June Fairchild, best known for her infamous Ajax snorting scene in the 1978 Cheech & Chong film Up in Smoke, has passed away, according to the Los Angeles Times. She was 68 years old.
Fairchild died in a Los Angeles convalescent home of liver cancer, a friend told the Times, and the actress had been living off of Social Security disability payments and staying in small hotel rooms in her final years.
Fairchild may be remembered for her portrayal of a crazy party girl, but Up in Smoke was, in fact, her 16th film and only a small part of her life. Though Fairchild’s time on Earth was very troubled and marred by drug and alcohol abuse, there were many bright spots in her career. Here’s more to know about her.
1. She got her start as a Hollywood go-go dancer
Fairchild was born in Manhattan Beach, a community in the South Bay of Los Angeles, and immediately started scoring go-go TV appearances after she graduated from high school, according to a segment about her on Good Morning America several years ago.
2. She named the band Three Dog Night
The actress was dating musician Danny Hutton during her dancing days and helped name his budding band, which later recorded the hits “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” and “I Can Hear You Calling.” She came up with Three Dog Night after reading about Australian aborigines who cuddled with dogs when it was cold.
3. She acted alongside Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges
As Gloria in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Fairchild proved that her acting ability was far beyond snorting Ajax.
4. Her first acting gig was on the classic TV series The Monkees
In 1966, Fairchild appeared on the legendary show at just 20 years old, and in 1968 she worked with the group again in the movie Head. Watch a clip from her appearance on the TV show below:
5. She didn’t like doing drugs
Despite two unsuccessful stints in rehab, Fairchild claimed she preferred not to use, but had started abusing in order to keep up with Hutton. “I didn’t like drugs, but I had to learn to like them,” she said to GMA in an interview. “Isn’t that awful? Because I loved him so,” she added, referencing Hutton.
6. She said she “felt like an angel in the middle of a snake pit”
After splitting with Hutton, Fairchild suffered through two abusive marriages before ending up on the streets of Los Angeles’ infamous skid row. She wasn’t getting any more film offers and was sleeping in a box on the street. “I thought maybe someone would try to come in the box and get me,” she said to GMA.
7. Her high school friends pulled her off the street
After finding out that Fairchild was homeless, several friends from her hometown came up with enough money to get her shelter and also offered her letters of encouragement. She said their generosity encouraged her to quit drinking and try to start acting again. Sadly, her career never really got took off in the direction in had been heading previously.
8. In 2002, she signed a contract with Paramount Pictures
According to the Times, Fairchild signed with Paramount not to act, but to release her likeness so that the production company could sell bobble-head dolls of the Ajax lady.