Kentucky folk anti-hero Cocaine Bear's exploits to get Hollywood treatment
Kentucky - we’re known for our bluegrass and bourbon, and Lexington likes to call itself the Horse Capital of the world, but for many years there’s been a quiet buzz around a certain bear. Come February that buzz is likely to turn into a roar as The Cocaine Bear hits cinema screens near you. WUKY’s Samantha Lederman shopped local to find out more
WUKY spoke with Toni Cannon, the director of operations at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall on Bryan Avenue here in Lexington, a space she shares with the Cocaine Bear, also fondly known as Pablo Eskobear, who has been here for about 7 years.
As legend has it the bear did indeed ingest about 40 kilos of cocaine in 1985 but was found dead in the woods in Georgia about three months later. The drugs had been dropped out of an airplane by former Lexington blue-blood, narcotics officer turned drug smuggler Andrew Thornton, returning from Colombia. He jumped out after his haul but was found dead on a driveway in Knoxville after his parachute failed to open. Naturally, because after all this is a store that was founded on trying to change the state slogan to Kentucky Kicks Ass and which sells jars of preserved Kentucky Derby winner poop and Kentucky Fried Chicken scented candles, naturally, they knew they had to have the bear.
Melinda Spaulding has worked at the store since August 2021 but has a much longer history with Pablo Eskobear.
She’s not at all surprised by all the hype and says people like to come and take selfies with the bear, buy merchandise, and read up on more of his history.
It was Melinda’s idea to invite the cocaine bear’s visitors to pin where they had come from on a large map on the shop wall.
Kentucky for Kentucky had to jump through a myriad of hoops before they found Pablo Eskobear, but they’re certain he’s the real deal.
Country music outlaw Waylon Jennings bought him in a pawn shop before giving him to a friend and the Kentucky for Kentucky folks eventually found him in Vegas.
The store has plans to collaborate with the movie producers on merch, but if you need a hit before next February they have plenty of options including a Cocaine Bear snowglobe: