John Williamson Dies; "Messiah of Sex" Was 80

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John Williamson, widely considered to be a leading pioneeer of the sexual revolution that took place in the 1960s, has died at the age of 80.

The co-founder of Topanga Canyon's Sandstone Retreat, where nudity and free love occurred with abandon, died of cancer in Reno, Nev.


Williamson and his wife, Barbara, had lived on a Northern Nevada ranch for 18 years, taking in abandoned lions, tigers, cougars and other big cats.

They were together for 47 years.

As a young newlywed couple in 1968, they bought rundown buildings on 15 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean and created the Sandstone Foundation.

It offered seminars on human bonding, relationships and sexuality, but its Sandstone Retreat, where as many as 500 people would gather on weekends.

There, they would frolic in the nude, swap spouses and engage in group sex, quickly making its existence and the whole 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.

Many celebrities were said to have paid visits to Sandstone over the years. Williamson joked that she "saw more naked Hollywood stars than any other woman."

"We provided a wonderful, wonderful environment in a natural setting," she added, "And that natural setting just sort of gave people permission."

As the retreat's central figure, Williamson became known as the "messiah of sex," a title his wife said he always carried proudly throughout his life.

One would think. R.I.P.