Timothy Leary in Laguna

Laguna Beach was the LSD capital of the world starting in mid-1960s

and was still home to droppers, dopers and dealers until 1981,

according to an unpublished book, "The Jesus Dealers," written by

Ted Taylor in collaboration with former Police Chief Neal Purcell.

In its heyday, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, founded by Timothy

Francis Leary, was allegedly selling dope in Laguna at health food

stores, juice bars, psychedelic shops, record stores, surf shops and

even a used car lot. Woodland Drive was considered their base, known

to local law enforcement as "Dodge City."

Purcell joined the police department as a rookie in 1968, one of

two officers assigned to narcotics investigations. He had previously

been a patrol officer in Newport Beach.

His career in Laguna Beach lasted until 1997, when he retired

after 15 years as chief of the department. He has subsequently taken

on interim assignments in communities that are searching for new


Taylor is the prolific author of books for young people and

adults. He is internationally known for "The Cay," which is required

reading in many schools.

"Neal first got in touch with me in 1996 and said please, do the

story," Taylor said. "I was working on three or four things at the

time, but we finally got together.

"The Jesus Dealers" is dedicated to Purcell's wife, Michelle, and

their children, as well as to members of his law enforcement "family"

who worked countless hours trying to bring down Timothy Leary and the

Brotherhood, and to the "unfortunate young victims of this ruthless

organization of greedy, self-serving zealots."

The Purcells make their post-retirement home in Montana.

In the book, Purcell recalled his belief when he joined the Laguna

department that the Brotherhood was harmless.

"The BEL [Brotherhood of Eternal Love] still appeared to be just

an unorthodox, goofy location operation, a pain ... but no hippie

mafia," Purcell writes.

"Some of the trouble was with the town itself. Many people still

didn't believe a dope problem existed, aside from personal stash

sales. The new liberal members of the City Council kept hemorrhaging

around the heart. They were total losses. Caught in the backwash of

the Flower Children, the whole thing was transient, they said, and

would sooner or later go away."

Purcell hadn't yet met Leary, although he knew of him and didn't

like what he knew. They crossed paths for the first time just before

midnight on Dec. 26, 1968. As fortune would have it, Purcell's arrest

of Leary that night was the only one by any police officer that ever


According to Purcell, he spotted a car in the middle of Woodland,

illegally parked near Roosevelt Lane, blocking traffic. Inside the

vehicle he saw a gray-haired man pushing a younger man who was trying

to get into the front seat of the station wagon. Purcell could smell

the distinctive odor of recently burned pot when the gray-haired

driver rolled down the window. It was Leary, the man Purcell already


"Can this truly be?" Purcell thought. "Maybe I have gotten lucky."

Purcell said he had probable cause to search the vehicle, based on

the reek of pot. He called for backup, then asked Leary to step out

of the vehicle and began his search. He said he found two roaches in

an ashtray, a pound of marijuana, two ounces of hashish and some LSD


Even near death, Leary swore Purcell planted the drugs. However,

the courts saw it differently, and he served three years in jail --

but not before managing a jail-break in September 1970 while serving

a one- to 10-year sentence.

Fleeing to Afghanistan with his wife, Rosemary, Leary eluded

capture for three years, but his luck ran out in 1973. Rosemary ended

up spending 23 years living underground -- her original sentence was

six months to a year.

Leary died in his sleep on May 31, 1996.

To this day, Purcell has not forgiven Leary for what he did to the

city and residents of Laguna Beach, particularly young people. It's

all there in the manuscript, a work in progress.

"And it's all true," author Taylor said. "The manuscript is the

first draft. It is now being edited -- I am a writer, not an editor.

That should be completed in two or three weeks. The final version

will be typed and sent to New York.

"My agent has three prospective publishers. So we should know in

about a month."

The book represents a significant chunk of Laguna Beach history,

and should be preserved, preferably in both manuscript and book form,

either at the Laguna Beach Library or the Laguna Beach Historical



While Neal Purcell may have cooked Timothy Leary's goose, Tom de

Paolo's illustrations and tested recipes have jelled into a dandy

little cookbook featuring some recipes from Laguna's past and some

new ones.

De Paolo has lived in Laguna on and off for most of his life. He

spent his business career in marketing, working for the J. Walter

Thompson Advertising Agency and for the Disneyland Resort.

"'Laguna Cooks' seems more of a promotion piece for Laguna than a

cookbook, and perhaps it will help tourism," de Paolo said.

o7OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box

248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 494-4321 or fax (949) 494-8979.


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