I've taken LSD in all kinds of unusual situations:
when I testified at the Chicago Conspiracy Trial;
on the Johnny Carson show - Orson Bean was guest host
I was also sort of a guide for Groucho Marx once.
while I was researching the Manson case I took acid
with a few women in the family including Squeaky Fromme
and Sandra Good. It
was a kind of participatory journalism....Otto Preminger
made a movie called Skidoo. It was pro-acid propaganda
thinly disguised as a comedy adventure.And
the part of God was played by Groucho Marx.
Recently Tim Leary cheerfully admitted to me: "I
was fooled by Otto Preminger. He was much hipper than
I was." ... Anyway, Ram Dass kept seeking illumination
and having his feet kissed by strangers, while
I stayed at home and got a call from Groucho Marx.
He was going to be in an Otto Preminger film called
Skidoo, and it was pretty much advocating LSD, and
he had never tried it but was not only curious but
also felt a responsibility to his audience not to
steer them wrong so could I get him some pure stuff
and would I care to accompany him on the trip?
.... I did not play hard to get.
The acid with which Ram Dass- in his final moments
as Dick Alpert failed to get his guru higher was the
same acid that I had the honor of taking with Groucho
Marx. As I left the bank vault that week, I was breathing
slowly and deeply so that I would not laugh my ass
off in the lobby.
We ingested those little white tabs one afternoon
at the home of an actress in Beverly Hills.
Groucho was interested in the social background
of the drug.
There were two items that particularly tickled his
One was about the day acid was outlawed. Hippies were
standing around the streets waiting for the exact
appointed minute to strike so they could all publicly
swallow their LSD the exact second it became illegal.
The other was how the tour bus would pass through
Haight-Ashbury and passengers would try to take snapshots
of the local alien creatures, who in turn would hold
mirrors up to the bus windows so that the tourists
would see themselves focusing their cameras.
I told Groucho about the first thing I ever sold to
the old Steve Allen show. It was a sketch called "Unsung
Heroes of Television. " Among the heroes was
the individual whose sole job it was to listen intently
the whole half hour for somebody to say the secret
word on "You Bet your Life and then to drop that
decoy duck when the word was said. He told me about
one of his favorite contestants "a gentleman
with white hair, on in years but a chipper fellow.
I inquired as to what he did to retain his sunny disposition.
"Well, I'll tell you, Groucho," he says
"every morning I get up and I make a choice to
be happy that day."
We had long periods of silence and of listening to
music. I was accustomed to playing rock 'n' roll while
tripping, but the record collection here was all classical
and Broadway show albums. After we heard the
Bach "Cantata No. 7 Groucho said, "I may
be Jewish, but I was seeing the most beautiful visions
of Gothic cathedrals. Do you think Bach knew he was
There was a point when our conversation somehow got
into a negative space.
Groucho was equally bitter about institutions such
as marriage ("like quicksand") and individuals
such as Lyndon Johnson ("potato-head")
Eventually, I asked, "What gives you hope? Groucho
thought for a moment .... . Then he said just one
word out loud: "People."
After a while, he started chuckling to himself. I
hesitated to interrupt his revelry.
Finally he spoke: "I'm really getting
quite a kick out of this notion of playing God like
a dirty old man in Skidoo. You wanna know why? Do
you realize that irreverence and reverence are the
"If they're not, then it's a misuse of
your power to make people laugh"
And right after he said that, his eyes began to tear.
When he came back from peeing,
he said, "Everybody is waiting for miracles
to happen. The human body is a goddam miracle."
He mentioned, "I had a little crush on Marilyn
Monroe when we were making Love Happy - I remember
I got a hard-on just talking to her on the set."
During a little snack: "I never thought eating
a fig would be the biggest thrill of my life."
He held and smelled a cigar for a long time but never
"Everybody has their own Laurel and Hardy,"
he mused. "A miniature Laurel and Hardy,
one on each shoulder. Your little Oliver Hardy bawls
you out-he says, 'Well, this is a fine mess you've
gotten us into.' And your little Stan Laurel gets
all weepy -"Oh, Ollie, I couldn't help it, I'm
sorry, I did the best I could. . . ' "
The year after that, I was heavy into my Manson investigation.
During the acid trip with three of his family members
Squeaky Fromme, Sandra Good and Brenda McCann I got
an even more awesome compliment. Sandy Good had once
seen me perform at The Committee in San Francisco.
Now she was saying to me, "When people used to
ask me what Charlie was like, I would compare him
to Lenny Bruce and Paul Krassner."
My heart thumped rather strangely.
Sandy had been a civil-rights activist. But Charlie
Manson stepped on her eyeglasses, threw away her birth
control pills, remolded her personality and transformed
her value system. So now she was parroting Charlie's
racism and asking me to tell John Lennon that he should
get rid of Yoko Ono and "marry his own kind."
I've never met Charlie Manson, although I've corresponded
with him. But I have heard a tape of his rap, and
he definitely used humor as a tool for evil.
For the first time I understood in my guts
what Groucho Marx had meant about misusing the power
to make people laugh.
After our acid trip, I had only a couple of
contacts with Groucho.
The first concerned a rumor that he had said "I
think the only hope this country has is Nixon's assassination.
I wanted to verify whether he had actually said that.
"I deny everything", he joked, then admitting
he had indeed said it over a luncheon interview with
a now defunct magazine, Flash.
"Uh, sorry, Mr. Marx, you're under arrest for
threatening the life of the president. I can't tell
you how much I enjoyed A Night at the Opera. Here,
now, if you'll just slip into these plastic handcuffs...."
Think of this as a piece of combat history.
To fully understand the context in which this battle
for the will has been taking place, you need only
retrace the chronological profile of G. Gordon Liddy
from his role as a Poughkeepsie district attorney
who raided the Millbrook mansion where LSD was an
experimental sacrament to his function as a CIA operative
who offered to assassinate Jack Anderson on behalf
of the Nixon administration.
Had Liddy been given the go ahead, columnist Anderson
wouldn't have been around to embarrass the Carter
administration into not invading Iran, and we might
be in the middle of World War III at this very moment.
had assigned Robert Anton Wilson to investigate the
game being played at Millbrook. In my capacity as
standup comic and drug virgin, I had been poking fun
at all the highs I'd never tried. Wilson came back
and presented me with our cover story, "Timothy
Leary and His Psychological H-Bomb." After it
was published Leary called to invite me for a weekend
at Millbrook. Working with him were Ralph Metzner
and Richard Alpert. Somehow, despite all the accoutrements
of Eastern religion, the scene was quite American.
Even this top level of the psychedelic hierarchy consisted
of a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew.
Yet they were performing a cosmic task, this trio
of Ph.D. dropouts, helping to spread the expansion
of consciousness in the middle
of a sadomasochistic empire whose perpetuation depended
upon the mass contraction of consciousness.
the CIA had intended to use LSD as one more means
of manipulating the population.
That scenario backfired. A generation who trusted
their friends more than their government deprogrammed
themselves from the society that had shaped them,
and then reprogrammed themselves , into an infinite
variety of incarnations.
The think tanks had not formulated a contingency plan
for this counterculture that was refusing to be brainwashed
into becoming consumer and military zombies. This
-mutation!-would certainly have to be discredited.
LSD influenced music, painting, spirituality
and the stock market.
Tim Leary let me listen in on a call from a Wall Street
broker thanking him
for turning him onto acid because it had given him
the courage to sell short.