1960s radical Jerry Rubin, 56, dies in California of heart attack

November 29, 1994|By New York Times News Service

Jerry Rubin, the firebrand 1960s radical who used to preach distrust of "anyone over 30," died last night in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 56.

The cause was cardiac arrest, a hospital spokesman said. Mr. Rubin was struck by a car on Nov. 15 in Los Angeles. Local authorities said he was hit while jaywalking. He underwent surgery later that day, at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center and subsequently was listed in critical condition there.

Mr. Rubin was a bearded standard-bearer of the New Left in the 1960s who helped carve himself a niche in American radical history with fey and energetic protest gestures, though his views and style changed in subsequent decades.

Looking back years later, he called himself one of "the anticapitalistic comics of the 1960s" who used street-theater to pursue -- without much success -- "the radical dream of transforming the system from outside."

In 1967, he campaigned to elect a pig as president the United States and dropped dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Earlier in the 1960s, he became a fervent opponent of the war in Vietnam, and he spoke proudly of that opposition in later decades.

As the 1960s went on, Mr. Rubin was involved in protest activity around the country, and he became one of the group of radical defendants, the Chicago Seven, who went on trial in 1969, in Chicago. They were the subjects of federal indictments for conspiracy to disrupt the 1968 Democratic National Convention in that city, where the police beat and tear-gassed protesters on the streets.

The trial produced some of the most bizarre courtroom scenes in American jurisprudence. It was raucous and rowdy, punctuated by the defendant Abbie Hoffman's taunting of the iron-willed judge, Julius J. Hoffman, and it is widely seen as epitomizing the contentious 1960s, with the Vietnam War in the background and American campuses crackling with dissidence.

Mr. Rubin and Abbie Hoffman were co-founders of the quintessential 1960s protest group, the Yippies. At the Chicago Seven trial, in Federal District Court, Judge Hoffman aimed sarcastic remarks and occasional tirades at the defendants and their lawyers. The defendants chewed jelly beans at first and later screamed insults at the prosecutors and the judge.

The seven were acquitted of conspiracy, but Mr. Rubin and four of the others were found guilty of crossing state borders with the intent of inciting a riot.

Later, those convictions were overturned by an appeals court, which cited, among other reasons, what it called Judge Hoffman's "antagonistic" courtroom demeanor.

In 1970, after the trial, a book of political autobiography came out. Its title was "Do It! Scenarios of the Revolution," and it became a best seller.

In 1973, Mr. Rubin was one of four men found guilty, after a trial in a Chicago court, of contempt of court for their conduct during the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial. Judge Edward Gignoux criticized the four for their outbursts against, and insults of, Judge Hoffman.

But Judge Gignoux decided against imposing any jail sentences on the four.

As the 1970s went on, Mr. Rubin made the rounds of what he called "the lecture circuit." And in various forums he drew attention to himself and his evolving ideas.

He continued writing, and his book "Growing (Up) at 37" came out in 1976, by which time he had become "clean-shaven."

A watershed of sorts came in 1980.

He worked briefly for the Wall Street firm of John Muir & Co. and went on to make a new name for himself operating a business that promoted one variety of the interpersonal communicating that by then had become known as networking.

In the Rubin version, people paid fees to attend parties where they might meet people who could advance their careers -- or might simply make new friends. By 1985, Rubin and his wife were holding net working evenings every Tuesday evening at the Palladium, a striking new club on East 14th Street in Manhattan.

Something of the 1960s radical solidarity lingered through the years. Another member of the Chicago Seven, David Dellinger, said, in an interview in October, "When people asked me what I thought when Jerry Rubin went to Wall Street, I would say, 'I still feel palpitations of love, even if I've gone in one direction and he's gone in another.'"

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

What happened to Jerry Rubin's fellow Chicago Seven defendants:

Abbie Hoffman: Committed suicide in April 1989 at 52, using phenobarbital and alcohol. Had been the most politically involved Yippie leader, although he vanished for seven years in New York to avoid cocaine possession charges.

Rennie Davis: Right-wing capitalist and president of a Denver think tank that develops technologies for the environment. Briefly sold life insurance and dabbled in Hinduism.

David Dellinger: Longtime pacifist lives off grant money and lecturing fees near Peacham, Vt. Regularly fasts in a protest to change the name of Columbus Day to Native American Day.

John Froines: Director of the Occupational Health Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. Served in the Jimmy Carter administration as director of toxic substances for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Tom Hayden: California state senator and founder of Students for a Democratic Society, spearheaded several environmental initiatives. Was married to actress Jane Fonda for 16 years; they divorced in 1990.

Lee Weiner: Works with a direct-mail firm in Washington for nonprofit organizations and political clients. In membership development at the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith in New York. Participated in recent protests for AIDS research and Soviet Jews.

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