suntimes
TOUGH 
Weather Updates

Sexual revolution pioneer

In this May 2011 phoprovided by Tiger Touch John Williamsis kissed by his wife BarbarFallNev. John Williamspioneer 1960s sexual revolutias

In this May 2011 photo provided by Tiger Touch, John Williamson is kissed by his wife, Barbara in Fallon, Nev. John Williamson, a pioneer of the 1960s sexual revolution as co-founder of Topanga Canyon's Sandstone Retreat, where nudity and free love once took place with abandon, died of cancer on March 24, 2013 at a hospital in Reno, Nev., said his wife, Barbara Williamson. He was 80. (AP Photo/Tiger Touch, John Burkitt)

storyidforme: 48701540
tmspicid: 18101062
fileheaderid: 8136566

Updated: June 6, 2013 1:18PM



LOS ANGELES — John Williamson, a pioneer of the 1960s sexual revolution as co-founder of Topanga Canyon’s Sandstone Retreat, where nudity and free love once took place with abandon, has died at age 80.

Mr. Williamson died of cancer March 24 at a hospital in Reno, Nev., said his wife, Barbara Williamson. The pair had lived on a Northern Nevada ranch for the past 18 years, taking in abandoned lions, tigers, cougars and other big cats.

They were a young newlywed couple in 1968 when they bought a cluster of rundown buildings on 15 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean and turned it into the Sandstone Foundation For Community Systems Research.

It offered seminars on human bonding, relationships and sexuality, but its Sandstone Retreat, where as many as 500 people would gather on weekends to frolic in the nude, swap spouses and engage in group sex, quickly made its existence in the bohemian canyon notorious.

“We actually had open sexuality and nudity, but it was optional. Everything was optional,” Barbara Williamson said Thursday. “We provided a wonderful, wonderful environment in a natural setting, and that natural setting just sort of gave people permission.”

As the retreat’s frontman, Mr. Williamson became known as the “messiah of sex” — a title his wife said he always carried proudly.

The couple, together 47 years, exchanged partners themselves and it never put a strain on their relationship, said Barbara Williamson, who is writing a memoir of those years. They believed that monogamy wasn’t fulfilling people’s sexual needs and, as a result, was preventing them from living life to its fullest.

Many celebrities were said to have paid quiet visits to Sandstone over the years, and Barbara Williamson joked Thursday that she likely “saw more naked Hollywood stars than any other woman.”

It was reading Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” that John Williamson said prompted him to quit a defense-industry job in electronics and move to California in the early 1960s. The book portrays a society in which people, fed up with government and industry controlling their lives, walk away from their jobs.

AP



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.