A Hollywood high: Cocaine Bear to hit the screens

Posted at 6:00 PM, Nov 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-01 18:10:47-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The dead, stuffed bear inside the KY for KY shop on Bryan Avenue continues to be a big draw, seven years after its arrival.

“We actually have a map over on the other side of the store that show you where people come from to see Cocaine Bear,” said Toni Cannon, the director of operations here.

It is true. Over by all of the Cocaine Bear merchandise, which has become a “cottage industry” on its own for this business, you’ll see that map with all of the pins people placed to show from where they visited this Kentucky relic.


If someone in Hollywood wrote a script about the legend behind Cocaine Bear, you wouldn’t believe it. So it’s probably a good thing that the script was written after those events unfolded.

Cocaine Bear, AKA: Pablo Escobear, died in the mid-1980s in the Chattahoochee Forest after accidentally ingesting about 80 pounds of cocaine. The powdery stuff was left on the forest ground after noted drug smuggler, Andrew Thornton plunged to his death when his parachute failed to open. Apparently, he released the cocaine packs in a failed attempt to open that chute. After being stuffed, the bear made the rounds, being cared for by different people, including singer-songwriter Waylon Jennings, before finding its new home here.

“All we had to do was pay shipping,” Cannon said.

Just pay for the shipping, and watch the cash register continue to light up as people come to get their hands on a piece of something truly unique to the Commonwealth.

Now, some more notoriety is set to come in the form of a movie. “Cocaine Bear” will be released in February of 2023. We’ve known this for some time, but when the promotional poster started to make the rounds on Twitter, it got the attention of many. The film enlisted an all-star cast led by Elizabeth Banks, and the late Ray Liotta who passed away earlier this year.

“I am really excited for the movie,” said Melinda Spaulding. She’s a KY for KY employee who has read the Bluegrass Conspiracy book, which details much of what happened as it relates to Cocaine Bear.


Spaulding, despite having read the book, plans to go in with an open mind and not pick apart certain elements that might not match up perfectly.

“Elizabeth Banks! I know who she is, and she is silly and fun and you have to go in knowing this is going to probably be a horror flick, and a funny flick,” she said.

However, it turns out, it’ll be a flick that brings a lot of attention to this Lexington shop, which since 2016, has been home to the movie’s leading character.

“We like to say he’s the ultimate party animal,” Cannon joked.