Tim Leary: Tune In, Turn On, Drop Dead

"What a beautiful day to die," I thought as I turned into a quiet Benedict Canyon cul-de-sac above the Beverly Hills Hotel and parked. As usual, Timothy Leary's front door was open, and the garage door was up with a bedspread hung across the entranceway. I wondered why there weren't more cars.The summons had been ominous. A Leary representative had called my paper the previous day to say Leary was dying, slipping in and out of consciousness. He would be holding a deathbed press conference the next afternoon at 1. I had talked with the former acid guru several times already in the process of writing this article. This would be the last time I saw him alive.When Timothy Leary, age 76, found out last year that he was dying of inoperable prostate cancer, he says he was thrilled. "Death is the last taboo," Leary told an interviewer in a recent British TV documentary, The Enthusiastic Death of Timothy Leary, "and that taboo is going to crumble. Because one of the most important things you do in life is die." Rather than crawling into a hole of fear and trepidation, Leary decided to make of his death a very public adventure; a teaching opportunity; a one-man show starring Dr. Timothy Leary, the Man Who Turned On the World. The first time I was asked to write about Leary's long public dying, I said no thanks. Leary had always turned me off. When I thought of him at all, I thought of him as a snake-oil salesman. I thought of my friend Frank W., who shattered like a crystal after a few bad acid trips, then shuffled off into a lifetime of mental hospitals; and Kirsten -- so beautiful, so funny. She was never right again after her acid years. Now she's a bag lady.It's not that I'm anti-acid -- LSD changed my life. I won't bore you with old acid trips, but one icy midnight in Buffalo, New York, I felt the Female Power pass from my mother (half a continent away at the time, and definitely not tripping) through me to my first wife, like a night train up the Nile. I appreciate the chemical's power.Leary eventually found a new drug. After he bought his first Macintosh, in 1983, he began saying computers were the LSD of the '80s. He was soon creating his own interactive software and hiring himself out as a consultant to companies developing virtual-reality techniques. But to me, Leary would always be, in William Burroughs' words, Johnny Acidseed.Now, walking somberly into Leary's house, I blinked. Everything felt so ... everyday: the Mad Hatter's top hat on the back of the couch, the 4-foot-high, full-color Leary brain scan, the smell of fresh-baked banana bread in the air. I had expected something, well, more lugubrious.Leary's cozy bungalow, in which he's lived for 25 years, still feels like a bachelor pad. There's always somebody shooting pool. A gorgeous Ed Ruscha painting of the letters T and L stenciled white against a grid of streetlights hangs in the living room. He has several Kenny Scharfs spray-painted on plywood, and a Keith Haring drawing hangs above the fireplace: the artist's eyes pouring with tears. Haring drew it, an impromptu Casa Leary docent once explained, the day he found out he had AIDS: "It's the only sad painting Keith Haring ever did." As usual, this day, Leary's old, blind golden retriever, Bo (Leary calls himself the dog's "seeing-eye human"), bumped into me, burrowing his massive forehead into my crotch for a pat. Through the sunroom's sliding glass doors, I spotted Leary, shielded by a patio umbrella from the sun, wearing a pinstriped Hard Rock Cafe baseball jersey, in a wheelchair.Leary's feet were purple and swollen. (I flashed on so many pictures of him, younger, barefoot or in white cotton socks.) There was a bandage on the back of one hand where an IV had been inserted. His face was pocked with sores. Leary slumped a little in his wheelchair, but he wasn't on his deathbed. In fact, he was hard at work, autographing a cardboard box full of his books.I was trying to figure out how to reconcile the difference between what I was seeing and the news of his imminent passing when a press agent and two members of a band he represented swooped out of nowhere and pressed a rough mix of their new CD into my hands faster than I could say "fucking press agent!" Backing me up against a boom box, they stuck in a tape of their Stonesy rock & roll framing Leary's curiously moving words, "I take that drug/I take that hit/I take that hope/I can take that trip." I didn't even have enough time to congratulate the band on their ruse before a swarm of CalArts video students crashed through the door and started videotaping everything in sight.Trailed by a reporter from People magazine with a tape recorder in one hand and a foldup cellular phone in the other, Leary's friend Lindsey Brice, a woman in her late 20s wearing lace hip-huggers and a loose blouse barely buttoned against the warm spring afternoon, wheeled Leary around in front of the cameras. Leary mugged happily, hitting from a silver balloon full of nitrous oxide, flashing the finger, the peace sign and the forked horns, bathing in the hot television lights as if they were the fountain of youth. A purple-haired beauty in a tartan miniskirt, a beeper pressed against her bare midriff and flowers tattooed up one leg, introduced herself as Leary's legal adviser. "I have only one regret," Leary had told an admiring crowd at a Los Angeles bookstore/bistro two months earlier. "That I can't come to my last party." But I think he was selling himself short.Surrounded by beautiful young men and women, high on the finest drugs, the subject of constant media scrutiny and miles and miles of amazed, amused, angry and adoring ink, Tim Leary is the guest of honor at his own farewell party. Not an hour of the day goes by without a journalist or newscaster somewhere in the world passing along Leary's latest jape or brilliant apercu. When you think about it, for a philosopher, it's not a bad way to pass through the final twilight.And it's all on videotape. For years, a video collective called Retinalogic has been rolling cameras on Leary's every word.And it's all for sale. Timothy Leary is dying as he lived -- by his wits. He estimates his staff payroll alone at $2,000 a week, financed, he laughs, by advances on books he'll never write. And he knows that if he doesn't die by the first of the month, the bills have got to be paid.The same, of course, goes for your correspondent, which is one of the reasons I found myself sitting there on his sun porch. Leary must have sensed my ambivalence during our initial conversation, because the first question he asked me was why I had come. I told him I was hoping to learn how to die. "Actually, I'm not really dying," he wisecracked. "It was just a brilliant career move."I came away from our pre-interview get-acquainted repulsed and fascinated. Why on earth would a 76-year-old man care about having a smashed Al Jorgensen guitar on the wall alongside a platinum Ministry CD? Leary's house is a temple lit by celebrity's lurid glow. There are photos of Leary mugging with Helmut Newton. There are Perry Farrell and David Bowie and Johnny Depp mementos and photos of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, and a drawing of Leary's goddaughter, Winona Ryder, who is the daughter of Leary's longtime archivist, Michael Horowitz, the librarian of the largest collection of drug-oriented artifacts, books and manuscripts in the world, the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library in San Francisco. They say Ryder comes and cooks dinner for Leary when she's in town. There is a Glamour magazine cover of Uma Thurman. Her mother is Leary's second wife, Nanette, who later had Uma with the Buddhist scholar James Thurman. But I didn't see any photos of his own family, of parents or his children, Susan and Jack. While I was there, Tony Curtis sent over white orchids.On the other hand, the feel of loving homage Leary receives from the people in his house is palpable. It is how I imagine some gnarled old solon in Athens 2,500 years ago would have been honored by disciples eager to ease their teacher's passing in any way they could, avid to swallow every last morsel of his honeyed philosophical nectar. "I called my mom back in Georgia," Brice, who comes over to Leary's to help out nearly every day, informed me that afternoon. "I told her I was hanging out here, and she went, 'Oh, no!' But I said, 'Oh, no, Mom. You couldn't be further from the truth. This scene is really positive.'"Around Leary's dying, a sort of schedule has sprung up. Most days he rises at noon, does interviews, signs books and says good-bye to a steady stream of old friends. About 5 p.m., somebody usually cracks open a bottle of Merlot or makes some White Russians, then Leary and whoever is around go on-line to communicate with a worldwide web of well-wishers. Though at first everything seemed random to me, it soon became clear that Shannon Boomer -- who at various times seemed to be Leary's girlfriend, his executive assistant and the housemother -- actually ran a pretty tight ship. When a reporter arrived unannounced, she was allowed to wander around for a few minutes eavesdropping on conversations, then politely asked to fax Leary an interview request.My interviews with Leary were a complete disaster. Chain-smoking Benson & Hedges Menthol 100s, sipping from a flute of Chardonnay, Leary treats interviews like badminton games. I asked him hundreds of questions. He answered only a few, lazily batting the rest back at me as if they were shuttlecocks. He loves words as much as James Joyce, whom he has always acknowledged as one of his most important influences. But Leary grew increasingly impatient with my assumptions, and disparaging of my obvious "mind-body duality.""What's the difference between the mind and the brain?""When human beings try to describe what goes on inside the body, they can only describe it in terms of the technology of the time," Leary answered without a second's hesitation, citing the modern description of the heart as a pump. "The best metaphor for now is that the brain is a 120-billion-neuron computer, and the mind is the software used to activate the program.""Why are you so enamored of celebrity?""What?" he snapped, with a tone that said he could hardly believe I'd ask such a dumb question."Well, maybe I've lived in L.A. too long or something. But to me it ought to be spelled 'SELL-ebrity.' It's a product.""Well, that's your problem," he sniffed. "Celebrity simply means that people listen to you.""Do you have any regrets?""Reporters all want to know about my regrets! Every scorecard has its errors and wild pitches, and I've made a lot." A lifelong baseball addict, Leary noted that a .333 lifetime batting average is usually good enough to get a ballplayer into the Hall of Fame. He said he'd like to think he's done that well philosophically. He said he's the happiest he's ever been in his life.I told him I heard he got busted last year in the Austin, Texas, airport. He said he got bored at the baggage carousel waiting for his traveling companion, Aileen Getty, to get her luggage. Discovering it was illegal to smoke in the airport, Leary, with his faithful video crew, Retinalogic, at his side shooting everything, went looking for a policeman to smoke in front of. "At first we couldn't find one," Leary snorted incredulously. "You can never fucking get busted when you want to!"He finally found a badge at a metal detector. "There was a young black guy. It turned out it was his first day on the job. He told me if I wanted to smoke I should go outside, and I said, 'No, I want to smoke here.' I started to light up, and a hand came over the camera." Leary was escorted to a small airport jail. An incarceration aficionado, Leary estimates it was his 62nd prison. Right away, Leary said, he told the security guard, "Don't take it personally. You're a fine guy. We're going to have a laugh over this." Within a few hours, Leary was free. "Then we all went home, and for the next two weeks they had dinner parties telling about the time they arrested me at the airport.""Is that why you did it?"Leary shot me another look that said he was annoyed. "'Why? Why did I do it? Because I've lived my whole life that way!""But wasn't it inconvenient?""It was a basic testing of the totalitarian system we're in. Also, I knew that I wasn't going to get beaten up. And I knew also that there'd be publicity. I called CNN, and the story went around the world! The idea was to give 30 million people a laugh.""Well, that makes sense.""I don't want to make sense. If it makes sense to you, with your mind, I'm in trouble."I plunged on, undaunted, "You were like Terry Southern's character 'Grand' Guy Grand in The Magic Christian. He 'makes it hot' for people by using practical jokes that force them to reveal their deepest needs and hungers.""'Need'? 'Hunger'? I can't believe what you're saying!"Leary starts leafing impatiently through some correspondence. "I'm getting very bored with this conversation," he announces ominously. "Is boredom the worst thing for you?""You always go to the ultimate -- 'the worst.' You make an abstraction out of everything.""Do you ultimately think of yourself as a writer?""What the fuck is 'ultimately'? I basically write to please myself, to please my friends and family. My books have never sold big-time: 10 to 15 thousand copies. I write at least two hours a day. If I can't bring a book to bed, I can't sleep."Leary adjusted the pillow he sat on. He can only talk for a few minutes before pain and impatience send him lurching from room to room with his cane, barking out orders, while Retinalogic tapes his every move. In Tim Leary's comfortable bungalow, there is always action. Out in the garage, staff and volunteers labor at workstations set up alongside a 4-foot-tall copper-and-bronze Egyptian hookah and a harem bed dripping with red and purple velour, cataloging the dozens of 4-by-4-foot moving boxes that hold the Leary archives for sale to Stanford. But for Leary himself these days, the primary mission is the construction of a Web site (http://leary.com) that will be, in a very real sense, his final resting place.For now, it's the next best thing to being invited to the bedside party. The thousand people a week who visit Leary's electronic mausoleum can take a tour of his living quarters or browse through some of his writings. Future visitors will be able to participate in the Global Village Voice, a chat room fanzine, or read former L.A. Dodger John Roseboro's sports column or former Saturday Night Live writer Tom Davis' commentary. Each month, there will be a different featured artist in the art room. There will be a living book, where writers can rewrite Leary's published words. Retinalogic is looking for companies that will sponsor product placement within each room.For now, most visitors will want to check out the list of Leary's daily drug intake. During the week of April 14 to April 21, 1996, for example, he smoked 50 cigarettes, and consumed two Dilaudid, two lines of coke, .45 cc of ketamine, an unspecified amount of DMT, a phentynol patch, 12 balloons of nitrous oxide, and two Leary Biscuits, made by adding a lump of butter or cheese to a Ritz cracker, topping it with a fresh marijuana bud, and heating it until the cheese or butter melts and the THC comes alive. In a Web-site health update, Leary explains how "Hi-Tech Designer Dying is occupying most of my time." Despite his difficulties with "Mademoiselle Cancer," who, Leary writes, has "moved in to share 'my' body, 'my' prostate, and 'my' backbones," he reports his mental status as excellent. "Good spirits. Swimming webs of wise friendship. Very happy. Exultant, actually."Once his cyberspace house was operational, Leary titillated the world yet again by announcing that he was going to commit suicide in it "live," as it were, on the Internet. The day, he began telling reporters, he felt he could no longer enjoy life, he planned to knock back a mortality cocktail mixed with his favorite fruit juices while the cameras rolled, then have himself wheeled into his yard, where the last things to pass before his eyes would be the palm trees, the Moroccanesque compound on the next ridge where Cary Grant once lived and tripped, perhaps a red-tailed hawk circling over Beverly Hills, and the perfect blue sky. Since Leary's announcement, his staff has been kept busy fielding a flood of incoming requests for interviews, to which Leary agreed to submit for a $1,000-an-hour "donation to the Web site." "We understand your time is extremely valuable," read one fax I happened to see, "and we would of course pay you."Ever the ringmaster, Leary had even made arrangements for a local cryonics firm to preserve his severed head at minus-320 degrees in a vat of liquid nitrogen against the day some future science would know how to bring it back to life. But two weeks ago, the company angrily pulled its equipment because Leary refused to comply with its procedures. For his part, Leary accused the cryonicists of having no sense of humor. "I was worried," he told the Los Angeles Times, "I would wake up in 50 years surrounded by people with clipboards." "Leary turns everything upside down," explains his friend Roy Walford, a UCLA pathology professor emeritus who recently spent two years inside the Biosphere, "any law, any social custom. This was what the Marquis de Sade did -Ñ he challenged everything with total anarchy and total chaos."It is a chilly January night, and Tim Leary has come to sign books and schmooze with his fans at a L.A bookstore. The faithful among the 200 or more attendees approach him reverently, clutching battered old copies of The Psychedelic Experience or yellow-and-maroon psychedelic amoeba-covered record sleeves of his L.S.D. album for him to sign. Others just want a hug or to kiss him or to pose with him for a last picture. Taped to the wall above where Leary sits -- his bony skull engulfed by a cap bearing the skull-and-crossbones logo of his current publisher, Last Gasp Funnies; a black-and-white silk Italian op-art sports coat draping his desiccated frame -- is a hand-lettered sign advertising prints from Leary's Surfing the Consciousness Nets. "Signed by the artist and Tim/$5.00 each while they last!"SIDEBAR: A Brief History of Tim LearySince his first book, Social Dimensions of Personality, came out in 1950, Tim Leary has written at least 31 more and produced more than 300 scientific-scholarly essays. He's made dozens of audio- and videotapes, records and CD-ROMs; appeared in 10 movies -- my personal favorite being Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams; and made a 1970 run for governor of California, thereby achieving what may be the unique distinction of having run both for and from the highest office in the state. John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote "Give Peace a Chance" as Leary's campaign song. In the last 20 years, he's lectured at more than 300 colleges and universities. He's spent nearly five years of his life in jail. "Unless you've done jail time," he maintains, "serious jail time for your ideas, you're an amateur."History has shown again and again that you can't step into the same Leary twice. "Specialization," as he likes to say, "is for insects. You get the Timothy Leary you deserve." Would he call himself a philosopher? "I guess I'm too lazy to be anything other than a philosopher." But if a man calls himself a philosopher, should we not then ask how does he live? Timothy Leary was conceived, he writes in one of his autobiographies, Flashbacks, on the night of January 17, 1920, after a drunken West Point party, by Timothy Leary Sr. and his wife, Abigail Ferris Leary. Leary's father, known as Tote, was "urban, urbane, and well-to-do . . . among the first cadre of Irish immigrants who rose up through crime, manual labor and politics to join the professional and scientific classes." His dad, an officer and a dentist, would lose a lifelong battle with the bottle, dying of cancer when Leary was 35. His mother's family, the Ferrises, were pious small-town New England Irish Catholic farmers, "suspicious of all things joyous, frivolous or newfangled." Decades later, Leary was unable to recall "one moment of wild merriment" on the Ferris farm. It is clear from his writing that Leary felt he had let his mother, with her high Ferris standards, down.Leary was a rebel: expelled from high school, expelled from Holy Cross, forced to resign from West Point for possession of alcohol. Just before his expulsion from his next college, the University of Alabama, Leary had a new experience while sitting in a psychology class: "It was the first time in my life I had ever heard anyone imply that intelligence was a desirable trait." Leary soon became an enthusiastic student, eventually winning his Ph.D. in psychology from Berkeley in 1950.Five years later, Leary was married, the father of two kids, the director of psychological research at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland. Psychology in those days was quantitative. Behaviorists like B.F. Skinner gleaned their data from rats running around in a cage. Leary, on the other hand, wanted to make people well. For 10 years, Leary and his research team kept track of their psychotherapeutic success rate. "We found that no matter what kind of psychiatric treatment we used, there were the same discouraging results: one-third of the people got better, one-third got worse, one-third stayed about the same."On Leary's 35th birthday -- October 22, 1955 -Ñ his wife, Marianne, perhaps driven by fresh news of her husband's infidelities, or perhaps by the drinking that had increasingly dominated their lives, or perhaps by psychological troubles that may have stemmed from manic-depression, ran a hose from the exhaust pipe into her car and killed herself.Soon after the tragedy, Leary gave up his position. In 1959, he and his children were in Florence, Italy, living on a small research grant and cashed-in insurance premiums, when a coincidental meeting with an old friend led to Leary's appointment to teach a graduate seminar in psychotherapy at the Center for Personality Research at Harvard University. In the summer of 1960, after a semester at Harvard, Leary went to Cuernavaca, where he took magic mushrooms for the first time. He returned that fall a changed man. When he arrived in Cambridge, he told his students they would be looking for the answer to one big question: "How do you change human behavior?"By now, the story has become legend: how, in 1943, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss bio-chemist working at the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Laboratories in Basel, accidentally ingested a new drug, d-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate-25, a semisynthetic compound thousands of times stronger than mescaline, derived in part from the ergot fungus. The chemical, which was soon known by the initials LSD, produced strange effects on Hoffman's mind: "Objects, as well as the shapes of my associates in the laboratory appeared to undergo optical changes ... fantastic pictures of extraordinary plasticity and intensive color seemed to surge towards me ..."LSD was still legal in 1961 when Richard Alpert, 30, assistant Harvard psychology professor and son of the president of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, and Tim Leary founded the Harvard Psychedelic Research Project. Today, Alpert is better known as Ram Dass, the author of a dozen books including the famed counterculture classic Be Here Now. He teaches, lectures and runs a foundation that sponsors health projects around the world. But in those days, he remembers, he was like Tim Leary's little brother. "Tim was very far-out. I was very much an establishment person."For Alpert and Leary, the psychedelics offered an incredible opportunity for introspective research. They and an ever-expanding circle of friends and graduate students simply gobbled the chemicals, then reported back when they came down. Leary and Alpert were determined to democratize the drug experience. "There has not been one time in human history when the elite, who are getting away with everything, ever told ordinary people what they were doing," Leary has written. "The attempt to control, to limit personal behaviors, has been part of the setup at every stage of human evolution."Over the next two years, Leary, Alpert and their group personally gave LSD, mescaline, peyote and psilocybin to over 1,500 people. They turned on every creative person they could reach, from Thelonious Monk (who complained afterward to his connection, Allen Ginsberg, "Don't you have anything stronger?") to anti-communist philosopher and author of Darkness at Noon Arthur Koestler. Leary gave LSD to lifers inside the Massachusetts prison system, to the ex-king of Sarawak, and possibly -- Leary is vague here -- to President John F. Kennedy. Only a boozy acid test with Jack Kerouac came back negative. Kerouac rejected acid's flash-cube breakthroughs, warning Leary, "Walking on water wasn't built in a day."Ram Dass thinks it was inevitable that they and Harvard would clash. "Harvard is a temple to the rational mind. What we were doing was like heresy." Perhaps even more dangerous, they were provoking jealousy among their departmental peers: "Pretty soon, all the graduate students wanted to work for Tim and me." In the spring of 1963, Leary and Alpert were forced to resign from Harvard, a disgrace they share with Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lost his position at the Harvard Divinity School 150 years ago for suggesting that his students drop out of organized religion and seek the God within.Leary was temporarily saved from insolvency by a pair of heirs to the Mellon fortune, Peggy Hitchcock and her brother, Billy, who set Leary up in a turn-of-the-century Hudson River Valley estate in Millbrook, New York, two hours north of Manhattan. The next year was, in Leary's words, "a nonstop festival of life with ceremonies, seminars, music, fertility rites, stargazing, moon watching and forest-glade revels." Leary got married and divorced (from the woman who would be Uma Thurman's mother), then got married again. Leary and Alpert formed the International Federation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) and began publishing scholarly Ralph Metzner's Psychedelic Review.Soon, Leary felt the heat closing in. In the fall of 1965, he decided to close down Millbrook. With his beautiful new wife, Rosemary, and his now teenage kids, Leary headed for Mexico. On Christmas Eve, 1965, the family was busted in Nuevo Laredo for trying to take $10 worth of marijuana into Mexico. Leary, already notorious, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. His daughter Susan, a prep-school student, got five years. After Leary was out on bail and back in Millbrook, his house was raided by G. Gordon Liddy, then an anti-drug Republican assistant D.A. of Dutchess County, New York, and later a Watergate burglar. Leary's son Jack was busted once simply for walking down the road, and police shaved his head before releasing him."By '65, I'd had enough," admits Ram Dass, who was kept busy raising money for Leary's legal defense. "Leary's mind is so far out that for about three or four years, I felt that I could justify living my life to serve him. But then I realized that this was not the way I wanted to spend my life." Leary and Alpert didn't see each other again for 25 years.In 1966, Leary had a fateful lunch with Marshall McLuhan, the iconoclastic Montreal media thinker. "I was never fortunate enough to meet Joyce," Leary says, "but I followed McLuhan around like a fan." McLuhan, a McGill University professor who moonlighted as a consultant to the advertising industry, suggested to Leary that he sell his psychedelic revolution to the consumers like a product. Thinking over McLuhan's words while on his next acid trip, Leary came up with one of this century's truly great advertising slogans: "Tune in, turn on, drop out." Leary's fame was guaranteed, and his fate was sealed.In the 1950s, Santa Monica CanyonÐbased psychiatrist Oscar Janiger (Allen Ginsberg's cousin) was part of an extraordinary, mostly English consciousness klatch, including Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Gerald Heard and Humphrey Osmond, the psychotherapist who coined the term "psychedelic," most of whom began making their homes here when Los Angeles was still "the movie colony."As part of what was at the time the largest single LSD experiment in the world, Janiger, starting in 1954, turned on Cary Grant, Anais Nin and many other notables to acid. He first heard from Leary, he says, back when things were falling apart at Harvard. Janiger, who was teaching at the time at the California College of Medicine, recalls mildly, "I didn't think his purposes were congruent with my own." The rest of Janiger's karass "looked at Tim as if he was something of a mountebank, a self-aggrandizing ego-tripper."When Janiger met Leary, he was impressed in spite of himself. "He was extraordinarily energetic, tall, attractive, a wonderful manner of speaking, aware, observant, gifted, bright -- so bright he seemed to be running ahead of himself all the time. He had this strange attention-span problem. He could never focus on anything. If jumping to conclusions was an Olympic sport, Tim would have a gold medal."Despite everything, Janiger points out, Leary never surrendered to paranoia, never became a cult leader. "He never took on -- as much as the mantle was put on him -- that guru/master thing." Leary always insisted that people question authority, take control of their own reality, take responsibility for operating their own brains. But eventually, Janiger and Leary came to a parting of the ways. "The most important difference between us," says Janiger, one of the founders of the Albert Hoffman Foundation, the psychedelic museum, library and research center set to open permanent headquarters in Los Angeles, "is that Tim said everybody should take LSD. I don't believe in giving everyone LSD."In the late 1960s, everything was political, everyone was usually high. But from the public bliss of the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park in January 1967 (which Leary took part in) through the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago (which Leary didn't -- he was never interested in left-wing politics, which he found "humorless") to Woodstock and Altamont in the summer of 1969, Leary's life a seems to have been sliding deeper and deeper into chaos. In '68, he got busted again, in Laguna Beach this time, along with his wife, Rosemary, and his son Jack, for possession of two roaches. Jack and Rosemary got off with probation. Leary got 10 years. Adding in the sentences for the Millbrook and Nuevo Laredo busts, Leary, at age 50, was looking at life in prison. Five months later, on September 12, 1970, with the help of Rosemary and the revolutionary Weather Underground, Leary shimmied across a telephone cable in the middle of the night from his cell at the California Men's Colony West at San Luis Obispo to freedom.For the next two years, Leary and Rosemary were on the lam. The Weather people got them first to Paris, then to Algiers. Algeria gave them political asylum; Leary soon ran afoul of Eldridge Cleaver and a colony of exiled Black Panthers, who put the Learys under house arrest, but they were able to escape to Switzerland. Leary was driving a gold Porsche around Switzerland the day he heard President Nixon describe him as "the most dangerous man in the world." Switzerland soon revoked Leary's asylum, and he was on the run again until the FBI and the CIA finally captured him on an airstrip in Kabul, Afghanistan, and brought him back to America in chains.Rosemary Woodruff-Leary is now an innkeeper in Northern California. She remained deliberately out of the limelight for decades, living under a different name, and has only begun to reclaim her history in the last few years. It's not very hard to understand why they split up. "It was a life of notoriety, with a little danger thrown in for spice," she recalls with not a little fondness. "We got together, and were arrested on the border five months later. From then on, it was a very public life. There were several arrests, and, for me, several operations. I spent many years regretting leaving," she remembers wistfully, "but ..."It seemed inevitable that Leary, once back in the States, would spend the bulk of his remaining life in prison. Not only was he wanted for his prison escape, while he was out of the country he had been indicted on 19 counts of drug dealing stemming from his association with a Laguna Beach group known as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a quasi-mystical band of surfing acid salesmen. The nature of his association remains a mystery -- though at the time he was rumored to be a sort of celebrity endorser, receiving a small percentage of each tab sold. In 1973, Leary was put into solitary confinement in Folsom Prison in the cell next to Charles Manson. Three years later he was free, his indictment and other legal troubles seemingly forgotten. Did Leary rat on his colleagues to save himself? The question rocked the counterculture in the late Õ70s. Leary himself insisted that no one was ever arrested, indicted or convicted as a result of what he said to the FBI under his code name, Charlie Thrush. Few at the time, however, believed him. Under the aegis of PILL -- People Investigating LearyÕs Lies -- Abbie Hoffman called Leary "worse than Benedict Arnold." Allen Ginsberg compared Leary to "Zabbath Zvi, the false Messiah accepted by millions of Jews centuries ago." In what must have been the most painful accusation of all, Jack Leary denounced his father as a liar and broke off all further contact. "He never snitched me off," shrugs Bruce Margolin, a tough West Hollywood criminal-defense attorney who specializes in drug cases. "I donÕt represent snitches." In 1970, Margolin had given up his practice and traveled to India with Ram Dass. When Leary was brought back from Afghanistan, Ram Dass had asked Margolin to defend Leary on the San Luis Obispo escape charges. Margolin argued unsuccessfully that LearyÕs escape was triggered by an LSD flashback, to which escaping from prison was a natural reaction. Even today, Margolin, currently general counsel to the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, speaks of Leary carefully. After the trial, they didnÕt talk to each other for more than 20 years. Margolin theorizes that Leary understood that the only way he would ever get out of jail was "to totally discredit himself in the eyes of his followers and prove to the government that he was no longer a threat." If so, it seems to have worked. In 1979, he re-emerged in Los Angeles with a fourth wife, Barbara -- she of the fabulous sunglasses and the extra-long fixture on the filmland party circuit. He tried his hand at acting and standup comedy. He toured the country debating his old nemesis, G. Gordon Liddy. In the late Õ80s, he promoted a kind of consciousness cabaret at the old Carlos & CharlieÕs on the Strip, presenting guest lecturers like John Lilly, Robert Anton Wilson and Paul Krassner. In the summer of 1995, he did an exegesis of Alice In Wonderland at the Viper Room. Every Monday night for months, the club was redecorated to look like an interactive Wonderland, with the waitresses and the audience all in costume. If Leary was a philosopher, the nightclubs were his academy. But while Leary was becoming the Socrates of the Sunset Strip, his daughter SusanÕs life was coming unhinged. She made the news in the late Õ80s when she shot her boyfriend in the back of the head, but was twice ruled unfit to stand trial, and sentenced to Patton State Mental Hospital. In 1990, she hanged herself with a shoestring, leaving behind two children. In January 1995, Timothy Leary found out he was dying, and heÕs been partying ever since. ItÕs the way people always claim theyÕre going to act when they find out that their end is nigh -- but then, of course, rarely do. Now, as at the end of a party, Leary is tidying up and saying goodbye. About six months ago, Leary and Oscar Janiger reunited. "The new Leary," Janiger says, "is considerably more gentle, softer, seemingly more spiritually generous. In the old days, he was never there for anybody. He never had any intimacy. Now he does." Bruce Margolin and Leary have gotten reacquainted. "Leary is one of the bravest men in the universe," says Margolin today. Ram Dass and Leary have made up, and Ram Dass has come down from his home in Marin County to see Leary a number of times. At the end of March, the whole Harvard psychedelic crew gathered together at LearyÕs house for a hail and farewell. "It was sweet," says Ram Dass, who was there. Even tough old William Burroughs, who dismissed LearyÕs Harvard research as softheaded pseudoscience, has come around. "I have come to regard Timothy as a true pioneer of human evolution," he says today, "a true visionary of the human mind and spirit." A few weeks ago, Leary saw his son Jack for the first time in 20 years. Jack, a boilermaker who builds oil-refinery cooling towers for companies like Bechtel, is in his mid-40s and has two kids of his own. He hadnÕt been in contact with his father since publicly denouncing him at the 1977 PILL press conference. Many had been urging Jack to make peace with his father before the old man was permanently downloaded onto his Web site, not so much for TimothyÕs sake but for his own. Sadly, the reunion, at least as characterized by Ram Dass, was strained. "Jackie was happy he went," Ram Dass claims. "Tim was just, ÔMy boy, my boy!Õ But I donÕt think Jackie gave him much. He was pretty reserved. Timothy created for Jackie and Susan a very colorful and dramatic life, but I think Timothy feltÉunheard" Ram Dass believes that Jack still holds his father responsible for his motherÕs and sisterÕs deaths. "JackieÕs calling Tim on something, and he wonÕt let him off the hook. HeÕs angry at TimothyÕs sliding by on human relationships." Reading LearyÕs autobiography, I couldnÕt help but be struck by LearyÕs pattern with women: when he meets them and falls in love, itÕs always eternal springtime. The womanÕs up on the pedestal. But when they break up a few years later, itÕs the women who have let him all down. Marianne kills herself, leaving him with two kids. Rosemary goes off with their bodyguard while Leary goes to jail. Joanna leaves Leary for a new boyfriend hours after he gets out of prison. Barbara leaves him alone to die. ItÕs the old Catholic model of the virgin and the whore. So which would Leary be, the virgin or the whore? "HeÕs the virgin and the whore," laughs Rosemary Woodruff-Leary, "and that is part of the charm: the great deference -- and lip service -- he pays to women. HeÕs quite a wonderfully romantic person." She, too, after 25 years of separation, has come to share some of Leary's final days, sitting in the corner of the patio reading a book with an amused look as the media swirl around Leary yet again. She seems concerned about my own attempts to make sense of this extremely complicated person: "He's a great man with the frailties and failings of a great man." She acknowledges that Leary might not have been a good family man: "He needs a larger audience. He has more scope than most people." She shrugs. "What else can I say? He's still the man I love." Perhaps as a substitute for his own children, Leary has long held a powerful fascination for the young. Most of the people around him in his final days are in their 20s and 30s. "I really love the man," says Michael Segel, a young filmmaker who's known Leary since he was a child. "He's always been so supportive. He's been there for me in a way very few people have." "I'm sure," Segel says, "that when single-cell organisms all lived in the swamp, most of the single-cell organisms said, 'It's nice here. Why should we move?' But there needs to be forces who say, 'Let's crawl up on the shoreline.' I believe Timothy if one of the most important evolutionary forces. All he's really doing is saying, 'What if?'" Have I gotten the Timothy Leary I deserve? Is it the con man? The hustler? The bad father? Is it the teacher? The visionary? The philosopher? The man who asks, "What if?" Have I learned anything at all about how to die? All I can say for sure is that Leary has incredible courage, and an awesome ability to keep it in the now, to live, in other words, until he dies. And he has never lost his sense of humor. Or his need, like the Magic Christian, "to make it hot for 'em." "People think there are two Tim Learys," laughs his friend Roy Walford, "and that when he got sick, the other Tim Leary was going to come out. He's always been the Wizard of Oz. Now people are waiting for Frank Morgan to come out. But there's nobody behind the Wizard of Oz. Leary really is the Wizard."

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