The pre-Labor Day meeting last month was a vintage ’60s tableau dropped whole into the ’70s: the first gathering of the aging New Left in over a dozen years. There, sitting in loose groups under the towering elms at a Fresh Air Camp outside Hell, Mich, run by the University of Michigan psychology department, were the men and women, older and battle-seasoned now, whose ideologies informed the protest of a generation.
Much had changed in the years since they last met, but the transistor radios were still blaring rock, and the talk over joints in the cabins at night was of remembered victories. Yellowing posters covered the walls of the meeting hall, relics of those simpler times when all police were “pigs” and war criminals lurked in every shadow. Even austere radical cuisine was all too familiar: shredded cabbage, granola, rice, brown bread, organic peanut butter and cheese. And there were the ubiquitous “workshops”—on gay rights, religion, the media, the future and, of course, the past—”What went wrong?”
For this was a reunion for the hardcore committed, the ones who were there in the beginning, there through the ’60s; and will be there still in 1984. But the old familiar faces were scarce.
No group galvanized the forces of protest like the Chicago 7, five of them convicted in their burlesque 1969 trial of conspiracy to incite riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The conviction was overturned, and the Attorney General who forced the case, John Mitchell, has recently gone to prison. But only two of the seven—David Dellinger and Tom Hay den—showed up. How could the other five have skipped such a significant reunion?
The answer, on these pages, is that they have moved on to other things. For some, the business of the ’70s is raising a family and making a living. For others, it is “working from within.” Their absence spoke eloquently to such personal changes; notwithstanding the Paul Simon song, none of them is quite as crazy after all these years. But neither is any of them yet free from the hold of the ’60s, a decade that for most of them stands even now as the standard by which the present is measured. The founding ideologues and the media stars of the movement may be separated now by conviction and life-style, but they share a common plight. As Chicago 7 defendant Lee Weiner puts it: “We are all refugees of a future that never happened.”
Jerry Rubin comes to terms with prosperity
The bearded crazy who once implored his Yippie followers, “Kill your parents” and “Never trust anyone over 30,” has cut his hair, shed 30 pounds and even admits to occasional yearnings for fatherhood. Jerry Rubin, 39, has gone straight—recycling himself to look and sound just like those grasping capitalists he once professed to abhor. Rubin sees it differently. “I have a different consciousness than I had in the ’60s,” he explains. “My feet are more on the ground.”
His hands, however, are in the till of the lucrative self-growth movement. After the trial a burned-out Rubin (“We were programming ourselves for martyrdom”) spent six years and a small fortune sampling from the smorgasbord of pop psychology (est, yoga, bio-energetics, Zen) and came out a changed man. Now Rubin and fiancee Mimi Leonard, 28, are incorporating themselves and producing a Human Potential Festival next year. “I used to fear money,” says Rubin, “but now I have a more practical attitude.”
A vegetarian who once drank so much carrot juice his legs turned orange, the new Jerry Rubin and Mimi share a $685-a-month apartment in a luxury high rise on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They jog every morning, then work at home—he on two new books and she on their joint venture into the psychology marketplace. “One of the advantages of working together at home is that we have time for sex in the morning,” says Rubin. Soon he will forsake such diversions to embark on a $1,250-a-shot lecture tour of college campuses.
Despite the inestimable consolations of success (“My life is beautiful”), Rubin still feels the tug of nostalgia. “I once thought, how can my life in the future compare?” he says of his role in the turbulent ’60s. “But it was inevitable that people would withdraw and rebuild themselves—that’s what happened to me.” Even so, Rubin feels that there’s something missing. “It kind of bothers me,” he admits wistfully. “I wish I could be doing something that’s more important.”
Rennie sees things in a new light—it’s divine
He was the movement’s organization man: weak on ideology, fellow SDSers agreed, but a skilled logistician and deployer of the raw troops of protest. He put his talents to work for civil rights, SDS and the antiwar movement and, penultimately, the Chicago imbroglio that made him a star. But Rennie Davis began to feel, as peace approached, that “this chapter was closed. I wondered what I would do next.”
The result, in his co-defendants’ view, is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. After spending three years in a Divine Light ashram of the then-pubescent guru Maharaj Ji, Davis, now 37, is a John Hancock insurance broker. He still does his Perfect Master’s bidding, but after hours. He wears a jacket and tie, carries an attache case and believes he earns his $12,000 salary (plus commissions) by helping people get what they need. “No one of the old Chicago 7 has the slightest idea what I’m doing or talking about,” he says, “but I find no need to explain myself.”
Before signing on with Hancock last February, Davis had tried selling firewood door to door (in summer), then began raising capital for a divinely inspired business services company that folded. As he pondered his failures in retreat, his wife, Luane, went on food stamps. Now he is building a college education fund for his 18-month-old daughter, Lia, while Luane is a receptionist in a beauty shop near their rented house in Denver. “At first we expected him to be a freak,” says fellow Hancock agent John Cope-land, “but you can’t ask for a nicer person.” Davis claims not to proselytize, but he starts and ends each day with a meditation session, and he has gone from the junk-food diet of the ’60s rebel to vegetarianism. In the glow of Divine Light, he perceives his years of activism as an “unnecessary journey…light-years away,” but at times his conversion seems just a new expression of the old idealist dream. Spiritual self-knowledge is, he says, “the solution to every human problem. It works. I’ve seen it. The ’60s,” he adds momentously, “will seem dwarfish compared to what’s coming up.”
Froines seeks better living through chemistry
His looks are right for academe—an old sweatshirt slightly frayed at the elbows, neatly trimmed mustache and gold-rim glasses. But at 38, John Froines is out of the classroom and into a $36,000-a-year job with the Carter administration. “I’ll always be a Chicago 7,” he says, “but you have to match your strategy to the problem and the changing climate.”
Of all the defendants, Froines; a biochemist, seemed to have been the most personally distressed by the trial itself. Ironically, only he and Lee Weiner (“I didn’t know him well and don’t now”) were acquitted of all charges, though Froines later served two weeks in jail for contempt of court. But when the other five were convicted of conspiracy, he felt a mixture of shock and guilt. Says Froines, who cut his teeth on the civil rights movement in the early ’60s: “I felt I’d betrayed them.”
Soon afterward he quit his teaching job at the University of Oregon to become a full-time political activist. He helped organize the huge May Day demonstration in 1971, campaigned for George McGovern and lobbied against congressional funding of the Vietnam war. “You name it, I’ve done it,” he says proudly.
Eventually, exhausted, Froines retreated into the green hills of Vermont. An appointment as the state’s occupational health director was temporarily delayed by some hostile public reaction, but before he resigned last month, even former Gov. Thomas P. Salmon, once “damn mad” at Froines’s selection, hailed him as “an exemplary public servant.” (“You won’t have me to kick around anymore,” Froines joked at his last Board of Health meeting.)
As the newly hired head of the Toxic Substances Office of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, he will combine his reformer’s zeal with his background in chemistry. “It’s a way to reduce my schizophrenia about chemistry and politics,” he explains. “A healthy work place is the goal, and science the strategy, instead of demonstrations or conventions.”
Divorced and the father of a 9-year-old daughter, Rebecca, Froines will pack up his two dogs and move in with friends in suburban Virginia while he looks for a place to live in Washington, D.C. Ironically, the daily drive to work at the Labor Department will take him across the same bridge he tried to close down as an antiwar demonstrator. But Froines offers no apologies for either his old role or his new one. “Worrying about how you are perceived is posturing,” he says, “and, besides, I never was a flower child.”
A quiet man takes refuge in privacy
While on trial, Lee Weiner seldom glanced up from the science fiction novels he was reading in the courtroom—and when he did, it was usually to correct the prosecutors, who repeatedly mispronounced his name Weener. A few years later, when asked what he was doing, the bushy-haired Northwestern graduate student replied tersely: “Lapsing back into active obscurity.”
Along with John Froines, Weiner was the least known of the seven defendants—but he soon learned that even marginal fame had its price. At a birthday party for Black Panther leader Bobby Seale in 1972, Weiner was overheard joking that he was “starting a new Communist party in New Jersey.” The remark turned up in print, and he was told that his teaching contract at Rutgers would not be renewed.
Now a practicing psychotherapist in New York City, Weiner, 38, lives quietly with his second wife, Ellen, 35, who is expecting their first child in October. (A son by his previous marriage, Noah, 10, visits four times a year.) “There are no regrets for me about the ’60s except I wish we had been better at our work,” he says. “But there’s a necessary retreat to privacy now.”
Weiner still considers himself a “political junkie,” however, and last year summoned up the requisite enthusiasm to work for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign. “Carter,” he explained dryly, “struck me as the kind of person who could make a couple of right decisions out of ten.” Former Attorney General John Mitchell earns a lower rating. When Mitchell went to jail earlier this year, Weiner “loved it,” he says, and barely resisted the urge to send a telegram to his old nemesis.
Weiner is merging into the city scene. He cooks enthusiastically for friends, belongs to his neighborhood block association and occasionally escapes with Ellen to the country in their blue Toyota. Two years ago she taught Lee to play tennis. “We’re happy and content,” says Weiner, “and just having this baby means that things are better.”
Tom Hayden finds a place in the mainstream
More than any of his co-defendants, Tom Hayden, founding president of SDS, has joined the political culture he once sought to counter. As a candidate for the U.S. Senate from California last year, his campaign slogan was “The radicalism of the 1960s is becoming the common sense of the 1970s,” and he takes an upbeat view of the movement’s accomplishments. “It desegregated the South, toppled two Presidents and made a horrible war impossible to continue,” he says. “It extended the democratic rights of more and more people, such as the 18-year-olds’ right to vote, and maybe, on a deeper level, it shook up the comfortable assumptions of American society, got people thinking about the need for social change.”
Hayden’s resignation to gradualism has alienated many of his old radical comrades, as has his marriage to movie star Jane Fonda and to Democratic party politics. Having lost his race for the Senate, Hayden last year founded the Campaign for Economic Democracy, which supports candidates who share the group’s position on such state issues as rampant housing speculation, increasing property taxes, unemployment, housing shortages and liberal economic reforms. Right now it is pressuring Gov. Jerry Brown to make an official commitment to massive use of solar energy. The CED also runs a summer camp for the children of the old New Left. “There are no classes in political science,” he says. “We tell them at the beginning that their parents want them to build a new world where people get along, and that’s about it.”
More hopeful than any of his old Chicago 7 colleagues, Hayden plans to run for office again, and, like Hoffman, he is writing an autobiography. He feels no particular need for a reunion of the seven. “We have gone our separate ways and always had political differences,” he says. “I think it was Abbie who said we couldn’t even conspire for lunch.” But the case’s denouement was, in his view, a bellwether. “I get some satisfaction,” he says, “from the fact that the people who tried to put me in jail have gone to jail themselves. That is the biggest sign of change, I think.”
A lifelong rebel stands by his cause
“I think the trial changed me less than some of the others,” says pacifist David Dellinger, 62, “because I was older and had developed a life-style and philosophy long before.” A onetime student at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, Dellinger had resisted the draft before it was fashionable—during WW II—and as a result served a total of three years in prison. With impeccable radical credentials, he became one of the elder statesman of Vietnam war protest, and later among the Chicago defendants.
Though his radical views are unshaken, the intervening years have not been altogether happy ones for Dellinger and his wife, Betty, 57, mother of his five grown children. Their marriage of 35 years was nearly destroyed by the glare of trial publicity. She lost her teaching job in New Jersey because of her husband’s political activities, and Dellinger’s health suffered, requiring 11 hospitalizations in three years, including some minor surgery.
Still, Dellinger is optimistic that the energy of protest did not burn out with the ’60s. “There’s just no easy form for people to express their alienation,” he says. “I don’t see a deep apathy—I see a lack of immediate outlets.”
Recently back from their second trip to Cuba, Dellinger and his wife now live in a comfortable Brooklyn brownstone where they share household chores, bake bread on weekends and commute 50 minutes by subway to their respective Manhattan offices. This fall he will teach a weekly seminar at Yale, his alma mater, on radical dissent, and plans to finish a third book, “a political-spiritual autobiography.”
Dellinger sees the other six defendants occasionally (“I’d never give up on any of them, even when things are worst, like Rennie joining the guru”). These days he is preoccupied with publishing Seven Days, a nonprofit “alternative newsweekly.” But since Dellinger refuses to pay “war taxes,” his royalties and other wages are attached by the government. This leaves Betty’s $16,000 salary as a coordinator at a day care center for foster children as the couple’s only means of support.
After plastic surgery and three years on the run, Abbie Hoffman has tired of the chase
Alone of the Chicago 7, Abbie Hoffman leads a life consistent with the fading images of manic ’60s radicalism. Co-founder with Rubin of the Yippies, he descended to fame as a prankster—once wafting currency over the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and later engineering the nomination of a pig for the Presidency. But a New York cocaine bust in 1973 ended his public hijinks on an ominous downbeat. Since 1974 he has been a fugitive in what is left of the radical underground.
Furtively, the puckish Hoffman still shows flashes of the crazed Yippie spirit. Two Christmases ago, he claims, he filled in as Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, and last January he surfaced incognito at Jimmy Carter’s inaugural—and even took a tour of the FBI building. “He walked right past his arresting officer,” says his former sidekick Rubin, “and the guy didn’t recognize him.” Plastic surgery (including, for starters, a nose job), a slew of documented aliases and new patterns of speech and carriage allow Hoffman to mingle unrecognized among even old movement friends—an experience, he once said, that “is like being at your own funeral.” Last year, in a Las Vegas hotel, he “flipped out,” screaming his real name for hours until tranquilizers and the reassurances of his fashion-model girlfriend (whose alias is “Angel”) brought him out of it.
As Hoffman freely, even ostentatiously, admits, he gets by these days on the charity of rich friends and on such elemental survival tactics as shoplifting and running out on bills. He also makes money writing. He is billed as “travel editor” of the rock magazine Crawdaddy and is 500 pages into an autobiography. Meanwhile his ex-wife, Anita, who stayed aboveground in Manhattan with their son, america, now 6, has been on welfare most of the time since Abbie left. Without apparent bitterness, she says she hasn’t seen him for three years, although they have managed to correspond through third parties.
America is told his father is a hero, being hunted by villains, and Abbie describes himself as a “romantic Communist.” But the loss of his wife and son—and the prospect of a mandatory life sentence on the drug-trafficking charge—has drained the chase of all its romance. “This underground stuff isn’t glamorous,” he told the last interviewer to see him. “If I open the wrong door, I’m gonna wind up in a cage in Attica.”