March 25, 1966
The Exploding Threat
of the Mind Drug
that Got Out of Control
Turmoil in a Capsule
One dose of LSD is enough to set off a
mental riot of vivid colors and insights or of
terror and convulsions
'A Very Private Kind of Story'
The forces locked in the tiny pill of LSD on this week's cover are the subject of the lead story in this issue. Gerald Moore, a correspondent in our Los Angeles bureau, and Larry Schiller, a West Coast photographer, were assigned to investigate this new phenomenon. Their task was not easy. As Moore puts it, "We were really trying to move into people's minds."
It was Schiller who made first contact. He knew a girl who had taken LSD. She introduced him to her "salesman" and Schiller bluntly told the latter who he was and what he wantedpictures of ordinary people, not kooks or beatniks, reacting to the drug. The salesman, intrigued by such frankness, took Moore and Schiller on a tour of LSD hangouts and parties.
In the beginning, the people they ran into were youngsters experimenting with the drug. The two found out that, even in this strange atmosphere, frank disclosure of their mission worked out best. Ignoring a suggestion that they camouflage themselves in sweatshirts and tennis shoes, they stuck to ordinary street clothes. They were glad they did. "You can't fool these kids for a second," says Moore. "A girl at one party asked why I wasn't dressed like the rest. I told her I didn't feel up to the role and she said, 'Well, at least you're honest, and that's better.' "One friendly contact often passed them on to the next, until they met the ordinary people they were also looking for. Over a period of weeks the trail led them from Los Angeles to New York, from Houston to Detroit, and to Laredo, Texas, for the trial of Dr. Timothy Leary. Meanwhile our bureaus and regional correspondents across the country were checking on the prevalence of the drug.
The first question Moore and Schiller were asked was always, "Have you tried it?" To register disapproval was to end the conversation. Schiller had to answer no. Moore was able to give a qualified yes. At the University of New Mexico in 1958 he had once experimented with peyote, which has an effect comparable to LSD.
Neither man tried LSD (they were told this proved they belonged to "that middle-class alcoholic generation"), but bit by bit they began to feel members of a world Moore describes as "a strange subculture all its own. This is a very private kind of story, and we found ourselves feeling terribly protective about these people. We wanted to show they weren't just the antisocial fringe."
Moore, 27, comes from Albuquerque and went to the University of New Mexico, where he worked his way through his last two years as a patrolman on the Albuquerque police force. He wrote for the Albuquerque Tribune and came to us last year. Schiller, 29, is a Californian. He took up photography in high school, won a Graflex award at 15, and that year came to New York to cover part of the Rosenberg spy case for the United Press. He has since shot enough stories for us to net him six LIFE coverscounting this one.
GEORGE P. HUNT, Managing Editor