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Leary's Dubious Legacy

December 20, 1987

I wonder what prompted The Times to devote 81 column inches, not including three photos, to Timothy Leary. According to writer Dick Roraback, Leary's current claim to fame is that he is a celebrity, a "party animal" without whom no glitzy Hollywood premiere is complete. Despite references to Leary's to-say-the-least checkered past, the general tone of the article is strangely adulatory. Roraback appears to accept without reservation Leary's new persona as "the Billy Rose of philosophy," whatever in the world that means.

Sorry, I can't go along with that kind of hero worship. I remember too clearly the days when Leary was preaching the turn-on gospel of LSD and marijuana, although he is quoted as stating that he "never advocated drugs." Did he not! Many young lives were lost or destroyed because of Leary's psychedelic ramblings.

Granted, Leary may have paid his debt to society by spending some time in prison. (Perhaps his incarceration accounts for his remarkable statement that drug use is "way down from the '60s and '70s." Or possibly, news about drug-inspired gang wars hasn't penetrated Leary's "aesthetically tasteful Beverly Hills aerie.") Must we now accept him without moral judgment because of his apparent talent for attracting a crowd of "top people?" Top people by what criteria, I wonder?

I'd like to believe that Roraback quoted Leary so extensively so that Leary could damn himself with his own half-baked verbiage, most of which either makes no sense at all, or else rehashes old hippie platitudes. Nevertheless, by giving so much publicity to Leary, The Times, in effect, dignifies the antics of a man much better quietly ignored.

ALICE BAER

Van Nuys

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