Jerry Rubin :: From Yippie to Yuppie

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention, where hippies, Black Panthers, the MC5, and many others clashed spectacularly with The Man, few figures seem more worthy of reexamination than Jerry Rubin. Along with his compatriot Abbie Hoffman, Rubin helped articulate the voice of young America, employing vibrant and often satirical approaches that utilized performance art and provocation. The inside story of this counter-culture icon, anti-war activist, and all-around troublemaker comes to life in Pat Thomas' Did It! From Yippie to Yuppie, which traces Rubin's journey from high school journalist to stoned political freak and beyond. Speaking with 75 of Jerry’s closest peers, many of whom have never spoken openly about their experiences until now, Thomas creates a compelling, detailed narrative. It's history, but a wild adventure too.

Thomas, a member of the psychedelic collection Mushroom and author of essential collections like Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1967-1974 and Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann, walked us through  assembling this intense look at Rubin's life.

Aquarium Drunkard: What attracted you to Jerry Rubin's story? He was a household name, yet Abbie Hoffman became more well known. Why not Rubin?

Pat Thomas: Over the past 30 years, there have been about six different books about Abbie Hoffman, [but] there’s never been one about Jerry Rubin until now. That’s like saying there have been six John Lennon biographies published, but nobody has ever done a McCartney book. During the 1960s, Jerry & Abbie were joined at the hip, the co-leaders of the Yippies (Youth International Party), both equally pissing off Republicans, squares, and people who loved that America was killing people in Vietnam.

AD: How did you gain access to Jerry's archives?

Pat Thomas: I won the respect of Rubin’s family when they saw my first book Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975, coupled with the fact that nobody else had ever expressed serious interest in digging through the thousands of photos, documents, letters, journals, and newspaper clippings spanning from the 1950s until his death in the early 1990s. Jerry kept letters from Yoko Ono, [members of the] Weather Underground, Eldridge Cleaver, Abbie Hoffman, Norman Mailer, and more. His own writings were also essential, since I couldn’t interview him. He wrote notes to himself all the time that I could reference.

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