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Soon thereafter, Leary jumped a prison fence at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo and climbed into a waiting van driven by members of the Weather Underground, the radical group responsible for a string of anti-Vietnam War bombings. He made his way to Europe, then to Algeria, and finally to Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was arrested in 1973. Leary spent the next three years in prison before moving to Beverly Hills, where he died of prostate cancer in 1996. At his wishes, his ashes were placed in a rocket and blasted into space. Before Leary died, Stubby says, he hounded Leary to get his money back, but Leary kept dodging him.
After arranging Leary's release, Stubby headed to Mexico, and thanks to his connections with the Mexican mafia, carried papers identifying himself as a federal agent investigating marijuana smuggling. Posing as a narc, he conned his way onto the Brotherhood's yacht, which had been confiscated in Mazatlan. "I couldn't believe it, but I got the boat out of there," he says.
He spent the next two years on the boat, traveling the Pacific and eventually the Panama Canal, where, in 1973, he was captured and deported. He spent the next year at Lompoc Federal Penitentiary. After being released, he headed to the Caribbean and then to northern California. "That's when I started really dealing cocaine, and it made my life miserable," he says.
After serving time, Stubby lived under an assumed name, which helped him find work in television while he continued dealing drugs. He became a successful TV producer for NBC, working on both Real People and That'sIncredible. He even developed his own Real People character, Captain Sticky. (The actor who actually played Captain Sticky recently died in Thailand, where he moved to establish a sex-tour business.) In between shoots in San Diego, Stubby flew to San Francisco and met an ambassador from "a foreign country" who would walk through airport security with diplomatic immunity and 25 to 50 kilos of coke in two suitcases. "We'd bring it to a stash house in Daly City, and El Salvadoran soldiers with their whores and girlfriends and submachine guns would guard it," he says. "We had millions of dollars."
Stubby had a close call at San Diego's airport, when two FBI agents stopped him in the terminal and said he fit the profile of a drug dealer; Stubby had a few grams of cocaine and a suitcase full of money with him. At the last minute, an airline representative told the agents they had just stopped a TV producer. After ditching the drugs in a toilet, he landed in San Francisco and told his coke connections he couldn't take the pressure. "They paid me $250,000 to retire from the coke business," he says.
That money bought Stubby some video editing equipment, and he reinvented himself as a TV and film editor and, later, a video producer. His company supported dozens of employees and their families; he says he also raised hundreds of thousands for charities. But a series of unfortunate events—business partners ripped him off, a fire destroyed expensive equipment, he got screwed out of royalties—conspired to pull him down. Whatever hopes of keeping his career together ended when Costa Mesa police busted him for possessing a kilo of marijuana. Although the charges were reduced to possession because he had a doctor's note saying the drug helped him fight symptoms of his diabetes, he spent six months under house arrest. His wife left him, and his brother-in-law took custody of his youngest son.
"I lost my family and everything because of drugs," he says. Now Stubby takes a bus to the Newport Beach Pier and hustles lessons on video editing to help pay his bills. "I'm talented and I lose a lot of opportunities because of my record," he says. "When I was rich, I thought I was infallible. Now that I'm poor, I don't get a lot of people visiting me."
Thumper credits his first glimpse of coke to the legendary Cocaine Carol.
"All she did was coke," he says. "It was like her job. Fifteen years later, I was addicted to it. But back then, she was way ahead of her time."
But he says his first taste of the betrayal and greed that came with dealing cocaine occurred in the early 1970s, when he went to Peru on a surfing safari with John Gale.
"We went to this fishing village called Chicama," Thumper says. "We surfed the perfect wave. It was a mile-long perfect left. It was absolutely the best wave I have ever seen in my life. Gale paid for the trip. We stayed there seven days. And on the third day there, Johnny says, 'I need to use your surfboard. I'm going to another place and I'm probably going to be gone the night." Gale headed over a surf break with Thumper's board, returning shortly before they were to fly back to Orange County. When they landed at LAX, Gale handed him $500.
"He says, 'Here, Thump.' And I'm like, 'What the hell's that for?'" Gale laughed—and then explained that he'd stashed eight ounces of pure cocaine in the tail fin of Thumper's board.
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