Acid evangelist fights to give death a good name

Dr Leary plans to die as he lived: outrageously and on LSD. And, writes John Carlin in Washington, he wants us to watch

Rebellious to the last, Timothy Leary, the pyschedelic Socrates of the Sixties, has made plans to heap scorn on the final taboo by celebrating his death live, on screen, on the World Wide Web.

"Visible, interactive suicide", he calls it. A wizened victim, at 75, of seemingly incurable prostate cancer, he has declared his intention to ingest, in the presence of his friends and disciples, not a potion of hemlock but a cocktail of LSD. He has not yet announced the date of the event but will do so once the doctors inform him that further medication is useless.

The dying thoughts of Dr Leary (he was a professor of psychology at Harvard until his expulsion for drug abuse in 1963) will then be available to all those wishing to access his Internet home page at http:/www.leary. com. Owners of computers with CD-ROM will be afforded the opportunity to watch him join his old soulmates Aldous Huxley, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon on the trip to the place whence no man has returned. Or not yet, at any rate...

Dr Leary entertains hopes that life's rest will not be eternal. Immediately after he is declared dead his head is to be removed, and his brain frozen. He has signed a contract with a California cryogenics laboratory for his brain to be preserved at a temperature of minus 320 degrees fahrenheit until the day mankind discovers a cure for death. Or, as a friend put it, "he is going to wait and see if a time comes when he can remanifest the software in a new form of hardware".

Meanwhile, the man who challenged the world to "turn on, tune in, drop out" - who Huxley described as having "a frightful penchant for cocking his snoot at authority" - means to continue defying the social orthodoxies by facing death with a grin on his face. He declared himself "thrilled" when he learned in January last year that he had received a visit from "Mademoiselle Cancer". Since then he has occupied most of his time devising what he describes as the means to achieve "a hi-tech designer death". "I am developing methods and technologies," he says, "to delay the ultimate onset of pain, coma, helplessness and indignity."

To keep up his spirits, for he is undergoing radiation and is in frequent pain, he has been sticking to a daily diet which includes, he says, 44 cigarettes; three cups of coffee; one beer; two glasses of wine; one cookie; one marijuana joint; one Tylenol PM; two prescription pain pills; 12 balloons of nitrous oxide (laughing gas); and three "Leary biscuits" - Ritz crackers topped with cheese and marijuana.

He has not been partaking of these pleasures alone. During the last week his home in Beverly Hills has been the site of what one visitor described as "a permanent party". Though Leary himself is reported to be looking like a dying Aids patient - purple-blotched, skeletal, hunched in a wheel- chair - the house has been teeming 24 hours a day with beautiful young women in mini-skirts and beautiful young men with long hair and rings through their noses, devotees all of the dying guru's ethic of benignly rampant self-indulgence.

Yoko Ono, Susan Sarandon, Ken Kesey and Dan Ackroyd have been among the guests, feeding Dr Leary purple Nitrous Oxide balloons supplied from a tank he keeps in his bedroom, together with a collection of 15 wheel- chairs and the incubator where his dead head will be stored.

John Perry Barlow, who dropped acid with Dr Leary 30 years ago, visited him on Thursday night. At one time an occasional lyricist for the Grateful Dead, Mr Barlow, is today the head of the Electronics Frontier Foundation, a celebrated web philosopher viewed with almost as much veneration by the cyber generation as Dr Leary was in his day by the hippies.

"Tim's home, I'd say, is as holy a place as I've been in a long time," said Mr Barlow. "He's surrounded himself with angelic young people and some of the great people of this century. And you know what he said to me? 'I'm gonna give death a better name or die trying'. It's inspiring, man, it's a life-inspiring energy he's created.

"He's violating one of the sickest things in this culture, that death is something to be ashamed of. He's doing what he's always tried to do, rearrange people's mental furniture. We deny death in the US, we're ashamed of it. He is affirming death, embracing it, and he's gonna do it live on TV."

Just how coherent he will be, how triumphant a spectacle he will present to the world with his kiss of death, remains to be seen.

A phone call to his home on Friday evening was taken by an efficient young person by the name of Trudy Truelove. She said an interview was virtually impossible as Dr Leary was finding it hard both to hear and to speak. She suggested, however, that a list of questions should be faxed through to his home. If he was up to it, she would fax the replies back.

It would have been unconventionally rude to say it, but the thought did occur that Dr Leary, clinging to life with perhaps a little more urgency than he might be willing to admit, had left his death-day party a little late.

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments