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The True Story of the Man who "Turned On" the World with LSD and the People Who Erased Him
created by:
Jeanne Heaton &
Vanessa Hollingshead
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In 1959, when a down-and-out British writer desperate for fame and fortune arrives in New York City and 'trips' on an unknown drug called LSD, his experience is so profound that he goes on a mission to 'turn on' the world with it - but when his mysterious and traumatic past catches up with him, he becomes an easy target for the CIA, and the world 'turns' on him. 


Based on his book, "The Man Who Turned on the World," THE DIVINE RASCAL is a dramatic and darkly funny TV series about my father, Michael Hollingshead; the man who gave Harvard professor, Dr. Timothy Leary his first hit of LSD and how, together, they launched the most significant countercultural revolution of our time.

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Michael hollingshead
Dr. Timothy

"The Man Who Turned On The World"
by Michael Hollingshead
Published 1973

©All Rights Reserved

Who Is He

With a glass of scotch in one hand and 5000 hits of LSD in the other, no one is more mysterious and unfathomable than THE DIVINE RASCAL, Michael Hollingshead.

A genius, a Zelig, a trickster, a guru, a conman, a writer, an artist, an alcoholic, a junky, a father, an ex-member of the British Air Force, and the man without whom Timothy Leary and the psychedelic revolution never would have existed - Michael is all these things and more.

What is LSD?
Why Me?
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"My dad did so much LSD, psilocybin, blue-blotter, purple haze that we used to go on family trips together without ever leaving home. When I was five, he left an entire tray of acid-laced sugar cubes laying on the kitchen table, and I ate all of them. I don't have childhood memories - I have flashbacks."
But now, what if, in those flashbacks, your inept father was also an advocate for drug use? And what if he advocated for drug use in a way that changed the world for the better?
In fact, what if, without him, the entire social, cultural, and political uprising of the 1960s never would have happened?

The complex relationship my father had with LSD, the remarkable people he "turned on" with it, and the impact they had on an entire generation have never been dramatized in a television series before ... until now."  

Vanessa Hollingshead

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Why Now?
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"To fathom hell or soar angelic, take a pinch of psychedelic." 


With psychedelic-therapy centers opening all over the world, LSD is back in the zeitgeist and hipper than ever before.

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Psychiatrists are experimenting with it as a treatment for depression, PTSD, addiction, Alzheimer's, alcoholism, cancer, and opioid abuse. What was once considered a dangerous drug is now a promising mental health therapy.


Dr. Timothy Leary


Michael Hollingshead

Dr. Richard Alpert, Ram Dass

In fact, scientists today have picked up researching psychedelics exactly where our main characters, Michael Hollingshead, Dr. Timothy Leary, and his assistant, Dr. Richard Alpert, left off 60 years ago - before the US government shut them down.


Joaquin Phoenix

 as Leary


Benedict Cumberbatch as Hollingshead


Bill Skarsgård as Alpert

Set against the backdrop of a nation fractured by the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the battle for equal rights, their world mirrors the divisions of hatred, racism, and the stripping away of women’s rights in our world today. 

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"The Divine Rascal” won't hesitate to investigate the whole truth about LSD, but the show is not a documentary. Instead, it is a hard-hitting dramatic narrative that shows how these East Coast academics changed the world with a single drug and risked everything to do it:

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"I moved to the rooftop and all is CHAOS. Kaleidoscopic images surge powerfully in on me as I am seized by a fear of going insane. My body is strange. Numb. Lifeless. Am I dying? Is this it? I step to the rooftop's edge into some other land of unlikeliness when a sudden bolt of lightning splits me through. The primordial ooze from a childhood crushed by the tyranny of a monstrous and violent alcoholic father grabs me and threatens to throw me off the ledge. Then, as if on woven wings of stardust, a heavenly realm delivers me to a place where the "I" of "me" no longer exists. Born aloft, I am free. I am One with the Universe. One with the Creator. One with God. I am God." 

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A lifelong atheist, Michael's rooftop trip is so profound that he abandons his tired aim of writing the next great novel and replaces it with a new one: to "turn on" the world with LSD. But how?

Michaels First LSD Trip
Series Overview

New York in the '60s

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Fleeing the oppressive classism of England and battling personal demons, the headstrong and penniless writer Michael arrives in New York City. 

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The Poetry Gods of Angst

Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac & Michael

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When he meets the femme fatale jazz pianist and activist Sophie, they fall in love, she gets pregnant, and Vanessa is born.

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Natalie Portman


Hard left to Harvard University, where the avant-garde Michael, armed with 5000 hits of LSD, transforms Leary's life forever. 

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Together, this unlikely duo conducts psychedelic experiments that shatter the foundation of psychology and the very essence of society itself. 

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The newly fired Leary and the terminally unemployed Hollingshead land at the sprawling, infamous Millbrook Mansion in upstate New York, where research with LSD can now carry on with reckless abandon.

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A cross between a country club, a madhouse, a research center, a monastery, and a Fellini film set, Michael becomes the greatest "trip-guide" of all time. 

Lennon & McCartney


Andy Warhol &

Edie Sedgwick

Jefferson Airplane

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Jagger &  Richards

McClure, Dylan & Ginsberg

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Drunk, he leaves an entire tray of acid-laced sugar cubes laying on the kitchen table and Vanessa eats them all.

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With her life on the line and knowing they're under surveillance, they make the agonizing decision not to take her to the hospital - but eventually...

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The Antagonists
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G. Gordon Liddy, NY District Attorney 


On a parallel track, DA G. Gordon Liddy's ruthless pursuit to put Leary in jail and criminalize LSD is as shameless as his outrageous mustache.

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George White, CIA

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Simultaneously, Michael is under surveillance by CIA agent George White, the sadistic leader of "Operation MK Ultra" - a government program torturing prostitutes, addicts, and Black jazz musicians with inhumane doses of LSD.

The World

LSD blasts its way onto the 1950s postindustrial "Norman Rockwell" scene. It shatters America's puritanical view of the world and opens the curtains of the mind.


"With m y LSD, I will create the world's first bloodless revolution." Michael Hollingshead


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Set against the turbulent backdrop of racism, sexism, and the Vietnam War...

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Michael Hollingshead



Michael emerges from a brutal childhood in the impoverished north of England with memories stained by an alcoholic and violent father. Vowing to break the cycle, he dreams of being a loving father, the kind he never had. But the trauma from the beatings and needing his dad's approval creates one primal need: to be loved- by everyone. A sinner and a saint, he’s the guy everyone can’t wait to get to the party and the one they can’t wait to leave. Women, drugs, and booze fill his god-size hole until they stop working and he sabotages everything. Beneath his magnetic surface, he seethes with the raging belief that since his father is disposable, so is everyone else. When you fall under his spell, you risk losing your mind, your money, or possibly both. His greatest tragedy is that the liberation he so effortlessly guides others to find he never finds for himself again. He dedicates the rest of his life to pursuing his first euphoric trip to oblivion.

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Before LSD


After LSD

Timothy Leary


The alpha-male antithesis to Michael's flamboyant peacock, Tim is a Harvard psychology professor who everyone wants to teach their class or take to bed. With his relentless womanizing and his promiscuity with men, his wife commits suicide, leaving him to raise their two kids on his own. Guilt-ridden, he throws himself even harder into his work with one overwhelming need: to scientifically prove that LSD can accomplish in twelve hours what it takes twelve years of psychotherapy to do. But with his need to be in the limelight and preaching to the youth of America to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," he goes from LSD’s "High Priest" to Nixon’s "Most Dangerous Man in America." When asked about how he feels about ruining an entire generation of 72 million people, he says, "Yeah man, but only a hundred thousand thanked me for it."

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Before LSD


After LSD

Richard Alpert


Dr. Alpert is Leary’s right-hand man— until Michael shows up. A respected Harvard psychology professor, he brings an unrequited love for Leary along with a ton of money to pay for their projects, one of which is Michael himself. Richard desperately wants to fit in but how, when you’re a gay man in the ‘60s. His desire to win Leary's romantic love at any cost becomes his undoing. The first time he trips, instead of seeing God, he has a full-blown panic attack, and the chains of conformity are not removed for him. His search for permanent enlightenment takes him to India, where he transforms into the famous Guru, Baba Ram Dass and writes the famous best-seller:

"Be Here Now."

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Before LSD

Before LSD

After LSD


After LSD

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Sophie, the renowned and stunning femme fatale pianist in the smoky jazz joints of the West Village, is also a vigilant activist, fiercely protecting the Black musicians she collaborates with from relentless racism and mob violence. When she meets Michael, their erotic love affair makes her feel more alive than ever before - but like a moth to a flame, it burns too fast. When she gets pregnant with Vanessa, the responsibilities of motherhood, coupled with Michael's incessant infidelity and chronic writer's block, take their toll on her fiery spirit. Unable to conform to the traditional role of a 1960s housewife, she winds up making choices that forever change her entire life.

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Before Michael

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After Michael

Sophie Hollingshead
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