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The Believer

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Expanding the Empire Levin was the CEO of Time Warner from 1992 to 2002, years in which it grew into the biggest media company in the world. From left, Levin and Ted Turner announcing Time Warner's acquisition of Turner Broadcasting in 1995; a tieless Levin, with AOL's Steve Case, announcing the AOL-Time Warner merger in 2000.  

On his way to the top, Levin honed a gift for boardroom machination. He was, as a former colleague puts it, “a corporate killer.” Michael Fuchs is an especially disgruntled victim. For a long time, he was the head of HBO, then moved to run Warner Music. Until Levin fired him. Fuchs still holds a grudge, frequently trashing Levin in public, most recently in a charity-event speech at HBO last month.

“No one has ever left a company more disliked than he was,” Fuchs tells me. “He didn’t have one friend in the company. Or one friend outside the company. Nor has anyone left such a powerful company in worse shape. He killed everyone in the way of keeping or getting his job. We called him Caligula.”

Levin now explains his infighting as a perhaps misguided pursuit of what was best for the company—not just in business terms but in terms of its obligations to society at large. “I thought I had a handle on both the financial and philosophical interests of the company,” he says, “and that I had a destiny to fulfill. I saw deficiency in others to understand the larger purpose of the enterprise”—Time Warner—“and to pull it off. That was my rationalization for what might seem like very severe and competitive behavior.”

In the view of a former Time Warner insider, Levin’s new incarnation is right out of his standard playbook: When under fire, retreat to an ethereal, philosophical plane. “At the start, Jerry didn’t have a typical CEO image, and he was competing with the Malones and Turners and Redstones. So he took on the image of the visionary to compete in that world.”

At the very least, it has always been true that Gerald Levin sees things that others don’t.

Levin is involved with every single client who comes through Moonview. He sits in on all the practitioners’ meetings, where the healing approaches are planned. And he joins in every men’s ceremonial drumming circle. “It’s using a ritual, archetypal setting to get at the most fundamental questions of life,” he says. “Instead of a male hierarchy, it becomes almost feminine in its openness. Normally, you’re defended, calculating, with an agenda. Here, it melts away. Each session is particular to the individual and to the group, depending on what’s needed. Does somebody need a rite of passage? Does somebody need an understanding of love? Ultimately, we’re trying to break down male culture.”

Though he is in no way trained or licensed, Levin also offers himself for one-on-one conversations with both male and female clients, using his own story as a jumping-off point. “I feel I’m open and have nerve endings now to understand people,” he says. “And I’m not limited by professional boundaries—which is very helpful. This is a temple of transformation, and I’m the poster boy.”

I am sitting in a room at Moonview Sanctuary, gripping a small round object in each fist. These objects have wires trailing from them, and the wires attach to a machine in front of me. The objects vibrate against my palms, in alternating bursts every second or so—left fist, right fist, again and again. Meanwhile, my eyes follow a small red light at the top of the machine. It blinks a path from left to right, right to left, in sync with the buzzing. The overall effect is disorientation: My brain feels mildly weirded out.

This is eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR. It’s been found to help victims of post-traumatic-stress disorder. “I’m fascinated by EMDR,” says Levin. “It’s a recent phenomenon, but I actually have a shaman’s artifact used hundreds of years ago where the medicine man would go like this”—Levin waves a bony finger back and forth in front of my face, looking into my eyes with his—“and get people into a state. All these open up the psychological things that are imprisoned in your body, and that I find fascinating.”

In addition to EMDR, Moonview offers neurofeedback “brain painting.” In this treatment, your brain is connected to a computer through electrodes. When you’ve aligned your brain waves in a healthy distribution, gentle music plays, and the computer’s monitor shows you a video of a pretty green island in an empty ocean. When your brain waves get off track, the music goes silent and the video abruptly stops. The idea is to train your mind, over time, to lock into that optimum wave state.

There’s also equine therapy. Moonview brings you out to a stable in Malibu, where you attempt to clean a horse’s back hoof without its kicking your ribs into pulp. (“It’s about finding attunement with another living being,” says Gaetano Vaccaro, Moonview’s deputy clinical director.) Most recently, Laurie and Jerry have been exploring a therapy called “holotropic breathwork”—a hypnotic technique using rhythmic breathing and music. “Jerry and I have both done it,” says Laurie. “There’s nothing here we don’t try ourselves.”


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