Stew Albert, Drug War Victim
dana at phantom.com
Fri Feb 3 12:19:36 EST 2006
Ironically, Stew Albert, who was on the wrong side of the split with
High Times founder / zippie breakaway leader Tom Forcade, and missed
the early stirrings of the harm reduction movement, contracted Hep C
shooting coke with a dirty needle and died from consequent liver
cancer, even though he'd beaten the virus with the usual, extremely
Too bad. He only recently really learned of ibogaine, but he was a
supporter of reconciliation among the Yippies, and therefore rejected
the anti-Vietnam purists who still say opposition to the Drug War was
never legitimate Yippie politics.
His memorial in Portland was attended by Rocky and Aivia, my
daughter, on behalf of the Ibogaine movement. I will miss him.
Cures not Wars
co-Founder, Youth International Party
Stew Albert, 66, Who Used Laughter to Protest a War, Dies
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: February 1, 2006 NYTIMES
Stew Albert, who with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and a handful of
similarly scruffy, leftist anti-establishmentarians formed the Yippie
party to protest the Vietnam War, mock institutional authority and
nominate a pig, Pigasus, for president, died on Monday at his home in
Portland, Ore. He was 66.
The cause was liver cancer, said his wife, Judy Gumbo Albert.
Mr. Albert was not as famous as Mr. Hoffman or Mr. Rubin, nor did he
dream up the nickname for their Youth International Party: Paul
But Mr. Albert was a leader of the Yippies, inasmuch as there were
leaders, from before the formal hatching of the self-styled gang of
political absurdists in January 1968 until they faded away after
It was he who lectured the 82nd Airborne on the larger lessons of the
Lone Ranger during the March on the Pentagon in 1967, and he who
caused considerable laughter after Yippies were arrested after
nominating Pigasus outside the Democratic National Convention in
Chicago in 1968.
Afterward, he quoted a policeman's comment while he was in jail: "I
have bad news for you, boys. The pig squealed on you."
When it came to what were called New Left politics, Mr. Albert did
not miss much. He participated in demonstrations for free speech at
Berkeley; dropped money from the balcony of the New York Stock
Exchange to satirize capitalism; befriended Black Panthers; and was
investigated in connection with bombing the United States Capitol but
never charged with it.
His close friends included Tom Hayden, a protest leader who became a
conventional politician; Phil Ochs, the folk singer; Allen Ginsberg,
the poet; William Kunstler, the radical lawyer; and Bobby Seale, the
Black Panther. He went to Algeria to facilitate the introduction of
Timothy Leary, the LSD advocate, to the exiled Eldridge Cleaver, a
When the police clubbed Mr. Albert in the head at the Chicago
convention, he felt it was almost worth it when the rogue writer
William Burroughs patted him on the back and Jean Genet, also a
writer known for unconventionality, said, "Not bad."
In 1970, shortly after being released from the Alameda County jail in
California, Mr. Albert campaigned to replace the sheriff who had
supervised his incarceration. He lost, but got 65,000 votes, and
carried the city of Berkeley.
Steward Edward Albert was born in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of
Brooklyn on Dec. 4, 1939. His father worked as a clerk for New York
City, and his mother's strong anti-Communism came about partly
because the Communists had a picnic on the beach on Yom Kippur. As a
teenager, the young Mr. Albert enthusiastically supported the United
States in the Korean War, but joined local protests against the
execution of Caryl Chessman in California in 1960.
He attended James Madison High School and graduated from Pace
University with a major in politics and philosophy. He worked in the
city welfare department before buying a $99, 30-day bus ticket to go
to San Francisco and heal a broken heart. He headed straight to City
Lights bookstore, famed for its beatnik heritage, and met Mr. Ginsberg.
He soon went to Berkeley and befriended Mr. Rubin, who was a graduate
student and social activist. Mr. Rubin wrote that the man he called
Socrates Stew was a more effective educator than most professors as
he sat behind a table for the Vietnam Day Committee engaging students.
After participating in Mr. Rubin's unsuccessful campaign for mayor of
Berkeley and becoming a friend of Bobby Seale and other Panthers, Mr.
Albert moved to New York in the spring of 1968 to organize antiwar
demonstrations with Mr. Hoffman.
He lived in a rent-free cellar with his wife; she and their daughter,
Jessica Pearl Albert, are his only immediate survivors.
Ms. Albert said the idea for the Chicago convention protest was to
have a rock festival, but that organizers were repeatedly denied
permits. Most bands, except for Country Joe and the Fish and MC-5,
became uneasy about potential confrontation and pulled out.
The protests involved many parties, but the Yippies got much of the
publicity. Some leftists resented them because they believed their
antics trivialized serious issues. Mainstream observers, like
Theodore H. White, writing in "The Making of the President, 1968"
were unimpressed for different reasons. He called the Yippies "a
strolling farce of lost and forlorn people."
Eight protesters were charged with conspiring to riot. After Mr.
Seale was dropped from the group, the remaining seven were tried in a
trial lasting five months. Five were convicted, but these convictions
were reversed.Mr. Albert was an unindicted co-conspirator. His wife
said the reason was that he was working as a correspondent for The
Berkeley Barb, a status that raised free-press issues.
In 1971, Mr. Albert appeared before grand juries investigating the
bombing of a bathroom in the United States Capitol and an alleged
plot to bomb a Manhattan bank. He was not charged in either case.
In 1978, the F.B.I. fired two supervisors for illegally planting
listening devices in a home where Mr. Albert was living in the
For the last 21 years, Mr. Albert lived in Portland, where he wrote
articles and books, ran a Web site and participated in organizations
fostering racial harmony.
Last Friday, in his next-to-last blog entry, he wrote, "My politics
have not changed."
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