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The time Jerry Rubin got totally shut down by a little old lady on TV
09:13 am


Jerry Rubin
Dorothy Fuldheim

A devotion to politics as theatrical spectacle and vice versa made Jerry Rubin, along with Abbie Hoffman, one of the most visible and notorious activists in the counterculture of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. A founder, again along with Hoffman and others, of the Youth International Party (a/k/a the Yippies), Rubin was known for media-engaging stunts like showing up for his HUAC testimony variously dressed as a Viet Cong guerrilla and as Santa Claus. His utterly gonzo approach to politics flipped in the mid ‘70s, when in a surprising ideological reversal, he became a capitalist businessman who ended the decade (and entered the Reagan years) as a yuppie millionaire, advocating for EST, “networking parties,” and diet fads instead of revolution. Credit where it’s due, though—among his capital ventures was an effort to marshall investment in solar panels.

Hindsight of that transformation/sellout might be a part of what makes the clip below feel kinda righteous. Though the Chicago Seven trial made Rubin a well-known public face of The Revolution™, there were times when he wasn’t one of its most articulate advocates. He appeared on Cleveland, OH television in 1970 (Rubin was Cincinnati born and raised, himself) to flog his screed DO IT! Scenarios of the Revolution, but he just came off like an inchoate stoner jackass. He had science on his side in his assertion that weed is less destructive than booze, but he was such a dumb dick about it, prolonging an unproductive back-and-forth on the matter, sounding more like a tedious sophomore ruining Thanksgiving than a nationally-known activist engaging with the public to bring awareness to his manifesto. He piled on tiresome levels of I’m-so-cool smarm to cover the deficiencies in his talking points until the fed-up interviewer—an improbably flame-haired 76-year-old lady named Dorothy—got sick of his bullshit and shut the interview down.

About that Dorothy: she wasn’t just any little old lady—she was a career ass-kicker. Dorothy Fuldheim was and remains a widely admired Cleveland legend, a broadcasting lifer and pioneer for women in newsrooms who’s acknowledged as the first female TV news anchor. Her utterly unbelievable highlight reel included one-on-one interviews with Adolf Hitler (Fuldheim was Jewish), Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, and Jimmy Hoffa, and she didn’t retire until age 91, when a stroke she suffered shortly after interviewing Ronald Reagan (make of that what you will) made it impossible for her to continue working. She died in 1989, and was recently the subject of a Drunk History segment that you should probably just go ahead and watch right now.

Fuldheim was unapologetically opinionated; she shut down her Rubin interview when his declaration of solidarity with the Black Panthers proved to be her last straw. But though she was very much an establishment figure, bristling at Rubin’s characterization of police as “pigs,” she was no conservative, and it’s tempting to wonder how her feelings about Cleveland’s finest may have changed had something like the Tamir Rice murder and the outcry in its aftermath happened in her lifetime. We actually don’t even have to wonder all that hard; within a month of the Rubin interview, she put her career at risk to TORPEDO then-Governor James Rhodes and the Ohio National Guard on the air in the wake of the Kent State shootings, forcefully decrying a system that killed its own children.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin debating the future of America in 1986

Watching this debate between Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin from 1986, I was struck by how little has really changed since the late 80s despite the fact that, to Rubin’s way of thinking, we’ve had two “yuppie” Presidents in the White House. Hoffman’s vision seems more prophetic in light of the Occupy Movement, but I see the truth to be somewhere in the middle of their opposing points of view.

Despite his emphasis on maintaining a healthy body, no amount of good health helped Rubin. Ironically, the law-abiding straight-lace yuppie was killed in 1994 while fucking the system, run over by a car in L.A. as he was jaywalking. Hoffman gave up the good fight and committed suicide in 1989. The future they speak so passionately about in this debate was not theirs to further impact, though both had done their fair share starting in the Sixties. From founding the yippies, mobilizing the march on the Pentagon, leading the charge in Chicago in 1968 to inspiring John and Yoko’s sleep-in, there’s no question both Hoffman and Rubin managed to change the world we live in. Abbie’s style of guerrilla theater, activism and peaceful dissent was very much alive in the past few years on the streets of American cities like New York and in Europe, Turkey and during the Arab Spring movement. Rubin’s concept of revolution from within the system is less vivid and harder to measure. I don’t think it works for the most part but I’m still voting.

The debate took place in Canada. Rubin and Hoffman make their points with lots of energy and Hoffman is of course quite funny. The first couple of minutes has an appropriate musical intro,  “I’d Love To Change The World” by Ten Years After.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Pre-sellout, proto-punk Jerry Rubin accuses Phil Donahue of slingin’ dope in balls-out anti-war rant
11:26 am


Jerry Rubin
Phil Donahue

Jerry Rubin, one-time Youth International Party ringleader, turned grown-up at 37, turned Wall Street businessman, turned ‘90s jaywalking casualty, lets Phil Donahue have it in this endlessly entertaining hyper-caffeinated near soliloquy on why you have to be a freak to get the attention of the suits.

Highlights include the dope dealer accusation mentioned in my title, Jerry calling “Phil or Tom or whatever” constipated, a shameless book promotion and an astute Nazi comparison for Dick Nixon. Rubin comes off here like he’s just snorted about a pound of cocaine.

After serving a short prison term in the early ‘70s, Rubin went through what you might call a spiritual crisis. When he came out on the other side of it, he had invested some cash in a little company called Apple Computer, married a former debutante and by the mid-80s was hosting late-night networking parties for “young urban professionals” at places like the Palladium nightclub in Manhattan. Long story short, he straight-up became, well, you know, one of the very rich, white men that he rails against in this rather one-sided “interview.”

Amazingly, during the mid-80s, Rubin would eventually travel the country on a speaking tour called “Yippie vs. Yuppie” with old pal Abbie Hoffman sticking up for the counterculture.

Posted by Jason Schafer | Leave a comment
‘Growing Up In America’: Documentary on Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman and more

In Growing Up In America, Morley Markson revisits his 1969 documentary on counter culture icons, Breathing Together:Revolution Of The Electric Family, with the original subjects of the film to get the perspective of age and hindsight.

Reflecting the past through the present, forming a kind of Möbius strip of history, we watch as they watch: Jerry Rubin’s transformation from firebrand radical to Capitalist cliche, the evolution and assassination of Fred Hampton (through the eyes of his mother) and the unwavering integrity and self-realization of Abbie Hoffman, William Kunstler, Timothy Leary, former Black Panther Field Marshall/expatriate Don Cox, Allen Ginsberg, and MC5 manager and White Panther founder John Sinclair. This is a fascinating glimpse at lives that mattered and still do.

It’s hard to believe that with the exception of John Sinclair and director Markson all of these men are dead. Are these the last of a dying breed?

While Growing Up In America is a vital and significant document, its failure to include some women in the mix is a glaring oversight. Bernardine Dohrn, Angela Davis, Shulamith Firestone and Diane di Prima are just a few of the women who were actively involved with cultural and political upheaval of the Sixties and any one of them would have provided a much needed woman’s point of view to the film. Once again, we’re confronted with the notion that the Sixties counter-culture was a boy’s club.

This fine documentary is out-of-print on video and has yet to be released on DVD.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment