Jerry Brown stayed busy during the 28-year interval between his two stints as California’s governor: he made a bid for the presidency, got elected mayor of Oakland, and became the state’s attorney general. Before he was mayor, he also founded a commune in Oakland called We The People. The house at 200 Harrison Street doubled as a salon; Brown envisioned it as a place for “philosophers, artists and activists to discuss and plan ways to work change.” On weekdays in the mid-90s, he broadcast a talk show (also called “We The People”) from the commune over the Bay Area’s Pacifica station, KPFA.
On one afternoon in October 1995, Brown’s guest was Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary owed his host a favor. Two decades earlier, Leary, having already escaped prison once with the help of the Weather Underground, was doing hard time in Folsom State Prison, where he was looking at a lo-o-ong sentence (95 years, says Wikipedia). In 1975, Brown’s first year as governor, he pardoned Leary. (If you think this means Brown is some kind of hippie with an enlightened attitude to drug policy, guess again; he’s actually been a wiener on this issue.) After Leary’s federal parole was granted the following year, he was a free man. He was arrested in Texas for smoking a cigarette in protest of no-smoking rules in 1994, but he stayed out of the slams for the rest of his life. I’d think he must have had warm feelings about Jerry Brown.
Leary had sought the office of governor in California’s 1970 election. He planned to take on the incumbent, Ronald Reagan, armed with a campaign song by John Lennon. Sadly, what might have been one of the most entertaining gubernatorial campaigns in American history was cut short by Leary’s incarceration some ten months before the election. Wise elders, why didn’t you send Reagan up the river instead?
In this wide-ranging half-hour conversation, the two lapsed Catholics do not discuss the pardon or their mutual interest in the governorship, but Brown does bring up the subject of toad-licking when a caller observes that many psychedelic compounds appear in nature. Even if you have no interest in any of the above, you will certainly enjoy hearing California’s current governor exclaim: “You can SUCK THOSE FROGS that give you the good high! Did you read about them?”