Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, July 2, 1999

Friends should’ve been
leery of Leary

I had two serious shocks yesterday morning. The first was to find out LSD guru Timothy Leary was an FBI snitch. The other was finding out a major bookstore had begun to give away my book -- "Hey Tourist! Buy This Book!" -- for free.

In Leary's day, the establishment was evil, cops were pigs, sex was free and soap was optional. Drugs, however, were illegal. So the Harvard professor ended up in the joint. Facing a long prison stretch, Mr. Counterculture began singing "I love you, baby" to his establishment handlers and ratted out a bunch of his leftist buddies in return for a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Then he continued to play the nutty-radical-intellectual role until his death from brain implosion several years ago. He was a living symbol of the '60s, when many people, after an "agonizing reappraisal" of their parents' corrupt society, decided to heed Leary's admonition to "turn on, tune in and drop out."

Now it turns out Leary's personal philosophy was "turn in, rat out and drop the dime on" anyone you can to save your butt.

I'm embarrassed to say the revelation that he was in bed with the FBI surprised me. I thought my lifetime allotment of naivete had been squeezed out long ago. But apparently there were still a few drops left because I actually believed hard-core ideologues would at least remain true to their ideals.

EVEN if you don't agree with a person's political leanings, you can admire his dedication to a cause. Leary was anti-establishment. His enemy was "the man," man. But in the end, he betrayed his ideals and sacrificed his ideological brothers simply to save his own skin. He gave "the man" a big, ol' kiss on the lips.

Personally, I find ideals are overrated. Every time I've tried to stick to my guns, the guns go off and I get a really bad ringing in my ears.

Like when I decided to publish a book of my columns a few years ago. I wanted the book to be called "Hey Tourist! Buy This Book!" I thought that would cut right to the chase. The publisher loved the idea, right up until he hated it. He changed the title to the pithy "Honolulu Lite." I insisted that the phrase "Hey Tourist! Buy This Book!" remain on the cover somewhere. If you own a magnifying glass, you can still find it.

Publishing a book is like giving birth to a fully grown person in the prime of life. You have about three good weeks before death begins to set in.

I remember passing by Honolulu Book Shops downtown around Christmas 1995 and seeing the window filled with my book. I was a happy father even though the book was selling for only $7.95 and I was getting about 21 cents of that.

Yesterday, I learned my baby now is being chucked out into the street for free. Actually, chucked off the Internet for free. Bestsellers, which took over the downtown location, is giving my book away to anyone who orders at least $10 of any other books from its Web site That is, any other books that they apparently still can get American money for.

This isn't an advertisement for Bestsellers, because, like, what the hell have they done for me lately? I mean, first they tossed my book into the "Bargain Bin" for 99 cents each. That hurt. But at least I thought that was rock bottom. Now they are giving it away.

I'm afraid to think of what could be next. Am I going to have to pay people to take the damn thing? Nothing would surprise me. I think.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to or

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