Thursday, February 03, 2011

When he got there what did he see? The youth of America on LSD.

by Dick Mac

The anti-drug hysteria of the 1950s and '60s led to absurd law enforcement campaigns like New York's Rockefeller Laws, wasteful military campaigns like the "War on Drugs," and some of the most absurd social movements such as "Just Say No" and Art Linkletter's campaign against LSD.

Art Linkletter was a television personality of the 1960s, and his daughter committed suicide. Diane Linkletter's suicide was a tragedy, as suicide, especially the suicide of a young person, always is.

Diane Linkletter likely suffered the emotional and psychological problems that many of us face. Some of us find demons in our mental instability, some learn to manage within the confines of mental illness, some find help and conquer those demons, and some succumb to the horror of mental illness.

Because of the government's fear of LSD in the early 1960s, fear rooted in total ignorance, and our society's complete inability to manage any position besides total acceptance or total proscription, the general public opinion about LSD is that it leads to mental illness, insanity, or death.

I am neither a proponent nor an opponent of LSD use. I don't use it; I have no interest in it. I think there are people who enjoy it and people who fear it. There are people who can handle it and people who can't handle it. Just like booze.

Art Linkletter's campaign against LSD was passionate and quaint, and it was a part of the way he mourned the loss of his daughter. We all deserve to mourn in the way we see fit.

Linkletter's campaign, though, went a bit over-the-top, and whipped America's television-viewing population into a hysterical frenzy against the dangers of LSD.

Frankly, although LSD is a very powerful drug that should be approached with extreme caution, I don't think LSD is anywhere near as dangerous or destructive as cocaine, cigarettes, and alcohol.

During Linkletter's televised campaign against the use of LSD, television producers and their stars were getting fabulously wealthy with the money generated by ads like this:

and this:

They denounced one drug while promoting others.

The hypocrisy of American television producers, anti-drug campaigners, elected officials and law enforcement is almost laughable today: Drink and smoke as much as you want because it's your right, but don't take an acid trip or smoke a joint or we'll put you in jail.

Sadly, this is still true to some degree. We just don't advertise cigarettes on television anymore, and some civilized states have changed drug laws to basically decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Still, billions are spent on the unwinnable "War On Drugs" and politicians can still milk the fear of drugs to be elected to office.

But, I digress. I am really only interested in my memories of the Diane Linkletter tragedy, and the ghoulish exploitation of it by her father. Linkletter went on to make a lot of money and gain a certain amount of prestige with his anti-LSD campaign. He regularly invoked the memory of his daughter in his speeches, telling people she died from using LSD. In reality, it was not ever known if Diane Linkletter was on LSD when she killed herself. It is known that she had taken LSD at some point in the weeks before her death. There has never been any public discussion about her mental health at the time of her suicide; the father made a decision that because his daughter had taken LSD she decided to jump out a window; and that became fact.

Many spoke out against Linkletter's campaign, highlighting the lack of actual information, and questioning the conclusion that it was LSD that caused her death. The media, however, could make more money siding with Linkletter's campaign than offering any investigation into his daughter's life and death.

One critic was the young filmmaker John Waters, who in 1969 made a 16mm film titled "The Diane Linkletter Story" starring Divine, David Lochary, and Mary Vivian Pearce. It is a scathing indictment of the conservatism of the day, the failures and shortcomings of parenting, and the hypocrisy of cigarette-smokers denouncing drug use.

It is a short film, and it is available on I publish it here (without permission):

The title of this article is lifted from the lyrics of "Initials" from the Broadway show "Hair":

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