Assuming you’re a human being, you probably dig drugs, money, and movies. That’s why you should be praying to Buddha that you get reincarnated as Ron Stevenson, his brother Scott, or some of the other badass drug dealers that produced a movie in Morocco as a cover for a fortune-winning hash smuggling scheme.
The caper, which the LA Times referred to as “Morocco’s Argo – but with drug smugglers,” occurred in the early 70’s, just after the wave of free love had broken. Ron was already a pro drug distributor with experience in Orange County’s so-called “Hippy Mafia.” Scott had the Hollywood resume, having P.A.’d on a not-so-great Jimi Hendrix documentary in Hawaii.
After Scott started working with older brother Ron on his narco biz, the two brothers got to thinking that they could make more money if they set themselves up at the source of their dope – sunny Morocco. Somewhere along the line, another heady light bulb lit up and they brought in some choice camouflage to hide their doings from snoopy authorities.
“The idea was that the movie would be a diversion if the feds or customs in Morocco” got suspicious, Scott told the Times. “We wanted to always have a reason why we were there. The whole point was to smuggle hash.”
Two VW buses were used to transport film equipment through the area, but secret compartments were built to conceal loads of up to 250 pounds of hash, which were brought to Europe and then shipped to the U.S. During the four months the scheme lasted, they never lost a load, and they got filthy rich.
“We ate at the best restaurants, bought the best clothes,” Scott said. “I had seven gold Buddhas around my neck and a 75-gram gold chain. I once bought a pocketful of diamond, ruby and sapphire rings — they were $700 or $800 apiece — and I’d give them out if I met a girl I liked.”
The rosiness of those times was not sustained indefinitely. The brothers split up. Rob was later accused of being the head of a criminal organization responsible for importing over $300 million in marijuana, hash and cocaine into the U.S. He disappeared in 1982 and has not been seen since. Scott was never implicated in that craziness. He wrote a tell all book about the glory days, “Scoundrels in Paradise,” which has been optioned for movie rights, and he currently lives in Florida.
So, what about that movie?
The weirdest part? It was actually really good. It’s not exactly clear how from resources at hand, but at some point the Brothers Stevenson met up with experimental filmmaker Scott Bartlett. Bartlett was not just some stooge and “Medina,” the film they put together, is not a fake movie.
Bartlett had already made the acclaimed short films “Moon ‘69” and “Off On,” which were known to filmmakers and counter culture aficionados. He would go onto work with Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, both of whom admired his experimental work, later in the 1970’s.
“Medina” itself, which credits Ron as a producer and Scott as a boom operator, is an impressionistic, hypnotic document of Morocco at the time. It played at the New York Film Festival in 1973 along with film classics such as Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets.
By all accounts, Bartlett didn’t know what was up with the hash game, but a seasoned cameraman like him would have some pretty sharp powers of perception – and a producer and sound guy who didn’t know much about movies, but were stuffed with riches to their gills don’t seem like subtle clues. But he was also a seasoned film producer, which means he probably knew not to ask too many questions as long as the money spent.
You can check out “Medina” just down yonder.
Top photo via Leven Jester, LA Times