Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary – The Interview

I was a Yippie. Upon graduating from High School and asking that age-old question “What do I do with my life?” I decided to be part of the Youth International Party! My life plans had an expiration date that Pete Townshend might have approved of when writing “My Generation.”

Like Jerry Rubin, I’ve gone through some changes since, although I recently called one of my projects Steal This Singularity (after Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book), so maybe I didn’t change enough.

This is an insanely great book. A mix of author bio and oral history, it’s also a visual treasure trove with lots of archival moments from Jerry’s own. Physically, it’s about the size of New Jersey. And it has a lovely comprehensible story arc that — among other things — might make you feel what it’s like to believe the revolution had come; and then it had gone without bringing about a season of joy and total anarcho-communist transformation (or executions) as was expected by a few of us. And then, what do you for your next act?

If you were Jerry, you exaggerated your conversion from Yippiedom to Yuppiedom — because that’s the sort of clear narrative the media likes, and because he wanted to do cool things. At the same time, he did want to make money, so maybe he wasn’t exaggerating that much.

Anyway, the book has it all. John and Yoko during their political period. Bob Dylan being elusive but friendly. Jerry’s competitive friendship with the more legendary, fellow Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman. It has Black Panthers, the Weather Underground and all the women who didn’t get enough credit — including Jerry’s girlfriend during the thick of the late ‘60s, Nancy Kurshan — during a time when several radical leftist men became pop stars

R.U. Sirius

In addition to Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary, Pat Thomas is the author of Listen, Whitey! The sights & sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 and consulted on the essential film history of the Black Panther Party, The Black Panthers: The Vanguard of the Revolution.

I interviewed him via email.

R.U.: Aside from the fact that there hadn’t yet been a biography – and so many about Abbie Hoffman — what attracted you to Jerry Rubin’s story? You were too young during the Yippie heyday to be a part of it. (Pat Thomas is 53 years old)

PAT THOMAS: My brother was 9 years older than me. He brought Steal This Book into the house in the early 70s – I gravitated toward it despite not even being a teenager yet. I also started listening to rock music several years before my friends did (again, because of my brother). My ‘day job’ is working for folks like the estate of Allen Ginsberg, reissuing lost vintage 1960s and 70s recordings on CD and that sort of thing — so I’m into chronicling the counterculture. Jerry’s story had never been told and needed to be told — before everyone who knew him was dead. Read more “Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary – The Interview”

David Bowie’s Strange Louis Vuitton Ad From 2013

We’re inured to it now — even those of us who remember a time when weirdo rock music, even of the most commercially popular sort, wasn’t used in television advertisement.  But every once in awhile, there is an odd or interesting enough juxtaposition of the content of the song to the company being advertised… or even just to the fact that someone deemed this appropriate to be part of an ad, that it makes me, at least, sit up and take notice (and wonder why no one else ever seems to).

The first big fuss, way back,  was about The Beatles song Revolution being used in an ad for Nike (the song was owned by Michael Jackson) in 1987.  Revolution wasn’t a particularly revolutionary song (“Don’t you know it’s going to be all right?”), but McCartney made some unhappy noises about its use (Lennon being unavailable).  McCartney’s songs have since been in a number of ads.

 

A stranger note was stuck by the use of the Jefferson Airplane’s Yippie-esque marching song, Volunteers in an E*Trade ad, which I think may have been aired in the late ’90s, if memory serves, or it may have been later.  Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life to advertise Royal Caribbean Cruise was pretty strange if you know the lyrics, but in contrast with Volunteers, the songs’ more radical or distinctive lyrics weren’t a part of the ad.

The truly weirdest thing I ever saw mixing rock with advertising was — I swear to my own memory of this — a Goodyear Tires ad using Venus In Furs by the Velvet Underground.  Now, I find on YouTube only a Dunlop ad from Great Britain, which is peculiar enough, but this ad is visually strange whereas the Goodyear ad was visually straightforward, and therefor did not call any attention to the content of the song.  I saw it once and never again.

And in 2014, we had David Bowie’s harpsichord remake of “I’d Rather Be High” for Louis Vuitton with its chorus

I’d rather be high
I’d rather be flying
I’d rather be dead
Or out of my head
Than training these guns on those men in the sand
I’d rather be high

So there’s the contemporary anticolonial war undercurrent (we naturally think of western soldiers in Arabic territories), but what really sticks out like a sore thumb with a tab of ecstasy on it is the well enunciated “I’d Rather Be High.” The French Revolution-era Court of Louis XVI party decadence visuals are just there. Interesting, but more Louis Vuitton than I’d rather be high. But then, at the end, the fashionable and contemporary beauty  — model  Arizona Muse sitting at the piano gazes up rapturously at the Michaelangeloesque ceiling, reaches slowly — as though, in fact, high, slightly out-of-body, for her fashionable LV pocketbook and then, outdoors, gazes at the camera with eyes that seem, well, high in a psychedelic sense, a bit like she’s seeing you better than you’re seeing her, and maybe having casually drifted up to that Michaelangelesque ceiling, she’s now a tad the chic urban visionary, and at the same time she’s not experiencing quite enough boundary between her self, the camera and whatever’s behind it.

What’s interesting here isn’t any residual purity anyone may have about rock in advertising. That ship sailed long ago. What’s interesting is the conflation of being high… on drugs… with the desired product. Which has been done over and over again for years, but never enunciated, clearly, lyrically, until now.

So that’s it then. A cultural watershed? Wanting to be high… even being high… it’s normal as wanting to be chic, which is… how normal?  Not sure. But the whole negotiation around drugs, their legalization, their use, and maybe even the more liminal states that  some of them sometimes provide are coming into the open. Maybe? In most peculiar ways.

Steal This Singularity – The Yippies Started The Digital Revolution

 Steal This Singularity 1: The notion that the current and future extreme technological society should not be dominated by Big Capital, Authoritarian States or the combination thereof. Also related, a play on the title of a book by 1960s counterculture radical Abbie Hoffman. 2: The notion that in our robotized future, human beings shouldn’t behave robotically. The well-rounded posthuman — if any — should be able to wail like a banshee, dance like James Brown, party like Dionysus, revolt like Joan of Arc and illuminate the irrational like Salvador Dali. 3: The title for a website in which R.U. Sirius says and does as he pleases.

Addendum: Steal This Singularity has almost nothing to do with the notion that we will develop Artificial Intelligences that are smarter than us or that if such a thing were to happen it would be a “singularity.” I just like the name.

In 1971, a revolutionary prankster/celebrity named Abbie Hoffman, who had started the radical group the Yippies (Youth International Party) released Steal This Book, a manual for living on the fringes of a wealthy society by grabbing up some free shit from corporate powers while committing some Blows Against the Empire.

See, 1971 was the last year that the vanguard of the counterculture thought that they were going to make a total cultural and political psychedelic/anarchistic/left wing revolution before realizing… fuck it. Let’s campaign for McGovern.

But more to my point here and the milieu it attempts to speak to… true story… the Yippies started the phreakin’ “digital revolution!” To wit: The hacker culture started as the phone phreak culture. The phone phreak culture came out of the Steal This Book attitude about getting free shit from the detritus of corporate culture, in this case, the phone company. The first legendary phone phreak, John Draper aka Captain Crunch, who built the blue boxes, used to hang out at 9 Bleeker Street, NYC, Yippie headquarters. The first magazine that focused primarily on phone phreaking was YIPL (Youth International Party Line), which was started by Hoffman and “Al Bell.” In 1973, it transmorgified into TAP, which is more broadly remembered as the initiatory phone phreak periodical.

Phone phreaks were computer hackers. Draper famously noted that the phone system “is a computer.” From this milieu, the personal computer arose. Famously, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak funded the birth of the Apple by selling Blue Boxes So, you see, I stand on solid-if-hallucinatory historical ground today as I sound a Hoffmanesque note towards The Singularity Or Something Like It.

See Also Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary (Excerpt)

 

Did It! From Yippie To Yuppie: Jerry Rubin, An American Revolutionary (Excerpt)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As savvy as the slickest madmen in advertising, the Yippies tried to project universal messages: “everyone is a leader” and “the Festival is whatever you want it to be.” As Jerry told Abe Peck in 1985, “It was mutual manipulation.

A marvelous visual stunning book by Pat Thomas, Did It: Jerry Rubin” An American Revolutionary captures the excitement and humor of the prankster counterculture radicalism of the 1960s and ’70s as well as the odd engagements of Rubin and varied fellow travelers with other attempts at bending reality across the remainder of the 20th Century. Did It is an oral history — not just of Jerry Rubin, but of the people with whom he engaged in activism and play… among them boldface names like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.

For those of you too young to remember, Jerry Rubin was one of the leaders of the Yippies or Youth International Party, a group that took a radical mix of counterculture and new left ideas and impulses and turned it into disruptive, funny and dangerous political theater.

While the Yippies are best known for their famous “siege of Chicago” — some of the activities leading up to that are memorialized in this excerpt — they remained a vital organization into the 1970s and were the leading activists in a few communities.

We will be running an interview with Pat Thomas about the book soon. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy these pages straight from the book.

Thanks to author Pat Thomas and FANTAGRAPHICS for permission to publish this excerpt. In addition to his current book, Thomas is the author of Listen, Whitey! The sights & sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 and consulted on the essential film history of the Black Panther Party, The Black Panthers: The Vanguard of the Revolution.

For those of you who would prefer not to squint at the tiny print that accompanies the pdfs from the book itself, we provide the unadulterated text below the designed pages.

btw there’s not much point to Steal This Book online. It’s the visual design that makes it! So rip off your boyfriend instead.

See also Steal This Singularity – The Yippies Started The Digital Revolution

 

Did It-Jerry Rubin_Cover
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