Queen Latifah is looking resplendent in a multicolored striped halter dress and pink sunglasses. She seems relaxed. Western Europe has been suffering under a severe heat wave over the last week, but here in the tiny village of Grimaud, near St. Tropez, it’s balmy.

Everyone at this party at Le Beauvallon, a private luxury estate built in 1911, is wearing something splashily colorful—the invitation called for “kaleidoscopic cocktail,” in keeping with tonight’s theme. It’s an “Evening of Discovery” hosted by the Aurora Institute, a new charity devoted to “improving global mental health.”

“There are natural things on this planet that make people feel better,” says Latifah. “I have some friends who were not doing O.K. and now they’re doing O.K. Now is the time to change the mindset. There’s a man in a mushroom shirt who’s about to change everything.”

She’s referring to Christian Angermayer, the 44-year-old German billionaire and co-founder of Aurora, who’s here, wearing a cream-colored, mushroom-patterned button-down and dashing around the crowd with the excitement of a teenager throwing his first party attended by the cool kids. “Latifah is amazing, and she loves psychedelics,” he tells me. (When I ask if this is true, the rapper-actress just smiles and says, “I’m from California.”)

The German billionaire and mushroom aficionado Christian Angermayer.

Angermayer is a rather controversial figure in the business world. He’s “made a fortune on the risky and faddish,” Bloomberg said in 2021, with a “strange portfolio” that includes psychedelics, crypto, movies, space travel, life extension, weed, and SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies). In the same piece, Angermayer said his first trip on magic mushrooms was “the single most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my whole life,” and that, during it, he finally understood Bitcoin.

Tall, with brushed-back dark hair and bright, child-like brown eyes, Angermayer seems as happy as he frequently insists he is. “I have a gift, which is I’m practically always happy,” he tells me. “My overall concept of life is: I like myself.”

“[Queen] Latifah is amazing, and she loves psychedelics.”

He doesn’t mind the ribbing he gets in the media, according to his P.R. rep (“He’s in on the joke), and it doesn’t seem to have affected his ability to make money. His Apeiron Investment Group manages more than $3.5 billion in assets, and his Atai Life Sciences—a biotech company backed by right-wing power player Peter Thiel—is valued at more than $2 billion.

Queen Latifah at the “Evening of Discovery” party in St. Tropez.

The latter focuses on psychedelics and their purported ability to improve mental health—pending governments’ approval, that is, which will come only after more research and development and clinical trials. Psychedelic drugs are still illegal in many countries around the world, including France and the U.S., except for a handful of states and cities, including Oregon and Denver.

“I love them. I’m under,” says Erica Pelosini, an Italian model and social-media influencer in a fire-engine-red gown, who’s at the party. “You’re on them right now?,” I ask. “Chocolate mushrooms,” she replies. “I micro-dose a lot. I have anxiety and depression.”

Magical Mushroom Tour

Psychedelics have come a long way toward legitimacy since Richard Nixon dubbed Timothy Leary “the most dangerous man in America” for his advocacy of LSD. One of the main reasons for this shift is studies happening across the scientific community supporting the effectiveness of the drugs in the treatment of mental-health conditions, from depression to bipolar disorder.

In July, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez filed an amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act calling for expanded research into psychedelics as alternative treatments for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a Republican, filed a separate, similar amendment.

Such research into psychedelics goes back to the 1950s, when Cary Grant famously dropped acid in the care of one Dr. Mortimer Hartman of the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills.

“In one LSD dream I imagined myself as a giant penis launching off from Earth like a spaceship,” the actor said, crediting psychedelics with enabling him to find inner peace.

“Chocolate mushrooms. I micro-dose daily. I have a lot of anxiety and depression.”

The growing sense that psychedelics might actually help people heal their minds and become happier overall (a given among some indigenous cultures, going back centuries) has been given a boost, too, by Michael Pollan’s 2018 book, How to Change Your Mind, and the 2022 Netflix docu-series, with the same title, based on it.

With psychedelics catching fire over the last couple of years in Silicon Valley, where tech professionals believe that micro-dosing them gives them an edge, it seemed inevitable that money would follow. “The Brave New World of Legalized Psychedelics Is Already Here,” said The Nation this year. “And so are the profiteers. Get ready for Psychedelics Inc.”

This might account for the look of the crowd at this whimsical party in the South of France. Though vibrant, undulating psychedelic art is positioned here and there—and there’s a couple slowly rolling around on the ground in the middle of it all, doing a performance piece called “The Kiss”—the guests hardly resemble the hippies of Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s.

Most are youngish investors and entrepreneurs accompanied by what Derek Zoolander would call their “really, really, really ridiculously good-looking” significant others. “It’s almost like someone sent an e-mail saying, ‘Don’t bring your wife or girlfriend if she’s not a 10,’” sniffs a young American guest.

There is Nicolas Berggruen, the American billionaire and philanthropist; Brex Inc. founder Henrique Dubugras and G.M. Lucas Fox; Wanja S. Oberhof, C.E.O. of the Social Chain AG; GoPuff founders Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev; and tech investor Brandon Green. There is Stavros Niarchos, the Greek shipping heir. (Niarchos’s wife, Dasha Zhukova, who was formerly married to Roman Abramovich, is not in attendance.) There are fewer women entrepreneurs here, but among them is NJF Capital investor Nicole Junkermann.

Ulla Parker, Erica Pelosini, Souraya Chalhoub, Maria Buccellati, and Ellen von Unwerth at the party.

Not that these names necessarily mean much to anyone outside this rarefied circle. Who isn’t here, notably, are the celebrities who appeared on a guest list someone leaked to “Page Six” on the day of this “invitation-only bash.” Where is Uma Thurman, a friend of Angermayer’s and an investor in Sensei Biotherapeutics, a cancer-drug firm he also backs? Or how about Diplo or Gerard Butler, who were also supposed to attend?

Is it possible that being seen at a party thrown by a man who calls himself “evangelical about psychedelics” (Angermayer) still poses too much of a potential public-relations liability, even in this increasingly mushroom-friendly age?


The day before Angermayer’s big fat psychedelic party, I went to a business conference he helmed at the Golf Club–St. Tropez. About 200 people—most of them men in khakis and polo shirts, expensive-looking sneakers and espadrilles—crammed into a large hall for more than four hours to hear about advancements in psychedelic-drug therapies, and the investment opportunities available.

But before any of the guest speakers were called to the stage, we were entertained by an Israeli mentalist and self-described “mystifier,” Lior Suchard. It was a canny move on Angermayer’s part, having this mind-bending performance take place in front of a crowd of guys who tend to like to think they know everything, loosening them up for discussions of how magic mushrooms can make them money.

Which they very well might do. There are now more than 50 publicly traded companies engaged in developing psychedelic drugs. Angermayer’s Atai Life Sciences, Compass Pathways, and GH Research are reportedly valued at more than $1 billion. Though the psychedelics industry has experienced a bit of a slump this year, it’s been projected to climb from $2 billion in 2020 to $10.75 billion by 2027.

“This is why I’m always happy, because I believe in magic!,” Angermayer told the crowd after bounding onto the stage. “Psychedelics are one of the main tools for achieving happiness.”

Potential investors wanted to hear about how these tools might make them even richer than they already are. A stream of guest speakers—including Ekaterina Malievskaia and George Goldsmith, co-founders of Compass Pathways, in which Angermayer also invests—talked about how to “commercialize innovation.” But the elephant lurking in the very warm room was, always, legalization.

The guests hardly resemble the hippies of Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s.

“What you’re describing sounds like it’s out of bounds for the F.D.A.,” said Dr. Tom Insel, a neuroscientist and former head of the National Institute of Mental Health, at one point during the presentations. “How does it fit into a regulatory pathway?”

Goldsmith, whose background is in clinical psychology and computer science, said the goal “is to make psilocybin therapy like chemotherapy”—adding with an indulgent smile that such comparisons reassure traditional scientists. (Psilocybin is the naturally occurring psychedelic drug found in more than 200 species of fungus.)

After a while there was a break with fancy hors d’oeuvres and chilled rosé and men huddling here and there, comparing notes and making deals in the heat. Quite a few of them were trying to work out how the mentalist pulled off his tricks.

A Billionaire and His Toys

While in St. Tropez, Angermayer was staying at a rented villa, a modern house with a lot of big glass windows. On the morning of his party, he was sitting at a long table out on the covered patio as some of his staff prepared breakfast.

He was wearing a white polo shirt with the chemical formula for psilocybin stitched into the front; he showed me he also had it tattooed on his right wrist. It reminded me of my nephew, who, when he was little, loved dinosaurs, and would only wear clothes with dinosaurs on them.

I later learned that Angermayer loves dinosaurs, too, and actually owns an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, including a T. rex. Another one of the dinosaur skeletons he owns, a Camptosaurus, had been transported to the lobby of Le Beauvallon for the event that evening.

He was excited about his party, he said, and its potential to not only entertain but to educate.

“What people underestimate is the potential for exponential growth in biotech,” he said. “In the next 10 to 20 years, you’re going to see the success of things we thought we could only dream about”—such as drugs “that will make us live significantly longer.” (His Rejuveron Life Sciences is working on that.)

“I’m not talking about people living to 300 years old immediately,” he added offhandedly, “but I am talking about pushing it to 100, 110 on average.”

From the time he was young, said Angermayer, who grew up in rural Bavaria and divides his time between London and New York, he’s believed in the power of science to create a better future. But he never imagined this would include psychedelics; he’d never done any drugs or even drank alcohol before his infamous trip.

“This is why I’m always happy, because I believe in magic!”

It was on the Caribbean island of Canouan (where psychedelics are not illegal, he reminded me), in 2014, that some friends convinced him to do magic mushrooms. While Angermayer’s first hour on mushrooms was “not so easy,” his friend and guide on the trip, Landon Ross, told me later, he then had an experience he found so profound he was inspired to change the course of his life—and his business enterprises—because of it.

Guests danced to music by Blond:ish.

“You meet God,” Angermayer told me. “You almost can’t describe a psychedelic trip without using religious terms. It’s more like the divine. You go to another level of understanding.

“In the moment, your ego vanishes,” he went on, “but you’re not gone. Suddenly, there is something which you then immediately know has always been there—call it your soul, your subconsciousness, your inner voice—and you’re really like, ‘Oh my God, yes.’

“It was always there,” he said. “I just couldn’t hear it because my ego is so loud.”

Then he had to go. Another wave of people was arriving at his house to talk about how to spin mushrooms into gold.

“It was always there. I just couldn’t hear it because my ego is so loud.”

There are more than 500 seats around the tables under the palm trees outside Le Beauvallon on the “Evening of Discovery.” On a brightly lit stage, Angermayer tells the crowd, “One billion people suffer from mental-health issues around the world.” He and his co-founders—Louise Tabbiner (founder of a marketing firm, Introsight Advisors) and Henry Chalhoub (scion of the Chalhoub Group, the luxury-goods firm based in Dubai)—started the Aurora Institute, he says, “to bring together an eco-system of global leaders … to fight the global mental-health crisis.”

Honorees get up and make impassioned speeches. British pop star Robbie Williams talks about how he’s going to donate his time to the charity by starting a global concert series, Mind Aid, to raise money for mental health. “I’m dyspraxic, and I have a fear of social situations,” Williams says. “I’ve got a slight obsessive-compulsive thing going on.... I’m an alcoholic and an addict, but at least I’ve got a lower than average-sized penis.”

Kool & the Gang performs at the after-party. Cameron Winklevoss shows up. The dance floor is full of revelers dancing energetically.

When I’m riding back in the shuttle to the hotel, a Frenchwoman says, “Did you see how they were dancing?” She makes a crazy face, sticking out her tongue. “Do you think they were on drugs?”

Her husband barely looks up from his phone. “I think they’re in the business of selling psychedelics,” he says with a shrug.

Nancy Jo Sales is a journalist whose 2010 article for Vanity Fair, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” inspired The Bling Ring. She is the author of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers and Nothing Personal: My Secret Life in the Dating App Inferno