Leary, Garcia, Nixon get in last words

Magazines

July 28, 1996|By Matthew Gilbert | Matthew Gilbert,BOSTON GLOBE

Final days, boomer style? Why not?

This month's glossy obsession is the last great dropping-out of Timothy Leary, Dr. Trips, whose concluding months became a high-powered media event with nonstop visits from such journalists and celebrities as Oliver Stone, Yoko Ono, Susan Sarandon and William Burroughs, who developed a particular interest in Leary's pain-relieving fentanyl patch.

The August Esquire nicely chronicles the circus scene at Leary's L.A. ranch house and the August Spin offers a brief "life and times" bit, but the piece to read is Mikal Gilmore's full-length profile in Rolling Stone for July 11-25 (the one with Jenny McCarthy and that suspicious-looking hot dog on the cover). With both historical sweep and personal investment, Gilmore pieces it all together -- Leary's tragic romantic history, his social outlawism and legal troubles, his exact position as an American icon, his effectiveness as a therapist. It's an epic story. Gilmore also gets to the heart of Leary's commitment to LSD: "If you don't die, you didn't get your money's worth from your dealer," the doctor reminds the writer.

Although his original plan was to commit suicide while on-line, and to freeze his brain in a cryonics apparatus along with wine, pot, a bong, junk food, Allen Ginsberg poetry and other critical items, Leary went out more conventionally, with family and friends quietly at his bedside as he repeated, among other phrases, "Why not? Why not?" Let's hope he's not finding out.

Ungrateful

The Rolling Stone for Aug. 8 jumps Deadhead-long into the final days/daze of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. What the cover calls "The Secret Life of Jerry Garcia" is actually less mysterious: Garcia, who died a year ago, was a junkie, and the article features lots of insiders providing unattractive details about him. The story, by Robert Greenfield, is an excerpt from a forthcoming oral biography, and while the surviving Grateful Dead members did not talk to Greenfield, voices in the piece include John Perry Barlow, Merl Saunders, Mountain Girl, David Grisman, Jorma Kaukonen and Owsley Stanley. It's a poignant glimpse of a man with extraordinary personal power who ultimately used that power against himself.

Mixed feelings

Richard Nixon, meanwhile, had some rather mixed feelings about Bill Clinton in his final days, according to this week's New Yorker. Beginning in 1990, Nixon made a habit of confiding in his 21-year-old foreign policy assistant, Monica Crowley, who took notes on everything her mentor/grandfather figure said. Now, Crowley has compiled the late president's comments on Bill and Hill into an interesting narrative of two men at opposite ends of the spectrum. "I'll tell you one thing," Nixon says during Clinton's candidacy, "if he is elected president, I will know that this country has finally gone to hell." Later, when President Clinton finally asks Nixon for advice, Nixon softens. "It was the best conversation with a president I've had since I was president. Better than with Bush, because Baker was always looming around. And I never had such a conversation with Reagan."

Nixon never softens on Hillary Clinton, however, saying early on that "if she gets in, whoa! Fasten your seatbelts" and later calling her "ice-cold." Of course Nixon was acutely aware of one fact: "You know," he says, "Clinton's wife was a lawyer on the Watergate committee, so that tells us where she's coming from."

Weird Jones

Check out Pamela Des Barres' piece in the August Movieline on Christopher Jones, who was supposed to be the next James Dean in the late 1960s.

Jones, who has a cameo in a forthcoming movie called "Trigger Happy," is prone to saying things like "My manhood is my soul" and, about Bette Davis, "I tried to jiggle her, but I wasn't sophisticated enough," and his story, which includes a love affair with Sharon Tate and a son who killed his mother, is Hollywood weird.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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