New York Times on yippies, Dana Beal, MMM. Photos! April 30 2003 article archived.
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Message #50008 posted by eco (Info) May 01, 2003 20:34:17 ET
Yippies' Answer To Smoke-Filled Rooms
Posted by CN Staff on April 30, 2003 at 16:45:49 PT
By John Leland
Source: New York Times
On a crisp spring morning in the East Village, Dana Beal could envision a future for the Yippies, and it involved coffee and real estate. Mr. Beal, 56, has long white hair and a thick white mustache that give him the look of a character from a Civil War movie.
A younger woman who gave her name as War Cry listened as he spoke. Real estate has been his continuing irritation; coffee, he hoped, might be his relief.
Since 1973 he has lived in a three-story brick building at 9 Bleecker Street that has functioned as an informal headquarters for some veterans of the Yippie movement, which now continues as a campaign to ease drug policies.
But like many remnants of the neighborhood's scruffier past, Mr. Beal found himself on the short end of the real estate boom. Last May he lost his final legal motion to prevent his landlord from selling the building. What he would like, he said, is to set up a foundation to buy the building � priced at about $1.5 million � and turn it into a Yippie museum, supported in large part by a coffee bar and a bookstore. "The Yippies are supposed to come back to New York in 2004," Mr. Beal said. "And this building might not be there for them."
Though it is not the original Yippie outpost in New York � that was on Union Square, where in the Vietnam era Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and others combined outrageous humor, theater and political protest � Mr. Beal's building has a history. Yipster Times was published on the third floor. Aron Kay, known as Pieman for his preferred manner of greeting political figures, used to live in the basement.
From his prodigiously messy digs, Mr. Beal organizes a network of annual pot parades, successors to the Yippie smoke-ins. This year's parades, which are scheduled for Saturday, will include demonstrations in more than 200 cities around the world, he said.
On this morning the building was a hive of activity, as various people of college age weaved in and out among boxes of papers. There was a sparsely furnished lounge area on the ground floor and Mr. Beal's apartment and work space on the second. A man stirred groggily from a sleeping area known as the leopard skin loft above the lounge area. The third floor, where another longtime Yippie named Alice Torbush lives, was off limits. If the d�cor had a unifying motif, it was the marijuana leaf.
But on this weekday morning there was other business afoot. Encouraged by the turnouts at antiwar demonstrations earlier this year and provoked by the prospect of a Republican National Convention in New York next summer, a handful of Yippies and fellow travelers have lurched back toward the public rostrum, not as pranksters this time but as creatures of the college lecture circuit. Nine have formed a Yippie! Speakers Bureau, including Mr. Beal; Paul Krassner, the satirist and stand-up comedian; and Grace Slick, the singer in Jefferson Airplane. They are now soliciting dates for next fall, at fees ranging from several thousand dollars for those not so well known to $15,000 or more for Ms. Slick.
"This is the antiwar equivalent of a veterans' group," said Mr. Krassner, 70, speaking from his home in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. "And we don't get good health care either."
Mr. Krassner, who coined the term Yippie, for Youth International Party, in 1967 and who founded the alternative magazine The Realist, added: "It's strange to be 70 and still identify with a youth movement. But I'd rather identify with evolution than stagnation."
At Mr. Beal's home, Michael Forman, who is organizing the bureau's Steal This Speaking Tour, described how the playing field for the Yippies' brand of mischief had changed.
"If we dropped dollar bills at the stock exchange now," he said, "it would be perceived as a terrorist act."
Mr. Forman, 61, said he met Abbie Hoffman, one of the founding Yippies, on a freedom ride in the South in 1961, and remained in contact until Mr. Hoffman's death in 1989. He and Mr. Beal display a cantankerous comic rapport. "I'm sorry the place is such a mess," Mr. Beal said, as if suddenly noticing that it was the maid's day off.
"Oh, that's the funniest line in the interview," Mr. Forman said.
He stressed that the speakers would now have to present themselves as wise elders, even if their wisdom mainly concerned matters of youth culture.
"We can't tell people to kill their parents," he said, beginning a recitation of the Yippies' greatest hits. "That was a mistake. We can't threaten to put acid in the reservoir. That was a mistake.
"We have to stay within the laws. America's got a different consciousness now."
If this seems uncharacteristically conciliatory, coming from a group that once claimed to have levitated the Pentagon and ran a pig for president, consider another recent Yippie sighting. The giant reinsurance company Swiss Re has recently run ads, including one in this newspaper, built around a quotation from Jerry Rubin, who died in 1994. Once vilified by the corporate establishment, Yippie musings have now been turned into copy for the reinsurance business.
When he saw this bit of co-optation, Gustin L. Reichbach, 56, a former Yippie who is now a New York State Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn � and a member of the Yippie! Speakers Bureau � saw the turnabout not as a violation of Yippie principles but as a sign of victory.
"Imagine my astonishment," Justice Reichbach wrote in an e-mail message, citing the ad as confirmation that the counterculture of the 1960's had shifted the boundaries of what is now considered mainstream. "Changing the boundaries indeed!"
The Yippie! Speakers Bureau is itself a reprise of an idea Abbie Hoffman had for a Movement Speakers Bureau. For Ms. Slick, speaking from her home in Southern California, the tour is an idea that was best delayed. Now, she said, the speakers might know what they're talking about.
In her younger days, Ms. Slick once tried to take Mr. Hoffman as her date to a White House tea party, at which they planned to put LSD in Richard Nixon's tea. Though she had been invited to the event � she attended the same small women's college as Patricia Nixon � she and Mr. Hoffman were intercepted at the door.
Speaking of her own generation in its younger years, Ms. Slick said: "Young people should be seen and not heard, because they're good-looking but not too bright. We're pretty bright now, but we're ugly." She said she had no fixed expectations of the college circuit. "I don't think we're trying to bring anything back," she said. "But you don't often get a chance to find out what 18-year-olds think. I think it'll be fascinating."
It remains to be seen whether college campuses will embrace the graying veterans � and by the same token, whether museumgoers will wish to linger over espresso in the epicenter of the smoke-in movement. Jack Hoffman, Abbie's younger brother, has his doubts. "You've got to get some young celebrities," said Mr. Hoffman, 63, who is a member of the speakers' bureau. "To get the oldie-but-goodies out there is O.K., but we've got to appeal to the young people."
Patrick Kroupa, 34, a former computer hacker who is also in the speakers' bureau, said students were closer to Yippie ideas than people thought. "The counterculture didn't drop dead," said Mr. Kroupa, who said he participated in various computer activities organized by the Yippies in the early 1980's. "It just went online."
This history, like much involving the Yippies, can be grounds for argument. During their lifetimes, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Rubin argued vehemently with each other and with other Yippies, including Mr. Beal, who at one point helped lead a splinter group called the Zippies. Even now, Jack Hoffman says he has run afoul of Yippie faithful for talking about his brother's bouts with manic depression.
The building at 9 Bleecker Street, too, has a contested claim to historical significance. Some original Yippies argue that the group's important years, bracketed by the national conventions in 1968 and 1972, took place before Mr. Beal moved into the building.
Mr. Beal sees this argument as an attempt to preserve a limited version of counterculture history that denies the importance of later events. "There's all this fighting about who controls the legacy of the name `Yippie,' " Mr. Beal said. "It's like people in the black community fighting over the legacy of Martin Luther King."
Mr. Beal said he has raised $110,000 toward purchase of the building, but has not yet formed the limited liability corporation that would actually buy it and lease it for use as a Yippie museum. Though his plans are vague, he perked up at the possibilities.
"We could bring out the Yipster Times again," he said. "We still have the equipment. All we need is an ad rep."
Mr. Forman waited a beat. "Stop looking at me," he said.
Source: New York Times (NY)
Author: John Leland
Published: April 30, 2003
Copyright: 2003 The New York Times Company
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on April 30, 2003 at 16:54:53 PT
Pictures from The New York Times Article
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
LEAF MOTIF With an eye toward the Republican convention in New York in 2004, Dana Beal is fighting to turn his home on Bleecker Street into a Yippie museum.
Philip Greenberg for The New York Times
DOWN PAYMENT NEEDED
The landlord wants about $1.5 million for the Bleecker Street building where Dana Beal, a veteran Yippie, has lived since 1973.
Mr. Beal working on Yipster Times in 1973.
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