English supplier of LSD to Timothy Leary and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love
Charles Druce is an unlikely figure in the history of LSD. He started his career as a clerk in various chemical merchants’ offices in London, moving up to trading in mail-order LSD in the early to mid-1960s when it was still legal. LSD was being legitimately produced in Czechoslovakia for example, even after Sandoz in Switzerland got cold feet and stopped its own production.
Druce came to the attention of Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (now Baba Ram Dass), former Harvard professors who set up a legendary psychedelic community in Millbrook, upper New York State. Druce supplied LSD to Leary and Alpert up to around 1966. Alpert would fly over and stay in luxury hotels and pick up the acid in person to take back to the States. The full account of Alpert’s involvement has never been told, and probably won’t ever be, but he had a dare-devil streak that involved for example on one occasion flying his own plane ( a Cessna 172) from Canada to the US high on acid as the last part of his journey. Building a close relationship with Druce, Alpert once presented Druce with a copy of the ‘Psychedelic Experience’, the book he co-authored with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner.
In late 1966, LSD was banned in America and shortly after in the UK. Tim Scully and Nick Sand, chemists associated with Millbrook and the legendary Owsley Stanley in the US, went underground to produce it. Druce – by now owner of Charles Druce Ltd – was approached by Scully and Sand to supply raw materials. Druce and a colleague, Ronald Craze, created a company – Alban Feeds – to supply Scully and Sand with Ergotamine Tartrate. The first shipment was 2.8 kilos – enough to make around 5.6 million doses of acid.
This arrangement worked well for over a year. Druce also provided specialised equipment, including a spectrometer for Richard Kemp who was by now working with Ronald Stark in France. In his statement to the police following the Operation Julie bust, Kemp recalled going to Druce’s offices near Baker Street to pick up the equipment (in Ronald Stark’s red ferrari).
But in 1970, living well on substantial advance payments from the US, Druce and Craze were failing to keep the shipments going. The US operation had been busted in Denver, and Alban Feed’s role in supplying raw materials had come to the attention of the police in both the US and the UK. Druce and Craze cooled their involvement with the US.
By this time, Ronald Stark had become involved in the US operation and brought his more direct approach into play. He knew that Druce and Craze had been stockpiling ergotamine tartrate and keeping it in Hamburg – the international trading centre for chemicals. He set a trap in place. In due course, tempted by an offer from a Swiss Company, Inland Alkaloids, Druce and Craze entered into a transaction to sell 9 kilos of Ergotamine Tartrate. But Inland Alkaloids was a ‘front’ company, operated at arm’s length by Nick Sand and Ronald Stark, and Druce and Craze found themselves ripped off and in debt to the bank (the Nat West at Crystal Palace).
The 9 kilos of Ergotamine Tartrate went to France where Richard Kemp was by then working with Ron Stark to produce huge quantities of acid.
With the redevelopment of this stretch of the Fulham Road, a bit of London’s rock history is lost forever. Similarly, the role played by the Last Resort in the 70s UK acid scene has almost vanished from history as well.
In April 1974, an Irish man had been arrested in Australia carrying 1500 microdots from London. He named the Last Resort as the main distribution point for acid in London, with Richard Burden (‘Eric’ in Leaf Fielding’s book) as the person handling distribution. The Australian police passed on the information to the UK police. In August 1974, the UK police received a tip-off about the Last Resort involving one of the owners – Nicholas Wedgwood Evans, the son of well-known English actor Michael Evans.A tap was put on the Last Resort’s phone (01 352 1625) and the premises was raided shortly after – but nothing was found. However, a further tip-off was received that LSD had been hidden in the ventilation ducts of a hire car that had been returned to the hire firm with the acid still inside. A dealer friend was paid the recover the acid, but was arrested by the police. A warrant was put out for Nick Evans but police were unable to track him down.
Burden was an old contact of Brian Cuthbertson’s, and had been involved in the upper echelons of the UK acid world since the early 70s. His main distribution was to Amsterdam , supplying ‘domes’ shaped microdots produced by Andy Munro. Amsterdam was then a major distribution point for acid in Europe; David Solomon also had major interests there with the acid produced by Richard Kemp. Leaf recalls ‘Eric’ being very showbiz, and driving a vintage chocolate and cream Bentley to a rendezvous at a country pub to collect around 50,000 microdots. Leaf had some doubts about ‘Erics’ security-consciousness – “I was sure of the discretion of Henry, Brian and Russ. Eric the showman was another matter.” Leaf was right to be concerned: Burden had a bad habit of using Brian Cuthbertson’s address when signing for hire cars.
In the mid-70s the Last Resort was popular with the Glam rock crowd, being formed with the help of Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. David and Angie Bowie, then living nearby at 89 Oakley Street in Chelsea, were also visitors. Angie Bowie remembered of that period:
Living in Chelsea , a person of style and substance had easy access to an array of social pleasures; not just one’s friends’ private houses or the welcome all-daily fashion parade along boutique-studded Kings Road, but some very good, fun, semi-exclusive clubs, restaurants, and other mingling spots…
The Last Resort, a bar and restaurant right across the street [from Laurita’s on Fulham Road] was another kind of thrill. It had a dance floor small enough to get packed and hot rather quickly, and as well as the usual mix of art/fashion/theater/film/music people, it attracted a faster, slicker contingent: advertising executives, shadily wealthy importer/exporter types, and outright gangsters. You hit the Last Resort when you wanted a bit more of a charge than usual, anything from a good hard dance sweat to a one-night stand with a guy packing a gun.
By the beginning of the punk era in 1976, based around the nearby Kings Road, the Last Resort was beginning to pick up a new generation of customers from the punk/new wave crowd. Chrissie Hynde, later of the Pretenders, and then working at Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop on the Kings Road, took her friend Chris Spedding to see the Sex Pistols play in March 1976:
Chris Spedding: Rotten was either pushed or jumped off the stage in disgust, and McLaren screamed at him that he wouldn’t get his taxi fare home if he didn’t get back on stage.
Chrissie Hynde: He not only left the stage, he left the club. Chris drove us (Chrissie and Rotten) out and we ended up in some all-night joint that was still open, just a cafe, actually at this place called the Last Resort, which people used to end up at back in Fulham back in those days.
John Lydon occasionally drank there when he later lived one street away at 45 Gunter Grove. The Last Resort had a brief time as a fashionable bar. I recall hearing it being named as the scene of Bob Geldoff and Paula Yate’s first date. More on the Last Resort here: http://www.magickpapers.com/blog/?p=463 (though the geography of London as described is not quite right).
Nick Wedgwood Evans relocated to Los Angeles and became a showbiz entrepreneur and ‘multimedia advisor’ . Richard Burden received a 6 year sentence in the Operation Julie trial. The Last Resort has been most recently been a Greek restaurant – Chelsea Meze – but this whole block of the Fulham Road is currently being redeveloped.
Andy Munro is quite an enigma in the Operation Julie network. Throughout the trial he described himself as of ‘no fixed abode’ although he had been staying at 23 Seymour Road and 71a Webbs Road in Battersea Rise during his time as the LSD chemist for Henry Todd and Brian Cuthberton.
In the early 70s he had been living at 4 Hanover Road in Kensal Rise, an area just above the residences of Richard Kemp and David Solomon. He was a person who seemed to mix in many circles – among the activists and more loosely aligned underground figures in early 70s London. He had connections with the London squatting scene in North London. He was also associated with John Gravelle, a political activitist, who held “Moonrock” workshops at the Roundhouse in London. These are described as a ‘radical children’s workshop’, moving away from organised children’s entertainment to more creative activities such as films, painting, acting, face-painting, drumming and music. He was also thought to have worked as a school-teacher. Highly educated, at Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia, he seemed unconfident of himself as a practical chemist. Self-described as clumsy, he had also been athletic: winning the English Schools Boys Discus Championship (junior) in 1963. Those who knew him – the Julie circle and the police – comment on his pleasant and gentle manner.
In his statements to the police, Andy Munro portrayed himself as a largely unwilling, coerced chemist – largely forced into production by Henry Todd and Brian Cuthbertson against his will. However, he’d been hanging out voluntarily in that milieu for quite some time – since the early 1970s. In fact, he was one of the first names to come up when police began investigating the possibly of LSD production in the UK.
In 1974 Gerry Thomas – an American associate from David Solomon’s loose network – had been caught trying to smuggle a large amount of cannabis from India into Canada. To try to win a lighter sentence, he offered to trade information about the activities of Solomon, Kemp and Bott and ‘a man called Henry’ in the UK. Among the papers found on Gerry Thomas when he was arrested were names and addresses across Asia, the US and Europe – including Andy Munro at 4 Hanover Road, London, NW10.Police raided the Hanover Road address, but Andy Thomas had moved on and the trail was cold.
Andy Munro had been a friend of David Solomon’s and Richard Kemp’s in Cambridge. He’ d helped Kemp with analysing the content of Todd’s tablets produced from Kemp’s crystal, when Kemp suspected that Henry Todd was only including 100 microgrammes in each tab instead of 200 microgrammes. Following the acrimonious split between Kemp and Todd over this, Henry Todd and Brian Cuthbertson recruited Andy Munro as a replacement LSD chemist. It’s not clear how reluctant he was: he carried out productions in Chesterfield, and at Seymour Road and possibly at other locations. Apparently he picked up no more than £50k for this work – considerably less than Todd or Cuthbertson were making.
During the Seymour Road runs, Andy Munro lived at 71a Webbs Road, Battersea Rise – a very pleasant street just off Clapham Common and full of interesting one-off boutiques, children’s clothes shops, and other signs of gentrification. It was to here that Andy Munro was followed by police from Seymour Road in a cross-London surveillance operation as Munro travelled by train from Hampton Wick to Clapham.
Not much has been heard from Andy Munro since the Operation Julie time, but it’s said that Andy Roberts managed to get the Julie chapter of his ‘Albion’s Dreaming’ book to Munro to check for broad accuracy.
2 Eton Road
In 1974 Ronnie Laing moved from Belsize Park Gardens to a sizeable house in nearby Eton Road. This was a former vicarage attached to All Saints Church, who vicar was a well-known exorcist. The house, with eight rooms on three floors, had the reputation of being haunted. On one occasion a ceiling fell down just as Laing came out of a room. Laing’s consulting room was on the lower ground floor, reached by a separate entrance.
Laing and LSD – early days
Laing was by now just over the zenith of his fame as a psychoanalyst, with his standing as a semi-guru subsiding – in the UK, at least. Laing had first tried LSD in the very early 60s, at the Hampstead flat of a fellow psychiatrist, Richard Gelfer. He lay immobile and silent for six hours experiencing feelings of ‘…extraordinary familiarity, taking me back to a more primary sort of experience that I had probably been in as a very young baby, a very young child, which I had lost in adjusting to other people’s social reality.’ Laing didn’t take LSD again for around a year, but experimented with mescaline that he obtained from a London hospital laboratory.
Through a suggestion of Allen Ginsberg, he contacted Ralph Metzner – a colleague of Timothy Leary’s, who introduced him to Leary in a visit Laing made to the US in 1964. Leary and Laing met in the kitchen of his then mini-commune at Millbrook. Descriptions of the meeting differ:
“We sat at the table, ate a sandwich, drank wine. I told him that medical-therapeutic talk of LSD was a fake. I was interested in only in the mystic aspects of the drug….He said the only doctor that could heal was one who understood the shamanic, witchcraft mystery of medicine…
After a bit he said he knew an interesting game.Did I want to play it….The point of this game is to move your hands an d body without talking….Our hands changed into a dance. Paired sculpturing of air, moulded liquid forms, now moving slowly, now whirling. My eyes were riveted to his eyes. I was gone. Spun out of the kitchen at Millbrook, spun out of time, Stoned high in a sufi ballet. We were two organisms from different planets communicating. I was an eskimo on an ice flow. He was a visiting explorer.. We were sitting on the floor in the lotus position,arms, hands, weaving.”
“I’ve got a clear memory of the meeting we had in the kitchen of the house. It was a bit sticky, we hadn’t that much to talk about…Leary had a very enthusiastic belief that everyone was completely crazy, that we were all going to blow ourselves up very, very soon, that we were all on a crash course, that everything had been tried – reason, politics, and wars – but nothing worked. Here was a drug that he thought altered people’s minds, that once you tried it, nothing was the same again. He thought there was something to be said for getting this out and marketing it.”
Shortly after this, Leary’s colleague Richard Alpert (now Baba Ram Dass) visited Laing in London and he learnt more about their plans. Leary and Alpert had thought of a plan to distribute LSD widely in the Bay area and Berkeley. Alpert offered Britain as ‘Laing’s territory’, London in particular. Laing declined.
The Ronald Stark offer
After this initial approach, another attempt was made to persuade Laing to become a headline figure who would act as the guru of LSD. By this time, Timothy Leary was out of the picture having been through prison, a prison escape and return to prison.
Ronald Stark, the figure who recruited Richard Kemp to work as a chemist in France, approached Laing. Stark seems to have regarded himself as essentially the head of the loose ‘Brotherhood of Eternal Love’. There seems to have been a meeting with Stark, Laing and Laing’s second wife Utta, with Utta taking a small dose of LSD, Stark a larger dose, and Laing a massive dose. Stark made his pitch: if Ronnie Laing agreed to take Leary’s place as spokesperson and advocate of the LSD, the whole operation was under his control – ‘..if he agreed, he was now worth 50 million dollars, and everyone worked for him – including Stark….To cap it all, Stark said “Respectfully, Ronnie – what are your orders?” And Ronnie said to Stark, “Get the fuck out of my house!”, and threw him bodily into the street…”
Somehow, the Operation Julie became aware of Laing’s connection to Stark (Laing himself said he contacted the Home Office to express his worries) – and kept him discretely under observation during the early stages of Operation Julie. There was also some intelligence that Christine Bott had attended a seminar that involved Laing, in her role as a medical practitioner.
After Operation Julie was concluded, Inspector Dick Lee (who had led it) and a couple of colleagues paid an informal visit to Laing’s house to chat about LSD and let Laing know that he had been under observation. It was a strange visit. As was somewhat common with Laing, numerous whiskies were consumed and he became the worse for wear – including being audibly sick in an upstairs bathroom, and having to lie down at one point in the proceedings. Laing argued about the unworkably of the drug laws and poured scorn on the supposed success of Operation Julie. Whether related or not, Lee did in fact become disillusioned with policing (specifically that his recommendation for a permanent national drugs team was not taken up) and did resign from the police.
Recommended psychogeography soundtrack:
“Life before Death” (lp) – R D Laing
(After Laing’s death on 23 August 1989, excerpts from Life before Death were played at his memorial service at St James’s, Piccadilly. http://rdlaing-lifebeforedeath.com/listen/index.html )
I think being busted must have been particularly hard for Christine Bott. At least her partner Richard Kemp could draw on the security of being part of a Operation Julie crowd in prison, which gave them some kind of respect – whereas Christine had to go a women’s prison by herself.
She’s maintained a virtually invisible profile since leaving prison on 26 August 1982. It would be fascinating to have her perspective after all this time. She could probably have drawn a much shorter sentence than the 10 years she received – but she reported carried a copy of Timothy Leary’s ‘Politics of Ecstasy’ during the trial and was clearly seen as an unrepentent advocate for LSD.
Richard Kemp and Christine knew Switzerland from walking holidays in the early 70s. Richard Kemp had been introduced to the world of swiss banking when working for the legendary Ronald Stark in 1970. In May 1970, Kemp took part in a four day summit meeting with Stark, Nick Sand (legendary acid chemist of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love), and Lester Friedman (former Professor of Chemistry and technical adviser to Nick Sand).
On 8 February 1977 Christine Bott bought a ticket for Zurich at the British Airways desk at Heathrow, paying cash and caught the 1.05pm flight. After arriving in Zurich she checked into the Central Plaza Hotel, near the main railway station and overlooking the Limmat River.
Christine Bott was under observation: the UK police had contacted the Swiss Police and asked them to observe her movements. The Swiss police went further than just observation. They called on her in her hotel room and said they were engaged on routine checks for currency offences. They searched her luggage and found £16,000 of sterling and dutch guilders (pre-Euro). Christine Bott offered the reason that it was money she and her sister had saved as doctors. After the police left she called Richard Kemp back in England and the UK police listened into the call from their phone tap.
The following day walked outside to Banhofstrasse and called into the Kantonal Bank where she and Kemp had a joint safety deposit box and placed the £16,000 in it. After leaving the bank she went into a travel agency and bought a ticket for Amsterdam for her return journey.
Swiss bank accounts
The safety deposit box at the Kantonal contained £16,000 and the key to another safety box in Geneva containing 1,2 kilos of ergotamine tartrate. Kemp and Bott were never as money minded as Henry Todd and Brian Cuthbertson. For example, Todd’s (traced) assets in Swiss safety deposits totalled almost £400,000 and Cuthbertson’s around £200,000.
An early photo of Christine Bott?
Christine Bott, born in November 1945 ,was brought up in Suffolk, attending Suffolk Grammar School. Is this an early sighting (presumably third from right in front row)?
After the split with Richard Kemp, Henry Todd set up his own operation. After experimenting with mobile labs and a lab in Chesterfield, in July 1975 Todd bought 23 Seymour Road, Hampton Wick – in a pleasant London suburb – for £33,000.
The Acid Lab itself was operated by Andy Munro, the chemist drafted in in place of Richard Kemp, and was on the top floor. This confounded the police in their investigation as they had strong advice that acid labs were located in basements (and indeed Richard Kemp’s lab in Wales was located in a basement). Tableting was carried out on the middle floor, and was handled by Brian Cuthbertson. Andy Munro is the legendary clumsy chemist described in Leaf Fielding’s ‘Tripping Policemen’ monologue on youtube http://youtu.be/WVoKFWq0-7U, who literally dropped acid and impregnated the carpet, leading to a trio of tripping policemen when the carpet was removed. On another occasion, Munro spilled a flask of nearly a quarter of a kilo of near final LSD in a wash basin. In mitigation of Munro’s clumsiness, it’s difficult to make LSD without the chemist involved tripping, and even Richard Kemp – the master LSD chemist – had an accident in his lab in the early days and ingested a huge amount of LSD.
The acid production here was highly successful and was exported across Europe, and to Australia and the United States.It’s thought the lab got through 15 kilos of ergotamine tartrate – up to 30,000,000 tabs of acid. For some reason they produced two types of tablets: the microdot for domestic use, and the ‘dome’ (a raised tablet) for the export market. It’s not clear why – possibly to try to disguise that exports came from the same lab.
It was here on 25 March 1977 that Todd, Cuthbertson and Munro were busted – with police streaming in through smashing the french windows on the ground floor at the back of the house.
The ‘tripping policemen’ incident happened during the clean up operation on 3 April 1977. Three officers had worked alongside scientists to document evidence. By 3 April they had stripped the top front bedroom – the laboratory – except for the carpet which Munro had told them was heavily impregnated. On that day, they carefully rolled back the carpet and sealed it in a large polythene bag.
After this, DS Wally Dodge felt light-headed and decide he needed a bath. As he was running the water he could hear the other two officers laughing hysterically. In the bath he had the sensation that the pores of his skin were opining to embrace the warmth of the water and heard drops of water falling from his hair back in the bath. On rejoining the other officers, they decided to set off to the Angler’s Pub at Teddington Lock. By this time, they realised they were tripping. The walk along Broom Road has some pleasant sights which must have added to their enhanced enjoyment:
At the Anglers, Dodgle looked round and thought he could see into the personalities and characters of the other customers. They could hear a thundering and deafening noise as the pub door opened and closed. Their glasses of beer appeared to be weightless.
When they left the pub to walk back to the house, the pavements felt soft and exquisitely carpeted. They felt full of boundless energy as if they could walk forever. Flowers and trees appeared to come to life and they saw lights cascading out of daffodils. They could hear water thundering through the drains in the street below them. Sadly this pleasant experience ended when they felt compelled to report developments, and were admitted to Kingston Hospital for observation.
Recommended psychogeography soundtrack:
Nocturne in B major – Chopin
Waltz in C Sharp Minor – Chopin
(both played by Brian Cuthbertson in the 60s in school concerts; years later residents of Seymour Road would hear the odd phrase of Chopin coming from No.23 as Brian relaxed at the piano from a hard day’s tabletting)
When David Solomon and Richard Kemp first succeeded in making LSD in 1969, they looked around for help in tableting and distributing it. Henry Todd agreed to have a go – and the incipient LSD network began to take shape. Todd lived in Cambridge in the late 60s and was friendly with Solomon.
Over time, from imperfect beginnings, Todd nailed down the tableting and distribution – using a loose network based around Reading University, including Brian Cuthbertson. This arrangement continued continued until mid-1973, during which time Richard Kemp became suspicious that Todd was not putting the agreed amount – 200 micrograms – into each dose (and therefore increasing his own profit margin). Kemp purchased his own acid at a music festival and was told by the dealer that the tablets were 100 microgrammes. For Richard Kemp monetary considerations were secondary – he wanted the user to have a spiritual experience. Kemp asked a fellow chemist – Andy Munro – to test the content of Todd’s tablets. Munro confirmed that there were only 100 micro grammes in each tablet.
In mid-1973 a bust up occurred between Kemp and Todd and the organisation split amoeba-like into two. Todd and his business partner Brian Cuthbertson went into production using Andy Munro as the chemist. Todd took responsibility for obtaining the chemicals and equipment, and Cuthbertson took over distribution. An article described him thus: ” …a hearty extrovert with a rugged six-foot-three frame, an impish smile, an impressive scowl, and a plummy accent, Todd conducts business with a combination of charm and toughness.”
By the mid-70s, Henry Todd was living at 29 Fitzgeorge Avenue, near Hammersmith.
It’s well worth experiencing this environment first-hand if you get the chance: a leafy, quiet residential street with huge mansion blocks of flats (8 stories high) and 29 Fitzgeorge Avenue itself – a ground floor felt in a gated posh-development.
It was at 29 Fitzgeorge Avenue in May 1976 that the police first staked out Henry Todd, moving a van into place in the road to observe comings and goings when they learned his address.
More about Henry Todd here: http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/The-Toddfather.html and here: http://ericellis.com/archive/everest.htm