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Stew Albert: 1939-2006, Yippie! for Life

Michael Simmons Feb 7, 2006

Read the simple blog entry by Stew Albert on Jan. 28. Two days later, he died of cancer at his home in Portland, Ore., surrounded by his wife, Judy Gumbo Albert, and their daughter, Jessica. He was 66.

Stew was an original member of the Yippies, who merged left-wing activism and freak culture in the late 1960s. Along with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner and others, he was a soldier for justice as well as a subversive prankster; a practitioner of performance politics that blew the minds of young people by establishing a new tactic – capture their imaginations and their hearts will follow.

Stew, Jerry and Abbie first made news in August 1967 when they showered 500 one dollar bills from the visitors’ gallery of the New York Stock Exchange onto the floor below. For the first time in Wall Street’s history, trading stopped while the greedheads went grabby ga-ga for the green.

In October of that year, Stew helped organize the March on the Pentagon to exorcise it of evil and try to levitate it. Again, the media lapped it up. Soon dubbed the Yippies – the Youth International Party – by Krassner, the gang began planning a Festival of Life to protest the Democratic Convention in August 1968. Stew contributed Pigasus, an actual pig that he and Jerry announced was the Yippie candidate for president.

The counter-convention devolved when thousands of demonstrators, including Stew, were savagely beaten in what was dubbed “a police riot” by a federal commission. The government prosecuted several of the organizers for conspiracy to riot, in the legendary “Chicago Seven” trial. Stew was named an unindicted co-conspirator.

Stew later flew to Algeria to help fugitive Timothy Leary, who sought refuge there, along with another exile, Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. (Of all the Yippies, Stew was the closest to the Panthers.)

He enlisted John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a “Beatle/Yippie pact” that resulted in Lennon’s near-deportation. He ran for sheriff of Alameda County, California, where he’d earlier done months of jail time. He traveled to Chile with folksinger Phil Ochs before the 1973 CIA-backed coup against the elected socialist government there.

Stew helped create People’s Park in Berkeley in 1969. Then-Governor Ronald Reagan responded to the DIY green space by bringing in the National Guard and turning the streets into a war zone. After Stew and Judy discovered a tracking device under their car, they sued the FBI for illegal surveillance – and won (proving why the feds should have to get judicial warrants).

Stew was played by actor Donal Logue in the Abbie Hoffman biopic Steal This Movie in 2000. Through the years, he mentored young activists from all over the world who corresponded with him, asking about Yippies and seeking advice on contemporary shit-stirring. He published The Sixties Papers with Judy and his autobiography, Who The Hell Is Stew Albert?

As he wrote in the latter, he had “an uncontainable need to test my bravery,” something he did until the end.

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