Timothy Leary's farewell trip Fame: About a month before Timothy Leary died of cancer May 31, his weak appearance at an awards ceremony showed that his once vibrant public persona had already died. The former champion of LSD had forgotten where he was.

Sun Journal

June 08, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The first of the entourage to arrive at the Beverly Hills Hotel was Camilla Grace, wearing a short blue dress, fluffy blue slippers and a dog collar studded with flashing, battery-operated lights.

Next came Trudy Truelove, in a dress cut just low enough in the back so that the top of her extensive tattoo work could be seen. She also wore one of the flashing collars, as did Craig Inglis, whose tuxedo shirt was so ruffled it would have embarrassed a matador.

Half a dozen more twentysomethings emerged from cars near the front entrance of the fabled landmark, all wearing the collars.

Security guards and bellmen descended quickly.

But when the uniformed personnel reached the group, it became clear they were heading not for the young people, but for the much older, painfully thin man in a wheelchair they were accompanying. The man was dressed in a sport jacket and bow tie, and even though he was slightly slumped over, it could be clearly seen that he, too, wore a flashing dog collar.

"Dr. Leary, it is so nice to see you," said bellman Kevin Brown, leaning down to gently grasp his hand. "It has been too long since you've come to see us."

Timothy Leary, who by choice lived much of his controversial life in the public spotlight, had to face two deaths in his last days -- one of his body, weakened by cancer, and the other of his celebrity.

His body succumbed May 31. In late April he made his last public appearance.

That night, in addition to his young acolytes and caretakers, he was joined by two women who brought a sense of refinement to the scene: Laura Huxley, the widow of Aldous Huxley (for whom Leary supplied the LSD in 1963 for the novelist's deathbed drug trip), and Barbara Fouch-Roseboro, fashion model, businesswoman and wife of former baseball player John Roseboro.

It was a fitting group. Leary was almost as famous for the variety of people around him as for his statements and writings.

"I put together a kind of salon at my house," Leary had said in an earlier interview. But Leary was probably at his most animated in a public forum.

He and his troops made their way into a banquet hall, where about 300 people were finishing dinner. The group would have been hard to miss anyway, but in the dimmed lights of the hall, it became apparent that Leary's wheelchair was also outfitted with strings of flashing lights.

This was the 50th annual banquet and awards ceremony of the Los Angeles Advertising Women. Leary was not receiving the group's Lulu award. His friend Susan Sarandon, who had been named outstanding humanitarian of the year, had asked Leary to pick up her award for her.

The fact that Leary was a last-minute substitution was apparent when he was wheeled up to the head table. Sitting across from him was Art Linkletter, the television host whose association with Leary goes back more than 25 years -- even though the two have never spoken.

In 1968, Linkletter's 20-year-old daughter, who had had bad LSD experiences, jumped off a building to her death. Linkletter became an avid opponent of recreational drugs, and in speeches he often mentioned his disdain for Leary.

Linkletter, 83, stared wordlessly across the hotel table at Leary.

"It was such a shock," he said later in an interview. "I thought it was one of the strangest moments of my life."

Time had not mellowed his feelings. "I was so glad to see him, because he is suffering so," Linkletter said. "It was pretty good evidence about what happens to you when you live that kind of life."

The two men did not talk. Of Linkletter, Leary would later only say, "He wouldn't look at me. He wouldn't look at me."

Shortly after his arrival, it was time for Leary to make the acceptance speech. To rousing applause, he was wheeled onto the stage, and with the help of Joey Cavella, one of his young employees, he stood up at the rostrum, holding onto its sides.

"I am very touched to be here, for many reasons," he started, his voice surprisingly strong. "I realize I am lucky enough to be in the presence of two of my guests tonight. I'm talking about Laura Huxley and Barbara Fouch."

More applause. But Leary could not stay focused.

"Sixty years is a long time. But I can remember back to the days of the '60s."

He segued into women's contributions to the culture, but his pauses became longer. He could not hide the fact that he had forgotten why he was there.

"Joey," he called out. "What should I do now?"

hTC The young man quickly moved to his side and whispered in his ear.

Leary switched to talking about Sarandon, but after a moment, ** he was once again calling for Cavella.

He finished with, "Susan, we miss you, you're a long way away, but you are in our hearts tonight. Keep telling us what it is to be a human being."

There was polite applause and embarrassed glances all around.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.