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  larry sloman

Abbie Hoffman (interviewed by Barry Shapiro)
Margin--May 15, 1970


I thought the Washington rally was gonna be the thing that put us underground. I didn't speak in Washington. We were in disguise. We were saying we were gonna take over the White House. And this is what we were accused of doing in the Chicago trial. We already had ten years piled up for crossing state lines to incite riot. We didn't do it then. Now we're doing it. We're doing it every day in every state we go to and we are going to culminate in Washington and when that happens I'm under. I'm not going to jail. And there's no way the government is gonna sit there and allow for the White House to be taken over. Lo and behold, Nixon got a few hippies, he went out by the fountain, told them all that he was just confused and concerned about their problems and they were very courteous and called him Mr. President. They should have spit at him, those fucking hippies.

They put buses around the White House instead of tanks, which was shrewd. Empty buses. Soldiers behind them. You didn't see a heavy show of force, but it was there. In a subtle way. If they had to defend the White House with tanks, that image is pretty powerful. What that kind of imagery does is get the international thing going. And in Rome they start attacking the U.S. Embassy. Because the antiwar struggle against U.S. imperialism was an international struggle whose center was here in the U.S. So they had buses instead and the Trotskyites had control of the rally and they worked out a deal with the administration officials, the permit thing was neat and tidy. They got co-opted. I frankly was for ripping the city apart. I was for taking over the White House.

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Anita Hoffman

On our first trip to Los Angeles Bert Shneider arranged for us to stay at Jack Nicholson's house. Jack had just become famous from making Easy Rider.

Gus Reichbach

I think Bert played many roles for Abbie. Certainly financial was one. But Bert was also Abbie's entree to the glamour of Hollywood. Abbie was as much of a groupie as he was being grouped. While he enjoyed the celebrity, he was also impressed by celebrities. I recall one time the awe and glee in which he recounted to me that he had gone to bed with Janis Joplin. He was as proud of that as any plaster-caster or groupie would be. So he was both a star to be fucked and a star-fucker himself.

Alex Bennett

One night Abbie invited my wife and I up to his house for dinner. He made paella. At dinner, he said, "We're having a special guest star." Anita didn't even know who it was. The game was to figure out who the hell the 'guest star' was going to be. And after dinner in walks Tennessee Williams. I'm in awe because Tennessee Williams was my hero when I was growing up. In walks this guy with two young boys, the wimpiest, most spineless jellyfish. I remember him sitting in a chair almost at Abbie's feet, saying, "Tell me about the revolution, Abbie." Abbie loved that. He was holding court. Abbie almost acted like he had known him all his life, like "Nice of you to drop by."

Abbie Hoffman (interviewed by Barry Shapiro)

After that period, April 1970, I thought our work was really done here. I saw that the summer was coming. Difficult time to organize, you lose the campus as a base for guerrilla activity. And I saw that we had suffered a defeat. On the surface it might have looked like a victory to some people, getting 200,000 people down there. I know Jerry and I were very down. We felt we had been taken by the pacifists at that point. The USIA, we later learned, made films of that demonstration to show around the world what a democracy the U.S. was. So when you're actually being used as a tool, there's always that problem. Especially in our kind of revolution. That's why it's so very tempting to grab a gun and start shooting just because you clear it up in your head. There's always that suck towards revolutionary violence because then you know that you're not being co-opted because revolutionary violence is the only thing that can't be co-opted. At that time, we were negotiating quietly, nobody knows about this, with Life Magazine for some of the Weathermen who were really hunted underground, who were in on some of the big explosions, to write an article about what really happened for $40,000. Now that's not the kind of thing you can do in Greece, or South Africa, or Brazil.

Jerry Rubin

I remember a conversation where Nancy Kurshan was saying we have to go underground, we have to take this to the next step, this is too serious. And I remember predicting the '70's to her. I said "Nancy, it's over. No one's gonna take this to the next step, no one's willing to die for this. It's gonna be a whole different situation now. America's gonna get very liberal, the movement is gonna disappear, people are gonna cut their hair, they're gonna start wearing suits, they're gonna merge into society, have kids, and it's gonna be the opposite of the 60's. I just know it. The party's over. And frankly, that's how I feel. As a matter of fact I'm doing yoga now. I rather do yoga than go underground, I'm going to yoga class tomorrow. You want to go underground? Hey, have a good time."

(From CIA Files, Unnumbered Memorandum, 29 July 1970)

Subject: Hippie Action in Los Angeles
6 August 1970 is the anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima. On this date the Hippies plan to "take over Disneyland" and do their thing. The local police and security authorities are watching the situation most closely.

(Narrative) David Sacks was one of the founders of the West Coast Yippies. Inspired by Abbie and Jerry, Sacks and his friends organized their most famous action--the Yippie invasion of Disneyland. Leaflets were distributed that promised, among other things, a Women's Lib rally to free Tinkerbell and a Black Panther hot breakfast at Aunt Jemima's. The only event that actually transpired was the smoke-in on Tom Sawyer's island. After some spontaneous pot smoking, the Yippies left the island and started marching down Main Street.

David Sacks

The people who had gotten off these first two rafts--that's about what it was, it was two raftloads of people--decided to march down Main Street in Disneyland, singing various odes to sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, and marched on down to the city hall of Main Street, Disneyland where they have the American flag on a flagpost. And there was an empty flagpost. Someone pulled out a so-called Yippie flag, red and black with a green marijuana leaf, and started to raise it on the flagpole, OK? And some Orange County redneck came storming up to them and said how dare you raise that flag next to the American flag. And someone else went to the other flagpole as this guy was trying to rip down the Yippie flag, and said "If you rip down our flag we'll rip down your flag." He started to try to untie the American flag to bring it down. At which point fisticuffs broke out and Orange County's finest appeared out from behind all the buildings of Disneyland, 800 police in brand new yellow riot gear--this was the first chance that Orange County had had to test out their new riot gear. These guys looked like something out of a comic book. It looked hi-tech before that was even a word. All of a sudden, all of Main Street, the whole circle promenade there, was circled with these police. I come out and I see all these police in riot gear, I knew something had happened. They start making an announcement over the bullhorns, "Due to the unfortunate actions of a few people, Disneyland must close for the day." Now you gotta realize there's 20 to 25,000 people and there may have been 200 Yippies there, OK. Of the 200 quote Yippies, I'd say 100 of 'em were just freaks who were really apolitical but thought it would be fun to come to Disneyland and trip around that day, with the idea of liberating Tom Sawyer. They liked the sense of humor rather than any political statement. So I'm standing there, my hair's halfway down my back. And they're making these announcements will everybody start moving towards the exits, OK. And so all of a sudden this policeman comes up to me and says "You! Get your ass moving!", and just jabs me right in the ribs with his nightstick.

We got picked up by either Time or Newsweek and there was an article in there about the events that were on our flyer, as if they actually happened. The headline in the LA Times the next day was "Yippies Close Disneyland."

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(Narrative) In September 1970, Tim Leary escaped from jail in San Luis Obispo.

SuperJoel

Abbie's the one who set up the deal. I don't know who conceived of the idea, but Abbie's the one who presented it to Rosemary [Leary]. Jimi Hendrix was there. They played a benefit for Timothy at the Village Gate and that night we all went to Alan Douglas'. They presented the plan to Rosemary who then middled it to Timothy and set it up. I lived in the house with Rosemary the whole time that was all being planned. Queens Road, Timothy's house, in Berkeley. We took the garbage away, and got everything prepped at the house. When we woke up the next morning, Tim had been sprung.

Jeff Jones

Tim got himself out of jail. All we did was help him get away from the jail and get out of the country. So we helped with two-thirds of it. The hardest part he did himself.

Tim Leary

I arranged my escape from the inside and Rosemary had given $25,000 to Michael Kennedy, my lawyer at the time, to arrange my being met. We didn't know who it was, I thought it might be Mafia. I was picked up on the highway, and they told me that they were the Weathermen and I was very pleased. It was Bernadine, Jeff Jones and Bill Ayers. I didn't really know much about the Weathermen at the time. They had no sense of humor and they were just possessed with self-righteousness, that they were the true cause. And on the other hand, they did want to line up and affiliate with the so-called psychedelic movement. Of course we got along very well and I certainly admired their skill in getting me out of the country. They knew exactly how to get passports for myself and my wife. And Bernadine shaved my head.

Allen Ginsberg

Tim was delivered to Bernadine Dohrn of the Weatherpeople, who made him sign a statement published in the Berkeley Barb, addressed to me, denouncing pacifism and saying that armed struggle is the only way.

Tim Leary

The Black Panthers and the Weathermen seriously thought they were gonna have an armed revolution in America. At one point Field Marshall Cox of the Panthers was trying to get me to have my friends in California send maps of the California Mendocino coast where they were gonna land like Castro in Cuba, and the whole thing became almost Monty Python, except they did have real guns and they did have enormous power over us at the time.

Marty Kenner

The Panthers had been given National Liberation Front status by the government of Algeria, meaning they were treated like the African National Congress, as an authentic liberation front within an oppressive country. Eldridge [Cleaver] was there with a couple of New York Black Panthers who had hijacked a plane and gotten out of the United States, and with a Panther named Don Cox, known as DC, along with Kathleen and the family. And Time had showed up. Eldridge said he had to get Huey [Newton]'s permission to intercede with the Algerians to let Tim stay there. So Abbie and I flew out to see Huey, and Huey called up Eldridge and gave him permission. A little while later Abbie and Jerry Rubin put together a trip to go over there to see Tim Leary.

Gus Reichbach

Jerry and Abbie were at each other's throats. This was one of their periods of most intense hostility. The rivalry between "Do It" and "Revolution For the Hell of It" was intense. "Do It" sold much more.

Anita Hoffman

I left Algeria and I met Abbie in Paris and we conceived america then. We had an ongoing feud with Jerry Rubin. There was Jerry and Stew and there was the Panther line. But Jean Jacques Lebel was on our side.

Jean Jacques Lebel

Cleaver wanted Jerry to buy him a Mercedes-Benz. That's what the whole argument was about because Jerry owed him for the preface that Eldridge wrote for "Do It". I said "Is that the revolution?" That's what the argument was in Paris. I had to say that, as a French radical, I disapproved completely all this crap. The only person who really agreed with me was Anita. And Abbie a little bit. But the other guys were saying "How can you say that? Eldridge is a great man." I said "What the fuck is a great man, a guy who wants to cut Mayor Alioto's balls off with a big knife? He's just another gangster, that's all. So how can you fall for okeydokes like that?"

Stew Albert

All I remember about Paris was we had a lot of fun. We went to the cafes and we met some nice French intellectuals.

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Stew Albert

It's a pity Abbie wasn't on the David Frost show. Jerry and I scandalized England. When we got to London, we met with some of the Brits and Australians who were living there. They didn't want us to go on the show, it was too bourgeois. So we compromised; we'd have 15 minutes where we'd debate Frost, and then they would just rush up from the audience and take over the show. Live television. Some guy came up and kissed David Frost and said "This is from gay liberation." People were smoking hashish on the air, using obscene language, we had literally taken over.

Then the bobbies came and we actually had to run out of the studio and jump into the trains and get out of there. They were chasing us through the streets.

Then the headlines. You're in a foreign country yet everybody recognizes you. People stop their cars, get out to talk to you. They wanted to deport us but I came up with the Belfast strategy which was to go to Belfast and say that we've honored our agreement, we've left England. In Belfast, we had a press conference, a day after our visa expired. We got arrested just as we stepped out the door and got thrown in the Belfast jail, and made super headlines again one last time, and we were deported and that was it. It's a pity Abbie missed that one because he missed knowing what it was like to be a Beatle. As a matter of fact, John Lennon saw the Frost show and loved it and that was the start of our relationship with him.

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Vali Meyers

I came to America in 1970. I met up with Abbie a year later. I was with Gregory Corso in that little cafe next door to the Chelsea Hotel. We were sitting there and in came this guy in a beautiful green pullover, and he had very kind of lovely green eyes and this mass of hair, good looking guy, so I took a double take. I said I like your sweater. And he kind of smiled and Gregory introduced us. The next day I showed him my artwork, and he just sat there for about half an hour looking at it. It was very strange because he was pretty bombastic and spoke a lot, and he just seemed to have fallen in love with it. And he went out of his way to help me. He tried to get Chris Cerf to publish a book of it. And then we were together and then he knew I didn't have a room, so he started to pay for a room here for me. He was really sweet. He wasn't living here, he'd come and go because he was with Anita. Then he made me a proposition which I thought was hysterical. He said "Look Vali, I told Anita about you and everything, and she doesn't mind at all if we make a menage a trois." I said "You must be kidding, that's sick, Abbie, it's so stupid." Maybe it was less expensive that way for him. But that kind of was a bit of a strange one for me. I said I'd never even think of it.

But the beautiful thing is really how much he did. Because at that time he was being bugged like mad, he was being followed. He knew it and you could feel it. And he wasn't paranoid about it. Once we went with his two young kids to see the Empire State Building. And up there he told me that a lot of his friends were deserting him. And this was the only time he mentioned that he wished that he'd gone "more into the artistic thing." He felt pretty lonely. I had an appointment with him one night and Anita called me and she said don't come over Vali, the FBI had just hit the place. That was when they had the penthouse on 13th Street. Not too long after that, I heard that they'd nabbed him off in Washington, that's when his nose got broken.

Abbie Hoffman (interviewed by Barry Shapiro)

Mayday was badly planned, badly organized. Crazy. Transvestites For Peace up on the stage. You don't know what freedom is until you put on a dress. I'm sitting there feeling like I'm an expert, feeling the separation between me and everyone else. I'll just be one of the troops. I'll sleep on the floor with all the people. I'll chant the slogans, I'll go with the people from the New York region, 5 a.m. Dupont Circle. I'm smacked. My fucking nose is cracked. I'm in jail. I'm thinking about getting mauled by the cops. For me Mayday was my last.

Mayer Vishner

There was this idea called the People's Peace Treaty. The Mobilization had sent a delegation to Hanoi to negotiate a draft of a People's Peace Treaty which would then be ratified on campuses and in communities and it would be a way of organizing around the issue of the war. Rennie Davis was part of that delegation. My understanding of the way WPAX started is that while Rennie was in Hanoi, he heard Radio Hanoi's broadcasts which were something like "Afro-American soldier, this is not your conflict. Lay down your weapons and return to your communities." Rennie said to somebody over there "We can help you with this, we have people." He took it back to Abbie and said "Do you want to do it?" and Abbie was floundering around for something to do that had impact. When the lawyers told Abbie that if this was a declared war he could be shot on sight for this, he was ready to go. He'd already been a conspirator. He wanted a larger role. How's traitor? How's Tokyo Rose?

The lawyers told us that if it had been a declared war we could have been shot on sight. Which wasn't very comforting, because if they were fighting the war without declaring it, it seemed to me they could shoot traitors without declaring it. We had a not-for-profit corporation chartered by the State of New York, WPAX, Inc.; Abbie Hoffman was Executive Director, Mayer Vishner was Administrative Director, and as Abbie explained it to me that meant that he got to go around the country making speeches and raising money, "and you stay here and get it done." Basically the idea was Radio Hanoi. It was bullshit that we had other outlets. It was Radio Hanoi.

John Giorno

We started in early spring of 1971. Abbie's contribution was the idea and money. Ultimately he might have put $20,000 in, all book royalties. Abbie was just filled with exhilaration. I didn't realize it from the first moment, but a couple of weeks into it, he said, "Do you realize the whole point of doing this is to be busted for treason? We'll be the first persons busted for that since Aaron Burr." Apparently the only thing that the American troops heard was Armed Forces Radio which wouldn't even play the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. One program was a rock and roll program. We had our feminist half hour and then Jim Fouratt and the various gays had another half hour. And then country-western. Anybody who wanted to do a program, we just put it together, in half hour segments and we'd have various people emcee.

Mayer Vishner

The thing blew up in our face. The Vietnamese weren't grateful, we didn't get anything done and we didn't get indicted. Either one would've been great, both would've been terrific. It was a mistake. Some guys from Buffalo ended up stealing the equipment and splitting. Apparently at that point, they believed the equipment was theirs to liberate because Abbie lived in a penthouse.

John Giorno
Margin--Summer, 1971


Abbie had this great idea. As a work of art he was going to fuck seven feminists. A few nights before he had gone to bed with Germaine Greer and that made number five, and he was planning the sixth one. But he was talking about this project as sort of a problem because the seventh one was Betty Friedan, and he said, "I don't know if I can do it!"


From The Alex Bennett Show

Alex Bennett

Good morning happy father. You finally did it this time. america was born, what time?

Abbie Hoffman

Tuesday, 3:37. We got a really fancy gold embossed card. I'll read it, "The President and Mrs. Nixon send their warmest congratulations on the birth of your baby and wish all of you much happiness in the years ahead." It came without a stamp too. We sent them an announcement.


Anita Hoffman

It was very difficult for me when america was born. Nobody had babies. It was kind of a counter-revolutionary thing to do because children would impede your being out in the streets. But I decided to get pregnant with the baby after I came back from Algeria, when I felt I had had it with the Movement. Right after I came home from the hospital, Abbie had to go on a big speaking tour to raise money to pay the Defense Committee for the trial. Now it wasn't his fault but I resented that he wasn't there. He was just overwhelmed with all these things, so he really didn't play that much a part with america because he was always out there and then he did have to earn a living for us.

 
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Copyright © 1998 Larry Sloman.

Photo of Larry Sloman copyright © National Lampoon.