Nena von Schlebrugge’s quest for larger truths began when she was a schoolgirl of 14 in Stockholm. “No one there was even asking the right questions,” she said. Scouted by Norman Parkinson, the British fashion photographer, and then recruited by Eileen Ford, a founder of Ford Models, Ms. von Schlebrugge became a successful, if ambivalent, model, arriving in New York City after a rough passage on the Queen Mary. (Photos of her at the time show just how much the actress Uma Thurman resembles her mother.)
Unimpressed with uptown mores, she found a salubrious crowd in Greenwich Village, which included the poets Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg. One night, she, Mr. Corso and others rented a car and drove up to Cambridge, Mass., where a Harvard professor named Timothy Leary was testing the effects of small doses of mescaline. She remembered Dr. Leary, 20 years her senior, as being boring and overweight. Yet a few years later, she married him.
“I must have been hallucinating,” she said, “but it turns out I had a father complex, which I got completely cured of.”
She and Dr. Thurman met in the kitchen at Millbrook, the New York estate given to Dr. Leary, Richard Alpert and their followers by scions of the Mellon family. She was there to persuade Dr. Leary to sign their divorce papers. Dr. Thurman was there to persuade Dr. Leary to stop taking so many drugs — though he too had indulged in a bit of hallucination. Dr. Thurman was not looking his best: He had thrown kerosene on a brush fire and his face was covered in soot. He had given up being a monk, and the hair on his shaved head had just begun to grow in.