Joanna Marysia Harcourt-Smith was born on Jan. 13, 1946, at the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz. Her mother, the immensely wealthy heiress Marysia (Ulam) Krauss Harcourt-Smith, was playing bridge there when she went into labor 10 weeks early. After 43 hours, she gave birth to Joanna, who weighed less than three pounds.
Joanna’s father, Cecil Harcourt-Smith, a commander in the Royal Navy, was not a presence in her childhood and died when she was 10.
“Many times,” Ms. Harcourt-Smith wrote, “my mother told me that I was a mistake from the moment I was conceived, never making it exactly clear whose mistake.”
Joanna attended a Catholic boarding school outside of Paris. (She was Jewish, but her mother, who had lost several relatives in the Holocaust, forbade her from saying so.) She was sexually abused by her mother’s chauffeur, she said; she told her mother about it, but she didn’t believe her and said to her, “A good chauffeur is hard to find.”
As a young woman, Ms. Harcourt-Smith immersed herself in drugs and promiscuity, at one point joining the Rolling Stones’ circle. Around the same time, Mr. Leary, the high priest of LSD, who was 26 years her senior, was urging people to “turn on, tune in and drop out.”
A psychologist, he had been fired in 1963 from Harvard, where undergraduates had shared in his stash of psychedelics, though these drugs were not illegal at the time. He also faced multiple outstanding indictments, most on minor drug charges, and was eventually imprisoned.