An examination of the notorious high priest of LSD Timothy Leary through the eyes of his famed lover Joanna Harcourt-Smith. Academy Award® winning director Errol Morris recounts the wild adventures of two seemingly innocent people on the run in this international saga of mystery and lust. But was Leary’s “perfect love” a CIA plant who helped take him down? Or was she simply a rich, beautiful young woman out for the adventure of a lifetime with the man Richard Nixon called “Public Enemy #1”?
The sound I’m going to play now is Timothy Leary’s voice… in 1974 when he was incarcerated at Vacaville Prison.
He did a series of interviews with one of the psychologists at the prison.
I’m just going to play the very first words he gave this psychologist.
Dr. Timothy Leary, once a clinical psychologist and Harvard professor, now, by his own description, a visionary prophet.
Others have called him the man most responsible for the North American crisis over LSD.
We’re teaching people how to use their head.
The, uh, point is… that in order to use your head, you have to go out of your mind.
He… was put in prison as an ideological trafficker that had to be stopped.
After he escaped from prison and spent three years in Europe, we were both trapped and captured in Afghanistan.
My biggest question: Was I being manipulated?
And if I was manipulated, how far back did it go?
Whatever forces had been following Timothy since way back.
All of the counterculture said that I was a CIA sex provocateur, a Mata Hari, that I had been sent to lead Timothy to Afghanistan and get him arrested.
Is Joanna Harcourt-Smith, his one contact/spokesagent, a sex spy?
An agent provocateuse, a double agent, a CIA hysteric, a jealous tigress, or what?
All of the above.
So you’re a CIA plant?
I still wonder to this day.
It’s in watching Wormwood…
where I said to myself, “Maybe I was a CIA plant.”
And maybe I’d been manipulated to… lead Timothy Leary back into being captured.
Uh, this is Joanna Harcourt.
First I’d like to show you these two papers that, uh, Timothy Leary gave me two minutes before we got off the plane in Los Angeles yesterday evening.
I’ll read them to you.
“January 18th, 1973,
To Joanna Harcourt-Smith,
I lovingly give all the rights to transmit the story of our perfect love in Spain, Switzerland, Austria, USA, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Germany, et cetera. Timothy Leary.”
If you’d like to see them.
I loved him.
I had known him for six weeks.
We had traveled like shooting stars across Europe, taking acid every day… plunging into the maddest, romantic relationship you could ever imagine.
I knew nothing about him.
I had not read any of his books.
I had heard the Moody Blues song.
I remember exactly where I heard that song.
Seven months pregnant in a bathtub in Trenton, New Jersey, which for me was like stranger than Peru, with my tummy protruding out of the water and hearing…
Timothy Leary’s dead
No, no, no, no
He’s outside, looking in
Timothy Leary’s dead
And I got this strange destiny feeling.
It’s happened to me many times in my life.
This is a turning point.
He’ll fly his astral plane
Takes you trips around the bay
LSD was calling me.
The Supreme Court today overturned the narcotics conviction of Dr. Timothy Leary, and in the process dealt a crippling blow to federal marijuana laws.
I don’t think that I’m ever going to spend more than one day in jail– that’s my limit.
You see, it would be suicidal for the United States government to put me in jail.
Every time they arrest me, they bring more interest and sympathy for what we’re doing.
‘Cause we’re not criminals, we’re not dope addicts.
We’re sincere people trying to do our best for our society and for our own souls.
I had a very painful childhood.
Much of it was about being Jews in Europe.
My mother went through two world wars.
She went through two world wars as a Jew.
She carried the trauma of having escaped Poland.
She carried the trauma of 77 of her relatives being killed.
Except for sometimes being funny…
my mother was… well, she treated me like she was Hitler and I was the Jew.
That didn’t make for a very happy childhood.
I think I was about 11 when I found out we were Jewish.
And so, I immediately ran to my mother and I said to her, “This is wonderful, we’re Jewish! We’re the most intelligent people in the world!”
And she slapped me across the face.
She said, “Never, never, never say that.”
Being a Catholic was the salvation.
It would save her child, her children, and, uh, it would save her.
So back to LSD calling me.
There was something that could provoke an enormous change in me.
And perhaps I could find out what it was to feel planted.
Something is being born, and I wanted to be part of it.
For those of you who, uh, missed the last thrilling installment in this Keystone Kops drama, yesterday afternoon Rosemary and I came here to talk to the press about, uh, our views and to, uh, answer any questions.
And, as you probably know, uh, I was arrested and then immediately released at the, um, at the jail.
Dr. Timothy Leary, the former Harvard instructor who became an exponent of LSD, has been convicted of illegally transporting marijuana and faces a possible 20-year prison sentence.
At that time, this character I had been lovers with… when I was 18 years old… a man called Michel Hauchard… came to visit me.
He was an arms dealer… a James Bond villain.
Timothy called him Goldfinger.
Do you expect me to talk?
No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.
He was always trying to get back with me.
He would say to me, “I have a Rolls-Royce,” and I’d say, “I don’t care.”
He’d say, “I have a villa in the south of France.”
I’d say, “I don’t care.”
We had dinner, and at dinner he said to me, “I own Timothy Leary.”
So I said, “What is Timothy Leary?”
“It’s this man who’s very famous in America, and he’s escaped from prison.”
That was so exciting for me!
I almost wanted to be with an outlaw.
Dr. Timothy Leary, formerly of Harvard, now known as the High Priest of the drug cult, escaped during the night from the California Men’s Colony at San Luis Obispo.
Dr. Leary was serving a term of up to ten years for possession of marijuana.
We want to tell the people of the United States the third world war has begun.
Join us in the fight for freedom because we are everywhere, and we’re happy and we’re free.
And we want to make the world free.
And how did he come to “own” Timothy Leary?
Well, this is it.
His friend recommended that he be Timothy and Rosemary’s protector in Switzerland.
Michel gave them a beautiful house… paid for a nice life.
But after a short while he said, “If you write a book about your escape, I will sell it.”
Michel said to Timothy, “I would like you to sign a contract where you assign to me all your literary rights now and forever.”
Timothy had nothing to lose.
He was an outlaw on the run.
He signed it.
And so that’s what Michel meant when he sat next to me in that restaurant in Marbella and said, “I own Timothy Leary.”
How rich is he?
Who? Michel Hauchard?
How can I tell?
You can never tell how rich, rich people are.
Switzerland today refused a United States request for the extradition of LSD advocate Timothy Leary.
Leary called it a victory of love.
Dr. Leary, you are in exile from your own country.
You’re a fugitive from justice.
How do you feel about that, not being able to go home?
Well, it’s ironic, um, my joy today… comes because, uh, I’m not going to go back to the United States.
I’m going to decline the invitation of, uh, Governor Reagan and President Nixon to, uh, come back to their prison.
I started thinking about this Timothy Leary.
I just had this destiny thing.
I always feel when there’s going to be a turn in my destiny.
It’s happened to me again and again and again.
I was living in the south of Spain in this place called Marbella.
It was very groovy.
I took off with a man in a VW bus.
He spent a lot of time with the Rolling Stones.
One of their songs is called “Tommy the Tumbling Dice.”
It’s about my friend Tommy.
We went to see Keith Richards in Villars, in Switzerland.
Keith Richards had this lover, Anita Pallenberg, who was quite a sizzling number, I would say.
She almost singlehandedly invented the Rolling Stones.
She said, “There’s this man, Timothy Leary, and his wife is gone, and you have to meet him.”
At that time I was very busy.
What Tommy and I were doing is we were trying to convince Keith, “Go to America and do a series of concerts to promote McGovern.
We didn’t want Nixon to win the election.
And Keith said… Sure.
Tommy and I flew to Washington, D.C.
We went to the McGovern headquarters and we told them, “Hey, the Rolling Stones are willing to do three weeks or a month of concerts for you.”
And there was such a sense of defeatism.
They were so down, they felt so bad that they couldn’t accept.
So, next adventure?
We went to New York.
We were staying with this friend of mine, Diane von Furstenberg.
Those are the kind of people I grew up with.
The phone rang.
She handed me the phone, and I was just lying there on her mink blanket.
It was Michel. Michel knew Diane.
I made an appointment to go and have drinks with him at the St. Regis.
He pulled out a check for $250,000.
That’s a lot of money.
He says, “That’s what Bantam Books gave me for the manuscript that Timothy has just written about his escape and his life on the run,” the book that became Confessions of a Hope Fiend.
He was emulating Aleister Crowley.
Well, I thought, “Oh, my goodness, this guy’s really interesting.”
Tommy and I flew to Geneva, went into Lausanne, went up to Michel’s house.
The Moroccan butler opened the door.
We gave him a good English hashish spliff.
I went into Michel’s office and I opened his address book, and I found about five phone numbers for Timothy.
Isn’t Tommy jealous of your interest in Leary?
Well, he thought he’d be included.
I mean, he didn’t think that Timothy and I were going to be each other’s destiny.
Then I went to the Palace Hotel in Lausanne.
I didn’t have any money.
I never have any money, but things happen.
And they knew me because I learned to walk there.
We got this beautiful suite.
I started calling Timothy.
I told him I saw Michel Hauchard in New York and he has a big check of yours.
He invited us to come to Lucerne and meet him.
We got a bunch of balloons which we put in the back of the car and we drove to Lucerne.
Multicolored balloons, of course.
I think I must have looked at him from the feet to the top.
And I swear it looked like he was dancing, not walking.
I immediately thought, “Oh, my goodness, this man is incredibly attractive.
He invited us to go to his chalet.
He said, “Will you come with me?”
He had this canary yellow Porsche.
I thought, “Well, this is getting better and better.
This man is hip!”
Maybe hip enough for me.
And we went to his chalet.
And he had three or four people there.
He said, “Does anybody want to take LSD?”
I had two Clear Light acid… and I said, “Well, yes, but I just have enough for you and me.”
He said to me, “You’ve come to free me.”
I thought, “Okay.”
I was a little intimidated, but not too much.
And we went to this restaurant.
I was still tripping.
Everything was going whoosh, whoosh.
For the people who know, uh, there can be great liquidity when you’ve taken acid.
He ordered eggs and bacon.
To me, the eggs were like eyes, but he was very comfortable with having a good breakfast.
He brought his tarot cards with him.
He explained to me that he was a reincarnation of Aleister Crowley… and that this was Crowley’s deck.
And the first card was the Wheel of Fortune, and he said to me, “That’s what you are to me.
Watch the wheel turn and destiny turn.
It’s going to have an enormous influence on my life.”
And then he pulled the second card and it was Prudence.
And I thought, “No, no, I’ll pass on that.”
And then, he pulled out… the Tower, which is an absolute explosion.
It is a card designed to tell you that many times in life when something major passes, it feels like everything you knew is being destroyed to be renewed.
That’s what the Tower represents.
Absolute chaos… and transformation.
And at that moment he said to me, “You’ve come to free me, and I’m returning to America.”
I didn’t really understand what he meant… but I knew we were bonded.
Is there where Dennis Martino enters?
Dennis Martino was at the chalet.
The sorcerer’s apprentice.
A dope dealer with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.
A group of Laguna Beach surfers… who dealt hashish between Afghanistan and the United States.
Dennis knew Timothy because Dennis’s twin brother made a baby with Timothy’s daughter.
Is there any suggestion–
I know that this became an issue later–
maybe I’m jumping ahead–
that Dennis might be working against Timothy?
If you want, Errol, we can, uh, at some point get into “strange stuff.”
One of the reasons I… came to get you was because of these strangenesses.
People are here, then they show up here.
You asked earlier, Why would you be manipulated?
Well, because I think this is a huge part of the manipulation by government that has led us to where we are today…
the Timothy Leary story.
President Nixon asked Congress today for new laws to deal with drugs and narcotics.
The new laws the President wants would replace parts of the Marijuana Act struck down by the Supreme Court last year.
Other legislation would give a task force of federal agents broad new powers to break in and make arrests without warning.
After breakfast, we go back to his house.
Tommy explains to him that the way we’re going to get him out of Switzerland, we’re going to buy a sailboat in Amsterdam.
We’re going to make that sailboat a radio station.
We’re going to start broadcasting revolutionary messages, peace and love messages.
We’re going to sail over to Jamaica where the Rolling Stones are recording their latest album.
We left Timothy and went back to the Palace Hotel.
They said that if I didn’t pay the bill, I was going to be arrested in the morning.
I thought, “That’s amazing!
I’m going to experience what Timothy experienced.”
The Swiss prisons were very civilized.
I asked them to bring me some magazines.
I asked them to bring me some café au lait.
They were very obliging.
It was sort of easy for me to say, “Come on, release me, somebody’s going to pay this bill.
Goldfinger paid the bill.
In gold bullion.
Went back to where Timothy lived… ran into his arms saying, “I just went to prison!”
I was so naive, it was incredible.
We decided that we would give Tommy a thousand dollars to go look for a boat.
A thousand dollars to get rid of him?
When did you first realize that you could control men?
The first time a man kissed my neck when I was maybe… eleven, 12 years old.
I had this surge of power.
There’s definitely something I can control in this life.
Leary was emanating.
Sexy. Power. Charm.
We went off on the road in the yellow Porsche, in the sparkling night with beautiful Swiss snow falling and LSD.
I was with him in this bubble, in this amazing yellow spaceship.
I was beginning to feel some sense that I had arrived.
I was a bit surprised because we’d been together for a week… and we didn’t have sex.
In those days, I felt that if I was with a man and I didn’t have sex with him pretty quickly, we weren’t really bonded.
But we got to the Palace Hotel… and we went to our room, and then he said to me, “Sit on the bed.”
He had… necklaces and bracelets and sort of Indian jewelry.
I instinctively got naked.
He started putting the jewelry all over me.
He told me that I was the Goddess Lakshmi.
Then he took out a Life magazine.
In that issue of Life magazine were the first images of inside the brain.
And he said to me, “That’s where I’m going to be making love to you.”
And indeed, it was quite a loving… session.
So, anyway, we left Gstaad, and we were going to go to St. Moritz where I was born.
My mother was there in January 1946, mainly to play bridge.
Suddenly she started having pains.
Apparently the village doctor told her she had appendicitis and gave her lots of painkillers and, as she said, “After about 40 hours of bothering me, you came out.”
And I weighed a kilo 50.
Not much bigger than a Nathan’s hotdog.
So he took me to the very beginning.
During all this time, Timothy– you have to remember he’s a psychologist.
He made me tell my whole story.
I don’t have much of a memory till I’m about four years old.
We lived in the most beautiful part of Paris called the Avenue Foch.
Apparently I lied all the time.
My nanny was very Catholic.
Nanny decided with Mommy that I should swear before the Cross that I was never going to lie again.
I was wrong.
I betrayed Jesus.
Every summer, I would be taken to stay at this villa in the south of France, the Villa Leonina.
My step-grandfather, Arpád Plesch, was what they called an international financier.
He had this huge, white villa overlooking the Mediterranean.
He had 70 servants, twelve of which were gardeners.
He had a head gardener.
And it was a garden with plants from all over the world.
And my grandfather flew in the most extraordinary birds.
It was called the Exotic Garden.
I used to take my little friend, Rhoda, to go and play with the head gardener.
One day my grandfather took me aside and he said, “Rhoda told her nanny that the head gardener touched her.”
He said to me, “But all little girls are Messalinas, and they try to seduce.”
That afternoon, I was taken to the gendarmes.
Two gendarmes there
kept asking me if the head gardener had touched my pee-pee.
I said, “No. No.”
It lasted for what was a very long time for me.
In the end, I told them that he did.
But I know that I didn’t know, I just wanted to please them.
So they brought him in, in handcuffs, for what the French call “The Confrontation.”
They said repeat that in front of him.
I said, “He touched me.”
And they took him to prison.
My mother had this very handsome chauffeur.
I don’t think the chauffeur was automatically the lover.
I think my mother preferred ambassadors and commodores and commanders.
She bragged she made love with Mussolini.
She had hired this Spanish chauffeur.
His name was Jesus.
She would have none of that.
She named him Ivan.
She wasn’t going to go around calling Jesus.
In those days, in Paris, it was very fashionable to have cocktail parties.
Six o’clock, my mother was gone.
She had decorated my bedroom like it was a farm.
My bed was a wheelbarrow.
My cupboard was a barn.
One night, when Mummy had gone out to a cocktail party, the servants were up in their rooms.
Ivan came to my room.
He started putting his hands under my pajama, under the top, under the bottom.
I tried to concentrate on the pigeons… on the window.
They were a lot of pigeons that would come to the window.
I had the feeling there was something that was… extremely, extremely wrong.
And at the same time, I-I felt a sensation that was not altogether… disagreeable.
And I want to say this.
The fact that there was a slight sensation of… of being seen, of being wanted… um… it created enormous confusion… for me.
Did you tell your mother?
She said, um… “Good chauffeurs are hard to find.”
Well, first she said I was lying.
And then she said… “Good chauffeurs are hard to find.”
You have to know something because we’re talking about what motivated me to look for Timothy Leary.
I feel all of this is part of it.
He was one of the foremost psychologists of our time.
He sensed that psychedelics could be medicines… that they could cure trauma and PTSD.
This trajectory of my childhood, it led me to find him.
So then we went off to visit a friend of mine who had a beautiful chalet.
You know the Opel cars?
She was the von Opel heir.
She gave a party.
Andy Warhol and his whole crew showed up.
And Timothy said, “You and I are the two most intelligent men in America.”
He turned to me and he said, “And she is the most intelligent woman in the world.”
Andy brought with him a whole pile of 45 rpm records from the ’50s.
And he insisted that we dance.
I love you, I love you, I love you
And where you go I’ll follow, I’ll follow, I’ll follow
You’ll always be my true love, my true love, my true love
From now until forever, forever, forever
I will follow you
The next day he told me, “We’re going to drive off to Vienna, and I’m going to do a film that will say that I’m completely against drugs.”
He felt that the man who was the prime minister of Austria was going to give him asylum.
His asylum in Switzerland was not safe anymore.
At what point did he become the most dangerous man in America?
I think that was one of Nixon’s slogans.
America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.
In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.
It gets tense when you’re a major outlaw.
We got to Vienna, and what they wanted was for him to say that drugs were great.
He wasn’t very pleased to be doing that.
Also, I have to tell you, that at that time I became completely orange, like a sunflower.
He suggested we go to the university hospital, and there were maybe 200 students there.
I threw off my coat and I lifted my sleeves and I said, “Doctor, you have something more important to do. You have a patient here who has a terrible illness.”
In the book, you said you were naked!
Well… maybe I was.
And how did the students react?
Oh, there was a roar. Everybody adored it.
I don’t know, if Timothy wasn’t in love with me until that moment, it totally busted his heart open.
Timothy’s daughter had come back from India.
She had brought water from the Ganges.
I thought it would be very gracious on my part to drink that bottle of water.
“This is going to be your stepdaughter, and she’s the same age you are, and she hands you a bottle of water from the Ganges.
So I drank it up.
I always thought that it was probably that water that gave me the… hepatitis.
In the middle of all that, Dennis showed up and started saying… that we should go to Afghanistan.
Timothy started explaining, “I know some people there who would give us a lot of money, and then you and I will go on to Ceylon, and we’ll be poets on the beach and have babies.”
I thought that was the most marvelous, magical plan you could imagine.
Then we found out that Dennis had driven the Porsche and totaled it.
There was no way out but forward and up and in.
We’ve left Vienna.
We’ve left what I know.
But we’re going to make a stopover in Beirut.
I’m really glad we’re going to Beirut because I know the president ’cause the president was in love with my mother.
I knew we would be received very well.
Also, I was a star on Lebanese TV when I was between the age of 14 and 15.
I was watching television in Beirut, and I saw they had a quiz show.
I applied for the quiz show and I was taken.
To be a contestant.
To be a contestant.
And I loved it.
You had to figure out who was lying.
The man who was in charge of programs came up to me and he said, “You’re really good on television.”
Then I said to him, “Okay, well, why don’t you produce a show with me? Let’s have a show called Teenagers Club.”
From the book, you tell a story that almost all of the producers were in love with you.
Well, they were.
When I was 15, that’s when I started having a lot of sex.
Can’t say I regret it.
We stopped in Beirut.
Something very extraordinary happened there.
You have to remember, I didn’t know Timothy for a long time.
And I really didn’t understand the significance of his life work until then.
And we’re at the son of the president’s house.
He saw all these books by Jung, and he turned to me and he said, “They’re not going to understand my work until after I’m dead.”
He was telling me he was a fugitive, so I said to him, “Well, I have a really good idea. I think you should dye your hair.”
I mean, I didn’t know I was up against the whole United States government.
I chose a rock ‘n’ roll look, purple trousers and a silver shirt.
I got some black dye.
So I started putting the black dye on his hair, but then we made love and we forgot about the black dye.
And his hair turned out to be absolute purple.
Here was my rock ‘n’ roll star professor.
Here’s a question: why does he have to travel in some kind of disguise?
He knows that any place he stops, he might be arrested.
The indictment had just come out.
They charged him with everything that the Brotherhood of Eternal Love did.
I am glad that in this administration we have increased the amount of money for handling the problem of dangerous drugs sevenfold.
It will be $600 million this year.
This is one area where we cannot have budget cuts.
We must wage what I have called total war against public enemy number one in the United States, the problem of dangerous drugs.
Here we are, Timothy, Dennis and me, finally on the plane from Beirut to Kabul.
We walk into the terminal.
This man snaps both passports out of Timothy’s hands.
He throws a card at us, and he starts running out of the airport.
“James Senner, second attaché at the Embassy of the United States.”
It was utter shock.
We go up to the immigration people– “You can’t come into this country because you don’t have any passports.”
I’m having a fear like I’ve never had before.
Never had after.
I put on the persona who threw her coat off in front of the professor in Vienna– “If you separate me from Timothy Leary, I will die.”
I fainted on the floor to show him that I meant business.
He said, “We’re not going to separate you.”
Then we were taken to the Plaza Hotel… where they put foreigners in the rooms as prisoners.
First time I asked to go to the toilet, they let Timothy come to the toilet with me.
He got down on his knees.
I don’t know why it still just makes me cry today.
It was such an act of tenderness in that moment that was frenetically terrifying, with Timothy getting down on his knees, carefully, minutiously cleaning the toilet.
I felt protected in this moment of horror.
These two Afghani secret service came into the room and they started interrogating Timothy, asking him who he was.
Timothy said, “I am not going back to the United States without Joanna.”
And after about four days, they told us that we were being taken to the airport.
We got into this Jeep with the soldiers all around with their machine guns, and we got to the airport.
An Indian doctor came up to me, presented me with a paper that said, “If something happens to you, you will not hold the Afghani government responsible.”
I signed that paper, yeah.
There was a plane of Ariana Airlines.
We started going up the steps.
And this man with a beard said, “Agent Terrence Burke, dope’s the game. I’ve come to bring you back to the United States.”
And he handed Timothy an ID card.
They put us in first class.
Two agents in the seats behind us, two agents in the seat opposite us.
I was so scared.
The plane was going to do two stops– Tehran, Paris.
I obviously had paper to write with and I had a pen.
And I wrote, “This is Dr. Timothy Leary. We are being kidnapped. Please give this to the first authority that you see in the airport in Paris.”
And I start dropping these little papers on people’s laps.
About 15 minutes later, a voice came on and they said, “This plane is no longer going to Paris. It’s been diverted to Germany.”
I’m in the hands of people who can just deviate a plane.
They took us into an empty waiting room.
And the next day, they pushed us onto a plane to L.A.
In first class.
Well, on that flight to L.A. was this friend of my family, friend of my sister, this fabulous playboy who had actually been married to Brigitte Bardot.
And we drank champagne. And we talked. And we played.
Timothy made a pact with them, that they would take care of me.
I didn’t really know what was going to happen.
And shortly before we landed, he handed me his address book.
He wrote a paper saying: “The right to speak for me I hereby lovingly give to Joanna Harcourt-Smith, who is my love, my voice, my wisdom, my words, my output to the world for our love, et cetera, et cetera. Timothy Leary, over Montana, USA. January 18th, 1973.”
The day we were brought back was the week the Plumbers got sentenced.
It was the week of Nixon’s second inauguration.
That was absolutely… calculated.
The law and order President.
They had been tracking us all along.
I mean, there’s absolutely no doubt about it.
You see, this is why I think the CIA had a lot to do with this story. I saw the order from Ehrlichman that said, “Capture Dr. Timothy Leary and return him by any means.”
He’s the best man in the world.
He’s beautiful. He’s a philosopher.
He’s got all the answers. He’s happy.
He’s happy, you understand? He’s come back–
He’s come back because he has got things to say because he’s a beautiful man and because he’s going to save the world and because he’s full of love, and our love is perfect.
Our love is the most beautiful love that’s ever existed.
I met him two months ago in Switzerland, and I haven’t left him a second ever since.
And I know nothing of his past– I only know that I’ve lived with him day and night, and that he’s a perfect man.
Were you with him when he was arrested?
A perfect love.
Were you with him when he was arrested?
Yes, sir. I was with him.
It was totally illegal.
One of the reasons I contacted you is I think there’s still a mystery here.
Same as in Wormwood.
How we were manipulated.
How I was used to lead Timothy Leary back into custody.
And the fact that I don’t know these things.
I was told by Dennis that Timothy met with this particular CIA agent from time to time in Switzerland.
I don’t know what that means.
I’m intrigued by it, still, 40 years later.
I’m not a conspiracy person, but it does involve my own life.
There’s another veil that has not been uncovered about what was going on there.
If you could lift that veil, what do you think you’d see?
The Timothy Leary story is a very big political story.
A lot of people have been manipulated to manipulate history.
And the more I understand this story, the more I understand that it’s part of a puzzle that’s being played out.
The grandiosity of the people I grew up around was limitless.
Using people as pawns was definitely their game.
My step-grandfather Arpád Plesch was a very, very nasty character.
He took money from the Jewish people that he knew in Germany, and he hid the money in Swiss numbered accounts, and then he denounced those people to the Hitler people.
He was not a Jew, however?
Oh, he was a Jew. Oh, yes, he was a Jew.
I’ve seen the absolute depravity of the people who have the most money in this world.
And I’ve seen how there are no morals whatsoever.
Money and power, and that’s it.
Arpád Plesch was married to both my mother and my grandmother.
When my grandmother died, I was taken into the garden to see Grandpa marrying Mummy.
And that was all about money… and incest.
Forgive me, but how was it that your grandmother died?
When my grandmother was dying, he went to get a knife and he plunged into her heart.
I guess my step-grandfather, stepfather, considered that it was an act of love, that he would make sure that his wife was dead.
Your story seems like a tragedy out of ancient Greece.
Well, it’s true, my story.
It’s true. It’s very strange.
It’s absolutely true.
When we got brought back to the United States, I had no idea who Timothy Leary was.
Guru, folk hero, and political resistor.
Ten days after we got back, I heard that Dennis had been captured.
I went to see him at the county jail because he was a link with that incredible time in Europe.
Dennis said, “I’ll be getting out in a few days.
I’ll meet up with you.
I’ll instruct you about the whole story– who are the villains, who are the good people.”
All that was a setup.
Timothy had given me his address book with every name you could imagine and said, “Talk to these people and free me.”
It was an amazing puzzle.
This is Folsom prison.
It holds at the present time 1,800 men.
One of them is Timothy Leary.
He was brought here after four months in solitary confinement at California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.
I am Joanna Leary, and I’d like to see him out of here as quick as possible.
I wrote him every day, and he wrote me every day.
I coated stamps in acid.
He knew what was on the stamp.
And then I put these tiny, little acid in my belly button.
You see, I have an innie, and I never knew how useful it would become.
We were allowed to embrace in the beginning and at the end of the visit.
And I had taken mine about ten minutes before.
When we were kissing, I put my hand up towards his mouth and then I put it in.
We were both… tripping at Folsom prison.
It was orgasmic.
My mother came to Folsom prison in her Chanel coat.
She’s got her Nancy Reagan super-coiffed hair.
She’s got her high heels.
And her very red nails.
She was fine.
I mean, they frisked her.
They took her ID.
And we went down to the visiting room.
They greeted each other like they were the oldest of friends.
Timothy got down on his knees in Folsom Prison, and he asked my mother for my hand.
She told him how crazy she thought I was.
I thought that there’s my mother, jealous of my lovers again.
Timothy looked quite like my father, Lieutenant Commander Cecil Harcourt-Smith.
My mother was just gaga about him.
Were you jealous of your mother?
At that moment, was I jealous of my mother?
I probably was, terribly!
I was going to ask you the generic question, What did you learn about sex from your mother?
She said that I had to be very careful because when you have sex, you could get syphilis.
Oh, she didn’t tell me I could get pregnant!
I take it you didn’t get syphilis, but you did get pregnant.
I had to go to her and say, “I don’t understand. My tummy’s getting bigger. I’m feeling sick. I don’t know what’s happening.”
She took me to a doctor and they took blood, and it turned out I was pregnant.
I was 15. There was absolutely no question that I was going to have that child, I mean, none whatsoever.
And then they took me in, and they took my baby.
I think I was never the same again.
So after that… I was in full seduction mode.
I had to have eight men at a time to be content.
Now, I wasn’t having sex with eight men, but I had to have eight major admirers.
At night in my bed, I would count them.
Made me feel warm, made me feel safe.
Made me feel wanted.
This is Helen Koblin, and with me is Joanna Harcourt-Smith, Timothy Leary’s woman. She’s trying to help Timothy.
He’s sitting in the solitary confinement cell just sending out energy and love to whoever wants to receive it.
I had a studio under Coit Tower in San Francisco.
Francis Ford Coppola gave me an office above the Little Fox Theater, the Starseed Information Center.
We’d hatch these crazy projects to get Timothy out of prison.
We’ll get a helicopter.
I will be naked with black gloves.
We’ll have this huge speakers blasting out The Dark Side of the Moon.
It would make the guards completely numb.
And so we’d pick Timothy out of the yard, take him into the helicopter.
We’d go to the mountains nearby.
There would be a whole militia that would surround us.
Also, the Starseed Information Center is from where I published five of Timothy’s books.
We felt that as long as he could write books, his mind would not be imprisoned.
He would send them to me in letter form.
“My darling wife, I miss you more than life itself.
The seven circuits of the human brain are, one, blah, blah, blah. Two.”
When I was broke, I would stand on Telegraph Avenue and I’d sell my books.
Morning has broken
Like the first morning…
One day somebody introduced me to this man we called Franklin, because he always had a lot of hundred-dollar bills.
He made this acid that in those days was called Clear Light.
He would give me these vials, and I’d go around town, and I’d give acid to everybody.
Like, I’d go to the bank, and I would give them some acid.
And I kid you not, they were not at the bank the following week.
One day, Franklin asked me if I’d take an acid trip with him.
And then he took me out to this house on the beach.
All that was in the living room was a king-sized bed… with a huge American flag on it.
When the time came to take the acid… I put it on my tongue.
He did the same thing, put it on my tongue.
He licked my tongue, I licked his tongue.
I lay down on that American flag.
I was very, very, very freaked out.
Franklin was meditating.
He wasn’t really into having sex, which surprised me a lot.
But then I went out on the beach.
There was this bell… going back and forth, and a voice came on.
It was the voice of my mother.
She was telling me something that was really important.
She was saying,
“You’re playing, you’re acting, you’re exaggerating.”
In that moment I realized she was right, that I was playing a role ’cause I was afraid.
After the trip, I said to Franklin, “Is there anything that you need?”
“Well, I really need seven pounds of ergotamine for my next LSD batch.”
My diabolical mind went into action immediately– “Dr. Schwitzhund definitely has ergotamine.”
How did you know this?
Well, I didn’t know this. I was lying.
I was lying!
He said, “Well, how much would it cost?”
“$10,000 a pound.”
He said, “Fine, get it for me.”
Dennis, the sorcerer’s apprentice, told me that the dope dealer trick is to get two adjoining rooms, and then you get a room three floors up.
You give them the key, and then you tell them to go upstairs and get the merchandise.
They’ll come back to the room, but you’re already in the adjoining room.
I loved Franklin, but I desperately needed the money to free Timothy.
I got a beautiful little Halliburton suitcase.
Timothy had given me this exquisite gold tantric ring.
I put all those things in the suitcase.
One fine day, I made an appointment with him at this hotel on the wharf.
In the elevator I said to him, “Shall we just go to that room and make love?”
Was this just to trick him or–
No! It was the opposite of tricking him.
If we’d made love, I probably wouldn’t have tricked him.
And who was waiting in the room next door?
And you would have made love to Franklin with Dennis listening?
Franklin was more important to me than Dennis.
So we went to the room, and he gave me this little accordion folder with $10,000 in each space.
And then after a while, my lookout told me that he had left the building.
It was late at night by then.
And I had somebody drive me to Mill Valley to this lawyer, and I knocked like crazy.
When he opened up, he was in his robe and… I sat at the kitchen table with him.
And I threw the money on the table.
“Can you get him out now?”
And he said to me, “No, it’s not a question of money. He’s a political prisoner.”
Most of the men that I model myself after have been lucky if they got away with, uh, just being in prison for their ideas.
Dennis is insinuating himself more and more into all of this, no?
I have pain about it, but… may that be present with us as well.
I was taking a lot of cocaine.
Dennis was providing it.
I was smoking a lot of cannabis.
I was drinking a lot of alcohol.
On some days I would just lie in my– in my studio, watch the Watergate hearings, and hope that something might change.
But as the case progressed, it became obvious that there were higher-ups, men who ordered the bugging operations and who paid for it.
And now it takes a scorecard to keep track of those connected with it in one way or another.
Timothy always said that his imprisonment would be harder for me than for him.
Needless for me to say to you that, um, I was very sensual.
I was 27 years old.
I had shared with Timothy that I was going to have sex.
It was the time of free love, and he was the bishop of free love.
I imagined myself as Scheherazade.
I wouldn’t tell him who it was, but I’d describe how I’d made love with another person.
One time it might be a woman, one time it was a hermaphrodite.
Dennis was one of the people I had sex with.
After a while, he said to me that he was working as an informant for the government.
Timothy should get out that way because he won’t get out any other way.
I passed on that information to him a couple of times.
I had no idea of the implications.
You have to understand how incredibly naive I was.
I always wondered why one Thursday I went to see him at Vacaville and he said, “Send a telegram to the FBI and tell them I’m ready to cooperate.”
People have accused me of being the one who made him do it.
That’s the story of The Blue Angel, the sexy singer who perverts the professor.
I was like Alice in Wonderland.
I didn’t have any point of reference.
I didn’t realize how alien I was.
To Allen Ginsberg, I was not fit to be the next acid queen.
By then I was living in Mill Valley.
I sent this telegram to the FBI: “Timothy ready to cooperate with government.”
Couple of days after that, FBI agents came from Chicago because that’s where they were searching for the Weathermen.
And they knew that Timothy was connected to the Weathermen.
They had helped him escape from prison.
They brought me in.
He asked me if I’d be willing to work for his release.
There was no limits to my stand-by-your-man.
By then we had been talking of having a baby.
We had named the baby.
What was the name?
It was going to be a girl, and her name was going to be Chrysalis.
No abbreviation to Chrys.
You have to know that after visiting your man in prison and seeing how all appeals were refused.
Lawyers didn’t know how to get him out.
I would do anything, anything at all.
The DEA had me completely at their mercy.
They used me as Mata Hari.
They used me to go after the counterculture lawyers.
Call being made by SR14X037 to George Chula’s office.
So, I had dinner with him.
I asked him if the next time we got together he could bring me a gram of cocaine.
And when we had dinner, I was wired.
They put a box on my leg, chose very sexy clothes for me, and they recorded the conversation.
I behaved very femme fatale, extremely flirtatious, seductive, and dangerous.
You can have me, but you can’t keep me.
And it was kind of the same thing as with Franklin.
They got two rooms at the Disneyland Hotel.
In one room, they had all their machines and setups and all of that.
I was supposed to receive Chula in the other room.
He said to me on the phone he stopped somewhere, and a lifeguard on the beach said to him that he had a walkie-talkie… and there were federal agents, and they were having an incredible conversation about how they were going to bust him.
And this lifeguard on the beach had picked up the signal, and they were overjubilant that they were going to arrest Timothy Leary’s lawyer.
So in the end, he never came.
But on the night that we were at the restaurant, he had given me a little cocaine, and I turned that over to the agents.
The main agent’s name was Donald E. Strange.
This is Dr. Timothy Leary.
How are you?
We’re going to talk a little bit about, uh, Dr. Leary and the things he’s been doing, uh, since 1960.
And just how he– he came to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Well, I had been away from the United States for about two-and-a-half years.
And when the plane landed on the Los Angeles runway, the first person I met was Don Strange, who welcomed me with handcuffs.
I felt basically relieved uh, to be back.
I felt that the work I had to do and the process of reconciliation and of dialogue of constructive activity that had to be done was going to take place here.
They moved Timothy to the rural prison near Sacramento.
I wasn’t allowed to go out of my apartment, except with a federal agent.
They said that it was dangerous for me.
They decided they should change my name.
So one day, this big, tall U.S. Marshal said, “Now your name from now on will be Virginia Church.”
What was Leary’s name?
And they published in Newsweek that Timothy had became a snitch, a government informant.
I thought– I was trying to get Timothy out of prison, but they used me to discredit him.
This is a press conference that I wish was not taking place.
It is a symptom of the credibility crisis in America symbolized by Watergate and President Ford’s pardoning of Richard Nixon.
There’s a straight line between Watergate and Timothy Leary.
The very same Justice Department has both forced and persuaded Timothy Leary to lie and fabricate elaborate stories to get out of jail.
Leary’s new girlfriend, Joanna Harcourt-Smith, declared that Leary would not remain in prison.
Harcourt-Smith said that Leary was willing to make a deal with the government.
When Timothy was in this rural prison, they moved me from the apartment into the home of the U.S. Marshal– Art Van Court and his wife Marcia.
Although they’re keeping me in protective custody, it felt kind of good to have home-cooked meals and be with a regular family.
One day, I went to see Timothy at the small jail, and as we were embracing, he whispered, “G-U-N.”
Because what if they read his lips?
I said to Dennis, “Where can I find a gun?”
He took me to this garage… just like in the movies.
Greasy man with his jumpsuit.
I thought I had to play the game, and I sat on his lap.
I gave him $100, and he gave me a little gun.
I couldn’t take it anymore– the snitching and the setting people up.
I was ready to kill everybody.
In the beginning, when Timothy escaped, the Weathermen took him to a safe house in Oregon.
The FBI wanted Timothy to show them where the safe house was.
And we had to drive through San Francisco, I don’t know why.
And all of a sudden, this huge .357 Magnum comes floating under the seat, right to Timothy’s foot.
And I thought, “This is meant to be.”
Now we have two guns, and we’re going to be free.
And he was reading the San Francisco Chronicle.
And he wrapped the gun up, and he handed it back over to the agent.
Somehow I realized that this was just a dream, a crazy, maniac, insane dream.
So we proceeded through the forests of Oregon.
We got out of the car and Timothy said to me, “Do you realize that if we kill them, we’ll have to kill everybody we meet until they kill us.”
And at that moment, I lifted my head and the FBI agent was right in front of us.
And he said, “Do you mind if I shoot you?”
Did you ever find the Weathermen house?
I don’t remember.
At some point, Dennis became so annoying about the fact that I should be only with him, he wrote a letter to the U.S. Marshal saying that I’d been having sex with him.
My love for Timothy was untrue.
It was like my world collapsed.
I went back to Marbella, to my mother’s house, and one day Dennis showed up at the door.
He asked my mother if he could marry me.
My mother said, “Who do you think you are?
The son of a hairdresser?
Never in the world!”
A couple of days later, I was going to a fabulous party.
Adnan Khashoggi gave me a couple of Quaaludes.
From then on, I’m not quite sure what I did.
But the next morning, I called my mother.
She said, “Dennis is dead.”
I felt he was killed.
You know, don’t ask me for any proof.
I went to his room.
There were pills, but they were half full.
And that really set off a bug in my ear.
Then there was his diary.
The last words were,
Please don’t let on
That you knew me when
I was hungry
And it was your world
Ah, you fake
Just like a woman
Yes, you do
You make love
Just like a woman
Yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl
One day, after a little over three and a half years, he got out of prison.
How you feel, Tim?
I feel beautiful.
I want to thank Joanna and Mr. Milano and all my friends who helped me get out.
And to those who didn’t help, I want to be reassuring, it’s all going to work out all right.
And in particular, I want to send a message of support to Andrei Sakharov, who’s doing the same thing in Russia.
Have a good time!
Bless you, Tim.
I had reserved a room at the Valencia Hotel in La Jolla.
We went to the restaurant in the hotel, and I think he must have ordered everything that was on the menu.
He was a very elegant man, but I’ll tell you, that night, he was eating like a pig.
It was a joy to see him taste real life again.
We went to bed, and in the morning, there was a big… loud knock on the door.
It was the U.S. Marshals again.
“We need to put you in the Witness Protection Program because otherwise you’re going to end up on a slab.”
They said to Timothy, “We’re going to relocate you in Salt Lake City.”
And he didn’t miss a beat: “Do you think you could change that for Santa Fe?”
And they started making calls.
Santa Fe it was.
We were in an “A”-frame cabin out in the wilderness.
No electricity, no gas.
That was very unfamiliar to me.
I mean, to this day I’ve never camped.
I’m a Parisian.
All I knew was, lie in the forest naked and get brown under the sun.
I’m fond of saying that I became a better Timothy Leary than Timothy Leary himself.
I had traveled to colleges… given lectures, shown the Folsom film, pleaded for his release.
I wonder if there was room for two Timothy Learys.
One night, we had a terrible fight.
And in the morning he was gone.
To this day, I don’t understand it.
We never got back together.
I thought he would protect me for the rest of my life.
I thought I was safe.
And I don’t know why he went away.
Every year that goes by, I love my mother more.
My mother smoked these Winstons endlessly.
She had a big tumor between her lungs.
It was inoperable.
I made her go to Mercy Hospital.
And she said, “This is a very, very bad hotel.
I want you to pack the suitcases, and we’re leaving.
This is the worst hotel I’ve been in.
And open everything.”
I opened the windows, I opened the door.
I was holding her hand.
And it was clear to me the moment she stopped breathing.
She took a breath, but there was no exhale.
And then this one tear came rolling down her cheek.
One question I have to ask you which I’m sure everyone is asking you themselves, and that is, Why?
Why are you doing this?
Why are you working with DEA, the government, at this point?
I can understand that there might be some skepticism that I’m simply here talking to you because I’m under prison sentence.
I want to reassure everyone that I’m not brainwashed.
No promises have been made to me by any law enforcement agency.
The future is much too important to be ruled by the past.
The war is over, and I’m glad, and I’m ready for a long period of, uh, harmonious peace.
I have nothing else.
That was a– that was a good ending.
Two years ago, I received an email from somebody who said, “My mother died, and I have a bunch of boxes that belonged to you. Would you like me to send them to you?”
He wrote me these divine letters in prison, and I had lost them.
And I felt really, really ashamed.
I was rather broke, but not broken at the time.
And sure enough, the 130 letters that he had written to me were there in that yellow folder I put them in.
And there were four reel-to-reel tapes that a psychologist in Vacaville had brought these tapes to me and said, “Timothy wants you to have these and keep them.”
And at the time I was so busy with the real Timothy,
I didn’t listen to the tapes.
So I spent all last winter listening to ten hours.
He was very brilliant, you see.
He actually got himself moved to Vacaville.
He seduced two psychologists there, a man and a woman.
At a certain point… he says, “Well, what are they going to do with me?”
Wesley Hiler says, “We’re going to drug you more and more, put you in a special section in San Quentin… where we keep people who’ve lost their mind.”
And I firmly believe that the next Thursday, he said, “Call the FBI, tell them I’m ready.”
What a life would it be for him to live without his mind?
So after 40 years, for me the mystery is solved.
My ego was pulverized by this adventure.
I was insane, I knew it.
But I wasn’t going to let anybody lock me up.
And I was smart enough to go down to the Caribbean, buy a sailboat, and sail for a long time.
The ocean rebuilt me.
There was something bigger than me.