Every effort should be made to keep young people away from drugs, but movies like Skidoo remind you that old people should be kept away from them too. One of the many cultural stones turned over by AMC’s Mad Men was the moment when establishment types starting fooling around with LSD; among them was Otto Preminger—the imperious director of Bonjour Tristesse (1958) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959)—who dropped acid under the supervision of no less than Dr. Timothy Leary.
The result was Skidoo (1968), a leaden comedy about a mafia hit man (Jackie Gleason) who goes into prison to ice someone but accidentally ingests some LSD courtesy of his hip, young cell mate (Austin Pendleton). Pendleton, who went on to become an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, spoke recently with Gloria Bowman of Home Projectionist about the experience of costarring in an LSD comedy with Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Mickey Rooney, George Raft, and Groucho Marx. Harry Nilsson wrote the score, and the cast also included Batman villains Cesar Romero (the Joker), Frank Gorshin (the Riddler), and Burgess Meredith (the Penguin). Of course, Preminger had clocked hours on that show too as the icy Mr. Freeze. But that’s a subject for another trip.