Do recessions contribute to spikes in drug use? That was the question on the lips of the philanthropists and media big wigs at the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom last night; where the Partnership for a Drug Free America’s sixth annual gala was honoring Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer. Retired ad man Richard Bonette, the co-chairman emeritus of the Partnership, said yes: "Drug use is a very emotional syndrome; more joblessness spirals into drug use and rage."
Mr. Bonette—wearing a gray suit and snazzy pink tie—twirled around his glass of white wine and added with a waggish smile, "On the upside, there are more advertising people that do good work to support the organization because they have more time available." The Daily Transom asked Mr. Bourette if he worried that some of the media attendees were responsible for creating content that glorified drug and alcohol use. "I’m retired. I don’t watch those shows anymore; I’ve got my feet up on the recliner watching CNBC," he replied. "I wouldn’t go so far as to say they glorify it, but acceptance is dangerous."
David Rosenbloom, the director of Join Together, turned the conversation to smoking and teen films. "I think the tobacco industry is working with movie producers to bring smoking back to movies and promote tobacco use," Mr. Rosenbloom said. Jack Thorne, the director of another nonprofit, disagreed. "Do you really think they’re trying to support it? I don’t think that." He thought for a moment and added, "You know, when I was in college you could smoke in the classrooms."
As the crowd was starting to pile in for dinner, we found John Mack—CEO of Morgan Stanley—about to sit down at his table. "I’m sure 20 or 25 years ago drugs were a big deal [on Wall Street]; I could be naïve and it’s not like I’m on the floor or anything," he said. Then he asked the Daily Transom what we thought of drug use on Wall Street these days. What of the added stressors of the crash? "It doesn’t help," Mr. Mack admitted.
Leslie Moonves of Viacom was getting his picture with Joel Klein, the chancellor of the New York City school system. "I worry about schools dealing with budget cuts. There are certainly more drug use when people face hard times," Mr. Klein said. Mr. Moonves answered that he had absolutely nothing to do with MTV’s programming, so he couldn’t answer to whether their programming encouraged binge drinking on its reality shows. What about his other youth programming? "There are certain shows that do show drug use and alcohol accurately. After all, people are using them," he said.
Mr. Moonves’ elegant wife, CBS anchor Julie Chen, was wearing a Jackie Kennedy-style knit suit. "I’m not sure, I got this wrong once and got in a lot of trouble," she said when I asked her who made it. "It also has a very pretty shirt underneath it." A friend came by and averred that the last time he had seen her, the press was talking to her. "And they still are now," she said with a laugh. I asked Ms. Chen if she though print was on its way out. "I love to hold a newspaper," she said.
She added, a bit ruefully, "When I worked for Nightline we used to do our research with clippings and a glue stick. That’s the kind of thing I miss."