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Tommy Chong (1938)

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  Summary  

Tommy Chong is a Canadian-American comedian, actor, writer, director, activist, and musician who is well known for his stereotypical portrayals of hippie-era stoners. He is most widely known for his involvement in the marijuana-themed Cheech & Chong comedy movies with Cheech Marin, as well as playing the character Leo on Fox's That '70s Show.

  Biography  

 early life
Chong was born as Thomas B. Kin Chong in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the son of Lorna Jean Gilchrist, a waitress of Scots-Irish ancestry, and Stanley Chong, a Chinese truck driver who immigrated to Canada from Guangdong province, China in the 1920s, where he first lived with his aunt in Vancouver. While he was still young, his family moved to Calgary, Alberta to a conservative neighborhood Chong refers to as the Dog Patch. He says that his father had "been wounded in World War II, and there was a veterans' hospital in Calgary. He bought a five-hundred dollar house in Dog Patch, and raised his family on fifty dollars a week." He later dropped out of Crescent Heights High School in Calgary, Alberta. “I dropped out of Crescent Heights High School when I was 16 but probably just before they were going to throw me out anyway,” Chong
laughs as he reminisces about his early years. “I played guitar to make
money. I was about 16 when I discovered that music could get you laid,
even if you were a scrawny, long-haired, geeky-looking guy like me.”

 early career
 Entertainment

By the early 1960s, Chong was playing guitar for a Calgary soul group called The Shades. The Shades moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where the band's name changed to "Little Daddy & The Bachelors". They recorded a single, "Too Much Monkey Business" / "Junior's Jerk". Together with bandmember Bobby Taylor, Chong opened a Vancouver nightclub in 1963 called the Blue Balls, formerly the Alma Theatre. They brought in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, which had never been to Vancouver before. Although Little Daddy & The Bachelors built up a small following, things soured when they went with Chong's suggestion and had themselves billed as "Four Niggers and a Chink". (or, bowing to pressure, "Four N's and a C") before taking on the moniker Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers.

In 1965, the Vancouvers signed with Gordy Records (a subsidiary of Detroit, Michigan's Motown Records) and recorded its debut album, an eponymous release, and their debut single, the Tommy Chong co-composition "Does Your Mama Know About Me," peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. While on tour in Chicago for a short time, the band followed opening act The Jackson 5. Chong later referred to the young Michael Jackson as a "cute little guy". After the band released two further singles, Tommy Chong and Wes Henderson were fired by Clark and Motown producer Johnny Bristol for missing a gig to apply for Green cards. The group broke up shortly afterwards, when Chong attempted to have the Vancouvers' contract halved, so that he, Taylor, and Henderson would constitute the group, while other members would simply be regarded as sidemen and session artists.

 Cheech & Chong

Tommy Chong directed four of their films, while co-writing and starring in all seven with Cheech Marin.

 later career
Cheech & Chong, while a very successful comedy act, experienced creative differences and split in 1985. This was devastating to Chong. To him, Cheech Marin was "closer than a wife. The only thing we didn't do was have sex." Of their split, he says, "It was like a death in the family. I don't know if I'll ever get over it". Chong was a recurring character and later a regular character as the hippie "Leo" during the second, third, fourth, seventh, and eighth seasons of That '70s Show. He also played a role as a hippie in Dharma and Greg.

In a 2001 episode of That '70s Show, "Canadian Road Trip", Chong gave tribute to his home country by joining in a spirited rendition of O Canada along with the teenage cast and two Canadian border patrol guards .

Chong was originally going to voice the character of Shenzi the hyena in the Disney film The Lion King, which would have had him performing once more with Cheech Marin, who voiced Banzai.

In September 2005 a/k/a Tommy Chong premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary, produced, written and directed by Josh Gilbert, chronicles Chong's comedic and personal history, and his prosecution by the Justice Department. The project features interviews with Cheech Marin, Bill Maher, George Thorogood, Peter Coyote, Lou Adler, Eric Schlosser and Jay Leno.

In 2011 he appeared in an ironic role as a Judge in an episode of Franklin & Bash, who took an extremely strict position on a marijuana holder.

 personal life
Chong was married to his first wife, Maxine Sneed, from 1960 until their divorce in 1970, with whom he had two daughters Robbi and Rae Dawn. He married his second wife Shelby Fiddis in 1975. He has three children with her, sons Paris and Gilbran, and a daughter, Precious Chong. He is also the adoptive father of actor Marcus Chong.

Robbi, Rae Dawn, Marcus and Precious have pursued careers in acting. In the late 1980s, Chong became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Chong is a marijuana activist and is a supporter of marijuana legalization and medical use of marijuana. He is a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture Magazine and sits on the NORML advisory board.

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Tommy Chong", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.