Lords of Acid

How the Brotherhood of Eternal Love Became OCs Hippie Mafia

But Gale never served serious prison time. He probably would have, but he died in a 1982 car crash in South Orange County when his Mercedes missed a turn. The car hit a chain-link fence, which went through the car, instantly decapitating Gale. Unlike Thumper, Stubby kept in touch with him until the end.

"John Gale was a living god, a pure entity," he says. "I love him with all my heart. I was proud to know him. It's too bad his life was so short."

Neil Purcell believes rival drug dealers were chasing Gale when he died. After busting Leary in 1968, Purcell was awarded Officer of the Year and rose to become chief of police in Laguna. After a brief retirement in Big Sky, Montana, Purcell went back into law enforcement, as chief of police in Anderson, California. He's now writing a book about Leary.

"Gale was an egotist, a greedy-type person, and that's what got him killed, in my opinion," Purcell says. But Purcell was apparently unaware that the Brotherhood, led by Gale, moved into cocaine trafficking after the high-profile bust of Timothy Leary.

"I can tell you that Johnny Gale did his share in acid and hash and was an extremely large dealer," Purcell says. "I chased him for a number of years. But if he was a giant in coke, that's news to me."

Because of his upcoming book, Purcell is reluctant to talk about Leary but can't resist taking credit for taking him down. "I personally hold him responsible today, and will to my death, for being one of the main reasons we have such a dope problem today," Purcell says. "His advocacy of psychedelics and hash and peyote caused a lot of people to die, and in my opinion, he was a ruthless, cowardly, self-serving individual."

Kent Kelly's affiliation with Mystic Arts—and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love—ended suddenly when it burned down in 1970. "The building inspector said it was faulty wiring," Kelly says. He and others suspected arson. The only thing to survive was the meditation room with the Taxonomic Mandala. "By then most people were so scared, they moved to Hawaii or Oregon," he says. "Neil [Purcell] came up to me and said, 'You've had your day in this town; you're going back to Chicago.'"

Kelly says he didn't see Leary again until shortly before his death in 1996, when he drove up to Wavy Gravy's Hog Farm in Oregon. "One thing Tim asked me to do was give Neil a message. He wanted to know why Purcell never thanked him, because he became policeman of the year and chief of police thanks to that arrest."

Dion Wright, the man who painted the Taxonomic Mandala that survived the Mystic Arts fire, now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. But he returns to Laguna Beach each year to display his sculptures at the Sawdust Festival. The mandala isn't on display, but Wright says he's willing to sell it to anyone with $150,000. As he set up his booth there on a recent afternoon, he agreed that someone burned down Mystic Arts 35 years ago. "Everyone knows the John Birch Society did it," he says.

Wright recently finished Drugglers, a 500-page memoir about the Brotherhood. He's looking for a publisher. He offers a piece of folklore about John Gale, the man he calls "JG."

"You know about the Elvis theory, right?" he asks. "There's this story in the underground that JG isn't really dead. Supposedly, his dad removed all his teeth and planted them in a likely corpse and staged the wreck—and JG is happy in Bali or some such idyllic spot. Nobody really believes that story."

Just then, Wright spotted a man wearing an eye patch who had just finished his lunch. "He's been here since the '60s," Wright says.

"Hey Rick," he calls. "You knew JG, right?"

One-Eye Rick walks over, screws up his good eye to a spot near the ceiling and pauses thoughtfully.

"Gale got what he deserved," he finally says, and walks out the door.

A few minutes later, a woman taps my shoulder.

"Are you the reporter?" she asks. "The guy in the truck wants to talk to you."

As I approach, I see that the driver is One-Eye Rick. He nervously looks both ways to make sure nobody can overhear him.

"Be careful who you talk to," he says. "Gale could be in witness protection."

I ask him if he knows Tipper and Beaver.

"Sure, I knew Tippy and Beav," he answers, stepping on the gas and nosing his truck out of the parking lot and onto Laguna Canyon Road. "They were Cocaine Carol's kids."


NSCHOU@OCWEEKLY.COM

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