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Timothy Leary lives ...

Leary books, on film and on new Moody Blues CD

July 8, 1997
Web posted at: 11:25 p.m. EDT (0325 GMT)

From Correspondent Mark Scheerer

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Timothy Leary's dead -- as the Moody Blues once put it in song well before the fact -- but there is no shortage of people who seem intent on keeping the memory of the acid guru alive.

Including the Moody Blues themselves.

vxtreme CNN's Mark Scheerer reports
CNN's Mark Scheerer reports
video icon 1.6M/39 sec. QuickTime movie

Leary died on May 31, 1996, and slightly more than a year later, there is a wealth of new books about him, along with three films and a CD from the Moody Blues. Featured on the latter is a remake of their classic "Legend of a Mind," but the refrain has been changed from "Timothy Leary's dead" to "Timothy Leary lives ..."

There's also a bit of controversy over what became of Leary's head.


Leary, of course, is the one-time Harvard University professor who was cashiered for overindulging in his experiments with psychedelic drugs. Leary admitted to taking LSD more than 500 times, and coined the phrase "Tune in, turn on, drop out."

"The LSD trip," he once said, "is best understood as a religious pilgrimage."

He became a guru to the counter-culture, and although in time he became a kind of fringe figure, he never lost his knack for the adventurous and the outrageous.

'He was determined to party to the end'

While terminally ill with cancer, he communicated with his fans on the Internet, giving them up-to-the-minute takes on what it was like to be dying.

He also allowed the end of his life to be filmed. David Silver and Danny Schecter's version is called "Beyond Life with Timothy Leary."

"He was determined to party to the end," Silver says. "And he did."

A second film, "Timothy Leary's Last Home Entertainment Trip," is a kind of a Deadhead's bio of Leary.

"We compare his life and experimentation with psychedelic drugs on the East Coast with other people on the West Coast, such as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters," says filmmaker O.B. Babbs. "And that's where kind of my personal take comes in, because both of my parents were original Merry Pranksters."


The third and most controversial film is "Timothy Leary's Dead," in which it is suggested that after Leary's death, his head was removed and cryogenically frozen for possible future cloning or revitalization.

"There's been much discussion of 'Timothy Leary's Dead,'" Paul Davids says. "'Is it real? Is it real?' and Timothy actually wanted my film to be ambiguous. And I've deliberately made it that way."

No decapitation, just cremation

But Leary's son, Zach, says there was no decapitation, just cremation.

"No, he was cremated," Zach Leary says. "And on one hand, I do think by creating some kind of myth like they did at the end of the film is kind of adventurous and funny. But my conscience tells me it's in bad taste."


Leary displays a glass jar with a label that reads "White Rose." Inside, he says, are his father's ashes, less a portion that was sent into space with a commercial venture.

"I thought maybe I could put an end to that, which is why I'm showing them to you."

The question, of course, is why the sudden surge in books and films about the man.

Filmmaker Silver thinks he knows. In his inimitable way, he says, Leary "would give exclusive contracts to as many people as he could give them to."


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