Revolutionary activist and YIPPIE founder STEW ALBERT 1939-2006
He threw and burned money at the new york stock exchange, he levatated the pentagon,he fought in the streets of chicago during the 68 democractic convention, he helped build people's park, he was beaten, he did time,and then he ran for SHERRIF against evil frank madigan in 1970 and almost won. He and other YIPPIES made ties and helped organize with groups such as S.D.S, S.N.C.C.,the black panthers, the young lords,the G.L.F., the weathermen and others. He was a true servant to the PEOPLE and a good friend, til the end.
Stew died early monday morning after fighting a brave battle with liver cancer.
He will be an immense loss to all who knew him and all who didn't get a chance. The service will be on Wednesday, February 1, at 1:00 at the Havurah
Shalom synagog at 825 NW 18th Ave in Portland, Oregon
Stew passed away early this morning after a heroic battle with liver cancer.
A service will be held on Wednesday, February 1, at 1:00 at the Havurah
Shalom synagog at 825 NW 18th Ave in Portland, Oregon . Some of his last words
were that "his politics had not changed".
Below are some thoughts of some of Stew's mates.
I am afraid I am still in shock over the swiftness of Stew's passing. I am overwhelmed and flooded by too much right now. I just did't want this warrior to taken from us quite so soon or ever, he was such a warm heart and an asset to the fight for social justice. So long sheriff, I love you mate
yours in struggle
We will be playing a speech by STEW given at the red and black cafe (2001) ON INDY WEB RADIO tonight AT 10 PM-
Elbert (dynamite) (big man) Howard- founding member of the black panther party
Its sad to see you go,but I know our spirits will meet again soon. I am so grateful to have crossed paths with you again after so many years. It warms my heart to think of the short time we spent sitting on your back porch talking. We were just two old warriors taking a break from the battle. We were fully aware that our resistance against the war on civilization was not over. Well my good friend for you the battle is over. It is your time to rest. Your time to have some peace. So rest in peace my friend. Your work is done. And well done. Big Man
My deepest sympathy to Judy and Jessica and to the many family members and friends who knew and loved Stew.
Revolutionary for the Hell of It
The Good Life of Stew Albert
By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
As one of the creative directors of the Yippies, Stew Albert helped to script the 60s. Stew's life is a joyous rebuttal to the slurs of mean-spirited bigots such as David Horowitz and Newt Gingrich that the 60s counterculture unleashed a moral rot at core of American society.
Of course, Stew was the true moralist. And the prime moral virtue was to live honestly. He had seen his own government spy on him and his family for no justifiable cause, politicians betray their constituents, cops beat and gas demonstrators on the streets of Chicago, university presidents summon National Guard troops onto campuses to abuse and kill students, and generals repeatedly lie about the war in Vietnam, where 54,000 young Americans and 2 million Vietnamese died.
The Yippies thrived on the exposure of moral hypocrisy. Their creative mischief made radical politics fun. The Yippies proved to be more effective than the dour pronouncements of Tom Hayden or the trustfund bombers in the Weather Underground. The Yippies didn't need George Lakoff to tell them how to "reframe" an issue. They learned from the Situationists as well as vaudeville acts and Borscht Belt comedy routines, from the Marx cousins, Karl and Groucho. And because of that their legacy lives in Earth First and Greenpeace. The chaotic carnival of protest that overswept the streets of Seattle during the WTO meetings owed much to the Yippie brain trust of Albert, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.
Stew outlived his colleagues in mayhem, Rubin and Hoffman, by 20 years, spending most of that time in Portland. But he didn't retreat from the world. Unlike the repulsive Gingrich, who divorced his wife while she was on a hospital bed being treated for cancer, Stew and his wife Judy lived together for 40 years. Their's was the fullest of unions, as loverI, political partners, parents of their beautiful and brilliant daughter Jessica, political partners and citizens
in Tom Paine's full-fleshed sense of the word.
Stew was Jewish and his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish history and holy texts rivaled any Talmudic scholar. But Stew was never soft on the Israeli government. He opposed its seizure of the Occupied Territories and savage treatment of the Palestinian people.
Although he and Judy had been treated cruelly by the US government, Stew genuinely loved America: its people, its landscapes, its zaniness. He viewed the nation as an ongoing work-in-progress, a work that social activists could helped to write.
Shortly after CounterPunch went online, Stew began sending us batches of poems every Friday. We were delighted to run them. The poems were topical, wry and wildly popular with the dedicated readers of our "Poets Basement". Most of Stew's poems were political, though towards the end he began writing more and more about the cruel twist of fate he was confronting with his medical treatment, where he was being pricked with needles and drugs every day in a battle to suppress a disease that is most often acquired through the use of needles and drugs. My favorites though were his casual observances of the mercurial weather here in Oregon, where the sky can display a thousand shades of gray. They are funny and vivid poems that remind me of Frank O'Hara's lunch poems.
You can catch a glimpse of Stew and Judy in the Hollywood film about Abbie Hoffman, Steal This Movie. But to get the real story of his life you need to pick up a copy (it would be hard to shoplift one since so few bookstores carry it) of his memoir Who the Hell is Stew Albert? The title is courtesy of Howard Stern, no less. It's more than an account of Stew's life, it's one of the best chronicles of the 60s and the ongoing cultural and political fallout from that strange, creative decade.
I don't think Stew ever told me how he contracted Hep C. I got a call from him a couple of years ago inviting me to a party at his house the week before he was going to start the cruel regimen of chemotherapy for a long run of months. Hep C is a nasty and remorseless disease that ungratefully targets the most altruistic among us. Nurses are particularly vulnerable to this neglected disease.
Then came good news. The disease had been beaten into remission. That spring he and Judy went on a roadtrip across the southwest to celebrate his triumph over the Reaper. Before they left, Stew asked me if there were any places they should visit. I jotted down some of my favorite desert haunts: Marble Canyon, the Vermilion Cliffs, Arches, Zion, the Coral Pink sand dunes.
He came back animated by the surreal landscape. We also talked about the places that he and Judy stopped to eat along the way. We discussed the secret pleasures of Basque cuisine that can only be sampled in dusty dives on the lonely backroads of Nevada and Idaho, places where a lot of liberals would never dare to venture. Stew loved food. Not just the taste, but the alchemy of the kitchen, the smells, textures and secret methods of making meals. I went to three or four parties as Stew and Judy's house. Each was a festival of food, with enough dishes to have sated Fellini. Of course, chemo kills the palate and Hep C often imposes a bland and restricted diet on its victims. Getting well meant being able to enjoy those simple but essential pleasures.
So 2005 was a good year. Then around Christmastime Stew told me that the disease had come roaring back, this time as Stage 4 liver cancer for which there was only palliative treatment and the comfort of family and friends. Stew described the excruciating pain he was in toward the end. But he never whined about it. Never sounded bitter, though he had every right to be. Never wished the fatal affliction on his enemies, as much as they have deserved his fate.
At 66, Stew wasn't about change the tenor of his life and let such thoughts eclipse his optimistic spirit, his utopian vision, his humaneness. A few hours before he died, Stew declared: "My politics haven't changed."
Stew Albert engaged the world head on, as if there was no other possible way to live.
From Robert Greenwald, producer of Steal This Movie and the Wal*Mart documentary
Hero is an overused word, and yet with the death of Stew Albert yesterday, it is the only word that comes to mind. As a key organizer of the movement against Vietnam, he helped spearhead one of the most famous anti-war protests, where thousands surrounded the Pentagon and chanted in an effort to levitate the building. Along with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin he was one of the leading figures of the Yippies!; a life long activist - most recently with his own blog ( http://stewa.blogspot.com/) - Stew worked for justice with rare passion.
I first met Stew when I decided to make a film about Abbie Hoffman. Stew became an inspiration, a model, a guide and a constant thorn in the side of self-seriousness throughout the process of developing and shooting Steal This Movie.
I will always remember his arrival on the set with his partner Judy and the cast's initial nervous excitement about meeting Stew and Judy. Donal Logue, who was playing Stew was very concerned about portraying him accurately. Within an hour, Stew and Judy were embraced by the cast and pushed for details of what the '60s were really like. Everyone from Vincent D'Onofrio who played Abbie, to Janeane Garofalo who played Anita Hoffman, surrounded them and spent hours in intense and ultimately completely inspiring conversation.
Stew walked the walk, not just talked the talk. His warmth, passion and great prankster nature were with him until the end. He has inspired me, he has taught me and he will be missed dearly. We need all our heroes. Robert Greenwald
"My politics have not changed."
So read the simple blog entry by Stew Albert on January 28, 2006. Two days later, he died in his sleep at his home in Portland, Oregon, surrounded by his wife Judy Albert, daughter Jessica and friends. Suffering from cancer and unable to write at length, he was clearly determined to make a statement - a last stand -- that blended the legendary Yippie's defiance and wit. As if his politics would ever change!
For the Yippies - the Youth International Party -- the word "party" meant both political group and outrageously good time. The Yippies merged left-wing activism and freak culture in the late 1960s. One of the "non-leaders" along with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Paul Krassner was another party animal -- equally irresponsible for the chaos and comedy: Stew Albert, a fierce soldier for justice as well as subversive prankster.
Born on December 4, 1939 in Brooklyn to a working-class family, Stew was genetically nonconformist - a natural blonde Jew. In 1960, he visited the young, idealistic revolutionary Cuba and it derailed his plans for civil servitude. "I saw people living exciting, meaningful lives not based on self-promotion or small-time ideology," he later wrote. After a failed attempt at reintegrating into normalcy, he got bit by wanderlust and ended up in Berkeley, California working for the anti-war Vietnam Day Committee whose most effective founding member was Jerry Rubin. Soon, Stew and Jerry were best friends and Stew was in the thick of Berkeley's cannabinoided counter-culture. Despite his "growing rage" at America's war on Vietnam, his "private joy was complete." In 1966, his pal Rubin ran for Mayor of Berkeley and Stew became campaign manager and created a campaign that advocated social justice, an end to war and racism as well as the legalization of marijuana - a brave, new demand - and he laid out the campaign pamphlet in a decidedly psychedelic style. The same year, Rubin was called before the commie-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee and he showed up wearing a Revolutionary War costume. These examples of performance politics successfully blew the minds of the congressional creeps and thrilled young anti-war activists by establishing a new tactic - capture their imaginations and their hearts will follow.
In preparation for a march on the Pentagon, Stew and Jerry flew to New York City in the summer of 1967 and befriended a fellow longhaired, wisecracking troublemaker named Abbie Hoffman. Stew, Jerry, Abbie, Jim Fouratt, and others descended on the visitor's gallery of the New York Stock Exchange and showered 500 one-dollar bills onto the floor below. For the first time in Wall Street's history, trading stopped on the floor while the greedheads went grabby ga-ga for the green. This merry band had pulled down the curtain on the wizards of capitalism and the media lapped up the story.
In October of that year, Stew helped organize the massive March on the Pentagon. Stew, Jerry, Abbie, along with Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs and others, announced that they were going to exorcise the Pentagon of evil spirits and levitate it. Again, the story made for thrilling press. By the end of 1967, these characters, along with Paul Krassner, Allen Ginsberg, Phil Ochs, Bob Fass, Anita Hoffman, Nancy Kurshan, Kate Coleman, Keith and Judy Lampe, and others, signed a unified statement of purpose and announced themselves as Yippie, a name thought up by Krassner.
The Yippies began planning a Festival of Life for the Democratic Convention in August of 1968. The idea was to present a counterpoint to the Convention of Death hosted by the politicians who'd brought us the war in Vietnam. That year marked another watershed event in Stew's life when he met fellow traveler Judy Clavir in Berkeley, a love story that lasted his entire life. Judy, later dubbed "Gumbo" by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, became his mate and a renowned activist in her own right.
Stew contributed Pigasus to The Festival of Life, an actual pig that he and Jerry announced was the Yippie candidate for president. The pig was later detained by the police and squealed in custody. The counter-convention devolved into a police riot where thousands of demonstrators - including Stew -- were savagely beaten in what was dubbed "a police riot" by a federal commission. Undeterred by the facts, the government prosecuted a group of the organizers for conspiracy to riot in what became known as the Chicago 8 (later 7) trial. Abbie and Jerry were two of the indictees and Stew was named an unindicted co-conspirator (evidently two Yippies were sufficient). The Chicago Conspiracy Trial became known as "The Trial Of The Century" and eventually all charges were dropped.
Stew cut a swath across the planet. He ended up in London on the David Frost Show (along with limey accomplices including writer/rocker Mick Farren) where he actually made a history book for being The First Person To Say 'Cunt' On British Television. He traveled to Algeria to facilitate escaped fugitive Timothy Leary's exile, where Leary stayed with another exile, Eldridge Cleaver. (Of all the Yippies, Stew was the closest to the Black Panthers, particularly Cleaver.) He enlisted John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a "Beatle/Yippie pact" that resulted in Lennon's radicalization and near-deportation.
Beyond YIP, he ran for Sheriff of Alameda County (and lost, but carried Berkeley), where he'd earlier done months of jail time for general agitation. With compadre and folksinger Phil Ochs, he traveled to Chile before the CIA-backed coup. When he implemented DIY egalitarianism by helping create People's Park in Berkeley, then-Governor Ronald Reagan responded to the unsanctioned green space by bringing in the National Guard and turning the streets into a war zone.
While living in the Catskills, Judy discovered a tracking device connected to their car, placed by the FBI. She and Stew eventually sued the FBI for illegal surveillance -- and won (proving there's a damn good reason the feds need judicial warrants). In 1977, their daughter Jessica Pearl Albert was born. Stew went on to become a private eye and reconnected with his Jewish roots. He was played by actor Donal Logue in the Abbie biopic Steal This Movie in 2000.
Through the years, Stew never stopped thirsting for peace and justice. He became a mentor and friend to younger activists, from the L.A. Cacophony Society to myriad anarchists. Young people from all over the world corresponded with Stew, asking about Yippie and seeking advice on contemporary shit-stirring. He continued to write extensively, publishing The Sixties Papers with Judy and his autobiography Who The Hell Is Stew Albert?
After being diagnosed with Hepatitis C, he spent the last year enduring chemotherapy. Just as he completed his treatment and was given a clean bill of health, he was diagnosed with liver cancer last December. It was a cruel twist, but in an e-mail to friends he was determined to confront it head-on and with humor. "I am still a Yippie," he noted. A week before his death, he gave a two hour plus interview to a film crew making a documentary about the Yippies and although he was clearly tired and in pain, he remained powerful, insightful, unrepentant, and funny as hell. As he wrote in his autobiography, he had "an uncontainable need to test my bravery," something he did until the end.
And as the man said, his politics never changed.
If you choose, contributions honoring Stew's life and times may be made to Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette, 3231 SE 50th, Portland OR 97213 or the Rosenberg Fund for Children, 116 Pleasant St. # 3312 Easthampton MA 01027
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