Pictured above: author Pat Thomas with Activist Support Circle organizers Jerry & Marissa Rubin. Photo courtesy of Marissa Rubin.
(Expanded from a report back on the Montrose Peace Vigil discussion board: http://montrosepeacevigil.proboards.com/ )
The August Activist Support Circle featured as its guest Pat Thomas, author of "Did It! From YIPPIE to YUPPIE: Jerry Rubin, an American Revolutionary." The book officially comes out September 5 (though copies were available at the meeting at a reduced price) and is the product of five years of research. Thomas interviewed 75 people and had access to thousands of Rubin's papers, including handwritten journals.
The presentation and discussion was amazing and edifying(1). Besides the author and all of his information, several people in attendance had encountered Rubin and/or Abbie Hoffman. Here are some points I was struck by:
*When All in the Family was in its first season, Rubin contacted Norman Lear with an offer to appear on the show as an activist. Lear responded, though obviously Rubin's offer was never accepted. (Years later he did appear in a comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live. It was a first season episode with Paul Simon as guest host.)
*Despite all the theater and pranks during the trial of the Chicago 8/Chicago 7, the defendants were really worried about possibly going to jail.
*When John Lennon and Yoko One came to the U.S. they soon got involved with Rubin in the campaign encouraging 18-year-olds to vote in the '72 election. This entailed free concerts around the country. (There was an attempt to get Bob Dylan to participate, but even though his lyrics could be political, he didn't get involved in political issues.) When George McGovern's presidential campaign failed and Richard Nixon was re-elected, Lennon is said to have really chewed Rubin out. He felt he had wasted his time in the campaign and felt mislead by Rubin that the campaign could be victorious. It was then that Rubin disappeared from public view for a few years. He returned to the Bay Area (where he attended UC Berkley in his pre-yippie years) and got heavily involved in new age and health.
*Rubin's been demonized for getting involved with Wall Street at a brokerage firm, but what's not widely known is he was selling solar panels as far back as '80/'81. Also, Abbie Hoffman, too, made considerable money in stocks and got involved in the establishment in other ways. While underground as Barry Freed, he fought against development of the St. Lawrence River, which led to a commendation by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and an appointment to a federal water resource commission.)
*Rubin never was a full-fledged broker. Because of his reputation as a clown and prankster, people didn't feel safe having him around too much. What if he one day sabotaged the office computers? He had trouble finding work everywhere he went.
Thus, later in life he began selling his own health drink, "Wow."
*During Abbie Hoffman's time underground as Barry Freed, Rubin was a contact person and met with him clandestinely.
*After he was killed while jaywalking in Westwood circa the early '90s, the autopsy revealed considerable amounts of cancer in his body. His silence about it prior to his demise has fueled speculation. People who knew him say he would've talked about it a lot--unless, perhaps, he had a compelling reason to keep quiet. Maybe he realized the problem of marketing health products when he himself had cancer.
Also of interest:
*Thomas approached Yoko Ono for an interview regarding Rubin, and although she was involved in his earlier book, "Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975," this time she declined.
Thomas made several attempts to get an interview with Tom Hayden before his passing, but he could not be talked into it. Hayden told the author he had nothing nice to say about Rubin (he disagreed with Rubin's approach to activism). Thomas replied that his book could handle some criticism of Rubin since so much of it was going to be positive. However, this and other appeals to Hayden were futile.
Rubin's kids, who were quite young when he died, would not be interviewed, though his son (who was only two when his father died) now carries this book around with him.
*Some of the praise Rubin has received should really go to the other activist named Jerry Rubin (who, among many other things, is co-organizer of the Activist Peace Circle). For example, in the early '90s Jerry Rubin, the yippie co-founder, was credited for trying to get a particularly nasty KFI personality off the air (for having said Santa Monica's homeless should be ignited and burned) when in fact it was local activist Jerry Rubin that did it. (The KFI personality wasn't removed over that incident.)
The two Jerry Rubins knew each other before the former-yippie died.
Thomas will next be appearing at Book Soup, also on the West Side, September 19. Info: http://www.booksoup.com/event/pat-thomas-discusses-and-signs-did-it-yippie-yuppie-jerry-rubin-american-revolutionary
Future announcements about the Activist Support Circle can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ActivistSupportCircle/ or in Change-Links: http://change-links.org/
(1)Although the monthly Activist Support Circle usually consists of support and help with activist issues (previous coverage by LA IndyMedia: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2006/08/176067.php), this one was devoted to Rubin.