By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Valis and Chamberlain had known Leary only in the three months before he died, when Leary, calling for an end to all “pious, wimpy talk about death,” threw what Ralph Metzner described as “a several-months-long going-away party” at his house in Beverly Hills. Mediawise, it was the most redemptive moment of his life: “Having been marginalized all his life for his outrageous views on drugs, or space, or computers, or reality,” Metzner wrote in an essay now posted on the gallery wall, “[Leary] had the full attention of the media when he declared, in all seriousness, that he was going to plan his dying to be like a psychedelic session with careful attention to set and setting, and to be a joyous adventure.” A fifth estate overrun by cynics naturally ridicules anyone who expresses Leary’s seemingly uncritical delight over everything new, his obdurate optimism, his all-embracing spirituality. But not even Drudge could make too much fun of a man so determined to revel in humankind’s most fearsome moment. That Leary was as giddily enthusiastic about the radical experience of dying somehow dignified him. It shut the critics up.
“If you were a friend of Tim’s you became a part of a huge network of Black Sheep,” wrote Camilla Grace, of the performance ensemble Retina Logic, in a piece displayed prominently on the gallery’s north wall. It was a privilege to be part of that network, but not, I suspect, particularly difficult to get in. While Leary was prone to fits of temper — Chamberlain told me he was kicked out of the circle for a few hours simply for asking whether Leary needed anything — he was also indiscriminating about the people he allowed into his life: He invited everybody to the party. It meant that his social web was massive and eccentric; roughly half the people I know in Los Angeles (and several more in New York and San Francisco) were directly influenced by him in some way — all of them, amazingly, positively. “He saw your highest self and you behaved accordingly,” Chamberlain told me.
Valis agreed. “You got to see your potential in his eyes,” she said.
Leary’s expansiveness also meant that, even if you declined the invitation, you might find yourself in the network anyway — posthumously, and years later. At the end of my day at Light Space, Valis asked me whether I’d planned to go to a party that evening for a well-known writer and cyber pioneer who happened to be visiting from San Francisco. I told her I wasn’t — I didn’t know the man very well, I was tired, I had somewhere else to go. But as I left the gallery, I found between the pages of my notebook a sheet of white paper on which Valis had written out directions to the party and the phone number of the house.
I remembered the party I didn’t go to so many years ago and decided that the universe had spoken. I changed my plans.
23 DRAWINGS BY TIMOTHY LEARY | At LIGHT SPACE GALLERY, 1732 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 301-6969 Through July 31