was all about having money. Owning fast cars and lavish homes was a necessity, and dressing sharply was equally important. Clothing by Ralph Lauren was another status symbol that had immediate visual association with money and classic style. During the 1980s, Polo opened its flagship store in New York City, became famous for their “power suits” for men and women, and launched the first full housewares collection from a clothing designer, Ralph Lauren Home.

My favorite 1980s collection from Polo Ralph Lauren is the Safari collection for women, launched in 1984. I’d like to tell you it’s because the crisp and clean white clothing is so gorgeously contrasted with the dusty African desert, but the real reason is because they use a baby lion cub and other wild animals in most of the shots. The ad, quoted “could have come straight out of an English royal’s photo album”. The first photo is a perfect example of the power suit women wore to feel powerful in the workplace.

This gorgeous building is called The Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo House. Built on the fashionable Madison Avenue on the corner of East 72nd Street, the house was designed by Kimball & Thompson and finished in 1898, however was never lived in. The house was commissioned by “the eccentric heiress” Gertrude Waldo, but she preferred to live in another building just across the street. The mason was eventually divided into retail spaces, and “it slowly fell into disrepair for almost a century”.

Ralph Lauren purchased the building lease in 1983 and started a massive overhaul of the building to create his Polo Ralph Lauren NYC flagship store.

“When Ralph Lauren took over the reconstruction of the Rhinelander as a flagship store, less than five percent of the building’s original interior remained. The entire building was designed to re-create the classic opulence of the original mansion. This involved extensive research into what few original plans and physical evidence could be found, and creatively piecing them together.”

The costs of the renovations are estimated at around $14–15 million.

Walking into the mansion is like walking straight into a RL ad. Well, maybe not one from the Safari Collection.

Check out Vogue’s Full history on Polo and RL.


Wealth and Social Status

Many of the films of the 80’s (and most from today for that matter) put a great emphasis on wealth. Wealth being the thing that controls whether one is going to be popular or well-liked. A few examples being Ferris Bueller, we can tell from his house and even Ferris’s dad’s office that the Bueller family has money. Ferris is also a very popular kid. Cameron too, he lives in a very nice house and his dad owns very nice cars and what do you know he is best friends with Ferris who is one of the most popular kids in school.

camerons-house2 ferris-bueller-250gt-804


Another example comes from Dirty Dancing in which you can see both the rich and the poor. You have Baby who comes from a very rich family and she is very pretty and all the boys want to talk to her. Her sister who is one of the most annoying characters but yet she is still popular. The father is the reason the entire movie takes place he is a well-liked man and it is a friend and patient of his that owns the resort that they go to. The other families that are at the resort are also very wealthy and you can see that this allows them to get whatever they want and in turn makes them popular around the resort. Then you have Johnny who has to work for a living and he doesn’t have money from the family and he is walked all over. His boss talks down to him and he is treated poorly.



In Sixteen Candles Jake Ryan is the most popular guy in school and what do you know he is also ridiculously wealthy. He drives a Porsche and has a huge house. A house that is sufficiently large enough to play host to party with all of the senior class along with some unwanted underclassmen. Even Jake Ryan’s girlfriend shows signs of having great wealth; from her perfect hair and perfect clothes.

Jake Ryan Jake's Girlfriend

Then from The Heathers the wealth of all the families involved is obviously the reason the Heathers and Veronica are popular. Their wealth is what gives them their social status. They have the money to have the latest clothes and the best hair products to make them the ideal women for that time period.


This can still be seen through in today’s movies as well. For examples, The Heathers sister movie Mean Girls also has very wealthy main characters–the wealth undoubtedly led to these girls becoming the “it” girls.

As you can see Regina drives the really nice car and has a really nice house and so obviously she must be the most popular girl in school.

I think the moral of this story is that you must be wealthy to be popular! Obviously because Hollywood has made this apparent for the last few decades. But according to this news story perhaps popularity is what brings the wealth not the other way around. That’s not the way Hollywood has long portrayed the role of money and wealth.