Rainbow Valentine had an idyllic childhood growing up in 1970s Marin County, California; she talks about her family’s home, full of laughter and delicious food, a center for social activity, surrounded by acres of blackberry bushes and roses. Her dad was home more often than her friends’ dads; “Clad in a Far Side T-shirt, my dad would pad around in his office in his socks, yelling into the phone, stealing our Halloween candy, schooling us on opera and art history,” Rainbow recalls. What she didn’t realize was that both her parents, and indeed nearly all the adults in her life, were involved in a pot smuggling business of epic proportions. In her Disorganized Crime: Smuggler’s Daughter podcast, Rainbow talks to her parents and many of these other players to learn about their business, which started during the hippie, free love 1960s and lasted into the stridently anti-drug environment of the 1980s. In the first episode, we meet Rainbow’s parents, Walter and Taffy Lemur, and hear some incredible stories about one of the biggest mistakes of Walter’s career.
Walter didn’t bother with small-time street deals, Rainbow tells us; “he actually laughed in my face when I asked if he ever sold just one pound at a time.” She recalls “garbage bags of pot” lying around their house, which just seemed normal to her; her mom says offhandedly, “The garbage bags...were just samples.” Something like four to five thousand pounds of marijuana was stored at their house, or a nearby storage unit, regularly. One of his biggest deals was helping some friends smuggle over four thousand pounds of Lebanese hash, “or,” Rainbow says, “the equivalent of $250,000, which...was over $1.3 million in today's money.” To keep the money safe until his friends could come get it, Walter buried it in the backyard. But it took almost six months for the friends to ask for it; by then, Walter couldn’t remember where in the yard he’d buried it. A frantic search ensued. “Spoiler alert: he finds it....But in this moment, my dad learns an important smuggling lesson. If you're going to bury treasure in the backyard, remember where the f**k you put it.”
The money was good, but it was a stressful life, certainly; Walter compares it to war. “You stick your head above the foxhole and it gets blown off...my job was to do it right, stay under the radar, and be this schizophrenic living two lives, basically.” Taffy agrees: “It was illegal, and everybody thought it was the devil. If you got caught with even an ounce, you went to jail, and could lose your kids. It was super high-stakes.” And mistakes were costly. The night Rainbow was born was also the night Walter lost their entire life savings on a deal gone wrong, where he made big mistakes. He had loaded up a brand-new, fancy Ford truck with 350 pounds of pot and gotten “the Brooklyn Boys” – “young, stupid kids...who liked getting high and were real psychedelicized vegetarian kids,” Walter describes – to drive it from California to New York. “These were young, inexperienced kids who didn't take extra precautions when hauling loads of pot across the country,” Rainbow says, and sure enough, they ended up getting busted in Indiana and lost their entire payload.
Worst of all, Walter had been convinced to front his own profits, thinking it would make him more money in the long run, “which was about as dumb as dirt,” he says. “Good old-fashioned greed reared its ugly head,” Rainbow concludes, “and bit my dad in the a**.” He lost $36,000, or around $195,000 in today’s money. During the course of his career, he “made and lost millions of dollars more than once,” Rainbow tells us. Turn on, tune in, and drop out to hear more about “the extraordinary, unique, disorganized drug smuggling industry in Marin County, California...right in the middle of the battle between counterculture, psychedelic smugglers, and the War on Drugs…now, it is time for the smugglers to speak,” only on Disorganized Crime: Smuggler’s Daughter.
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