The Times (UK) writes
Socialite who went on the run with her boyfriend Timothy Leary, the LSD advocate, and wrote a memoir about their psychedelic love story
When Joanna Harcourt-Smith and her boyfriend Timothy Leary arrived at Kabul airport in January 1973, the FBI were waiting for them.
Leary, a Harvard academic turned LSD advocate whose catchphrase “turn on, tune in, drop out” had made him the high priest of the counterculture, had been on the run for 26 months after escaping from an American jail where he was serving a ten-year sentence for drug offences.
The Telegraph (UK)
Joanna Harcourt-Smith, socialite and author who went on the run with Timothy Leary – obituary
She fled with the king of the counter-culture to Afghanistan and stood by him when he was sent back to prison
Joanna Harcourt-Smith, who has died aged 74, was by her own definition a “spoiled and damaged socialite”, and was later hailed as “the acid queen of the 1960s”.
She survived an abusive childhood to be swept up into the most extreme excesses of the 1960s and became the lover of the LSD guru Timothy Leary – and his jailhouse girl voice to the world during his imprisonment of three and a half years. In later life she overcame many demons and established a podcast dedicated to healing and love. As such she garnered numerous followers who held her in devoted esteem.
Her background and ancestry could hardly have been more dysfunctional or complicated. Her grandfather, Arpad Plesch, was – in her words – “one of the most malefic creatures to roam the earth”.
He worked for an architect, Michael Ulam, as secretary, and had an affair with his wife, Leonina Caro, who was immensely rich, having been the mistress of Bela Kun, briefly the dictator of Hungary.
When Ulam died, Plesch married Leonina. According to Joanna, he killed his wife with a silver dagger (bribing a doctor for the requisite death certificate) and proceeded to rape and then marry Marysia, her daughter, in order to control the fortune she inherited.
Marysia had produced a daughter, Flockie (later the mother of the French financier Arki Busson), and Plesch had employed a man called Cecil Harcourt Smith to stand as the named father. However, he took his uxorial duties more earnestly than intended and they produced Joanna on January 13 1946.
Her mother used to tell her that she was clearly determined to be born despite every bungled attempt to miscarry her. Marysia was playing bridge at the Palace Hotel in St Moritz in a black taffeta haute couture dress when her waters broke. The 3lb child was born at 6 ½ months after a labour of 43 hours. She was unwanted then, and remained so throughout her adolescence.
Joanna was brought up a Catholic and sent to schools in Gstaad and Paris. She was sexually abused by her mother’s chauffeur, and after hanging out with the likes of the Rolling Stones and the playboy Gunter Sachs, she fell into promiscuity and drugs.
There were two marriages – first, briefly, in 1966, to Nico Tambacopoulou, producing a daughter, Lara. The wedding, which she glided through drunk on Dom Perignon, was attended by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, Yul Brynner and William Holden. A second marriage, to John d’Amécourt, gave her a son, Alexis, in 1971. Both marriages ended in divorce.
In 1972 she became a controversial figure in the world of counterculture and the psychedelic movement through her involvement with Timothy Leary, whom she had met through another lover, the self-described “weapons croupier”, Michel Hauchard. Leary was the great advocate of LSD, taking acid “to learn how to die”, the psychedelic Pied Piper to the flower children of the Sixties.
He was fleeing a witch-hunt by Richard Nixon and his administration. Joanna Harcourt-Smith later wrote: “I followed him off that precipice, and my family, nationality, and sanity were fragmented beyond recognition.”
They fled to Afghanistan and spent 49 days tripping, but were extradited back to the US. Leary was imprisoned at Folsom in California in the cell next to Charles Manson, but he proved so charismatic to his fellow prisoners that he was moved 25 times to diffuse his influence.
Joanna Harcourt-Smith declared that she would stand by Leary: “I’m here to free him,” she said. “Love is what it takes.” Leary was less sanguine, declaring: “I’m going to get a lawyer.”