Owsley surfaces: "What I did was a community service."

For the unrepentant patriarch of LSD, long, strange trip winds back to Bay Area

Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic

Thursday, July 12, 2007 San Francisco Chronicle

The small, barefoot man in black T-shirt and blue jeans barely rates a second glance from the other Starbucks patrons in downtown San Rafael, although he is one of the men who virtually made the ’60s. Because Augustus Owsley Stanley III has spent his life avoiding photographs, few people would know what he looks like.

The name Owsley became a noun that appears in the Oxford dictionary as English street slang for good acid. It is the most famous brand name in LSD history. Probably the first private individual to manufacture the psychedelic, “Owsley” is a folk hero of the counterculture, celebrated in songs by the Grateful Dead and Steely Dan.

For more than 20 years, Stanley — at 72, still known as the Bear — has been living with his wife, Sheila, off the grid, in the outback of Queensland, Australia, where he makes small gold and enamel sculptures and keeps in touch with the world through the Internet.

As a planned two-week visit to the Bay Area stretched to three, four and then five weeks, Bear agreed to give The Chronicle an interview because a friend asked him. He has rarely consented to speak to the press about his life, his work or his unconventional thinking on matters such as the coming ice age or his all-meat diet.

Sporting a buccaneer’s earring he got when he was in jail and a hearing aid on the same ear, he keeps a salty goatee, and the sides of his face look boiled clean from seven weeks of maximum radiation treatment for throat cancer. Having lost one of his vocal cords, he speaks only in a whispered croak these days. At one point, he was reduced to injecting his puree of steak and espresso directly into his stomach.

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