Great News! The ‘Cocaine Bear’ Officiates Weddings Now

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Be careful of the party favors at this hot new wedding venue. On a cool Monday in Lexington, Kentucky natives Alexandra and Armando said their vows under the watchful eyes (and probably dilated pupils) of the “cocaine bear,” who officiated the wedding in his home at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall. Images of the ceremony published by TMZ, which broke the happy news, depict the couple standing in front of their ursine officiant—who wore a top hat for the occasion.

The real-life cocaine bear was found dead in 1985, and according to the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, he wound up in the museum after exchanging hands and crossing state lines a few times. Ahead of the wedding, Fun Mall co-owner Griffin VanMeter touted the bear’s officiant credentials to TMZ: “As long as you feel that the person marrying you—like Cocaine Bear—has the authority, then that marriage can be binding here in Kentucky,” he said.

Oddly enough, it was also VanMeter who confirmed to the Wall Street Journal in February that the “cocaine bear” at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall—the one fans honor with selfies and by purchasing all manner of memorabilia, from T-shirts to snow globes—is not the actual cocaine bear.

Louisville's local NBC station, WAVE News, first called the bear’s authenticity into question in December. The outlet spoke with a medical examiner who said there was never a full carcass to preserve and who refuted the museum’s claim, cited by TMZ, that the bear was found with a stomach full of cocaine.

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“We had bones and a little bit of hide,” the medical examiner told WAVE. “We had bones and used them to give us an idea of the height and weight the bear would have been.” WAVE further reported that the real-life bear was female, while the taxidermied bear on display in Lexington—nicknamed “Pablo Escobear”—is described as male.

In February, the Journal published a follow-up report that stated Fun Mall owners initially responded to requests for comment by repeating the story listed on their website. In a later interview, however, the Journal reports that VanMeter said that he and co-owner Whit Hiler inherited the bear in 2015 and grafted the real-life lore onto it.

Meanwhile Damion Stene, a spokesman for the Cocaine Bear movie, told the Journal that “Cocaine Bear is inspired by a true story of a bear that ingested cocaine, but the film has no connection to what may or may not have happened to the bear after its death.”

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Regardless of its authenticity, the cocaine bear has seen a brand explosion in recent months—charting a narrative from taxidermied theme park attraction, to biopic subject, to, now… novelty wedding officiant? Sources close to the cocaine bear have remained tight-lipped as to whether or not this could become a permanent second act. If there’s a taxidermied “meth gator” somewhere in the swamps of Florida, however, we’re guessing she and her agent are taking notes.

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