Published on March 4th, 2015 | by gatsbyadmin0
Shhh… It’s (Not Such) a Secret
These past few years social acceptance of marijuana has been growing… well, like a weed. The negative stigma surrounding those who partake has slowly but surely been changing as well. Its now possible to obtain it legally (at least in some states), glass-blowing is considered art instead of a crime and social media is saturated with pot-related posts; what was once considered the counter-culture is becoming more mainstream with each day. However, with the exception of major events – like the High Times Cannabis Cup – and the few and far between smoking lounges, its practically impossible for people to find a place where they can actually meet and enjoy a smoke together on a regular basis. Enter the Secret Sesh – currently the most popular gathering and worst kept secret in the cannabis community.
The Secret Sesh as we now know it was born when the short-lived yet beloved Headroom Gallery lounge in Los Angeles closed its doors. (Although I’ve heard rumors of its re-opening, I find it difficult to believe that it is anything like its first incarnation). With comedy nights featuring performers of Saturday Night Live caliber, live-recorded shows and weekly hash competitions, there was no place comparable at the time and it was a major blow to its patrons when it unexpectedly shut down. Luckily former Headroom Gallery employee and Secret Sesh founder Tim Brown (also widely known on Instagram as @cannabiscommunity) decided that he wasn’t going to let the good vibes and camaraderie he found at the lounge go so easily.
I was actually present at the very first Secret Sesh – although that wasn’t its official name yet – and it was all done pretty organically. Seeing the disappointment expressed over the closing of the Headroom Gallery, Tim asked a friend if he could use his work studio as a location for regulars of the lounge to meet up for a final sesh. (Like the Headroom Gallery, the location of this little get-together was a secret and in order to be invited, you actually had to know somebody who was willing to tell you where it was). However, what was originally supposed to be a sort-of goodbye gathering for the suddenly defunct lounge became immensely popular and it was obvious that there was a void that needed to be filled. Thus, the Secret Sesh was born.
It wasn’t just a matter of the opportunity presenting itself at the right time, though. Tim has actually been putting together these ganja gatherings as far back as two years ago when he began throwing “Extendo Parties” (an extendo is a double-length blunt). It may seem like the easiest thing in the world to arrange what on the surface appears to be just a house party with an emphasis on marijuana. However, I know from personal experience that there is far more that goes into it than people realize and Tim’s background and understanding of the community made him more suited to the task than most. For him, the Secret Sesh was simply an extension and the natural progression of his Extendo Parties into something larger and more sophisticated. “There weren’t really many places for people like me to gather and smoke together,” he told me. “So I wanted to create an environment where we could do that. Just get together with like-minded people and have a good time… but in a way that this community hasn’t gotten to experience yet.”
I can definitely say with conviction that the Secret Sesh events are unlike most cannabis-related functions in that they are imbued with what so many others are lacking: a little bit of class. So often, people in the marijuana movement are relegated to less than ideal venues because of the hesitancy to endorse events where attendees are openly participating in a hobby that is still considered federally illegal; with the exception of the former Headroom Gallery and a few boutique venues (and not counting major festivals or events) shady areas and lower-class establishments have unfortunately become the norm. Fortunately the Secret Sesh is changing all of that. Although the location changes weekly, its usually held in some pretty amazing places. For example, the last couple of Sundays has seen hundreds of marijuana enthusiasts descend on a mansion (that is currently listed for 15 million dollars) in the Hollywood Hills and the most recent one that I attended was held in Frank Sinatra’s former home; definitely not your average venue for this type of get-together.
Aside from the posh locales, the amenities and entertainment provided for those who attend gets better with every week. What started out as a meeting place for people who wanted to hang out and smoke has developed into a weekly hash competition with vendors, tons of giveaways and the opportunity to smoke exclusive Weavers blunts. There are obviously edibles galore (including amazing medicated gourmet offerings provided weekly by Chef Nugs) but since its a well-known fact that marijuana consumption begets the munchies, there is also a menu of free non-medicated food curated by @cannabrianna and some of the best damn horchata I’ve ever had from @blancaisevil, both long-time Secret Sesh supporters and attendees. The entertainment aspect is nothing to sneer at, either as its not the typical DJ set-up you’d expect from your average house party. In the last few weeks alone surprise guests have included up-and-coming rapper OG Maco (who gave an impromptu performance), stoner celebrity and rapper B-Real of Cypress Hill fame, Action Bronson, C-Money and the Players Inc. (from Slightly Stoopid) and the lovely Lil Debbie. The last time I was present during a conversation about future entertainment I also heard a few other names thrown around and all I can say at this point is that things are only going to get bigger and better.
As the Secret Sesh becomes more popular and gains in notoriety, so does it become harder to manage and contain. In fact, the only part of the event that seems to remain relatively secret is the actual location; there are so many people interested in going that the event regularly “sells out” within minutes of announcing that the list is open for the week. Even I (only tangentially connected by the fact that my significant other holds hosting duties) get contacted fairly regularly by those looking for a way to bypass the whole admission process. Unfortunately some feel entitled to do so and get away with it, simply by contacting friends who are already at the party and asking for the address. This past weekend I saw so many people doing this and/or bragging about getting in without going through the proper channels and it was incredibly upsetting to see how much people will take advantage of the kindness of those who are taking care of the door. Its a difficult, albeit flattering, line for Tim and his team to walk; having to make the constant choice between wanting to please the people who made your venture such a success and allowing everyone in or violating capacity rules and setting themselves up for penalization from venue owners.
The downside, as with anything that gains almost instantaneous success, is that it draws almost as many critics as fans. It may be a bit controversial, but unlike most marijuana-related gatherings, there is an element of discrimination (in the loosest sense of the word) when determining the guest list. Now I don’t mean that the attendees are hand-picked or based on who they know. its discriminatory in that anyone with a negative reputation or affiliation – and it has to be really bad and widespread – is carefully reviewed before being accepted as a guest. This practice has drawn quite a bit of judgment yet, in my opinion, it seems to work in favor of the Secret Sesh as a whole. It is, after all, a gathering of “like-minded” people and anyone without the same positive mind-set or intent could upset the entire production. Not once in all this time have I heard of any type of problems or altercations arising at a Secret Sesh; those who go actually seem to walk away with more friends than they previously had so the method seems to be working pretty well. As the self-described “Compassion King,” Tim makes himself even more vulnerable to others in the community who like nothing better than to call him a hypocrite and point out that he is making a profit from his so-called “compassion.” Seeing first-hand all of the time, effort and yes, money that goes into putting just one of these events together, I can honestly say the real pay-off at the end of the day can only be the pride in organizing a successful event. It seems to me that those who think the monetary profits outweigh the effort don’t have a realistic grasp on the organizational demands of putting a Secret Sesh together.
Speaking of pride, there is definitely more than a touch of it detectable when I talked to Tim. Rather than turning me off (as is usually the case when I feel someone is too self-congratulatory) I actually found it pretty touching. As the conversation went on, I was able to tell that he was more proud of working with such an awesome team than he was about the Secret Sesh as a personal accomplishment. I can’t even pretend to be impartial when I agree that his host, Adam Ill is the best. I’ve been dating the guy for almost a decade and as someone who is a bit more shy and introverted, I’m constantly in awe of how easily he interacts with people, managing to make everyone he spends a few minutes with feel as if they’ve been friends for life. It’s that kind of personality that enables him to get everyone at the Secret Sesh feeling totally at ease, like they’re a personally invited guest. His other team members, Danielle, Heather and Louie are equally as important and let’s face it, bad-ass. As any girl with a significant other in this industry can tell you, the girlfriends do a lot of behind the scenes work, and its no different with Danielle; in fact, there probably wouldn’t even be a Secret Sesh as we know it without her. Heather and Louie, or as I like to call them, “The Gate-Keepers”, have arguably the most difficult task of all, determining who gets to come in. Talking to them and watching them this past Sunday, I had a whole new appreciation for what they do (and put up with) and the fact that they do it with such grace under duress is a miracle. So if you ever do attend one of these events, make sure to thank these people as well because the machinery known as the Secret Sesh definitely wouldn’t work without their parts.
So what’s next for the Secret Sesh? Can they possibly make things better than they already are while still maintaining their exclusive vibe? It has to be exhausting trying to outdo yourself week after week and somehow sustain a positive reputation and upward trajectory. Sometimes things like this seem to just plateau and burn out. Yet knowing what I do, I have the distinct feeling that Tim and his team have the drive and willpower necessary to keep taking things to the next level. The word behind the scenes is that they’re looking into franchising in order to bring the Secret Sesh to a wider geographical audience. Another rumor on the street is that there might be a tour, possibly even with surprise performances. If you would like the chance to attend (and I’m sure most of you would), I’d try getting on that mailing list as soon as possible. Just make sure you don’t tell anyone I said so. Because shhhhh… Its a secret.
Written By: Danielle Erin
Photographs By: Sarah G.