An excerpt from
Yippie began as a dope joke, as a half-cocked combination of hippie ethos and New Left activism, only the real joke was that the inventors meant it. They meant to make Yippie! a cry, a myth, a party, a reality that would explode at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Yippie was just make-believe, but Yippie was going to be a joke with which the whole nation would have to play along. Of course, not everybody was going to find the punch line very funny.
Yippie began late in the afternoon, at the very end of 1967, at Abbie and Anita Hoffman’s apartment on St. Marks Place. Jerry Rubin, ex-Berkeley activist and most recently project director of the Pentagon demonstration, was there with his woman friend Nancy Kurshan. Paul Krassner, editor and publisher of the Realist, was there alone. They were doing a little early New Year’s celebrating. Stoned again. Stoned as 1967, the year of the hippie, came to a close. Stoned in the heart of the Lower East Side, in the heart of the home of New York’s hippie community.
They were a block away from Gem Spa, where the hip community met to plot out their collective theater. They were a short walk from the Fillmore East, where acid rock was introducing the East Coast to the West Coast. They were right off Tompkins Square, where all summer the long-hair, runaway kids and love-beaded day trippers hung out copping what highs they could between long stares and late-night chills; white kids living on and off the streets. They were voluntarily and quite happily in the middle of one of New York’s fiercer collections of low-money people: bitter Puerto Ricans, stolid Ukrainians, and the middle-class dropouts living in a compressed zone of cold-water flats, six-floor walkups, cockroach apiaries, and burnt-out shooting galleries.
Amid this, the Hottmans had a small but comfortable apartment. No mass media hippie dirt, just clean and uncluttered with put-together pillows for sitting on and leaning against, a handmade loft bed and not much else, just what they'd been able to glean from the streets. Abbie and Anita knew how to live off the streets.' As to whether or not many others, less sophisticated or clever, could, that was a complicated question that some of the more thoughtful members of the hip community worried about every so often.
The Hoffmans, Jerry Rubin and Nancy Kurshan, and Paul Krassner were all on the floor, attending to their various highs. They were also planning. For at least a couple of months all of them had known that something had to happen at the Democratic National Convention, that something more than a little surprising had to confront the ugly renomination of the ugly Johnson. The face and structure of what they wanted had to some degree already been decided.
A couple of weeks earlier, Rubin had met up with Ed Sanders and Keith Lampe at a New York movement meeting called to discuss the use of violence at antiwar demonstrations. While hanging around, waiting for things to happen, Sanders, peace activist, second-generation beat poet, and lead singer for the Fugs, started talking about the Monterey Pop Festival. Rubin agreed that it meant a lot that major rock bands would come together and play for free. It was tribal instead of commercial. Sanders suggested they do a free music festival in Chicago, convention time, to defuse all the political tensions. Keith Lampe, older and a little straighter but with the credentials to speak out, agreed completely. They decided to talk with Abbie and a few others and see how it played.
Hoffman liked the idea, but before any real talking and planning could take place Abbie and Anita and Paul Krassner decided to take, some time off and go down to the Florida Keys for a month to cool out and work on some obligations. Krassner had to finish up the next issue of the Realist, the increasingly political but always satirical magazine he had been publishing and editing for over ten years. Hoffman, who at this point was almost completely unknown outside New York and was, unlike Jerry Rubin, far from being a movement heavy, had just promoted his first book contract on the strength of a few well-publicized cultural/political stunts. He was getting connected into the public system. The modest advance money he’d gotten for the book would pay for the trip and, he hoped, maybe buy him a little time and quiet in which to write part of it.
In the little cottage the Hoffmans and Krassner rented down on Ramrod Key, they all dropped acid, talked revolutionary violence, snorkled the coral reef, and chatted about holding some kind of rock festival in Chicago during the convention that would be political without becoming just another boring demonstration.
The talking didn’t get very far and neither did Abbie’s writing, and sooner than they expected the charm of Ramrod Key ran thin and the lure of New York came on strong and the Hoffmans and Krassner cut their working vacation short and flew home ready to get going.
So when Rubin and Kurshan and Krassner met at Abbie and Anita’s house that afternoon to celebrate the coming of the New Year, they had all pretty much agreed that having some kind of youth festival in Chicago during the Democratic Convention was a good idea. And they knew that they’d have Ed Sanders and Keith Lampe, and a few other people whom they’d all worked with before, join them in organizing the event. They also knew that in all likelihood the National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam would call for a formal antiwar demonstration in Chicago and that they would have to make sure that people understood that what they planned would be an alternative to the straight demonstration the Mobe would hold. They would not be sleepwalking through marches or rallies with speechmaking. They were going to have a festival and it was going to be fun. It was going to be politics of a whole other kind. Both Rubin and Hoffman saw the Chicago event as the active culmination of all the changes they had been going through.
Neither Hoffman nor Rubin were kids. As Abbie said, he was fifteen years older than the runaways he rapped to in Tompkins Square. Both were men of about thirty who had come of age long before acid or long hair or even the war in Vietnam. They’d grown up straight, if maybe just a little bit absurd.
Hoffman was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1936. His parents were middle-class Jews. He was, in the 1950s pool hall and greaser style, a rebellious teenager, but he did well enough in school and cared enough to be admitted to Brandeis University. He graduated in 1959 and then went on to graduate school in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
In 1960, under duress, Hoffman left Berkeley to marry his pregnant girlfriend, Sheila, in a synagogue in Rhode Island. Abbie wore a white summer tuxedo and he was not very happy, but he had done what he felt was right. For the next three years Hoffman worked in the Massachusetts State Mental Hospital testing patients. There, he learned that some people really were crazy.
Hoffman had also learned by this time that there were things going on in the country that he didn’t like—and that he cared. In his autobiography, Hoffman attributes the origins of his political consciousness to the dis-ease of going through childhood a marginal Jew whose parents never made up their minds about assimilation:
My parents got sucked into the social melting pot, where they were to simmer uncomfortably for the next thirty years. Having opted for life in mainstream America it became very difficult, even hypocritical for them to try to push any strict code of tradition down our throats.… Deep down I’m sure we felt our parents’ generation was a bunch of cop outs. Six million dead and except for the Warsaw ghetto hardly a bullet fired in resistance.… I was shuttled back and forth between Orthodox yeshiva after school on weekdays and the reform Temple Emanuel on weekends. It was getting me pretty mixed up. Eventually tefillin and Torah lessons gave way to dancing classes and discourses (in English) on the nature of life and how good things were in America.
A whole generation of Jewish political activists (and an overwhelmingly disproportionate number of 1960s, especially early to mid-1960s, activists were Jewish) tell similar stories.
Hoffman was at two of the first political demonstrations of the sixties. He held the vigil outside the walls of San Quentin the night rapist Caryl Chessman was executed and he was at the HUAC demonstrations in San Francisco, the first white middle-class demonstration of the 1960s that ended with police brutality.
Over the next six veers. Hoffman became increasingly involved in political protests while at the same time trying to hang onto his wife, two kids, and a straight job. By 1963 Hoffman was putting most of his energies into the civil rights movement and was one of the moving forces of the NAACP chapter in Worcester. He spent the summers of 1964 and 1965 working for SNCC in Mississippi. He got arrested a few times. In the autumn of 1965 Hoffman helped organize Worcester’s first antiwar march.
Soon after this Hoffman was turned on to acid and began smoking marijuana with some regularity. He, slightly ahead of a generation of relatively free and affluent young people, discovered that he liked drugs. Things began to speed up.
Spring of 1966, Hoffman was fired from his salesman job at Westwood Pharmaceuticals for working more hours on political organizing than on selling his products. It was the last straight job Hoffman would work in the 1960s. He quickly found a paid staff position with Thomas Adams, who was running for senator in the Massachusetts Democratic primary on an anti-Vietnam war platform. But Adams lost and Hoffman was out of work.
He was also out of his marriage. His ex-wife got the house and the kids. Hoffman left Worcester and moved to New York to be a fulltime organizer.
In New York, Hoffman worked with SNCC in setting up and operating Liberty House, a cooperative store that sold handmade goods produced by the Poor People’s Cooperative in Mississippi. Hoffman was pretty much in charge and he loved it. He was one of the whites most hurt and angered by SNCC’s winter of 1966 decision to purge all whites from the organization. Hoffman was so sure that SNCC was making a big mistake that he wrote a classic leftist attack on black nationalism, insisting that the civil rights movement and poor people’s campaign had to be framed in class and not in racial terms.
The Village Voice printed the piece and a lot of New York liberals praised Hoffman. The praise coming from where it did told Hoffman that something was wrong with his thinking. He talked with Stokely Carmichael, whom he knew fairly well through SNCC, and with Julius Lester. He read Fanon. Spring 1967, Hoffman turned Liberty House over to black management and began again. He realized he needed to find his own community to organize.
He turned to the nascent community growing up around him, the long-hair, dope-smoking, runaway, dropout community that lived uneasily on the Lower East Side. Hoffman was far from the first New York hippie activist. At first he had fought the new dropout consciousness as a cop-out and believed that its practitioners were easily co-opted by the corporate system. But there was something about the new consciousness with its emphasis on drugs, shifting realities, and absurdity that attracted Hoffman. He tried it on and it worked. It felt a lot better than the nonviolent, almost puritanical, pacificism that governed the New York antiwar movement hierarchy. Hoffman became a hippie activist borrowing ideas and techniques from the American creators of hippie activism, the San Francisco-based Diggers, when he could and making up a whole lot of others as he went along. He was very very good at it, in part because the changes the new style demanded of him were ones he understood and had already begun to live.
One of those changes was language. Being a hippie activist meant mastering a new approach to speech and communication. It meant for Hoffman, moving from his well-reasoned, polished graduate school rhetoric to a hip patois-a language redolent with “you knows,” all-purpose signifiers like “groovy” and “cool,” and swarms of images that aimed to share an experience rather than to state a position. As Hoffman put it later: “See like I learned all that shit and then I had to reprogram myself. It took me about four years to unlearn the English language so that I speak so people can understood it.”
More important, Hoffman and his fellow hippie activists began to develop a new kind of public “happening”—a street theater—that aimed to mobilize both the hippie community and develop the consciousness of the general public through focused absurdity, startling put-ons, and straight-ahead community organizing. The inspiration for the street theater came from everywhere—from the live comedies of TV’s Golden Age to the New York art scene’s return to performance art that aimed to break down the barriers between art and life, performer and audience. In its most distilled and direct form, Hoffman and his friends found what they were looking for in the figures of the Diggers, who had only in the last year begun working their magic in the Haight-Ashbury.
The Diggers had emerged full-blown from the San Francisco Mime Troupe. They saw life and theater as just two words for the same basic thing. Hip to the ways of Brecht and Artaud, and well-schooled by one of the West Coast’s most fertile minds, R. G. Davis, founder of the Mime Troupe, the Diggers aimed to be Life Actors who played their parts to the hilt. Costumes, props, improvisations, and skits were moved from the preserve of the theater to where, as they said, life was played for keeps. If much of the world of art and theater was struggling with the distance between culture as elite and mannered contrivance and culture as a collective way of life, the Diggers, grooving to psychedelic visions and the readily available fact that they were living in a community that was fervently trying to create a collective culture, sought to act in, as well as out, the struggle. While straight thinkers like Susan Sontag were talking about similar concerns, it was to the Diggers—artists and political philosophers without portfolio—that Hoffman and other hippie activists around the country would look for inspiration and workable tools.
The Summer of Love, 1967, saw Hoffman and a growing band of like-minded individuals playing out a new style of reality. Equipped with flowers and their very long hair, Hoffman and friends joined the hard-hat, flag-waving Support Our Boys in Vietnam parade. They regularly confronted the local ninth precinct police over harassment of long hairs, Puerto Ricans, and blacks. They sent out hundreds of real joints to people picked out of the phone book as well as a few to local TV newspeople; they wrote and distributed dozens of free leaflets giving the latest on dope, dreams, and street diseases; and they organized sweep-ins, be-ins, and generally good times that brought the community together and on cherished occasions blew the minds of the straight world. Some of this Hoffman did while calling himself a Digger. He pulled off other actions as a part of ESSO, the East Side Survival Organization, and others were pure free lance. That summer, Abbie married Anita in Central Park, the two of them adorned with love beads and flowers, friends and strangers gathered around, and the ceremony performed by their friend Lynn House, a “neo-american boo-hoo” minister. Their photographer was Time magazine.
Jerry Rubin’s story is not so very different. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1938. His parents were Jewish but their class status was less certain than the Hoffmans’. Rubin’s mother was well-educated and cultured but his father was a truck driver and later a business agent for the Teamsters. His wife’s family looked down on him. Rubin grew up always a little resentful of the more well-to-do Jews who seemed to dominate his small world.
Rubin grew up straight without even the rebelliousness that characterized Hoffman’s adolescence. He idolized Adlai Stevenson, was a fanatic supporter of the Cincinnati Reds, participated in extracurricular activities, and dedicated himself to his high school newspaper. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati and by 1960 was a very successful reporter for a Cincinnati newspaper, working as a sports reporter and then as “youth” editor. But Rubin wasn’t satisfied. He had a lot of personal anger stored up and he was increasingly but frustratedly aware that the American system was selling too many people a bill of goods. He read a lot and flirted with socialism.
Rubin’s mother died in 1960 and his father in 1961. They left Jerry a decent inheritance and the responsibility for his young brother, Gil. Shortly before his father died, Rubin had quit his job and won a scholarship to study in India. The task of taking care of Gil, which Rubin took very seriously, changed his plans. Instead of India, Rubin decided to take Gil to Israel, which seemed a more appropriate move to those family members who were looking over Jerry’s shoulder. He went in part to do some graduate work in Jerusalem but mainly to check out Israel and think about the future. Rubin stayed almost a year and a half but he found himself increasingly sympathetic to the Palestinians and repelled by semi-socialist Israel’s turn to bourgeois comforts and securities. Rubin mixed with leftists in Israel and became increasingly radicalized, seeing the world more and more from a Marxist perspective. In January 1964, Rubin left Israel in a professional mood and went to Berkeley to begin a Ph.D. program in sociology. He lasted six weeks in the program but he stayed in Berkeley for the next three years.
In the superheated atmosphere of Berkeley, Rubin, now twenty-six years old, became a full-time political activist. Unlike Hoffman, who left Berkeley before the student movement had really begun, Rubin came just as it caught fire. He was a fervent participant in the Free Speech movement and quickly moved into leadership roles in the Berkeley antiwar movement. He also spent two months, that first summer in Berkeley, on a trip to Cuba led by the Progressive Labor party. This, Rubin later said, “was the final step for me.… I started to see things the way the Cubans did.”
In 1965, Rubin was one of the principal organizers of the first Vietnam teach-in. He then organized, with other hard-core Berkeley militants, the highly successful Vietnam Day Committee. In 1965, the VDC staged a series of highly charged confrontations with troop trains that were carrying Vietnam-bound soldiers right through the Berkeley area. In one of the very first mass attempts to directly confront the war-making machine, the VDC led a march against the Oakland armed forces induction center. The movement press praised Rubin and his fellow VDC organizers for their imaginative activities and, as Rubin had intended, the VDC also received a good deal of mass media attention. The mass media seemed to take particular delight in the obnoxious behavior, symbolic acts, and wild claims of the movement. Later in the year, Rubin threw a container of blood on the car of General Maxwell Taylor, top military advisor to President Johnson, and earned his first prison sentence—thirty days.
Ideologically, Rubin was in 1966 a member in good standing of the left branch of the movement. He used straight language to make politically correct attacks on America and on capitalism. Like SDS leadership and the older radicals who controlled the antiwar movement, he saw Vietnam as symptomatic of an entire American system that needed revolutionary changes. In the speech he gave at the March 26, 1966, antiwar rally in New York, Rubin said that Vietnam was only a part of “declared world wide American policy, … a symptom of our society’s sickness.” He said, “We are a dangerous country, a neurotic country possessing deadly power.”
At the same time, by 1966, Rubin was widely hailed within the movement as one of the most imaginative tacticians of protest. Rubin did things differently. He operated with images and not just with words. For example, to protest the manufacture of napalm just thirty miles outside of Berkeley, the Vietnam Day Committee painted an old truck an ominous gray and then affixed to it a huge bright yellow sign that warned, “Danger, Napalm Bombs Ahead.” The truck followed the napalm delivery vehicles all around the Bay area; making sure that people saw concretely and unavoidably what was happening in their own community.
Still in 1966, Rubin, like his fellow radicals, was unsure what to do next. He was comfortable with the basic premises of the movement—participatory democracy, community control, cooperation and not competition, realignment of foreign policy, demilitarization and block power—but like many others he believed that the movement had to communicate these ideas more convincingly. In that March 1966 antiwar speech, Rubin told his fellow marchers that to “talk to people who have never heard our ideas before we are going to have to become specialists in propaganda and communication.” He discussed the use of art, music, newspapers, comic books, and movies in this war on consciousness, arguing for the creation of an active counterculture to overcome what he called “the most subtle and far reaching propaganda machine the world has ever seen.” The movement, Rubin believed, like other radicals before him, had to enter the twentieth century. Radicals must learn to manipulate the tools of mass communication and the symbols of mass society if they were to bring down the modern warfare State.
Increasingly, Rubin experimented with tactics. In mid-l966, he took the advice of R. G. Davis, leader of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and answered a House Un-American Activities Committee subpoena wearing the uniform of an American revolutionary soldier. He blew the minds of the committee and grabbed the attention of the mass media.
In early 1967, Rubin took a different tack and ran for mayor of Berkeley. His was a thoughtfuL workable, albeit radical platform (it included free heroin for addicts and community control of a disarmed police force). He wore a suit and a tie and issued a twenty-four- page booklet that used a semi-psychedelic format to present twenty-four carefully worded, well-reasoned one-page stands on local and national issues. He talked of building “a new political movement … and a new political party.” Though he had started the campaign as a lark, once into it he turned serious, and in a very issue-oriented campaign spoke at shopping centers and shook hands on street corners. Rubin thought he might win and was sorely disappointed when he finished a distant second in a four-man race (he had 22% of the vote, the winner had 69%). He decided that the compromises and the ensuing alienation from his militant comrades that electoral politics demanded were too high a price to pay for the long-shot opportunity to change things from within. Rubin turned his back on electoral politics with a vengeance, and for a long time scorned, as only one who’s been there could, the co-optive powers of the American political system.
Indeed, Rubin, who had not started smoking grass until he was twenty-eight and hadn’t dropped acid until early in 1967, decided political change was more likely to come from those who completely rejected the system than from those who fought right-wing politics with left-wing politics. Rubin started thinking hard about the political significance of the dropout hippie community.
In the fall of 1967, David Dellinger, chairman of the Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, asked Jerry to be project director of the October antiwar march in Washington, D.C. He picked Rubin in order to bring some zip to the unfocused demonstration. Rubin, a little bit at loose ends, agreed and moved to New York in the summer of 1967. Immediately, he began arguing for a militant, colorful protest. It was his idea to march on the Pentagon and confront the war makers. In New York, Rubin discovered Abbie Hoffman. Quickly, the two became partners and close friends.
Thus, by the time Rubin and Hoffman got together late in December to celebrate the New Year and talk about Chicago, they’d known each other about four months and had already worked together on a few different projects. Each knew how the other thought. And that was important when you’re planning a new trip high on grass and acid.
At the New Year’s party, Rubin called on that shared experience, talking about the last action they’d all pulled off together in late November—“The War Is Over” demonstration.
The War Is Over had been organized by Hoffman, Krossner. Rubin, and Phil Ochs, the well-known folksinger and political activist. The name came from a challenge beat poet Allen Ginsberg threw at the National Student Association convention in 1966. At the convention of college student body presidents, Ginsberg ended his poetry reading by screaming at his audience, “I declare the end of the war.” This became a sort of strategy that Ginsberg, who was by then a prophet figure to both the movement and hippie communities, employed with increasing regularity to challenge the reality and inflexibility of power and authority. Ochs saw the poetry of the statement and wrote a semipopular song that anthematically proclaimed, “I declare the war is over.” The demonstration itself involved about three thousand young people who massed in Washington Square and then ran down the streets from Grand Central Station to Times Square back to Washington Square and over to Tompkins Square, screaming over and over, “The was is over”—an Armistice Day, only this victory was completely in the heads of the kids and the people they got to rethink the war in Vietnam.
This, Rubin said, had been an exemplary action, exciting and alive and totally participatory; the best kind of guerrilla theater. The event in Chicago should have the same spirit.
Paul Krassner wondered aloud how they could communicate this same spirit and protest in the face of what he called the “convention of death.” Rubin, who had the most experience at making sure that pleasant dope fantasies worked themselves down and into concrete happenings, jumped on Krassner’s wordplay. He wanted to call it the Festival of Life: it would be open and public, outside in the park, in the grass, with the trees and flowers, for a whole week a complete alternative to the convention. Rubin already had the image in his head: a hundred thousand young people in the park. They’d dance to rock bands, spill into the streets, terrify the war machine by their very presence, and force Johnson to be nominated by the rubberstamp convention under armed guard.
Abbie drifted into a long rap on leadership. Young people, he said, didn’t want to listen to leaders, so they had to create a situation in which people would participate and so become, in a real sense, their own leaders. Abbie concluded that “this could be done by creating a number of imageries that would conflict,” imageries that when totally added up didn’t add up—so that people were on their own to do whatever they felt was necessary to do. In part, Hoffman was airing a central tenet of the hippie credo, the belief that everyone had to do their own thing. But Abbie was also talking out and putting into his own words the newest strategy in movement actions, a strategy that Rubin had helped to develop on the West Coast and Hoffman had helped to deploy only a couple of months earlier at the Pentagon demonstration.
At the Pentagon march, the top organizers of the demonstration had decided that in order to insure the largest possible participation by an antiwar movement increasingly divided as to tactics and even goals they would have to allow for a number of different protest options, ranging from militant confrontation to passive resistence to peaceful, legal assembly. Each demonstrator would decide for him or herself what tactic best suited his or her needs. The more militant and often experienced protestors would carry out their action without formal leadership. Decisions would be made spontaneously by all the participants. At least that was the theory, and in varying degrees it actually worked.
Pushing this multi-option theory of demonstrating, Hoffman, with Rubin’s strong backing, had brought an element of guerrilla theater to the Pentagon demonstration by organizing an elaborate exorcisement. Hoffman, Ed Sanders and the Fugs, Keith Lampe, Martin Carey (the New York psychedelic poster maker), various members of the Lower East Side hip community, and a whole range of black magic practitioners passed out noisemakers, wild costumes, and witches’ hats to intrigued protestors. It was comic theater and a genuine hunger for the liberating force of the irrational lined up against the fierce and deadly reason of the Military Machine. All together they chanted, sang religious songs, and attempted to levitate the Pentagon three hundred feet in to the air in order to shake out all its evil spirits. The hippie movement was joined to the straight antiwar movement and all understood—do your own thing but make sure you do it where it can be photographed and recorded. It was a mass media hit.
That led the group to one of their favorite conversational topics, the mass media. Hoffman’s theory on the subject, which he hadn’t had too many chances to act out yet, was that the best way to reach people and spread the new consciousness was by creating a “blank space” in the national media.
Hoffman believed that instead of sending out boring form letters or making tedious telephone calls—or, to take it a step further, instead of marching with picket signs (which made bad TV)—activists should use a kind of street theater that didn’t directly come out and say “end the war” or “fight poverty” but instead drew mass media attention through its weirdness, absurdity, and colorfulness. By drawing in the mass media they’d reach an audience that would have never even considered radical politics or a counterculture way of life. They would make the people who saw them on TV or in a scandalized New York Post article think again about the way things were through their very absurdity and through the very lack of spelled-out meanings or message in their acts. People would have to figure things out for themselves, which was the start of a whole other way of seeing the world. Hoffman was talking about a public political art form that he and a few other people around the country before him were just starting to pull off. This form and the understanding that educated it were always at the heart of Hoffman’s operations. It was, in fact, this tactic that first drew Rubin to Hoffman.
Early in 1967, Hoffman and a few friends had joined a group of tourists for the official tour of the New York Stock Exchange. They remained moderately well-behaved until they were led to the balcony that overlooks the exchange floor. Then they all ran to the railing, took out three hundred—or maybe it was only thirty—one dollar bills (the number was a part of the theater) and threw them down to the mass of packed stockbrokers. It worked perfectly. The brokers stopped everything and charged after the dollar bills, rooting them off the floor and creating pandemonium for five minutes. The story made the national news even though there were no pictures since Hoffman and friends hadn’t tipped their plans to the media. Later, in one of their first meetings, Hoffman took Rubin to the stock exchange, which in the meantime had built a bulletproof partition along the balcony to prevent any sort of repeat performance, and to the horror of onlookers they burnt some paper money. This time the mass media had been invited along.
All this was part of a hodgepodge theory of mass media and mass society that Hoffman was working out as he went along. The linchpin of the theory was Hoffman’s belief that reality, the very perceptibility of reality, was determined by the mass media and one’s developmental relationship to it. Information, and much more important, the pattern that made that information make sense, Hoffman believed, came not as much from concrete experiences with everyday life as it did from the world the mass media brought into people’s homes in ever heavier and more frequent doses. The changing form of the mass media, Hoffman felt, taking his cues in part from Marshall McLuhan, changed the way people perceived and thus made their way through reality.
Hoffman laid it out to his friends at the party like this: because of radio, people over fifty have to hear it to believe it; because of TV, people thirty to fifty have to see it to believe it; and because of the fact that people under thirty had grown up hip to the ways TV manufactured images, in order to get them to believe in something they needed to do more than just hear it or see it—they have to feel it to believe it and that means that to get the kids right into the new consciousness you can’t just give them articles to read or speeches to listen to or even rallies to watch but instead you have to absolutely invent a whole new medium that begins with and depends on involvement and participation, that defines reality through immediacy rather than through passivity, that replaces explanation with actualization. It was the perfect acid epistemology for the TV generation— not quite coherent but piercing beyond the surface facts to an underlying whole.
Krassner had heard almost all of it before but the whole long conversation had him rocking and rolling: hippie as media myth, the “blank space,” absurdity, the active spectacle; the irrational, magical possibilities of a youth festival of life confronting, overwhelming, and freaking out the convention of death. From somewhere in primary process land Krassner emerged with the epiphanous sound: “Yippie!”
Yippie! Yippie! He chortled. That's what they would be, the Yippies! The hippies who made yippie. Yip-e-i-o-ky-ya. Yippie is what the festival of life would be all about. All yipped and hooted and knew that it was right. They had found a slogan, childish, irrational, and joyous, the perfect blank space to organize both the mass media and their as yet unformed constituency.
Before the evening was over, Anita played out another idea. She said, our generation will understand Yippie, but for the New York Times and the straights, we should have a formal name, like SDS or something that they can relate to and take seriously. And playing around with yippie and words like youth festival and international festival of youth, the words that in part provide Krassner with his inspiration, she came up with the joke formalization, Youth International Party. It had all the right initials and made for a good wordplay on party: the straights would treat it like the Democratic party and the kids would know it meant the kind of party where you smoke dope, get a little crazy, and make some easy trouble.
They spent the rest of the night thinking up ideas and listing people they could get to help organize the festival. At the top of the list were their occasional partners Phil Ochs and Ed Sanders, both of whom had first-rate connections with their fellow rock and folk musicians. They thought about running a pig as the presidential candidate of the Youth International Party and putting out a newspaper called the Chicago Tripune. It all seemed so perfect.
From January through March, Hoffman and Rubin worked full time organizing Yippie. They held meetings, wrote articles, produced props, lined up people, thought out the angles.
Right after the new year began, Rubin and Hoffman began a series of individual meetings and phone calls that produced another, slightly more formal and larger meeting at the Hoffmans’ apartment on January 11. The main planning group now included Ed Sanders and Keith Lampe and was assisted by Bob Foss, who ran the most wide-open, creative, pro-hippie show on New York’s burgeoning FM radio. Collectively, they began working on documents and plans. Others were contacted.
A large meeting took place in mid-January at the swanky digs of the very rich Peggy Hitchcock, who among other things was a fervent patron of acid apostle Timothy Leary. Leary, as well as poet/guru Allen Ginsberg, was there. So was Marshall Bloom, who headed the highly successful and influential Liberation News Service (a kind of UPI for underground newspapers), as well as Allen Katzman, editor of the East Village Other, one of the main hippie-oriented underground newspapers. Rubin and Hoffman presented Yippie and described their goal of putting on a joyous festival as an alternative to the Democratic party convention. Rubin talked of making the Democratic party look like a buffoon circus, which he said would be easy since “politics was just a circus.” The audience of twenty-five or so was very receptive, and Leary, Bloom, Katzman, and, with some reservations, Ginsberg, agreed to help promote the Yippie Festival of Life. The first thing to do, they all agreed, was to get an office and some money and make Yippie more of a real thing. Very quickly a three-day benefit dubbed “The Three Ring Yippie” was arranged at the Electric Circus, one of New York’s main dance and music clubs.
By mid-January, the Yippies had begun their advertising campaign. The first Yippie manifesto, written by Sanders, Krassner, Rubin, and Hoffman, came out January 16. Distributed by the Liberation News Service, it got good play in the underground press. Under a LNS headline, “An Announcement: Youth International Party (or Yip!) Is Born,” the manifesto read:
Join us in Chicago in August for an international festival of youth music and theater. Rise up and abandon the creeping meatball! Come all you rebels, youth spirits, rock minstrels, truth seekers, peacock freaks, poets, barricade jumpers, dancers, lovers and artists. It is summer. It is the last week in August and the NATIONAL DEATH PARTY meets to bless Johnson. We are there! There are 500,000 of us dancing in the streets, throbbing with amplifiers and harmony. We are making love in the parks. We are reading, singing, laughing, printing newspapers, groping and making a mock convention and celebrating the birth of FREE AMERICA in our own time.
The manifesto closed with Yip’s not quite open for business office address at 32 Union Square and a phone number. Twenty-five individuals and groups put their names to the manifesto, including big-time musical performers Phil Ochs, Country Joe McDonald, Arlo Guthrie, and Ed Sander’s Fugs. Among others listed were the Bread and Puppet Theatre, the Paegent Players, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, and writers Marvin and Barbara Garson. Yippie was now a national product.