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Cheech Marin: 1946—: Actor

Started Entertaining With Tommy Chong

As a teen, Marin earned top grades in school, and was increasingly drawn to art and art history. He possessed few artistic skills of the visual kind himself, however. "I was always a musician," he told Austin American-Statesman columnist Anne Hornaday. "I was a singer from a very early age, and music occupied my life. I came from a very funny family; everyone's very bright and funny, but I knew at a very early age that show business was going to be my life." He briefly detoured from that plan with a stint at California State University at Northridge, from which he earned an English degree. During his years there, he worked full-time in a factory that made kitchen units for aircraft.

At a Glance . . .

Born Richard Anthony Marin on July 13, 1946, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Oscar (a police officer) and Elsa (a secretary; maiden name, Meza) Marin; married Rikki Morley (a homemaker and actor), November 1, 1975 (divorced); married Patti Heid (a computer artist), 1984; children: (from first marriage) Carmine, (from second marriage) Joe, Jasmine. Education: California State University, Northridge, BA, English.

Career: City Works Improvisational Group, Vancouver, BC, Canada, late 1960s; formed comedy duo Cheech and Chong with Tommy Chong, c. 1970; recording artist, 1972–; actor, 1978–; screenwriter, 1978–.

Awards: Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1973, with Tommy Chong, for Los Cochinos.

At twenty-one years of age in 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, Marin was highly eligible for the draft, and fled to Canada for a time to escape it. He settled in Vancouver, British Columbia, and hoped to begin a writing career. As a record reviewer for a Canadian music magazine, Marin was introduced to a local musician and club impresario Tommy Chong, and the two became fast friends. Marin joined Chong's bizarre improvisational theater group called City Works in 1969. The act featured comedy skits and topless dancers. Chong's parents owned the club, and the exotic dancers were a ploy to lure patrons; Chong just wanted to have a place to perform his music. Marin described the City Works show as "hippie burlesque" in an interview with Los Angeles Times writer Candace A. Wedlan. "It had long hair and dope and nudity and sex and drugs but in a real kind of hostile environment at first because guys wanted to see naked chicks, not long-haired guys talking. It was really seen as absurd. I mean, it was surreal, you know, and that's where we got our chops."

Heading back to the States and dropping the rest of the entourage, he and Chong began touring as a rock/comedy duo, but their music was not as popular with audiences as their banter, which satirized hippie culture and poked fun at those whose brains seemed permanently addled by drug use. The routine contained numerous references to marijuana, and became hugely popular with counterculture youth. A gig at L.A.'s Troubadour club caught the attention of a record-industry executive one night, and Cheech and Chong released their eponymous debut in 1972. Their third comedy album, Los Cochinos in 1973, won a Grammy Award for best comedy album of the year. The records sold in the millions, and were a staple of many teen record collections; not surprisingly, some parents tried to ban the duo's stoned banter from their households. The comedy routine gave way to feature films, beginning in 1978 with Up in Smoke. Over the next five years, the Cheech and Chong movies were hugely popular at the box office, but criticized by some in the Latino community as rife with negative stereotypes.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - PersonalCheech Marin: 1946—: Actor Biography - Started Entertaining With Tommy Chong, Branched Out From Drug Humor, Became Chicano Art Connoisseur