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Peter Stafford Remembrance
by Robert Forte
Jul 23, 2007
Peter was one of the wisest, happiest, most knowledgeable and enlightened people I have ever known, and one the most tragic. We were very close friends in the 1980s, but when alcohol seized him (again) and he did not let go, I, and many friends, after trying for years to help him, finally could not. When I met him in 1980, he was a bright light. Wise, funny, everyone liked him. He was a testament to the liberatory effects of psychedelics. But by the middle of the 1980's he had fully succumbed to alcohol and it eroded him badly.

I spent a couple hours with him about 2 months ago. I gave him a ride. He was walking 2 miles home carrying two heavy bags of groceries, limping. He had broken his back, in a fall from the same ladder that he would soon fall to his death from. He was drunk, as usual and smiling broadly at everything, also as usual....

Actually Peter was not his given name. He was born George Leonard Sanford III. His grandfather was a very wealthy man, having made a fortune mining minerals in Nevada. His father was a engineering student at Stanford who had a terrible accident that caused a serious head injury, and his testicles swelled to the size of grapefruits, said Peter. The docs told him he would never have children. Soon thereafter he conceived Peter and his twin sister Penny. But the accident left him so deranged he tried to kill Peter and his sister a couple times and was soon confined to a mental hospital.

Peter eventually became a writer and wrote those great books and decided he wanted to care for his father who had been confined all these years. The family objected but Peter insisted and somehow got custody of his loony father who became a raging alcoholic and took his son with him down that poison path.

His father died in the late 70's, I think, and for a short while Peter stopped drinking. We shared an apartment in the summer of 1984. But when I returned from a two month trip, Peter had taken up drinking again and turned our pad into a flop house for Santa Cruz drunks. He showed no discrimination for people or drugs. He loved them all and opened his heart and body to anyone and everything...

"It's only the human part of me that's fucked up," he said to Nina Graboi and me one day when we were trying to get him undrunk....

He and Lynn, who separated in 1984, raised an awesome son, who I watched grow up from a sparkling 2 year old to a brilliant post PhD chemist... named Sasha after Alexander Shulgin. Peter dedicated Psychedelics Encyclopedia, "To Sasha: For Future Reference."

Peter came and visited me one day, laughing, in the early 90's I think, wearing his customary attire, which at that time was only a thin bright psychedelic paisley neck tie and bikini briefs, covered with little paper dots. He was on his way to a funeral, or wake, dressed like that, for his great aunt. He and his sister were the now heirs apparent to a considerable fortune. He told me he thought he was about to become "a very rich man." "You are already a very rich man", I told him

He went to the wake drunk as a skunk. Signed in as "George Leonard Sanford III." His twin was there too.

She had top level security clearance with the CIA/defense department and worked at Livermore Labs. She was a computer strategist for nuclear war, or something diabolical like that. His utter opposite.

Nearly all of the money went to her; some to an education fund for Sasha....

Peter would have spent it all by the end of the day feeding the poor and getting everybody high.

He came back from the funeral still dressed like that, still laughing, still rich....

He embodied the archetype of the drunken divine fool....

I am sitting in the park where we met and began to organize "Colloquium II: The Future of Consciousness Research" at UCSC in the summer of 1981, a free psychedelic conference that brought together hundreds of psychedelic researchers who had not been together for many many years. That meeting, and the one in Santa Cruz a couple years before that featured Albert Hofmann, were instrumental in keeping the flame burning.....

Anyone who has read his early books on psychedelics knows what classics they are....