Photo 1995 at Timothy Leary's home
Timothy Leary passed away 10 years ago today. I was with him the evening before he died and I still remember his humor even in his final hour.
I met Timothy Leary in Tokyo in the summer of 1990. Tim was excited about virtual reality and had told his friend David Kubiak in Kyoto to help him track down "young Japanese kids who know about virtual reality". I wasn't a VR expert, but I was into computer graphics, games and the rave/club scene. I had also just opened a nightclub in Tokyo. David, who lived in Kyoto, directed Tim to me and several others in Tokyo and we hooked up with him at a bar.
I hijacked the situation. After dinner I grabbed Tim and took him on a whirlwind tour of the Tokyo club scene. His visit happened to coincide with the time in my life when I was more tuned in to the Tokyo club scene than any other time in my life being the operator of one of the weirder nightclubs in Tokyo. I tried to explain how the Japanese youth were interpreting the rave and cyberpunk cultures. Tim got excited and we continued our dialog. He called these new funky Japanese kids "The New Breed". He changed the "tune in, turn on, drop out" to "tune in, turn on, take over." We talked a lot about neoteny, the retention of child-like attributes in adulthood, which he felt was exhibited in the culture of the Japanese youth at the time.
When I met Tim, I had been exposed to a lot of his work through his early writings and through the writings of people like Robert Anton Wilson. When I asked him whether he had actually talked to aliens as Robert Anton Wilson says in Cosmic Trigger, Tim explained that it was all a joke. A big joke. All that stuff about magic numbers and talking to aliens was a joke. Tim had an interesting relationship with the New Age culture that he helped create in the 60's but his interests had moved on to cyberspace and the next generation of youth. Tim was practical and analytical while also being an amazing performer and communicator. Above all, he was almost always very funny. He called himself a "performing philosopher."
When my mother moved to Los Angeles and I decided to base myself partially out of LA, Tim picked us up at the airport in LA and immediately threw a party for us at his home in Beverly Hills. That weekend, he insisted that we (mom, sister and myself) drive with him to San Francisco so he could introduce us to his friends there. He called Queen Mu, the publisher of Mondo 2000 and asked them to organize a party at the Mondo house. At that party, my sister met Scott Fisher, who she eventually married. We also met Mark Pauline of Survival Research Labs and probably 80% of the people I know in San Francisco. I have a feeling I might have met John Perry Barlow there as well. Tim also took me to the offices of The Well and introduced me to Stewart Brand. In one week, Tim had introduced us to his amazing network and had "plugged us in". I would not be where I am today if it were not for Tim's generosity in making his entire network available to us.
In LA, I spent a lot of time with Tim working on a book and producing a TV show in Japan called "The New Breed" based on our conversations. He enlisted me as a "God Son" which he has been known to do from time to time to people he considered family. I continued to meet people through Tim. Tim's house was always open to anyone and was a crossroads where Hollywood stars, hippies, technologists, academics, artists and just about any other kind of person you could imagine would come and hang out and enjoy his hospitality and share thoughts. I miss Tim very much and I miss the network of people he helped bring and keep together. I am still in touch with many of the people from those days but it's obviously not the same without him. However, I believe his influence and legacy lives on and every day I say my favorite words of his: "Question Authority and Think for Yourself." That is the motto that I live by.
I just got this from Zack Leary, Tim's son.
Ten years ago on this very day Timmy worked up every last bit of strength he had and plopped his cancer ridden vessel into his electric wheelchair. He did his morning ritual of barking at someone to make his coffee and to get his newspaper while he wheeled around the house to then soak up the sun outside on the Sunbrook Drive porch. This day felt different, however. The morning ritual never did go smoothly, but this day it seemed like it was just to much god damn trouble to begin with. He knew that too. After a sip or two of coffee he basically said “fuck it” and got what was left of his ass back in bed. There were not many words left – his fantastic world class verbosity was no longer. His tall proud gorgeous physique was long gone. His mental dance and history lesson of teaching us how to die was complete – it was time to cash in his few remaining chips.
It’s funny when you know that a specific day is going to be THE day someone dies. We all knew that May 31st, 1996 was going to be the day that Timmy was going to die. As he sat in his bed, the kind hospice people calmed his body down to a tranquil enough state for the rest of the crew to go ahead make the necessary arrangements. From about 10 a.m. until midnight many friends made one last trip to the foot of the bed to say their last goodbyes. The gracious republican landlords from next door, some of the wait staff from Mortons, old friends from Hollywood, team members, some family were all there to make good on his dying wish. What a day it was!
I think the only people who were truly freaking out were the rest of us, he was fine. His grace into death was legendary. As the day went on, he treated us to a spontaneous death rap called “Why? Why not” as about a dozen of us sat there laughing and crying. And then sometime very very late he said his last word “beautiful” and then drifted away.
As the coroners came to pick up the stiff we sat in the living room at Sunbrook freaked out and passed out. They wheeled his body out on the gurny and as he was approaching the doorway we have him one last rousing round of applause. A life well lived.
“And then one day you’ll find ten years have got behind you...No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.”
“Everyone will get the Timothy Leary they deserve.”
I received this from Michael Gosney.
Michael GosneyTimothy Leary died exactly 10 years ago today, on May 31, 1996.
Here's a nice selection of his writings, online:
And the WIKIpedia on Tim:
He was really just one of us, living a meaningful, full life...thriving in exemplary ways... making his unique contributions to our evolution...standing up when no one else would, telling stories along the way: fantastic tales, modern parables, simple foibles, profound insights, hilarious episodes...
Dr. Tim died on May 31, 1996. And on that day I would venture that the backplane of our planetary mind, the spirit world if you will...was vastly enriched with the new edge of human experience that Timothy's life so powerfully embodied. He was a modern hero with whom millions resonated, and whose mind and spirit opened many evolutionary pathways.
Tim was a friend and great inspiration to many. We remember and honor him as the human journey continues!