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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
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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