inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #26 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 14 Apr 10 10:46
    
An excerpt from Don's book:

<http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-01-09/the-harvard-psychede
lic-club/full/>
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #27 of 225: bill braasch (bbraasch) Wed 14 Apr 10 11:33
    
reads like Andy took the brown stuff, not the bright orange variety.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #28 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 14 Apr 10 14:29
    
Don, a more general question -- how did you end up covering the spiritual 
beat at the San Francisco Chronicle?  What were some of the most memorable 
stories or experiences you had while doing that?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #29 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Wed 14 Apr 10 17:25
    
Regarding the earlier Ram Dass question, he seems to be getting more
active in his teaching than when I interviewed him 2 1/2 years ago. I
spent three days talking to him at his home in Maui. When I first
approached him, he said he had no plans to leave Maui -- that he was
there "to die." He'd had some more health problems and seemed kind of
depressed. He seems to have bounced back a bit, but still chooses to
stay in Maui. He's been wheelchair bound since his stroke, and the
speech is still difficult. That's so tragic as he was such a funny and
articulate guy. For me, part of RD's charm was his self-deprecating
humor, how he seems like another seeker on the path rather than an
all-knowing guru. That's why in the book I call him "the seeker."
Huston Smith is "the teacher." Weil is "the healer" and Leary "the
trickster." 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #30 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Wed 14 Apr 10 17:32
    
Steve, you asked about how I wound up on the "Godbeat." I started
covering religion at The Examiner (the old Examiner, not the current
rag) in the early 1980s. Before that I spent two years on the
transportation beat and was sick of writing about BART breakdowns, Muni
problems and going to Golden Gate Bridge Board meetings. The Examiner
decided to revive the religion beat after the Jonestown murder/suicide
in 1978. I did some of those stories and was interested in cults. The
Christian Right was just getting rolling, and there were just a lot of
great stories to cover. The Chronicle offered me a job in 1988, so I
defected to the morning paper. I never expected to make a career out of
it. It was a great beat -- everything from flying around with the
pope, interviewing the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #31 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Wed 14 Apr 10 17:36
    
Personally, I was interested in Buddhism and had done some Zen
retreats. Like many people, I trace my interest in meditation back to
my earlier research into the mysteries via psychedelics. They showed me
that there was a whole other level of being. So in one way I could say
LSD led me to the religion beat, but it was more complicated than
that.  
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #32 of 225: what another day it takes: (oilers1972) Wed 14 Apr 10 20:39
    
"On the other hand, many of us were living on the economic edge back
then."

True, but the Necessities Of Life were not nearly as expensive as they
are today, and there was also more of an economic safety net back
then.  


"...back then I think the doses of LSD were very high and currently
are fairly low."

Which certainly would contribute to a small number of freakouts
compared to 40 years ago.  Or at least the bad trips are more
manageable today.  Anyway, one side effect of fewer negative
experiences is less negative publicity about psychedelics.  And yes, I
am also aware that some of the '60s stories about negative LSD
experiences were exaggerated, or even made up, as there was a political
agenda to shut the door on psychedelics.

And Don, speaking of the previous sentence, do you think that maybe
our cultural gatekeepers wanted to turn psychedelic use and resultant
psychedelic culture into mere fashion, so that after a couple of years
they then could promulgate the message that psychedelics were now
passe, out of fashion, and it was time to move on to the Next Big
Thing, in the hopes that maybe the people who had had their lives or
worldviews changed by psychedelic drugs (either directly or from others
who had experienced them) would then decide that their experiences
were just an illusion after all?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #33 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 15 Apr 10 10:08
    
Don, along the same lines but a different angle, did you come across any 
interesting information in reference to the CIA's curiously ubiquitous 
role in promoting psychedelic research in the early days?  "Acid Dreams" 
and "Storming Heaven" provide in-depth accounts of the agency's 
involvement, but, as Leary himself once said "The LSD movement was started 
by the CIA... It was all planned and scripted by the Central 
Intelligence," I was wondering if you stumbled across any interesting 
anecdotes in that regard that didn't make it into the book.

Just FYI, in a small-press book called "Poems All Over the Place," Allen 
Ginsberg mused at length about this, writing in his journal, "Am I 'Allen 
Ginsberg' the by-product of one of the CIA's lamentable, ill advised, or 
triumphantly successful experiments in mind Control?"
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #34 of 225: With catlike tread (sumac) Thu 15 Apr 10 12:16
    
Don, I liked your religion-beat work in the Chronicle, and I enjoyed
reading The Harvard Psychedelic Club.  The Weil incident was news to
me.

My searing criticism of the book, however, is the fact that you didn't
say more about the house on Kenwood Avenue (and its yard). I lived
there until, when I was 7, my parents (John McCarthy & (macoyote)),
sold it to Alpert and took me, sniveling pitifully, to Stanford,
California.

Not only did Leary and Alpert turn my father's library into the trip
chamber, they repainted my bedroom from purple and pink to white.

They didn't know what a paradise they had on their hands.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #35 of 225: uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Thu 15 Apr 10 12:36
    
I never cease to be amazed at the connections that exist in this
place.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #36 of 225: okay it's (kayo) Thu 15 Apr 10 12:42
    
sumac! 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #37 of 225: bill braasch (bbraasch) Thu 15 Apr 10 13:03
    
maybe some of that artificial intelligence leaked out of one of your dad's
mason jars?  or maybe the purple and pink decor set the chickens free.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #38 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 15 Apr 10 13:24
    
sumac, I had no idea!  Amazing!  Did you ever go back and visit the house 
later?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #39 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Thu 15 Apr 10 14:04
    
Hey everyone. I'm back. Tonight I'm heading over the SF (from the East
Bay) to address the Harvard Club of San Francisco, which should be
interesting. I had a gig last week at the Harvard Club in LA. Joe
Russin, the editor of the Crimson and co-author of Andy Weil's 1963
expose about Alpert's drug sessions with undergraduates, was moderating
the proceedings. 

Steve, you asked about the CIA. I didn't do deeply into that story
because it's already been done in the books you mentioned. But I do
have a section in the conclusion with some new material about very
early CIA-funded LSD research by doctors Max Rinkel and Robert Hyde at
the (Harvard affiliated) Boston Psychopathic Institute. Hyde may have
had the first LSD trip in North America in 1949.  
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #40 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Thu 15 Apr 10 14:08
    
I tracked down one of their Harvard graduate students, Philip Slater,
who worked on the Rinkel and Hyde LSD research from 1952 to 1954. They
were giving LSD to undergraduates to see if they could produce
temporary psychosis -- much worse than what Leary and Alpert were up
to. Slater, who now lives in Santa Cruz and is his 80s, didn't know the
work was CIA-funded until the 1980s, when a lot of that information
started coming out. 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #41 of 225: With catlike tread (sumac) Thu 15 Apr 10 14:08
    
I have never done more than drive by it bravely. It has shrunk, to the
extent that a fourteen-room house can shrink.

But (macoyote) visited, I believe, and my father spent the night in
the trip chamber when he dropped by to see if Alpert had any intention
of paying off the 2nd mortgage (no).

And our family friend Mary Barrett was also friendly with Leary &
Alpert, and she had a nice story about going over and being shown
around by Leary and saying, "What did you do with the LIBRARY?"
"What library? There's no library." "The LIBRARY that was RIGHT
HERE" "There was no library" "Tim, I [helped paint that library/
put ths books on the shelves/helped assemble the bookshelves]
myself. So what did you DO WITH THE LIBRARY?"

Finger to lips, tour of the basement, up the ladder concealed behind
a bedspread, into the trip chamber, which Mary said was full of...
stoned people.


But to return to the book -- how did you come across the Weil
connection?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #42 of 225: With catlike tread (sumac) Thu 15 Apr 10 14:09
    
(donlattin) slippage.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #43 of 225: macoyote (macoyote) Thu 15 Apr 10 14:15
    
I had heard interesting hearsay about Alpert and Leary, as 'Outrageous
Harvard Professors', about a year or two before we sold our house to
them, mainly through our friend, Mary Barrett, who knew them. My
husband, John McCarthy, was at MIT, but faculty gossip spread freely
between universities.
 
All this was in the arena of government/university at first, with LSD
coming from the government, with nasty stories of LSD being tried as a
weapon against soldiers to confuse them/drive them mad, and with
pictures [in Life mag, I think,] of spiders unable to make anything but
messy failures of webs.  The hearsay was much more interesting, with
the accepted idea that Alpert and Leary's time at Harvard was getting
short.

I only met them when we were selling our house, which was huge.  I
loved that house. I looked forward to meeting them, but we only talked
business.

I thought they were nice. [I *know* how inadequate that seems, but
hey, they weren't famous, only interesting. And buying MY house.

Alpert accepted my daughter's invitation to come up and see her new
kittens, and expressed appreciation. Alpert = good guy.

 Later, Leary wanted to move a couple of friends into one of the
bedrooms, a few days early, and then bitched about the clutter in the
rest of the house. MY house. Leary = Bad guy.

I followed their career with interest, and became interested in
psychedelics myself, but never met them again.


{I didn't see inside the house the house again, but heard about the
changes.  While looking, one of the neighbors said that they were
terribly relieved when we moved in, because they were afraid that, with
such a large house, a family with lots of noisy kids would move in.
They were were happy with us- two kids.  They had been worried again,
when they heard we were selling, until they heard it was to two Harvard
professors.  

When A&L sold to a large family with five children, the new family was
received with open arms.]

I haven't resd the book yet, but you know I will.
 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #44 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Thu 15 Apr 10 14:18
    
That Kenwood Ave. connection is amazing. I got the owners of the
original Leary trip-house on Homer St. to give me a tour, but I
couldn't talk my way into the Kenwood Ave. home, which was where the
research/party continued after Leary had to vacate the house on Homer
St. He'd rented it for a year from a professor on sabbatical and left
it trashed, I'm told. Do you or your parents remember an undergraduate
named Foster Dunlap? He lived there with his wife and was involved in
an interesting triangular relationship with Ram Dass. He had some
mental problems that were no doubt intensified by the drugs they were
taking. 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #45 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Thu 15 Apr 10 14:32
    
Sumac, you asked how I came across the Weil connection. The fact that
Weil was the whistle-blower who wrote the final expose in the Crimson
was known (his by-line was on the story), but mostly forgotten. What's
new in my book are the details about how Weil betrayed his friend,
Ronnie Winston, and pressured his father Harry Winston (of the famous
diamond jewelry family) to force Ronnie to snitch on Alpert. As a
journalist, one of the things that bugs me about what Weil did is that
he was working both as a newspaper reporter for the Crimson AND a spy
for the Harvard administration, who were looking for evidence so they
could get rid of Alpert and Leary. Last week, I met Weil's editor at a
Harvard Club event in LA, who said it was something he wouldn't have
done later in his reporting/editing career, but that it seemed like the
right thing to do at the time. There was supposedly a Crimson reporter
who went nutsafter taking drugs with Leary and Alpert, but I could
never tie down that piece of the story. 
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #46 of 225: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 15 Apr 10 15:15
    
I knew the broad outlines of the Weil story for many years (I'm no
expert, but I have a small library of books on psychedlic history) but
it was interesting to read the details for the first time in your book.
 My reaction was that what he did was actually considerably worse what
I'd surmised from reading brief accounts in earlier books.  

I suppose few of us would want to be judged by the most awful thing we
did as a college undergraduate, but still...  OK, in the spirit of
psychedelic compassion and forgiveness, maybe I'll stop right there.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #47 of 225: Gail Williams (gail) Thu 15 Apr 10 16:31
    
I'm curious about the Harvard alumni who show up at these speaking
gigs, Don, and their perspective on Leary, LSD, etc.  
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #48 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 15 Apr 10 17:49
    
What's particularly ironic, as you point out, Don, is the fact that Weil 
later became the public face of mind-expansion after writing "The Natural 
Mind."  A friend of mine stayed at his house in the '80s and recalled one 
day when he was poking around the freezer looking for dessert and found 
little foil packets labeled PEYOTE ENEMA. Yum!

Don, I frankly forget if this is in the text anywhere, but did you talk to
Ronnie Winston?  As a gay man myself who was more into the
hippie-Buddhist-Deadhead subculture than the urban gay subculture, I was 
quite interested to discover Ram Dass' secret life, as it were.  I still 
remember reading the NYT magazine article in which he admitted that he was 
"bisexual," which was a hugely encouraging thing for me at the time, even 
if it was just a crack of light through the closet door for him.

I wasn't surprised to learn in your book that he had a ready supply of
younger lovers.  When I met him, he was still extremely charismatic -- and
not in a mystical-twistical power-tripping way, but in a sweet, human,
grounded way. In fact, as we were leaving the camp that I mentioned
before, a very handsome older teenager literally jumped out from behind a
tree and told Ram Dass that he was in love with him and wanted to leave
with him and spend the rest of their lives together. Frankly, I never
would have even pegged the kid as gay -- he was quiet, macho, and tough,
and it was a pretty dramatic moment.  I left them to talk privately but 
Ram Dass left with me alone.

We had a beautiful drive back from Mendocino to San Francisco, with long 
periods of mutually appreciated silence amid the rolling golden hills.  At 
one point, Ram Dass started laughing, turned to me, flashed his cosmic 
smile, and said, "We're so lucky!"  I've never forgotten that.
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #49 of 225: Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 15 Apr 10 18:47
    
Don, how much have you explored the "new" psychedelic underground -- the 
post-Leary, Burning Man-tanned, Sasha Shulgin-informed aficionados of 
arcane molecules like 2-CB, salvia divinorum, and 2-CT-7?
  
inkwell.vue.382 : Don Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club
permalink #50 of 225: Don Lattin (donlattin) Fri 16 Apr 10 06:03
    
I spoke last night to the Harvard Club of SF at the venerable
University Club high atop Snob Hill. I always wondered what went on in
that building. Now I know. There were a couple people who knew Ram
Dass, including one of his Stanford students from the late 1950s, in
the pre-psychedelic days. He confirmed what everyone has told me from
that era. Richard Alpert was a funny, fantastic teacher. Well loved by
his students. The Stanford student wound up owning the Victorian
building at the corner of Haight and Ashbury were the Grateful Dead had
that famous photo session. He's trying to have a declared a historic
landmark. 
  

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