Paul Krassner on Tim Leary
April 26, 2000
Editor's note: Has anyone promoted their own imminent demise as effectively and with as much fervor as Timothy Leary? Thanks to his last-gasp (literally) efforts at manipulating the press during recent months, everything you wanted to know and more has been written about Leary's life and death. Of course, this isn't surprising; when all is said and done, perhaps Leary's most enduring talent was in exploiting himself. Thus, rather than bore you with the same details found elsewhere, our final tip of the headband to Mr. Leary comes courtesy of his friend Paul Krassner.On the day Tim Leary died, Jay Leno said in his opening monologue that "Leary's family has requested that in lieu of flowers, people should send mushrooms." It was -- as with Bill Clinton's appetite for junk food and sexual liaisons, or Bob Dole's chronological age or grumpy demeanor -- just another easy reference joke. But Leary would have laughed at it. He was often the target of his own humor."I actually have been planning my terminal graduation party for like thirty years," he told me. "Of course, I'm a follower of Socrates, who was one of the greatest counterculture comic philosophers in history. He took hemlock. I've been a member of the Hemlock Society for many years. They talk about self-deliverance. That's the biggest decision you can make. You couldn't choose how and when and with whom you were born.""Although there are people who say you can," I said.Leary: "All right, well, go for it. But for those of us who don't have that option X.""Ram Dass [Formerly Richard Alpert] even once said that a fetus that gets aborted knew it didn't want to be born so it chose parents who wouldn't carry it to term."Leary: "Richard's so politically correct. Isn't that fabulous?"A week before Leary's death, he told me he had decided that a portion of his ashes would be rocketed into outer space. On the table was a brochure from a company that specializes in astral scattering. "And," I suggested, "we'll mix the rest of your ashes with high-grade marijuana and roll several joints, so your friends can pass you around and smoke you." "Well," he replied, "just don't bogart me." Tim Leary seemed to frail too embrace, as though he might crumble in my arms. Instead, as a spontaneous gesture of farewell, I simply saluted him. He smiled and returned my salute. It was our final moment of intimacy.A collection of Paul Krassner's satire, The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race, has just been published by Seven Stories Press; his comedy album, We Have Ways of Making You Laugh, will be released in July by Mercury Records.