Blacklisting Myself Excerpt: A Night With Timothy Leary

… Usually an event at Timothy Learys’ was a circus out of the hippie past, with characters like Wavy Gravy mingling with punk rockers, and studio execs and actors trolling for parts more intently than for any sex or drugs. Once, my ex-wife Renee and I arrived for an intimate dinner for eight. During dessert, Timothy casually asked if any of us had “done crack.” Conversation came to a screeching halt. Sophisticated as this group might have been, crack meant underclass addicts and violent neighborhoods dangerous to white people like us. After a dramatic pause, Timothy smiled and allowed that he had. At a crack house in East Hollywood. He said it was “not what you expected” and “amazingly enlightening.” He wanted to do it again -- right then! Did any of us want to join him?

More silence ensued, followed by nervous coughs. Timothy looked disappointed (this may have been feigned). Then he fixed his gaze on me, saying, “Why don’t you come, Roger? Moses Wine would, wouldn’t he?”

I sat up straight. Did he expect me to know karate because my character did? I had been challenged before to live up to my adventurous detective hero, but normally it didn’t involve a potential mugging in a latter-day opium den. Nevertheless, just to make up for wussing out on those Harvard LSD experiments, and after a sideways glance at Renee, who, wisely, had already demurred on the feeble grounds that she was “too tired,” I assured her I’d be back early and said yes to Timothy. Within minutes, he, Barbara, and I were en route from Brentwood to East Hollywood -- a thirty-minute trek even at midnight with little traffic. I was designated driver, a job I was pleased to have, mainly so that I could be in as much control as possible of our moment of exit.

The crack house was a decaying, six-story stucco affair in the badlands between Yucca Street and the Hollywood Freeway -- in those days, junkie and hooker central. Timothy rang the bell. A rangy black kid in a t-shirt opened the door almost immediately. (He had been phoned.) He looked about eighteen and held a baby in his arms. Other babies cried out in the background from other parts of the house, which reeked of a variety of odors ranging from frying hamburger to something suspiciously like vomit.

“Hey, Timothy, my man!” He gave Leary the Eighties equivalent of a high-five. I remember wondering for a second if he had any idea he was greeting the man who coined “Tune in, turn on, drop out!” I’m almost certain he didn’t, and I doubt that he would have cared if he had. What he saw in front of him was just what he wanted -- a tall white-haired middle-class geezer with cash.

We clomped up the stairs behind the young man, past those screaming babies and some mothers and grandmothers, to a room full of cushions on the fifth floor. A price of one hundred dollars apiece for a round of crack seemed to have been negotiated -- by whom and at what I rate I didn’t know or care to ask. The young man and his buddies, ever the conscientious service provider, had determined that Timothy and Barbara were a couple and that I was alone. I might need “company.” I was asked if I wanted it, but declined.

Then we reclined on the cushions to wait. In short order, the crack pipes arrived and we toked up. Though I did this fairly gingerly, I was taking off for Alpha Centauri within a megasecond. I don’t know if I would agree with Timothy that it was “amazingly enlightening,” but it was sure one hell of a high.