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Parting of the Minds : Pals Liddy and Leary Will Appear Together at Bogart's, but for a Debate? Stay Tuned

July 12, 1989|MARK CHALON SMITH

G Gordon Liddy's resume is both ominous and quirky--government super-spook with an unusual tolerance to pain (open flames no problem), Watergate burglary "mastermind," convicted felon (nine times over), high-paid lecturer, TV actor, would-be talk-show host, macho right-wing stalwart.

Then there's this little thing he has been doing with counterculture drug evangelist Dr. Timothy Leary off and on through the '80s.

Some call it a semiserious debate with comic topspin, others call it a dog-and-pony show blatantly capitalizing on the eccentric reputations of both men. Whatever it is, the two will be at Bogart's tonight in Long Beach, where they may or may not debate the issues of the day. (Bogart's publicist Stephen Zepeda said Liddy has committed to speak after a lengthy introduction by Leary, but he was unsure whether they would actually face off.)

Liddy, who has tilted at liberals on campuses all over the country and has described Leary as a longtime pal, said in a 1987 interview that he relishes these opportunities to present the Liddy line on things.

"When I lecture at colleges," he said, "and I go to military schools where they love me and (agree with everything), I'm dead. But when I go to Harvard or Brandeis, where their '60s residue professors have primed them to really get me, I look at it like a fastball right over the plate. I love it!"

As provocative (or outrageous) as his pairing with Leary may seem, Liddy is doomed to be remembered for another teaming--with the gang of second-rate burglars who broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972.

An unrepentant Liddy was eventually sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for bugging and conspiracy. President Carter commuted his term in 1977 after Liddy had served 52 months.

Since then, he has found notoriety lucrative. Liddy reportedly accepts about 50 speaking engagements a year, for which he is paid at least $5,000 each, and provides seminars to businesses with security problems for $2,000 a day.

Liddy writes too, having penned a spy thriller, "Out of Control," and an autobiography, "Will."

Liddy has also made money playing villains on TV, most recently appearing in an episode of "Miami Vice." According to some reports, Liddy is still trying to float his own syndicated "confrontational" talk show, sort of a Morton Downey Jr. knock-off but not as wimpy.

It has not been all sweetness and light and trustworthy listening devices in recent months, however. The Miami-based security company (International Security & Intelligence Inc.) co-founded by Liddy filed for bankruptcy last year. The firm's services ranged from alerting corporate clients to the presence of bugging devices to teaching clients how to plant their own at a competitor's business.

Liddy has also had trouble with the IRS over back taxes.

Leary has also been busy since his glory days during the '60s. The former Harvard instructor and convicted drug user, who dreamed up the phrase "turn on, tune in and drop out," is trying to make it as a stand-up comic.

G. Gordon Liddy and Timothy Leary will appear at 9 tonight at Bogart's, 6288 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach. Tickets: $15. (213) 594-8975.

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