Grant, Cary - Graham McCann on how LSD helped Grant with his burdens
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Cary Grant: A Class Apart – by Graham McCann
LSD was, at the time, a government licensed experiment. The Los Angeles LSD scene was particularly fertile in the mid-fifties; it was here that experiments with the drug had the potential for a healthy financial return if inroads could be made into the chronically analysis prone movie community.
Some people were attracted to the high idea of opening doors of perception, others to the more prosaic rumour of a ‘clever’ pill, but people, for whatever reason were fascinated.
For a time, Grant was drawn into the inner circle of proselytisers of the new cure-all; others included Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, Anais Nin and Oscar Janiger. Leary in fact, claimed that Grant was one of the people who converted him to the positive potential of the drug…. In his view, Grant craved a ‘life changing experience’ and LSD provided him with the means to begin it:
‘Cary was the focus of a hundred million women lusting after him. You couldn’t expect him to be like the guy next door; he was carrying the weight and freight of the world’s fantasies, LSD helped him with his burdens’.
Huxley, for one, was suspicious of those therapists who seemed to specialise in lucrative sessions with Hollywood celebrities. He wrote of one social encounter: ‘We met two Beverly Hills psychiatrists the other day, who specialise in LSD therapy at $100 a shot – and really, I have seldom met people of lower sensitivity, more vulgar in mind! To think of people made vulnerable by LSD being exposed to such people is profoundly disturbing’.
It is not clear who Huxley was referring to, but Hartman’s notoriety was spreading and by the early sixties, his experiments with the drug had fallen foul of the California Board of Medical Examiners; in August 1961, it placed him on ten years probation and in October suspended him formally from practising in California.
Grant, however, was convinced that he had benefited from the experience:
‘All my life I’ve been searching for peace of mind. Nothing really seemed to give me what I wanted until this treatment’.
He claimed that he had learned ‘many things’ during therapy
‘I learned to accept the responsibility for my own actions, and to blame myself and no one else for circumstances of my own creating. I learned that no one else was keeping me unhappy but me; that I could whip myself better than any guy in the joint’.
In fact, Grant found this burgeoning enthusiasm for this therapeutic use of LSD increasingly hard to contain, and eventually while he was shooting the movie Operation Petticoat (1959), he could hold back no longer.
Two reporters – Joe Hyams and Lionel Crane – both prepared for the usual amusing but scrupulously bland Grant interview, were stunned to find him unusually relaxed, open and keen to share with them the extraordinary experiences he had undergone.
‘I have been born again’ he told the astonished Hyams. ‘I have just been through a psychiatric experience that has completely changed me. It was horrendous. I had to face things about myself which I never admitted, which I didn’t know were there’.
He talked about his desperate desire to change his character so that he could be reunited with Betsy Drake; his need to understand himself more clearly, to escape the old cycle of depressions that had plagued him for most of his adult life. Hyams, listening open-mouthed, began to realise that he had stumbled into ‘the most explosive and controversial’ interview of his career.
‘Now I know that I hurt ever woman I loved’. Grant went on to say.
‘I was an utter fake, a self opinionated bore, a know-all who knew very little’. Hyams – ‘tense with excitement’ – began to record the revelations as Grant continued:
‘First I thought, oh, those wasted years. Second I said ‘Oh my God humanity, please come on in… For the first time in my life I was ready to meet people realistically … every man is conceited, but I know now that in my earlier days I really despised myself. It’s when you admit this that you’re beginning to change. Introspection is the beginning of courage.
I was always professing a knowledge I didn’t have. If I didn’t know about the subject I would disdain it. I was very aggressive, but without the courage to be physically aggressive. I was a bad tempered man but hid it.
Now everything’s changed. My attitude toward women is completely different. I don’t intend to foul up any more lives. I could be a good husband now. I’m aware of my faults, and I’m ready to accept responsibilities and exchange tolerances.
He told Hyams what he would go on to tell Crane. ‘Now for the first time in my life, I am truly, deeply and honestly happy’.
Hyams was none too surprised when, soon after the interview, Grant – and his advisors – began to have second thoughts about publicising his use of LSD……..It was too late to kill the story entirely; Crane had published his version already – in London’s Daily Mirror……..Stanley Fox, acting on Grant’s behalf, ensured that the story went no further.
Grant avoided any further confessions and in the mid-sixties ..he said ‘I wouldn’t dream of taking LSD now … I don’t need it now’.