Lords of Acid

How the Brotherhood of Eternal Love Became OCs Hippie Mafia

Being isolated in the canyon afforded the Brotherhood a certain redoubt. But the cops kept coming. "There were telephone taps on one of our smuggling operations. They considered us a threat to global security because we were avatars playing God and hooking up with the Yogananda and exposing it to the youth. And we had a lot of naked women running around. The police really envied us, and it made them want to get us even worse."


The biggest bust of Neil Purcell's career also marked the beginning of the end of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. At about 11 p.m. on Dec. 26, 1968, Purcell, who had followed Stubby and the Brotherhood from Newport Beach to the Laguna Beach Police Department, drove his cruiser up a twisting stretch of Woodland Drive. He spotted a station wagon parked in the middle of the road. People were moving around inside. They appeared to be arguing. They were too busy to notice him.

Purcell tapped on the window and demanded the driver's identification. But he didn't need to read the name on the license. The driver was Timothy Leary. Purcell knew Leary well. He ordered him out of the vehicle and, after calling for backup, searched the car. He would later say that he could smell the acrid odor of marijuana emanating from the station wagon through Leary's rolled-down window.

According to Purcell, a quick search turned up two kilos of marijuana and hashish, some of it hidden in clothing and luggage strewn throughout the wagon. Purcell arrested Leary for marijuana possession. Leary remembered things differently. In his 1983 memoir, Flashbacks, he claimed Purcell planted two joints on him.

"That's bull," says Dion Wright, an artist who was staying with Leary, Griggs and other members of the Brotherhood at Woodland Drive that night. "You can't believe anything Tim says. If it makes him look good, he'll say it. It doesn't have anything to do with the truth."

Wright painted the Taxonomic Mandala that decorated the hidden meditation room inside Mystic Arts. A good friend of Griggs, Wright says Leary's son Jack—and by extension, Leary himself—was responsible for the bust. "Jack was taking all the Brotherhood wives into bed with him, and John Griggs had a very different idea of what the Brotherhood was supposed to be about," Wright says. "John got fed up with what Jack was doing and told Tim that Jack had to go, or else everyone else would." So Tim put his wife and son in the car. "They drove down the hill in an emotional furor; they just spun out of there arguing."

That recollection would explain why Purcell was able to creep up on Leary without being noticed. "Purcell had been stalking Leary for months," Wright adds. "They had 'Purcell Watch' at the house—a whole system of alarms and whistles so everyone knew when Purcell was around. It was Tim's folly that got him busted. But to this day, I don't think Purcell knows the reason he was able to bust Leary that night."

Earlier, Griggs had been trying to raise money through Mystic Arts to purchase an island where he, Leary and the rest of the Brotherhood could establish a utopian society founded on Leary's religious teachings. Leary convinced Griggs that a ranch in the mountains was more practical.

"Tim didn't want to go to an island," Wright says. "He wanted access to the media, and that's what set off the conflict that destroyed the Brotherhood. John liked Tim, but the rest of the Brotherhood didn't. They moved off to Hawaii."

Wright says even Griggs grew disillusioned with Leary. "John Griggs viewed Leary as a Christ-like figure and viewed himself as John the Baptist. But after Leary got here and they got involved with each other, it was an erosion of reality."

Wright wasn't impressed with Leary. "He was a very charming guy. But he was a very irresponsible hedonist—with a great brain. He had legs as a psychiatrist, but as a social being, he was too caught up with the jet set. John worshiped Tim, and Tim wasn't careful about that. He was careless."

Wright met John Gale while living with Griggs in Laguna Canyon. Gale had just sold a bag of dog feces to a pair of undercover detectives, escaping into the bushes with their money. "The cops started shooting at random into the hill," Wright says. The gunshots fouled up a nearby unrelated anti-Brotherhood sting operation by state narcotics agents. The agents weren't happy. They came over and started yelling at the cops. The shooting also drew a crowd of people, and everyone started Om-ing, chanting the Buddhist mantra in mockery of the cop clusterfuck. "The local cops started streaming onto the scene, and they joined the shouting match," Wright says. "Then the cops started billy-clubbing people and arresting everyone for resisting arrest."

Wright was up the hill at Griggs' house, watching the melee. "Gale came out of the bushes and ran up to us laughing his ass off and counting all the money he took off the agents."

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