|Real Name:||Thomas B. Kin Chong|
|Birthday:||May 24, 1938|
|Net Worth:||$8 million
|Occupation:||Canadian-American Actor, Writer, Director, Musician, Cannabis Rights Activist, Comedian|
Tommy Chong, real name Thomas B. Kin Chong, is a Canadian-American actor, writer, musician, activist, and comedian. He is one of the most vocal cannabis rights activists. Tommy got his fame and popularity as part of the marijuana-themed Chech & Chong comedy albums and movies. He also played the character Leo on Fox’s That ‘70s Show.
Born in 1938, Tommy is an old fellow. His heritage is of high variety. His mother is of Scots-Irish and French ancestry, while his father is a Chinese truck motorist. They moved to Canada when he was a young boy.
Career Ups and Downs
Born in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada in 1938, he moved to Calgary, a more conservative neighborhood as a young boy. He attended Crescent Heights High School but dropped out at 16 to play music. He played guitar to earn money.
By the early 1960s, he played guitar for a Calgary soul group called Shades. The group moved to Vancouver, British Columba, and changed its name to Little Daddy & the Bachelors. They recorded their single Too Much Monkey Business and Junior’s Jerk under the name. The band opened a nightclub in 1963, calling it the Blue Balls. There, they brought in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
While they built some fan following under the name Little Daddy & the Bachelors, Tommy suggested a new name. They changed their name to Four Niggers and a Chink, or short to Four N’s and a C. Then, they took up the moniker Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. In 1965, they signed with Gordy Records, a subsidiary of Motown Records.
They recorded their debut album as an eponymous release. Their debut single, Does Your Mama Know About Me, debuted at Number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. During their tour in Chicago, they played as an opening act the Jackson 5. The group recorded two more singles before disbanding.
The reason was simple. Chong and bandmate Wes Henderson missed a performance to apply for green cards. The two got fired, and Chong said he “Wants to become a Berry Gordy, not work for Berry Gordy”.
in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chong joined in with Cheech Marin to form the duo Cheech & Chong. Tommy co-wrote most of the comedy albums. Four of them earned Grammy Nomination for Best Comedy Album. They won the award in 1973 fo their Los Cochinos album. Tommy also directed four of the duo’s movies and starred in all seven.
Chong and Cheech was a comedy and marijuana-themed duo. After a successful run, they split up in 1985 due to creative differences. Marin’s desire to focus on a mainstream acting career was the turning point.
Following the split, Chong couldn’t find success. He developed an unsold pilot for CBS called The Martinez Family. But he did not find a regular acting or recurring role. That changed when he got the loving, and aging hippie Leo in That ‘70s Show. He did not appear in the fifth and sixth seasons due to jail sentence. But he returned upon release and appeared in the final two seasons.
In September 2005, he premiered his documentary a/k/a Tommy Chong at the Toronto International Film Festival. The documentary chronicles his comedic and personal history.
In September 2014, he joined the 19th season of Dancing with the Stars. Tommy got paired to professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd. They made it to the semi-finals but got eliminated.
In the 2010s, Chong made a couple of cameo and short appearances in TV shows and movies.
He reunited with his long-time comedy partner Cheech Marin in a 2000 South Park Episode. In the mid-2000s, they reunited and started touring. Their tour Light Up America and Canada and the Felimony Tour earned them a lot of money.
Awards and Achievements
Tommy Chong earned a couple of awards and nominations during his life. He shares four Grammy nominations with his partner Cheech Marin. And they finally won a Grammy award in 1973.
In 2013, he got honored with the High Times Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the 20th High Times Cannabis Cup in 2007, he got the Freedom Fighter of the Year Award.
Earnings and Income
Tommy Chong assets are estimated at over $8 million. He earned most of his money through movies and music. While music doesn’t bring a lot of money, his comedic movies brought in a lot of revenue. Here are Chong & Cheech’s highest-grossing movies.
- Up in Smoke, released in 1978 and earned $41 million at the box office
- Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie, released in 1980 and earned $41 million at the box office
- Cheech & Chong’s Nice Dreams, released in 1981 and earned $37 million at the box office
- Things Are Tough All Over, released in 1982 and earned $21 million
- Still Smokin, released in 1983 and earned $15 million
On average, their movies earned $26 million at the box office. And in total, Cheech and Chong’s movies earned more than $160 million worldwide. While that doesn’t sound like blockbuster money, consider the production budget. The duo made most of the comedic movies with a couple of hundreds of thousands of budget.
Over the years, Tommy got tangled up in a couple of legal issues. In 2003, he got caught in two American investigations. The code name of the investigations is Operation Pipe Dreams and Operation Headhunter. Both tried to trace drug traffic and users through businesses selling drug paraphernalia. Chong got charged for his part in financing and promoting Chong Glass/Nice Dreams.
But the case never went to trial. Chong’s attorney negotiated a plea agreement.
On May 7, 2008, federal agents raided Spectrum Labs as part of the investigation related to the detoxification products. The search was just one of the nine-part of the Operation True Test. During the operation, federal agents seized up to 10,000 copies of Chong’s unreleased a/k/a Tommy Chong documentary.
Chong got married to Maxine Sneed in Canada in 1960. She is of Black Canadian and Cherokee descent and the couple has two daughters. They got divorced in 1970 and then Tommy got married to Shelby Fiddis in Los Angeles in 1975. He has three children, two sons and a daughter with Shelby. They also adopted a child in 1978.
In the late 1980s, Tommy received citizenship in the United States. He is a marijuana activist and supports legalizing the plant’s use. Tommy contributes regularly to Cannabis Culture Magazine. He is also part of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws advisory board.
In June 2012, Tommy announced he battles prostate cancer. A month later, he tweeted that he uses hemp oil treatment to cure cancer. In his tweet, he said he is 99% cancer-free. Yet, in June 2015, he announced he got another cancer diagnosis, this time colorectal cancer.
As of June 2020, Tommy Chong’s wealth is $8 million.