How did a savvy and successful political consultant in his early thirties end up in a psychiatric hospital, then homeless, and twenty years later, dead at age fifty-two? What went wrong for Curt Mead, the small-town boy from Nebraska, who once lectured at Harvard? Was he really ill when he was committed to a psyche ward after he’d been at the top of his game? Or was there a conspiracy to silence him as he claimed for twenty years? Why did he live on the streets for months at a time?
It was December 1978, and our family had gathered at my home to celebrate my son’s first Christmas. We were living in Aitkin, Minnesota, where my husband and I were publishing my family’s weekly newspaper. Curt’s political consulting business in Boston was going great. Eight years into his career, the references on his resume looked like a who’s who of politics. They included JFK speechwriter and legal counsel Ted Sorensen; Boston Mayor Kevin White; Lieutenant Governor of New York Mario Cuomo; pollster Pat Caddell; and 1972 presidential candidate John Lindsay. Curt was interesting, enthusiastic, entertaining, intense, and full of ideas—the same old brother I’d always known and loved. He looked happy and healthy, dressed well, and with him was a beautiful and intelligent woman, Louise—an artist and writer.
It was the Christmas when my dad gave my brother the same book my brother gave my dad, Theodore H. White’s, In Search of History. Dad’s inside cover inscription to Curt read: “To our own ‘young man on the move’ who is making history not merely searching for it. Love from Dad.” Little did Dad know that his lofty views of his son would soon wither and never regain the power of that time.
Several months later, my phone rang, and it was Louise. “Your brother is bankrupt, acting crazy, and holed up in the expensive Parker House Hotel. His psychiatrist called me yesterday and thinks Curt should be hospitalized. We think you should come here and have him committed.”
“What? What happened?”
“There was a sudden and dramatic change. One day he was fine, and the next day he said he was being followed by the CIA and needed to stay somewhere with high security. He considered The Colonnade; it’s like a fortress—a high-priced place where dignitaries and celebrities stay. His psychiatrist said I needed to get the family involved.”
“Oh dear. Have you talked with my parents?”
“Yes, but it was hard because your father kept breaking into tears.”
“What did he say?”
“He thinks he should go and do as the doctor suggests.”
From Chapter One