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
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone