Although Max and Zina were both grandes dames, they were, nevertheless, two very different people. Zina was not actually very much older than Max, but she seemed considerably older in her appearance. “She’d done so much, taken so many drugs, read so much esoteric literature, dabbled in her witching, and had this Blavatsky trip going on,” said Max. “Zina had left no stone unturned. She had ‘made her soup’ as Lama Yeshe put it, and her last pregnancy seemed to have taken a lot out of her. But she was still hooked on the celebrity lifestyle with these hippies out at the Double Dorje house.
“On Mykonos, she had tried to get me to take LSD and was forever saying how drugs could open your mind. But I wasn’t into drugs. I used to throw people out of the gallery just for smoking bidis – I couldn’t tell the difference between those little rolled tobacco leaves and hashish. Sex and a few beers was my high. Zina was a much more experienced woman than I was. I was a baby. My freedom and my great salary were enough for me,” said Max.
Their backgrounds could not have been more different. Max’s current lifestyle was a far cry from the grinding poverty of her early years. Born in 1933 to a desperately poor black undertaker in Virginia, USA, Max and her siblings had often helped embalm bodies after school. “Embalming was all the go with poor blacks,” she said. Her parents’ marriage broke up when she was around ten years old and Max was adopted into a wealthy white family, with a house on the West Coast and an apartment in New York. Max was thirteen when that white couple separated. She stayed with her adoptive father, moving right into his bedroom. “The arrangement suited me just fine. I was no victim…. By the age of ten I was already a very sexually experienced little girl, and he treated me like a princess,” she said.
Max eventually got her Masters degree in education from Columbia University in New York, and after graduating, she was ready for adventure. Joining the American diplomatic service as a teacher gave Max the freedom to travel, the security of American protection, and an American salary. Her teaching career took her to Greece, Germany and Moscow and, in August 1968, landed her in Kathmandu.