Home‎ > ‎Quotations and Illustrations‎ > ‎~A‎ > ‎Addictions‎ > ‎

Peter Lawford's Helicopter Cocaine Drop

Betty Ford was no match for a cocaine drop by helicopter: The actor Peter Lawford beat Betty Ford by having a helicopter drop cocaine in the desert
The Telegraph, July 10, 2011

By Andrew Brown
Betty Ford's plain speaking did much to banish the stigma associated with addiction. But when she founded the Betty Ford Centre nearly 30 years ago, the residential rehab industry as we know it today was in its infancy.

Clinics weren't always prepared for the sheer deviousness and recalcitrance of severe alcoholics and addicts. Celebrity patients, in a rush of optimism or under pressure from angry employers, would agree to undergo Betty Ford's rigorous programme, only to find later that their heart wasn't in it.

The actor Peter Lawford is a colourful example. At one time, Lawford had it all. He married President Kennedy's sister, was a Rat Pack chum of Frank Sinatra and was the last person to speak to Marilyn Monroe.

But by the age of 60, he was wrestling with a monumental drink problem. In 1983, in a heroic effort to get off the booze once and for all and, maybe, save his life, he booked himself in to the Betty Ford Centre.

The attempt was doomed from the start. Lawford's thirst for booze was matched only by his predilection for younger women, and on the flight to the centre he downed a series of miniature bottles of vodka.

Once safely ensconced in the Ford clinic, at the resort of Rancho Mirage in California, he was happy to play bridge with fellow patients Liz Taylor and Johnny Cash. But in therapy sessions designed to break down his denial, he blithely refused to accept that his chronic drinking had upset anybody.

Lawford survived the five weeks of the programme without consuming alcohol, but did not stick strictly to the rules. When Patty, his young fourth wife, opened his American Express bills, she discovered that he had been paying for a helicopter to deliver cocaine to him in the desert behind the centre.
He would stroll into the desert, take some cocaine and then walk back to the clinic. Poor Lawford – he was dead within a year.

His case shows what Betty Ford herself, a former alcoholic, knew better than most: addicts and boozers don't get better unless they want to.