Lords of Acid

How the Brotherhood of Eternal Love Became OCs Hippie Mafia

One of the founding members of the Brotherhood wasn't indicted: John Griggs, an Anaheim-raised hippie who worshiped Leary and hoped to install him as a prophet on a church-owned island. By the time the convictions came in, Griggs was gone, dead from an overdose of psilocybin in 1969. Most of those arrested spent, by today's standards, a relatively short time behind bars. Many lived on the run under assumed identities for years, like Nicholas Sand, who evaded capture until 1996, when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police caught up with him in British Columbia. Police finally arrested Brother Russell Joseph Harrington in 1994, at his home near Lake Tahoe.

But few of the survivors did as well as John Gale. Briefly jailed in the 1970s and early '80s, he went on to earn millions of dollars dealing drugs long after Purcell and the rest of Orange County law enforcement claimed they had crushed the Brotherhood.

If the cops didn't actually destroy the Brotherhood, drugs did. Cocaine trafficking and the money that came with it perverted whatever was genuine in the church's spiritual origins. The Brotherhood's drug empire produced great wealth, addiction and a surplus of paranoia that lasts even today, more than 30 years later.

Many people, including those only peripherally involved in the famed Hippie Mafia, are still reluctant to talk about it. One of those people, a Laguna Beach shop owner, was among those named in the original indictment. Although the charges against him were dropped when it became clear he wasn't a party to the Brotherhood's criminal dealings, he refused to discuss his past.

"All Leary did by coming to Orange County was bring a lot of heat on a lot of people," he says. "Nobody's going to talk to you, and if they do, you shouldn't trust what they say they remember.

"If you remember it, you weren't there."


When Sunshine's group grope ended, she dressed and took Thumper and their stepbrother to a communal house on Bluebird Drive. Her "friends" included Griggs and Gale. Thumper remembers being immediately drawn to Gale, a Jesus look-alike, the extrovert son of a wealthy Newport Beach boat manufacturer who also owned a Harley-Davidson distributorship.

"Gale was a beach boy, a surfer, musician, ladies man and man about town," Thumper says. Some of the other Brothers, like Griggs, were "inlanders." Thumper thought Gale was the real deal, a generous, larger-than-life character who loved playing practical jokes on his friends and took the time to make a lasting impression on total strangers.

"Gale used to go down to Taco Bell, and would hand out two dollars to everyone there," Thumper says. "Two dollars doesn't sound like a lot of money. But back then, tacos cost 19 cents. And he would literally give away $100 every day. The original conception of the Brotherhood wasn't about making money. We were funding soup kitchens. We had this one vegetarian kitchen called—what was it?—Love Animals Don't Eat Them. The Brotherhood wasn't about being greedy. It was about feeding people."


Kent Kelly, a soft-spoken, pensive veteran of Laguna Beach's hippie scene, owns Blind Faith, an aptly named art gallery in San Clemente. He moved to Laguna Beach from Chicago in 1968 and served food at the Love Animals Don't Eat Them food kitchen. He also managed Mystic Arts, after landing a job sweeping floors there. That's when he first met Timothy Leary, whose son Jack already worked at the shop.

"Sometimes we'd have Leary's whole laundry load from the dry cleaners in the store for two weeks, and it was nothing but Leary's silk robes," Kelly says. The store was a mecca for eccentric Laguna Beach hippies with odd nicknames, like Crazy Horse, a towering sword swallower who often wore a safety pin through his nose, and Cocaine Carol, who avoided pot, hash and LSD but always seemed to be snorting a hitherto-unknown white powder.

He remembers the Brotherhood of Eternal Love as a bunch of "very generous" guys. "They might have had thousands of dollars, but they'd still hitchhike." But Kelly wasn't a fan of Leary, a man he regarded as irresponsible. "I thought his message was too willy-nilly, everyone taking LSD," Kelly says. "It wasn't for everyone."

Although he knew the Brotherhood ran Mystic Arts, he doesn't remember taking orders from anyone. "I was a worker bee," he says. Occasionally, 30 or 40 people, sometimes Leary himself, would attend store meetings. "Leary just sat there and smiled and never said much," he recalls. "The Brotherhood is just as much a mystery to me as it is to you. I didn't really have any communication with them. They were really secretive . . . You heard rumors about people running around the world to Afghanistan, but no one in the Brotherhood told me about it."

Among other things, Kelly was unaware that Mystic Arts had become part of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love's marijuana, acid and hash distribution network. But hippies came to the shop from around Orange County to buy LSD in bulk.

"We would make frequent trips down to Laguna Beach," says a woman whose housemates in Silverado Canyon included drug dealers. "I was on the very fringe, and the people in the Silverado house were on the fringe too. They were connected by virtue of the fact that these guys were selling their LSD. The Brotherhood didn't use the term 'Brotherhood.' It was more like a secret, a fraternity . . . it wasn't a staple of their conversation."

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