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Timothy Leary in Laguna

September 23, 2005|By: Barbara Diamond

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according to an unpublished book, "The Jesus Dealers," written by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

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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

chiefs.

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

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