Rubin speaking at the University at Buffalo in March 1970
July 14, 1938|
|Died||November 28, 1994
Los Angeles, California,
|Occupation||high-profile American social activist
Author, DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution
|Spouse(s)||Mimi Leonard (1978–1992)|
|Children||Juliet Clifton Rubin, Adam Winship Rubin|
Jerry Clyde Rubin (July 14, 1938 – November 28, 1994) was an American social activist, anti-war leader, and counterculture icon during the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1980s, he became a successful businessman.
Early life and education
Rubin attended Cincinnati's Walnut Hills High School, co-editing the school newspaper, The Chatterbox and graduating in 1956. While in high school Rubin began to write for The Cincinnati Post, compiling sports scores from high school games. He attended Oberlin College, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and later went on to graduate from the University of Cincinnati, receiving a degree in History. Rubin attended the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964 but dropped out to focus on social activism.
Rubin's parents died within 10 months of each other, leaving Rubin the only person to take care of his younger brother, Gil, who was 13 at the time. Jerry wanted to teach Gil about the world and planned to take him to India. When relatives threatened to sue to obtain custody of Gil, Jerry decided to take his brother to Israel instead, settling in Tel Aviv. There, Rubin worked in a kibbutz, and studied sociology while his brother, who had learned Hebrew, decided to stay in Israel and moved permanently into a kibbutz. Before returning to social and political activism, Rubin made a visit to Havana, to learn first-hand about the Cuban revolution.
Rubin began to demonstrate on behalf of various left-wing causes after dropping out of Berkeley. Rubin also ran for mayor of Berkeley, on a platform opposing the Vietnam War, and supporting black power and the legalization of marijuana, receiving over twenty per cent of the vote. Having been unsuccessful, Rubin turned all his attentions to political protest. His first protest was in Berkeley, protesting against the refusal of a local grocer to hire African Americans. Soon Rubin was leading protests of his own. Rubin organized the Vietnam Day Committee, that led some of the first large numbered protests against the war in Vietnam. He took part in planning the world's largest teach-in against the war, organized rallies and demonstrations that attempted to stop a train transporting troops to the Oakland Army Base, as well as trucks carrying napalm. Vietnam Day Committee was a unique early antiwar organization in that it enjoyed large local participation and is believed to be a forerunner to the national movement against the war in Vietnam.
Rubin was one of the founding members of the Youth International Party (YIP) or Yippies, along with social and political activist Abbie Hoffman and satirist Paul Krassner. The Yippies were not a formal organization with a membership list or a direct relationship with constituency, but played upon the media's appetite for anything new and different. They were influenced by Marshall McLuhan’s ideas on the importance of electronic communication, and believed that if radical events were made more entertaining the media, especially television would give them greater coverage.
As Rubin recollected:
... [T]he more visual and surreal the stunts we could cook up, the easier it would be to get on the news, and the more weird and whimsical and provocative the theater, the better it would play.
Rubin's appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings is a good example of the Yippies emphasis on conducting political protest as theater, and creating as much attention as possible to their dissent by turning it into a spectacle. Rubin was subpoenaed by HUAC in Washington but instead of pleading the Fifth Amendment as was common, he entered the room dressed in a rented 18th-century American Revolutionary War uniform, proudly claiming to be a descendant of Jefferson and Paine. "Nothing is more American than revolution," he told the committee. Rubin showing total lack of concern or worries, lightheartedly blew soap bubbles as members of Congress questioned his Communist affiliations. He subsequently appeared before the HUAC as a bare-chested guerrilla in Viet Cong pajamas, with war paint and carrying a toy M-16 rifle, and later as Santa Claus.
It was a political ploy designed to make a mockery of the HUAC proceedings; the congressmen were caught off guard, and Rubin's stunt became page-one news throughout the country.
Another media stunt that gave the Yippies free publicity, not only in United States but all over of the world, was when Rubin, Hoffman and others brought the New York Stock Exchange to halt by tossing money into the air and watched gleefully as the stockbrokers scrambled vehemently for the bills. Yet another successful act in Yippies "guerrilla theater" was when during the Presidential elections of 1968 the Youth International Party nominated their own candidate for the U.S. Presidency.
The nominee was Pigasus the Immortal, a 145-pound (66-kg) pig that they felt was a realistic alternative to Richard Nixon or his presidential opponent, Hubert Humphrey. At the official introductions at Pigasus’ first press conference, Rubin, while holding the candidate in his arms, demanded he be given Secret Service protection and be brought to the White House for a foreign policy briefing. He also promised, on behalf of Pigasus, a fair election campaign and if Pigasus won the election he would be eaten. This would, maintained Rubin, reverse the usual democratic process in which the pig is elected "and proceeds to eat the people."
In his book DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution Rubin says "media does not report "news" it creates it. An event happens when it goes on TV and becomes a myth." He goes on to say:
TV time goes to those with the most guts and imagination. I never understood the radical who comes on TV in a suit and tie. Turn off the sound and he could be the mayor! The words may be radical, but the television is a non-verbal instrument! The way to understand TV is to shut off the sound. No one remembers any words they hear; the mind is a technicolor movie of images, not words. I've never seen "bad" coverage of a demostration. It makes no difference whar they say about us. The picture is the story.
In October 1967, David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam asked Rubin to help mobilize and direct a March on the Pentagon. The protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial as Dellinger and Dr. Benjamin Spock gave speeches to the mass of people.
From there, the group marched towards the Pentagon. As the protesters neared the Pentagon, they were met by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division. who formed a human barricade blocking the Pentagon steps. Not to be dissuaded, Abbie Hoffman, co-founder of the Yippies, vowed to levitate the Pentagon while Allen Ginsberg led Tibetan chants to assist. Eventually, things turned ugly. By the time the group's 48-hour permit expired, approximately 680 protesters had been jailed and 50 hospitalized.
As one member of the march recalled:
Then someone in authority decided that the Pentagon steps had to cleared. Rifle butts came down on people's heads with dull ugly wet sounding thumps. Blood splashed on to the steps. There were shouts of "Link arms! Link arms!", mixed with screams of pain and curses. People were dragged off and arrested. The brutality was appalling and the people standing on the steps began throwing debris at the soldiers. I saw a garbage can sail over my head. I feared people might be trampled in panic as they tried to escape from the clubs and rifle butts.
In spite of the brutality of the police the spirits of the demonstrators was not dampened. Many were exhilarated by what had transpired and some felt it was an event that would mark a turning point. "It made me see we could build a movement by knocking off American symbols," said Jerry Rubin. He added:
We had symbolically destroyed Pentagon, the symbol of the war machine, by throwing blood on it, by pissing on it, dancing on it ... painting 'Che lives' on it. It was a total cultural attack on the Pentagon. The media had communicated this all over the country and lots of people identified with us, the besiegers.
Rubin later played an instrumental role in the anti-war demonstration that accompanied the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago by helping to organize the Yippie "Festival of Life" in Lincoln Park. He spoke along with Hoffman at an anti-war rally at the Grant Park bandshell on August 28, 1968 and instructed demonstrators to resist if riot broke out. However, the extent of violence between Chicago police and demonstrators (which an official government report called a "police riot") was not anticipated by the Yippie leaders. Some 1,500 people including civilians and police were injured. The arrest and trial of the Yippie leaders (known later as the Chicago Conspiracy Trial) which began on September 24, 1969 eventually led to the conviction of Rubin and seven others on charges of incitement to riot, including Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis, John Froines, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, Tom Hayden, and Bobby Seale.
The defendants were commonly referred to as the "Chicago Eight". Seale's trial, however, was severed from the others after he demanded the right to serve as his own lawyer and was sentenced to four years in prison for contempt of court, making the Chicago Eight the Chicago Seven. The trial developed into a quite spectacle, or "hippie-guerillas theater" as Rubin described it. Rubin, Hoffman and other defendants intentionally and successfully made a mockery of the court, widely covered by the press, with reporters from New York Times and Washington Post reporting on it.
Rubin who famously declared the trial to be "the Academy Award of protest" at one point paraded back and forth in front of Judge Julius Hoffman (no relation to defendant Hoffman), thrusting his arm in a Nazi salute and shouting "Heil Hitler!" On another occasion he and Hoffman showed up at the trial wearing judge's robes, and when asked to disrobe, it became apparent they were wearing a blue Chicago police shirt underneath the judicial gown. "The day Abbie and I came on wearing judges' robes was a stoned idea," he later said. "It was a turning point in the trial in terms of theatrics, and it just went on from there."
In spite of the danger of being busted Rubin was determined to smoke as much marijuana before the trial as possible. "I got stoned a lot for the trial because it was such complete theater – a front-row seat to history – and marijuana intensifies every experience."
Judge Julius Hoffman's own behavior during the trial did not exactly reduce the spectacle of the trial either. At one point he had Black Panther leader Bobby Seale chained and gagged in full view of the jury.
Rubin, along with the six other defendants, was found not guilty on the charge of conspiracy but guilty (with four other defendants) on the charge of incitement. He was also sentenced by the judge to more than three years in prison for contempt of court. All the convictions for incitement were later overturned by an appeals court, who cited judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. Most of the contempt of court citations were also overturned on appeal. The retrial was held in 1972.
The Vietnam war politicized marijuana, turning it from a sign of an immoral or corrupt person, suffering from amotivational syndrome (psychological condition associated with diminished inspiration to participate in social activities) into deliberate, calculated civil disobedience.
Jerry Rubin remarked in 1970:
Smoking pot makes you a criminal and a revolutionary. As soon as you take your first puff, you are an enemy of society.
The Yippies, and before them the Beats (Allen Ginsberg considered marijuana use a massive political catalyst) were pioneers of the present day marijuana legalization movement.
In 1972, Rubin was at it again, this time in Miami Beach to organize protests for both the Republican and Democratic Conventions. This time, the local community knew the Yippies were coming and they organized behind a Rubin of their own, Ellis Rubin, a well known attorney. On June 4, 1972, the Rubins debated at the Unitarian Church in Miami, in front of 500 highly charged churchgoers on both sides of the issue, only divided by a church aisle. Jerry began the debate by thanking "Uncle Ellis" for the invitation to debate. Ellis, who was not related to Jerry feigned disgust at the association and the event was "on". After barbs in both directions, it ended abruptly when Jerry famously dropped an "F-bomb" and Ellis took leave to lead the locals out in a protest of their own.
Rubin was also interviewed by a famous newswoman Dorothy Fuldheim about his book Do It. In the interview, Rubin started to quiz Fuldheim, asking her if she drank. Fuldheim said, "I have the damn best liver in Cleveland." He then took a picture of a nude woman and showed it to her. Fuldheim responded by asking Rubin, "How is [the photo] germane to the topic?" He then referred to the police as "pigs" and offended Fuldheim, who replied, "I've got a shock for you. Some of my friends are policemen". Rubin then muttered "Well, I've got a shock for you. I'm good friends with the Black Panthers." At which, Fuldheim threw his book and kicked Rubin off the set saying "Out! Stop the interview" as the cameras rolled.
Rubin held a post-election party at his place in New York in January 1973, attended by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, after McGovern lost to Nixon. Soon, Rubin retired from politics entirely, and became an entrepreneur and businessman. He was an early investor in Apple Computer, and by the end of the 1970s became a multimillionaire.
In the 1980s, he embarked on a debating tour with Abbie Hoffman titled "Yippie versus Yuppie." Rubin's argument in the debates was that activism was hard work and that the abuse of drugs, sex, and private property had made the counterculture "a scary society in itself." He maintained that "wealth creation is the real American revolution. What we need is an infusion of capital into the depressed areas of our country." A later political cartoon portrayed Rubin as half-guerrilla and half-businessman.
Rubin's differences with Hoffman were on principle rather than personal. When Hoffman died in 1989, Rubin attended his funeral.
Jerry Rubin appeared posthumously in the 2002 British documentary by Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self. He appears in episode part 3 of 4. This segment of the documentary discusses the Erhard Seminars Training, also known as The est Training, of which Rubin was a graduate. In his autobiography Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven Rubin dedicates a chapter on his experience of taking the est Training. He explains why est appealed to him, even though he had initially resisted it:
Something theatrically revolutionary was happening at est. In the 1960's we had used political guerrilla theater to get people to see beyond their roles. Now Werner was creating a psychological theater provoking people into self-confrontation. Whenever people discover themselves, they grow and learn − and that has to be revolutionary. (My act is liking something only if I can call it "revolutionary".) 
Rubin also appeared on Saturday Night Live 's second episode of its first season. He was announced as "Jerry Rubin, Leader of the Yippie Movement." The sketch is a fake commercial for wallpaper featuring famous protest slogans from the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., "Make Love, Not War", "Off The Pig!", "Give Peace A Chance", "Hell, No, We Won't Go!", etc.). He ends the sketch by parodying a famous radical slogan as "Up against the wall-paper, posters!" (with the last word bleeped out in a reference to Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers).
Portrayal in popular culture
In a motion picture about Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Movie, Rubin was portrayed by Kevin Corrigan. In the 2007 documentary Chicago 10: The Convention Was Drama. The Trial Was Comedy Rubin is featured both with film footage and with animation using Mark Ruffalo as his voice. In the television show Dark Skies, Rubin is shown organizing an anti-war protest group in Berkeley that has been infiltrated by aliens; he is portrayed by Timothy Omundson.
Jerry Rubin's anti-establishment beliefs were put down in writing in his book, DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution (1970), with an introduction by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver and unconventional design by Quentin Fiore. In 1971, his journal, written while incarcerated in the Cook County Jail, was published under the title We are Everywhere. The book includes an inside view of the trial of the Chicago Seven, but otherwise focuses on the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, LSD, women's liberation and his view of a coming revolution.
In 1976, Rubin wrote another book entitled Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven, which contained a chapter about his experience at an Erhard Seminars Training (EST) session, later included in the book American Spiritualities: A Reader (2001) edited by Catherine L. Albanese. In Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven Rubin claims a rational society cannot be built by people who are out of touch with themselves and can't even run their own lives rationally. Real political change will not happen unless people transform their own personal reality, and their own relationships. Much like Arthur Koestler in his collections of essays The Yogi and the Commissar Rubin argues that political work and self-development has to go hand in hand. It was important, he said, that people lived the society they hoped to create.
As explained in Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven Rubin experimented with many self-improvement techniques in order to overcome his own personal defects, everything from the est training, hypnotism, meditation and yoga to rolfing, acupuncture, the Arica School, Gestalt therapy and the bioenergetic analysis of Wilhelm Reich's pupil Alexander Lowen. In a review of the book Derek VanPelt comments on Rubin's self quest:
Rubin, though a crude writer, takes it all in from a fairly skeptical viewpoint and reports in entertaining, thoughtful, and sometimes funny prose. The depth and sincerity of his search is apparent, and his call for a cooperative relationship between new consciousness and new politics is one of the more promising prospects of the seventies.
In 1980, Rubin authored a self-help book with his wife, Mimi Leonard, entitled The War Between the Sheets: What’s Happening with Men in Bed and What Men and Women Are Doing About It. It was not well received.
Sometime in the mid-70's Rubin reinvented himself as a businessman. Friend and fellow yippie Stew Albert claimed Rubin's new ambition was giving capitalists a social consciousness. In 1980 he began a new career on Wall Street as stockbroker with the brokerage firm John Muir & Co. "I know that I can be more effective today wearing a suit and tie and working on Wall Street than I can be dancing outside the walls of power," he said. In the 1980s, he became known for his promotion of business networking having created Business Networking Salons, Inc., a company that organized parties at the Palladium nightclub in Manhattan, where thousands of young professionals and entrepreneurs met and shared ideas. Near the end of his life, Rubin became interested in the science of life extension and was heavily involved in multi-level marketing of health foods and nutritional supplements. His business activities included marketing of a nutritional drink named Wow! that contained bee pollen, ginseng and kelp.
On November 14, 1994, Rubin jaywalked on Wilshire Boulevard, in front of his penthouse apartment in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, California. It was a Monday evening and weekday traffic was heavy, with three lanes moving in each direction. A car swerved to miss Rubin but a second car, immediately behind the first, was unable to avoid him. He was taken to the UCLA Medical Center, where he died of a heart attack two weeks later. He is interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.
He was a great life force, full of spunk, courage and wit. I think his willingness to defy authority for constructive purposes will be missed. Up to the end, he was defying authority.
In popular culture
- DO IT! was also the inspiration for a track of the same name on the 1972 Aphrodite's Child album 666
- DO IT! was the apparent inspiration for the titles of two other books: Eat It: A Cookbook by Dana Crumb and Grow It! The Beginner's Complete In-Harmony With Nature Small Farm Guide by Richard W. Langer.
- Danny Masterson portrays Jerry Rubin in the movie The Chicago 8, written and directed by Pinchas Perry. It was filmed in September and October 2009. The film is based closely on the trial transcripts and most of the action takes place in the courtroom.
- On 7 November 1970, Rubin became involved in a humorous landmark for British television. When appearing on The Frost Programme, host David Frost referred to Rubin as a 'reasonable man', to which Felix Dennis, who was sitting in the audience, replied jokingly that Rubin was the "most unreasonable cunt I've ever known in my life". This is widely believed to be the first use of the word 'cunt' on live British television.
- Rubin, Jerry (1970). DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0671205355.
- Rubin, Jerry (1971). We Are Everywhere. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0060137243.
- Rubin, Jerry (1976). Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven. M Evans & Co. ISBN 978-0871311894.
- Rubin, Jerry; Leonard, Mimi (1980). The War Between the Sheets: What’s Happening with Men in Bed and What Men and Women Are Doing About It. Putnam. ISBN 978-0399900938.
- Pace, Eric (November 30, 1994). "Jerry Rubin, 56, Flashy 60's Radical, Dies; 'Yippies' Founder and Chicago 7 Defendant". The New York Times.
- Jerry Rubin, 56, Flashy 60's Radical, Dies; 'Yippies' Founder and Chicago 7 Defendant by Eric Pace in International New York Times, November 30, 1994. Accessed February 12, 2015.
- "Finally, Jerry Rubin Trusts People Over 30, Especially Wife Mimi Leonard and His New Wall Street Pals". People. December 1, 1980. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
- Timothy Stanley (May 14, 2008), The Long Haired Conservatives: the Children of '68 Reconsidered at the Wayback Machine (archived August 20, 2008)
- Lee, Martin A.; Bruce Shlain (1992). Acid Dreams: The Complete Social, History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (PDF). New York: Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3062-3.
- Kathrine Boesen (November 2011). "disruptions of troops and of trucks carrying napalm" (PDF). Jerry Rubin and the Youth International Party. University of Copenhagen. p. 4. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
- Michael Lowe (Spring 2012). "Radical Action and a National Antiwar Movement: The Vietnam Day Committee" (PDF). Radical Action and a National Antiwar Movement: The Vietnam Day Committee. Western Illinois Historical Review. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
- Torgoff, Martin (2004). Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age 1945-2000. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. ISBN 0-7432-3011-6.
- Can't Find My Way Home 2004, p. 229.
- Robert Fitch (March–April 1995). "Remembering Jerry Rubin". Remembering Jerry Rubin. Solidarity. Retrieved March 16, 2014.
- A Yippie Manifesto by Jerry Rubin. History & Political Science Department. Montgomery College. Accessed April 21, 2014.
- Ron Chepesiuk, Sixties Radicals, Then and Now: Candid Conversations with Those Who Shaped the Era (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1995), 182.
- Acid Dreams 1992, p. 202.
- Quoted in Acid Dreams 1992, p. 215.
- Albert, Judith Clavir; Stewart Edward Albert (1984). The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade. New York: Praeger Publishers. p. 442. ISBN 0-275-91781-9.
- The Sixties Papers 1984, p. 443.
- Levitate the Pentagon
- The Day The Pentagon Was Supposed To Lift Off Into Space
- Remembering the Pentagon March (1967)
- Acid Dreams 1992, p. 205.
- Schultz, John (2009). No One Was Killed: The Democratic National Convention, August 1968. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-74078-2.
- The Sixties Papers 1984, p. 42.
- Jerry Rubin. "The Chicago Seven" Trial 1969–1970 Homepage. Accessed April 1, 2014.
- Can't Find My Way Home, p. 237.
- Can't Find My Way Home, pp. 236–237.
- 60s Activist Jerry Rubin Dies After Auto Injuries by Shawn Hubler in Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1994. Accessed April 13, 2014.
- Schultz, John (2009). The Chicago Conspiracy Trial: Revised Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-74114-7.
- Booth, Martin (2003). Cannabis: A History. London: Bantam Books.
- "Two Rubins Debate Protesters' Role". The Evening Independent. June 5, 1972.
- O'Dell, Cary (1997). Women Pioneers in Television: Biographies of Fifteen Industry Leaders. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company. ISBN 0-7864-0167-2. OCLC 35646616. Retrieved 1 August 2009.
- The Realist
- Turbulent '60s Live Again at Funeral for Activist Radicals, Friends Bid Hoffman Farewell
- Adam Curtis (2002). "The Century of the Self - There Is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed". BBC. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- Catherine L. Albanese (2001). "American Spiritualities: A Reader". Indiana University Press. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
- New York Magazine’s Original 1975 Review of Saturday Night Live by Jeff Greenfield October 27, 1975 issue of New York. Accessed February 12, 2015.
- Up Against the Wallpaper by Michael O'Donoghue, Saturday Night Live Transcripts. Season 1: Episode 2. Accessed February 12, 2015.
- American Spiritualities: A Reader. Edited by Catherine L. Albanese. Chapter 11 est by Jerry Rubin. 2001. Indiana University Press. Accessed April 13, 2014.
- Derek VanPelt (May 6, 1976). "Jerry Rubin". Ann Arbor Sun. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
- Steven Gaines (November 28, 2014). "Jerry Rubin, His Penis and Me: A Very Short Story". The New York Observer. Retrieved November 28, 2014.
- What Jerry Rubin did in his final months. Accessed March 15, 2011.
- 60s Activist Jerry Rubin Dies After Auto Injuries by Shawn Hubler in Los Angeles Times, November 29, 1994. Accessed March 24, 2014.
- Aphrodite's Child – 666
- Jerry Rubin at the Internet Movie Database
- Beck, Marilyn; Stacy Jenel Smith (October 27, 2009). "Romano, Bakula, Braugher Had 'Men' Chemistry". Jacksonville Observer. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
- Felix Dennis appears on the David Frost Programme. YouTube.
- Berger, Joseph (1994-12-04). "Born to Be Wild. Scratch That. Born to Be Mild.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
- Welter, Ben (2006-11-12). "April 1970: Jerry Rubin leads Honeywell protest". Star Tribune (Minneapolis).
- Jerry Rubin at Find a Grave
- Jerry Rubin, Do It! - extract (1970)