Sexual revolution pioneer John Williamson dies

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm •  Published: May 2, 2013
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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.

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 told The Associated Press on 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, 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 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 Williamson joked Thursday that she likely "saw more naked Hollywood stars than any other woman."