an Online Journal of Sorts

By Alyce Wilson

VINTAGE ENTRY: April 10, 1989 - Meeting Timothy Leary

Click on the highlighted portions for my annotations.

I've been talking to Ray Cromie about Timothy Leary. He wants to do a show in May on Leary, and I told him to try to arrange an interview. He found out about a press conference held in the HUB later in the day. Someone from the news team was going to be there, so I asked Steve Aaron if I could tag along. He said sure.

At 5:30, I went to aerobics and had a good workout. Then I changed, cleaned up, and went to the HUB, where I had yogurt for dinner before heading upstairs to the third floor for the press conference. Outside, I encountered Allison, from the news team. She was mad at Steve Aaron for not asking her to do the conference, because she would have enjoyed it. I told her to come in anyway, and she did.

We were in a small room next to a noisy meeting. A few reporters were setting up cameras and microphones, and a guy in a tie dye was talking in the back of the room with Ray Cromie. I took a seat in the center of the center row. Allison sat beside me. We waited for the man himself.

Meanwhile, I wrote up a few questions to ask. I asked Ray what Timothy Leary has been doing lately, and he mentioned artificial intelligence, so I wrote a few questions about that.

Shortly, we heard some voices in the hall. Timothy Leary walked in with a few escorts, one of whom was holding his arm. He smiled and greeted everyone within reach, shaking hands and talking to them. I was struck by how pale and gray he looked, not really frail, but old. He dallied next to a reporter with a camera, seemingly unaware of the fact that he was the one we were there to interview. And then, he turned to the front of the room and looked at the table, where the microphones were set up and the cameras aimed. He seemed to comprehend, and he ambled up to the desk. He smiled some more and then sat down. First, he gave a short address, summarizing his talk for the evening. He had to try several times, because the people next door were very loud. An Asian woman ducked out and made them talk more quietly.

Timothy Leary talked, and then all around was silence. Awkward silence. Nobody knew where he was coming from now; all we knew was the old stories and the Moody Blues songs, and we had nothing to feed an intelligent question (except perhaps Ray with his question on artificial intelligence). But we fired away a few, and Scoop Nichols (the pock-faced man with an attitude problem) tried to get confrontational about the legalization of drugs. But we all sensed that we were off the mark and very foolish for it, too.

The conference over, I took my first opportunity to catch Timothy Leary and introduce myself. I had to abandon Allison and chase him down the hall, where he was already heading to Schwab with his escort. I offered my hand and said, "I'm Alyce Wilson, from WPSU."

"That's the campus radio station?" he asked.

"Yes." I told him a little about Before the Dawn, but I felt that it was a bit trivial.

He didn't let on that it was, but just listened, with one ear, as he listened to someone else in the other. We'd made it down the street, and we headed east to the Schwab Auditorium.

Ray was with us, and Allison, and Timothy Leary's escort, presumably somebody from Colloquy. She seemed overprotective, or maybe she just wanted to hang on his arm. On the dead-end road coming up to Pollack by McAllistair, Timothy Leary stopped to look for traffic. We, Allison and I, laughed lightly. He couldn't know that no traffic ever comes up that road. Guess he's used to the city, eh?

As we walked, Ray pushed up to Timothy Leary's side. I remarked to Allison, "He's in heaven."

"Yes," she agreed about Ray, the throwback to the 60's. "Isn't it cute, though?"

It was. Touching — touching and cute. Ray was showing Timothy an album he was considering using for the show he's doing. He did that so he could ask Timothy a question about it. I think it was, "Did you write all the music on here?"

The sky was clear, blue and the early evening was cool but pleasant. Beautiful. We were walking with Timothy Leary on Pollack Road. Incroyable.

I remember him saying something that sent a chill through me. It was right after Ray's question, probably in reference to his celebrity status. "Well," he said, "I haven't been shot yet." And he laughed.

At Schwab, we parted company, as the escort took him in through the back. The auditorium was filling up fast, but Allison and I found two seats together near the back.

At about 8, Timothy Leary came out on the stage, which was dark except for a spotlight on his podium. The auditorium erupted into applause and crowd noise. He acknowledged us with a smile and took the podium. Allison remarked that he didn't look the type who would stay in one place for an entire speech, being one who performs philosophy.

His first few minutes were the presentation he'd made in the press conference. He talked about people as sheep and about individualism and religion, using computers as the ultimate metaphor for a well-run society.

Allison was right; he tried to take his microphone with him and walk around. They had no lights set up to follow him, so he stood in the shadow and talked.

Not long into his talk, people outside began to shout and bang on the doors. Allison and I surmised that they were protesting. I commented, "Outside is the sheep." She agreed.

Then, before the question-answer period, we had an intermission, and I asked an usher. Seems the people outside just wanted to come in and listen to Timothy Leary. But there were too many and not enough room, and it would be dangerous to let them all in now.

The questions were not very astute. People kept going back to the 60's and rock and drugs, but I can see that he's changed. He's grown. How could they expect him to stay the same? He would fester. But he's grown into a beautiful understanding of what must be done for the education system, and he intends to do it -- through computers. He wants, he intends, to give students the strength of an individualized education. He is no ambiguities, no vague philosophy; he is goals and achievements and wisdom that comes from fighting and making mistakes and dying many, many times.

"Timothy Leary's dead.
No. No, no, no.
He's outside,
Looking in."

Moody Blues


More thoughts on psychedelics:

March 3, 2003 - Playing with Spiritual Fire

Copyright 1989-2003 by Alyce Wilson

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