Neil Selkirk, G. Gordon Liddy and Dr. Timothy Leary
Possibly one of the oddest couples ever photographed. For those of you under about 35 who might not know, G. Gordon Liddy (now 85) was the ultraconservative, hawkish operative who organized and directed the break-in at the Watergate Hotel that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Timothy Leary (d. 1996), fired from Harvard University in 1963, was a psychiatrist and philosopher who advocated experimentation with LSD and psilocybin (back when they were legal) and other psychotropic drugs, allegedly to explore their therapeutic potential. He became a guru of the psychedelic movement in the 1960s.
Liddy at one time reportedly carried out a drug raid on Leary's residence, a mansion bought for him by several Mellon heirs. Both men spent time in prison.
Neil Selkirk's deadpan portrait is perfect—by placing the two close together and in the same pose, he created an almost humorous but still unsettling juxtaposition of sameness and difference.
British-born Neil Selkirk (now 68) was an assistant to some of the biggest name photographers in the 1960s, and later became renowned for his own portraiture. He was also the "the only person ever authorized to make posthumous prints of the work of Diane Arbus," according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Virtually every reproduction in every Arbus book you might have seen is of a print made by him.
This photograph was taken for Interview magazine. Liddy and Leary were at the time on a speaking tour of American college campuses, staging debates which by all accounts were extremely popular and that generated massive amounts of publicity—one of the fruits of which is this mild yet startling photograph.
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Featured Comments from:
Steven Willard: "Selkirk may have suggested the pose with tongue in cheek, but Liddy and Leary clearly show they enjoyed the joke, too. Great picture, thanks for sharing it."
Stan B.: "Or...one was crazy sans drugs, the other via."
John Camp: "I first saw that photo years ago, made me laugh, and made me laugh again today."
Chuck Albertson: "I remember seeing those two on tour, after Liddy got out of stir. Definitely one of the strangest evenings I can remember, topped only by the Leary / Hunter Thompson / Abbie Hoffman trifecta a couple of years later."
F. Adams: "My father-in-law carpooled to D.C. with G. Gordon Liddy and a couple other spooks. On the radio one day was a story about someone who jumped out of a car at 30 mph and survived. While they were debating whether to believe the story, Liddy says there's only one way to find out, and before much more was said, he tumbles out of the car at about 30 mph. They stop the car, he brushes off his suit, gets in, and says 'I guess it can be done' before continuing their commute into D.C."
Mike replies: ...Sounds like Col. Flagg, the character on the TV show M*A*S*H allegedly inspired in part by Liddy.