Dr. Feelbetter

By positing a heretical theory of nutrition, Barry Sears unleashed a multimillion-dollar monster. Now, with his credibility and nest egg hanging in the balance, he's trying to get his creation back under control.

Sears may simply be so obsessed with his own mortality that he's willing to believe even his own theories. And given the fact that other people are making millions from his ideas, if he's a flimflam artist, he's a pretty inept one.

I am not in The Zone. At 6:30 in the morning, who is? Hoping to improve the day's already fuzzy prospects, I call room service and piously avoid cholesterol-filled eggs and butter-drenched toast, ordering instead a sensible bowl of cereal and orange juice. A big mistake. Food, I'm about to discover, is a powerful drug, and I've just ordered a dangerous dose that not only will make me fat and even more cotton-headed, but will leave me vulnerable to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, eczema, arthritis, alcoholic cravings, dull hair, dry skin, brittle nails, depression, incivility, impotence, and, if I were a woman, premenstrual syndrome.

Fortunately, I have an appointment this morning with a man who says he can save me from all this. Barry Sears, Ph.D., claims he can accomplish this by simply opening the secret passageway into a mystical state of well-being he calls The Zone.
Sears waits for me downstairs in the Los Angeles sunshine, a gangly man, six-foot-five, in a herringbone suit. He wears oversize glasses and has a chubby-cheeked, youthful countenance that inspired his younger brother Doug to call him Goofy. Although he's already late for a radio interview, he remains relaxed and genial inside The Zone, where he's lived now for eight years. Remarkably, he achieves this blissful state daily without the use of drugs, crystals, meditation, or divine intervention. All he had to do this morning, for example, was stand in the buffet line at the Ramada Inn and serve himself a scoop of scrambled eggs, one piece of sausage, and a big heap of fruit.

The 50-year-old biochemist and entrepreneur startled the world two years ago by announcing that he'd discovered the secret to health and happiness and that it was dunderingly simple: cut down on carbohydrates and consume them only in a precise ratio to protein and fat. America slapped its plump forehead. Sears's 1995 book The Zone and this year's Mastering The Zone zoomed straight to the top of the best-seller lists and remain there today, having sold a staggering 1.8 million copies.

As might be expected, celebs were among the first to flock to The Zone: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madonna, even Bill and Hillary Clinton. Many world-class athletes soon followed, including members of the Green Bay Packers, John McEnroe, and countless endurance athletes, many of whom converted to The Zone after reading Sears's books or hearing of spectacular performances by Zoned-in athletes.

For a while, Barry Sears's world seemed promising. A multimillion-dollar industry sprouted up to feed the growing public demand for any product that would get you into The Zone. There were Zone energy bars, entire lines of Zone-friendly products (from oatmeal to wrinkle cream), and a platoon of Zone diet and fitness consultants. Southern California, where Sears has attained guru status, is clearly Zone Central. Bookstores hold seminars about the Zone diet, restaurants serve Zone meals, and park benches on Santa Monica Boulevard are splashed with ads for Zone Trainers. Forget about the Scarsdale diet, the grapefruit diet, and cabbage soup diet of yore — The Zone is where it's at.

Today Sears finds himself rapidly losing control of the growing phenomenon he created. Nearly everyone he has gone into business with to sell Zone-friendly products has stormed off and then beat him at his own game, racking up tens of millions of dollars in sales without him. They've done this by co-opting The Zone entirely or by marketing and promoting a nutritional subset of The Zone called "40-30-30," which is less the gauzy and suspect "lifestyle" system that The Zone is, and more a straightforward plan for eating. From all these ventures, Sears gets not a cent. Says Matt Freese of Envion International, which is currently involved in a nasty exchange of lawsuits with Sears over Envion's line of Zone-oriented products, "He could have had it all."

Perhaps even worse for Sears than his vanished revenue stream is that its very fount — the notion of The Zone itself — is coming under blistering attack. Nutritionists warn that his diet is too low in calories and carbohydrates and denounce him for feeding an increasingly fat and sedentary American public bogus information. They also suggest that the wildly popular 40-30-30 system — a laxer theory based on precise 40-30-30 carbo-protein-fat caloric ratios, as compared to the much more complex formula outlined by Sears — can, if used incorrectly, actually be harmful. (Though the program has become a staple for athletes off all stripes, from weekend duffers to premier athletes such as triathlete Mike Pigg and the indefatigable Scottie Pippen.) Sears deflects some of this criticism by distancing himself from the 40-30-30 crowd — chastising them for stripping his Zone of its "scientific" basis and reducing his sophisticated ideas to a bumper-sticker mantra.

Such earnest debates lead to considerable irony — all unintentional — as Sears gets tricked out in a white lab coat for publicity photos and uses carefully choreographed media events to unleash his onslaught of arcane medical terminology. For despite Sears's claims to the contrary, he appears to have no scientific proof for the effectiveness of The Zone. His academic peers chortle at his "discovery" that influencing a mysterious class of "superhormones" called eicosanoids can save the planet from nearly every disease while also inducing peak athletic performance.

In the last few weeks Sears has launched a furious counterattack to tamp the turmoil, though when you're in The Zone — as Sears claims to be — it's important that any controversy seem inconsequential. "When you know you're right, you have to realize there will be adversities," he says. So today Sears will spend the day hustling around L.A., using the media to remind his straying flock that there's only one true path to The Zone: through Barry Sears and Eicotech, his privately owned biotechnology company based in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

This press tour is just stage one of Sears's campaign to reclaim The Zone — he'll also be creating within Eicotech a Zone University, whose graduates will train doctors to pass along his Zone teachings to their patients. He's got a new line of ready-made Zone meals on plastic trays; a new Zone energy bar; a cookbook due out this month, ZonePerfect Meals in Minutes; a proposed Zone newsletter for aging baby boomers; and an ongoing effort to convince fast-food companies such as McDonald's to offer meals to bring their customers into The Zone.

But for all his Zenlike detachment, there's a sense of quiet urgency about Sears as he folds his unwieldy body into his publicist's tiny Japanese car and speeds off for his media tour. His father died of heart disease in his early fifties, as did his grandfather and three uncles. Sears will be 51 next June and constantly discusses his own mortality, obviously obsessed with the idea that one day he could be clutching madly at his own chest.

Clearly, Barry Sears feels that time is running out. Which raises a natural question: Can he regain control of his diet craze, win over his many critics, and forestall his apparent genetic destiny long enough to prove his oft-repeated boast that he's the next Louis Pasteur or Charles Darwin, a genius pilloried in his own time for speaking the truth?

Actually, the dispute could probably be resolved quite easily through reason and rigorous scientific experimentation. But in pre-millennial America, that would be passë (and not much fun). When it comes to science versus faith, we'd much rather believe.

"We're going to get a positive, upbeat story, right?" says Tany Soussana, eyeing me hopefully through her rearview mirror. Sears's publicist is still smarting from an article in Los Angeles magazine earlier this year that portrayed Sears as "a binge-and-bust entrepreneur desperately trying to enter the money zone." That's the skeptical view of Sears, echoed by his critics in the academic world. "He's cultivated that nerdy scientist persona," says Alice Lichtenstein, an associate professor of nutrition at Tufts University who has publicly debated Sears and points out that he hasn't published research supporting his claims. "He invented this thing, and now he's selling it," she says. "Hey, it's hard to make a living in science."

According to this view, Sears is merely the latest in history's long line of magic-potion hucksters, who in late-twentieth-century America have taken the form of diet quacks. Back in 1982, there was the optometrist from Jacksonville, Florida, who sold eyeglasses with one brown lens and one blue lens, which he claimed caused the wearer to eat less. The Drinking Man's Diet was introduced in the sixties by Robert Cameron, who sold 2.4 million copies of a book claiming you can lose weight by eating steak and drinking red wine — though he was forced to cut back after his own coronary bypass surgery. Then there was the martini diet, the mayonnaise diet, and for a while, the "More of Jesus, Less of Me" diet.

The more charitable view of Sears is that he really is a nerdy scientist who's so obsessed with his own mortality that he's willing to believe even his own theories. And given the fact that other people are making millions from his ideas, if he's a flimflam artist, he's a pretty inept one.

The Los Angeles piece was especially biting to the Sears camp because it was published on presumably friendly ground. The peculiar body-worship fanaticism found in Los Angeles makes it fertile territory for winning converts to a regimen that requires you to calculate your 0.75 target ratio of protein to carbohydrates and stick to it for three meals and two snacks spaced out at precise intervals during the day. Proselytizing and euphoric testimonials are common, and one nutritionist who's tangled publicly with Sears claims that his followers made harassing phone calls and sent her hateful E-mail. Occasionally, you'll even hear stories of Zonies being persecuted for their beliefs: You can't buy a Zone Slushy anymore at one juice bar in Brentwood because the guy who created the concoction was allegedly fired by the owner, a disbeliever.

As part of today's offensive, Sears is slated to appear on talk radio AM 710, which calls itself The Zone. It's pure coincidence — the station has nothing to do with the Sears diet — and Tracey and Robin, "L.A. Chicks on the Radio," waste no time grilling Sears. He delivers short, impressively crafted sound bites about his stunning discoveries, which he says were driven by a sense of impending doom. "A sword of Damocles hangs over my head," is how his book The Zone begins. "I'm genetically programmed by nature to die of heart disease within the next ten years."

His father, who Sears acknowledges was overweight and smoked for years before dying of a heart attack at 54, worked in the floor-covering business in Santa Monica. Barry was the oldest of three children and played basketball at Occidental College but was more accomplished at science. He acquired some impressive postgraduate credentials, getting his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Indiana University, and landed as a research scientist at MIT.

Throughout those days, Sears says, he was obsessed with finding a drug that could save his own life and prevent millions of others from dying of heart disease. He also hoped to become, he explains, "a pharmaceutical tycoon." In 1976 he opened a biotech company with borrowed family money (and today he has 12 patents). But he repeatedly failed in his efforts to create and market an effective drug for cardiovascular and other diseases.

Then, in 1984, he was hospitalized with cardiac arrhythmias. For Sears, by then married and the father of two children, it was a reminder that the Grim Reaper was still lurking. After some scientific poking around he lit upon a discovery for which two scientists had received the Nobel Prize a couple of years earlier. It was breakthrough research on the interaction of aspirin with a little-known class of hormones called eicosanoids. To Sears, it looked like the magic he had been searching for.

If only he could figure out a way to control these eicosanoids, which he calls "mysterious and fleeting but all-powerful€superhormones." Doing so, he reasoned, would mean being able to control nearly every aspect of human physiology and allow people to maintain a state of perpetual good health. Then it struck him: Why bother coming up with a drug to control eicosanoids when you could just use food? After all, to a biochemist like himself, food is a drug. If people took their drugs — carbos, proteins, and fat — in precise amounts, just like a doctor's prescription, they could keep their eicosanoids in balance. VoilÇ! Such a system, Sears wrote in his moment of greatest inspiration, "might help all of us reach that near-euphoric state of maximum physical, mental, and psychological performance that athletes call 'The Zone.'"

It didn't bother him that respected professionals in the field of nutritional science laughed. "Sears sort of makes up his science as he goes along," says Ellen Coleman, a two-time Ironman finisher and a registered dietician with master's degrees in both nutrition and exercise physiology. "As a scientist looking at cause and effect, I see his theories breaking down at every level." Even scientists Sears admires — such as Gerald Reaven, M.D., a Stanford professor of endocrinology who has charged that Sears cites his research erroneously — scoff at his conclusions. "I really find it hard to swallow that anybody could believe that eicosanoids are the key to all health and disease," Reaven told the Tufts University Diet & Nutrition Letter last year. "The body isn't that generic. One thing can't have an effect on everything else."

But Sears was certain he'd made a breathtaking discovery; he would not only save himself from a heart attack, but would protect everyone on the planet as well. "I look at food like a philosopher's stone," he explains. "You can get what you want out of it."

"I love the zone so much," a voice crackles over the speakers. Laurie has phoned the L.A. Chicks to testify. "It's completely changed my life. I've lost 18 pounds, and I haven't put an ounce back on."

When confronted with the avalanche of anecdotal support for The Zone, nutritionists say that the reason this diet works for many people, at least for a while, has nothing to do with Sears's mumbo-jumbo about eicosanoids. Rather, they say, if you follow it to the letter you consume so few calories — about 800 to 1,400 a day, as compared to the 1,800 minimum recommended — you'd lose weight simply lying around the house.

But Zonies prefer Sears's explanation, which sounds almost conspiratorial: Americans have been misled for years by the government, which has been fattening us up by telling us to eat carbos like pasta, rice, and bagels. "The USDA food pyramid is similar to a feedlot pyramid," he tells his radio listeners. "How to fatten cattle, pigs, and other farm animals."

The idea struck a chord. People were sick of hearing about low-fat this and low-fat that. The fact that Americans are growing heavier because we are eating more and exercising less, well, that's beside the point. That makes it sound like it's our fault.

"Dietary fat doesn't make you fat," Sears tells the L.A. Chicks, and you can almost hear the cheers on Santa Monica Boulevard. Nutritionists cringe. Just when they were starting to convince the American public to change its fat-slurping ways, along comes this guy in a white lab coat — with excellent academic credentials, no less — saying the real culprit is the 55 to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates the USDA recommends, which he says should be more like 40 percent, while your protein and fat levels should be higher. Those carbos raise our insulin levels, he says, and that sends our eicosanoids, those "almost mystical, almost magical hormones," spinning completely out of whack.

What such "fad diets" do, Sears's critics say, is give people a way to trick themselves into avoiding the awful truth: When it comes to getting chubby, it doesn't matter whether your calories come from fat or carbos or protein. If you consume more calories than you burn, you'll gain weight.

This argument matters not at all to the many athletes who pledge fealty to Sears's ideas, however, such as Pigg and, to a lesser degree, fellow triathlete Wendy Ingraham, who finished second in this year's Ironman Australia. Ingraham ignores The Zone per se but follows a 40-30-30 program. "I always did fine eating the bacon and eggs my mom made for me as a kid, and it works great now," says Ingraham. "The more fat and protein, the longer the burn time and the less hungry you feel. Certainly following the 40-30-30 diet has helped me maintain and even improve as an athlete."

Ironically, it's that single idea of Sears's — actually a subset of The Zone — that has created the noisiest buzz. No sooner did his first book hit the stores than a 40-30-30 craze began and took on a life of its own, all without Sears, and much of it outside the strict rules he lays down for entering The Zone. This has created scores of 40-30-30 athletes, and a not-insignificant amount of confusion as to what is and what is not The Zone.

Take Mike Pigg, for example. He's one of many endurance athletes who were introduced to the 40-30-30 concept by Sears's books but have since abandoned The Zone's trappings while continuing with the 40-30-30 program. "I was feeling a bit fed-up with being a professional athlete," says Pigg. "But now I have more consistent energy. Eating the right proteins and fats trains your body how to properly burn fuel. It's like adding coals to a fire instead of adding lighter fluid."

On the other hand, Paula Newby-Fraser, the eight-time Ironman champion, is against all of it — The Zone and anything that smacks of The Zone. "I think Sears's program and ideas have no inherent value at all," she says. "As a lifestyle, it's unsound. I think Sears's notions are a complete fad." Newby-Fraser's opposition, like that of some nutritionists, centers on the idea that The Zone diet doesn't provide enough calories and carbohydrates for an athlete's overtaxed muscles.

The L.A. Chicks have heard some of these complaints and do their in-studio best to challenge Sears, who responds with a jargon-rich defense of his lower-carbo scheme. "Insulin is your primary directing hormone," he explains. "It's a storage hormone. And the more insulin you make, the more you store things, and the less you are able to access them. See, the average American male or female carries at least 100,000 calories of stored body fat on them at any one time. Now that's the equivalent of eating 1,700 pancakes for breakfast."

"How many Snickers would that be?" Robin asks, laughing.

"That would be about 714 Snickers," he says, deadpan.

Using The Zone diet, Sears says, your body can access those 1,700 pancakes and "give you a virtually unlimited source of energy."

That's absurd, say the experts. "You're no more likely to access body fat if you eat a certain ratio of carbos, protein, and fat," says Alice Lichtenstein. "Once again, the bottom line is that you'll lose fat if you expend more calories than you take in."

Maybe so, but Sears's ideas sound enticing to anyone who's ever grabbed a hunk of his own fat and yelled, "Hey, why don't you just use up all of this to get us through the day?" People want to believe. And as Sears spreads his gospel across Los Angeles, he has one more crucial advantage over his nutritionist foes. There seem to be lots of people out there like Shack, who calls the L.A. Chicks to ask Sears what kind of milk he should put in his coffee to stay in The Zone. Shack tries to describe other diets he's tried but gets his buzzwords tangled up. He stops for a moment and then confesses, "I guess I don't know what a carbohydrate is."

Striding through the parking lot of L.A. Farm, the trendy restaurant where we're going to have lunch, Sears brags that he's not a bit hungry even though it's nearly one o'clock and he hasn't eaten since that plate of scrambled eggs, sausage, and fruit at seven this morning. "But I need to eat now, because I'm at the refueling time point."

L.A. Farm, which is located next to a movie studio and frequented by stars such as Barbra Streisand, has become a showcase for Sears's efforts to regain control of The Zone. Soussana, Sears's publicist, got the idea of contacting Jean-Pierre Peiny, the restaurant's French chef, and asking him to create special Zone sections on the menus. So now, not exactly by popular demand, you can order "Gourmet Dinner Ç la Zone" and "Lunch Ç la Zone."

Jean-Pierre, who appears at our table looking distinguished, with gray hair and a white double-breasted smock, says that the Zone menu has been a huge success. "The sauces are a little lighter, a little less butter," he says of his culinary challenge. "But otherwise, no very different." He's been in The Zone since last summer, he says, "Except for the weekends, when I eat pasta and bread."

"Only Mother Teresa's perfect!" Sears declares, one of his favorite lines. "If you know what the rules are, you can bend the rules and still get back there in The Zone by the next meal."

When the waiter comes, Soussana orders the Caesar salad with seared red tuna and a cup of grapes from the Zone menu. Sears and I have the grilled swordfish with shredded zucchini and a pear.

"Can I have a glass of wine?" I ask Sears.

"Sure," he says. "But don't eat the pear or you'll have too many carbohydrates."

Lunch arrives, and we survey the drugs prescribed by the doctor: a piece of protein about the size of my palm (the swordfish) perched atop about twice as large a helping of carbohydrates (a pile of shredded zucchini). Some of my fat allotment comes from the swordfish, the rest from the olive oil dressing covering everything. The food is delicious, but clearly I'm a carbo addict — I can't stop thinking about how great a roll would taste.

After lunch, Sears heads out to West Hollywood; he's got to get tough with some muscled boys in spandex who are calling their gym the Zone Center without his permission — and without giving him a cut. This is a perfect example of what a difficult business proposition his theories have become. You can't exactly patent drugs like carbohydrates and fat. So he's trademarked key words, such as ZoneÙ, Zone DietÙ, and ZonePerfectÙ, but that hasn't stopped people from appropriating them.

The fact is that anybody calling himself a nutritionist, trainer, teacher, or health-products guru can go into business with the magic words, The Zone. As a result, Sears complains, "I have to spend my time cleaning up this intellectual garbage."

Still, the Zone Center seems reputable enough. The staff is well versed in Sears's theories — complicated charts on the walls explain "The Roles of Insulin and Glucagon" and "What are Eicosanoids? (Eye-KAH-sah-noids)" — and for $500 you can get a personalized nutrition program. Earlier, Sears had allowed the Zone Center to become one of the few places in L.A. where you can buy his ZonePerfect bars. George Wendt came in the other day looking for a box of 14, which sells for $30 (flavors include honey peanut and chocolate almond). Surrounded by the the Zone Center's proprietors, Sears goes into sell mode, which can be rather patronizing. "You're not in the fitness business," he announces to the three young men who own the place. "You're in the hormonal control business." Later, they ask to have their picture taken with him. "So, are you interested in having a business relationship?" he says, looking like a coach surrounded by his team. "OK!" they cry and head off to talk business.

Watching Sears lecture his prospective business partners as though they were kindergartners, it's not hard to imagine why nearly everybody he's gone into business with to sell Zone products got frustrated with him and split, and then proceeded to trounce him in the marketplace.

First Sears backed out of a deal with sporting-goods mogul Dick Lamb but couldn't stop him from developing a popular energy bar, which smartly packaged the 40-30-30 concept into a handy, no-worry snack; the company had $10 million in sales last year. After Sheri Sears got sick of waiting for her brother to strike a deal, she and her husband left acrimoniously and created yet another bar — though now she says, "I have no interest in trashing my brother. You will never find a finer, more intelligent human being." Her San Diego-based company now has a range of 40-30-30 products and 55 employees, though she won't disclose sales figures. Sears, on the other hand, has received comparatively meager compensation for his ideas — although the numbers are closely held, and Sears himself won't say.

But Sears's biggest business disaster may have been last summer's debacle involving Envion and Matt Freese, whose previous ventures included race-car driving and mini-malls. Sears signed a deal in 1993 that allowed Envion to be the exclusive distributor of his Zone-friendly products, but the deal collapsed last summer after Sears sued Freese. "They started making products that were contrary to my principles and my teachings," he told me. Freese, who sued him back, says that's baloney. "A supposedly better deal came along and he fabricated that excuse," says Freese, a charge Sears denies.

"He's not just a goofy scientist," says Freese. "If he'd stuck to the lab and focused on what he's good at, he could have contributed an awful lot. It's OK to make mistakes and attempt lots of different things, but you have to do it with honesty and integrity. None of that matters to him. He's not accountable to anyone or anything."

Envion's biggest crime, according to Sears, is that the company was interested only in making money. "I was under the impression that it would be based on one thing: educating people to improve their quality of life." But could Sears really be that naive? The first thing a business-school student learns is that multilevel marketing firms, such as Amway and HerbaLife, earn huge profits through their pyramid-like sales structure; the products being sold are incidental. What's most important is to create an almost messianic zeal among the salespeople below you.

The Zone is a perfect vehicle for multilevel marketing because of its miraculous claims and air of scientific credibility. It doesn't seem to matter how far-fetched the products are. The Zone skin cream that Sears developed, for example, was originally created as a wound dressing for medical uses, but Sears claims it also happens to be perfect for keeping consumers in The Zone. "All skin," he says, "is controlled by eicosanoids." Ah, but of course.

Envion reportedly raked in sales of about $20 million last year, and Freese claims it's growing at a rate of 500 percent annually. Sears says he never made a dime from Envion, though he's later forced to acknowledge that his brother Doug was a diamond executive at Envion who cashed in for over $100,000 per year.

Today Barry Sears says he "could care less" about his lost fortunes. He's onto something new. "Our revenue," he now says, "is working with HMOs."

This is Sears's latest gambit. A health-insurance company, the way he sees it, is basically a bookie: It's betting that you won't get sick, which puts its customers in the perverse position of betting that they will get sick and need a doctor. Sears's company is conducting a pilot study in San Antonio of 300 people — 100 of them diabetics — to prove to Princeton Medical Management that The Zone will keep its customers healthy, thus increasing profits. If Sears can strike a deal, he says, PMM will pay Eicotech to conduct classes to help its 60,000 members get into The Zone to recover from illness or stay healthy.

Some may consider this a suspect way to spread the gospel, but Sears isn't worried. "Louis Pasteur — not that I'm comparing myself to him — was laughed at for 30 years for saying germs cause disease," he tells me later. "If you have a radical idea, you have to be prepared to take the heat. Darwin was no different."

But the fact is that what Sears is selling ultimately has little to do with science or medicine. For all the New Agers and "alternative medicine" types that it attracts, The Zone's message is essentially nostalgic and conservative. He compares his diet to "what grandma told you to eat," opposes government-imposed dietary standards, and is a true believer in winning his battles in the free market, despite his many losses, because "that's the American way."

When he says The Zone can end incivility — and he does this often — he's straying far beyond science and into belief. "From a hormonal standpoint, civility and morality are to a great extent controlled by the levels of the hormone seratonin in your central nervous system," he told me. By making seratonin drop, he says, The Zone can make you a nice and moral person.

Sears seems to be trying to bring back a lost world in which people were nicer and life was simpler. That became clear when we had a few minutes to ourselves at the Zone gym, beyond Soussana's watchful eye. Sears talked fondly about how growing up in Los Angeles in the fifties was "idyllic, just like the Beach Boys songs," and how difficult it was, in 1972, when his father died and Sears began searching for something that would save not only himself, but the world.

"It's been a lonely 15-year odyssey," he told me. "Everyone wants to leave a legacy. My wife says to me, 'Can't you stay home now?' But you have to be a politician and press the flesh to spread the message. After all, I'm on the last third of my life."

Time is wasting, the sand rushing madly through the hourglass of Barry Sears's short life. So he bids good-bye to his new friends at the Zone Center, promises to fax them a contract over the weekend, and heads off to San Diego to see his mother and stay overnight at his sister Sheri's house. As he disappears into the California sunshine, Sears doesn't seem to understand that he's already contributed to a powerful and profitable legacy. He just can't gain access to it. He's off in a zone all his own.

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