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From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES

In Bed with John Lennon and Yoko Ono

Scenes

I WAS IN TORONTO last week to do an interview for WABC-FM with John and Yoko Ono Lennon; one of the reasons the Lennons were there, as you probably already know, was to announce their “peace festival.” It seems everyone and his greedy brother is slapping together a rock festival, but this one sounds like it might headline the summer’s fare, and include one unique and cozy feature. The entire stage will be in the form of a massive bed, and so this July 3, 4, and 5 the joyful noise of “rock, peace, poetry, and whatever” will be coming from between the sheets. Then the Lennons will be coming from between the sheets. Then the Lennons would like to tuck the whole package in and take it on a world tour, especially to Russia and Czechoslovakia.

When I asked him about the Beatles as an entity, John said casually that they might never play again, then added that they feel that way every time they finish an album. On the other hand, he mentioned that it is getting increasingly hard to fit all their songs on one lp, notably since George has begun to write so prolifically. He did seem sure they would never tour again as a group. As for music, John felt they hadn’t made any dynamic changes since “Sergeant Pepper,” and their music should go further out again. He also denied that the Beatles are leaving the Allan Klein management, and in fact said he liked Klein, not only as a businessman but also as a person.

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When asked why he comes to Canada so often, other than problems with his U.S. visa, John answered, “Because it talks to China.” Another reason why he was there this time was to sign the 5000 copies of his erotic lithographs. In between writer’s cramp and macrobiotic meals (served by two chefs flown in from the Caldron on the Lower East Side), the Lennons planned the next phases of their peace campaign. They just completed their billboard event in Times Square and 10 other major cities, and will present another surprise in Japan by remote control in the next few weeks.

Both John and Yoko seem unaffected that war is even more powerful a piggy now, despite all their dove flutter and commotion. “We believe in selling peace … nobody says to give up Christianity because Christ died.”

Their latest angle will be a “peace poll.” Letters, postcards, or any other voucher from the peace-bent will be sent to a prescribed — as yet to be announced — address. They think that maybe a mountain of this mail can be delivered to one of those masters of war who is impressed by statistics. ❖

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FEATURE ARCHIVES From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Expectation of Rising Revolutions

Report From Chicago

CHICAGO — In the gym of a seminary on the North Side, an ex-marine is showing a Baltimore Weatherman how to ram a heavy pole into a cop’s gut. There’s a Vietcong flag on the pole. The floor is littered with helmets, fatigue jackets, gas masks, goggles, canteens, gauze, and gloves. Most of the Weathermen are sitting tensely on the floor. A few practice karate kicks. No one enters the building without emptying pockets and being frisked.

At another church, only a few blocks away, the RYM II (Revolutionary Youth Movement) coalition of SDS is busy assembling its members as they trickle in from out of state, regis­tering bail contacts on neat index cards, and frisking everyone at the door. Groups are organizing to leaflet the area’s black and brown communities. Someone announces an hour when tetanus shots will be given. Someone else wants to know how many Weathermen have arrived in Chicago. The mood is more relaxed, the church friendlier.

Chicago itself is uneasy. The heated clashes between blacks and whites in the construction industry have just cooled. The statue of a policeman in Haymarket Square was blown apart Monday. Tilden High, on the South Side, is on the brink of racial war. Policemen have shot one Puerto Rican, and two days later, will kill his brother, starting a major gun battle in which eight cops will be shot. The minister of the church housing the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican gang turned political, has just been killed. The Panther office has been invaded, several Panthers arrested, one ending up in critical condition in the hospital. The SDS National Office has been raided, Weathermen jailed and beaten, several severely. And the SDS National Action is about to begin three days in Chicago.

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Wednesday night. The gathering is in Lincoln Park, scene of last year’s convention violence. Several hundred pick their way through the dark toward the giant bonfire in the park’s center. The light off a Weatherman’s helmet, the occasional flash from a camera, the static buzz from newsmen’s walkie talkies. More bodies begin to fill the gloom. There are no uniformed cops in the park. A large banner pictures a coiled snake with the inscription “Don’t Tread On Me,” symbol of Rising Up Angry, the new paper of a white revolutionary gang in Chicago. A tall figure in burlap robes with a staff and a yoke is going through an Old Testament-cum-revolution rap to cries of “Off the Prophet!” (The next day, 50 of the same will line the streets of the Loop, Chicago’s downtown, providing cute six o’clock news copy, and then disappear as mysteriously as they arrived.)

The rally starts at eight o’clock. There are intermittent speeches and chants. By ten o’clock the crowd has grown to four or five hundred. Tom Hayden appears out of the dark and takes the bullhorn. “It’s a lie that we oppose this Weatherman demonstration. It’s good to see people coming back to Chicago, back to Lincoln Park. We welcome any intensification of the struggle.” While about half of the Conspiracy Eight endorse the Weathermen, there is only tepid official sanction, due to Panther opposition. Jeff Jones, inter-organizational secretary of SDS, announces himself as Mario Delgado — pseudonym of the Weather Bureau — to knowing tit­ters. As he speaks, there is a shift in the crowd, and the helmets begin lining up. There has been no announcement of a march, but within minutes the Weather­men are pouring out of the park, heading south toward Chicago’s plush Gold Coast and, hopefully, the Drake Hotel, residence of Judge Julius J. Hoffman. Most of the crowd trails along behind as the phalanx of 300 helmeted Weathermen begins running toward the string of luxury high-risers. Stones and bricks are picked up at construction sites along the way. Already some bottles are being dropped from windows. The crowd quickens. Now plate glass windows are, being smashed by rocks. Heavy poles shatter car windows and windshields. As the squad cars scream up and police race to head off the Weathermen, the mob suddenly swings east toward Lake Shore Drive. There are clouds of tear gas and scattered gunshots. The Weathermen have split in two. Those by Lake Shore Drive are met by car after car packed with cops, many unmarked. Shattered glass fills the street. In front of 1212 Lake Shore Drive, a pile of injured Weathermen is lying face down in the dirt with groups of cops glaring over them. One cop is holding up a piece of concrete, one foot on the back of his victim. “The motherfucker tried to hit me with this!” A team or five medics from the Medical Commission for Human Rights tries to get through to the wounded, but is charged by two policemen with clubs and quickly retreats. (Weathermen announced that unless MCHR carried rocks in their bags, they didn’t want help. Another medic, his face painted in gaudy dayglo, is soon hustled off into a van for carrying boric acid.

Fifty-eight are eventually busted. Several Weathermen are gunshot victims, one is in critical condition with a bullet in the neck. Some 30 store windows are smashed — banks, restaurants, drug stores, shops. No one reaches through the splintered glass to loot. The area is inundated with police. A Rolls Royce sits in front of one of the plusher high-risers, ringed by a crowd of incredulous onlookers. Three of its windows are smashed. A block away, a scarlet Lamborghini goes untouched. Several injured cops are hustled into cars. The com­ments of bystanders are not friendly: “I’m getting out my goddamn rifle.” “They shouldn’t put them in jail; they should be killed.” “They ought to shoot every one of the bastards!” “It’s commie backed.”

The next day Mayor Daley will call up 2500 National Guardsmen.

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Thursday. The Weathermen’s Women Militia is scheduled to “tear apart” a major induction center in downtown Chicago. The women assemble in Grant Park below the Logan statue, across from last year’s site of the Battle of Michigan Avenue. There are a cluster of 50 or 60 women, army-dressed, helmeted, many with clubs. Ringed by newsmen and photographers, they sing and chant “We love our Uncle Ho Chi Minh, deep down in our hearts. We love our chairman Mao Tse Tung, deep down in our hearts …” And cry out “Oink, Oink. Bang, bang! Dead pig!”

The leadership of the group is late in arriving. When it does, the number of newsmen has swelled and cars of cops line Michigan Ave­nue. Her face shielded by raised hands, Bernardine Dohrn speaks from the center of the cluster: “For the first time in history women are getting themselves together. We’re not picketing in front of bra factor­ies. A few buckshot wounds mean we’re doing the right thing. This is not a self-indulgent bullshit women’s movement. We refuse to be good Germans. We live behind enemy lines.”

After a quick huddle, the group opens up, lines up, and heads briskly down along the length of the park chanting “the only direction is insurrection; the only solution is revolution.” Police race to cut them off at the road. When the women reach the sidewalk, there is a double row of 20 cops. The front women try to break through, are stopped, wrestled to the ground, and thrown into nearby police vans, yelling “Power to the People!” One girl, her face squashed into the concrete by a cop’s foot, is screaming “Off the Pig!” The women regroup, but more police have arrived now, and set up a surrounding horseshoe of cops, keeping newsmen out. The women are outnumbered, out­maneuvered, and outmuscled. As they lose their momentum, several begin weeping. The cop in charge is ordering the women to drop their gloves and clubs and take off their helmets. If they don’t they’ll all be arrested. Eventually the women agree, and the police escort the women three blocks to the subway where they are ushered underground, shaken and torn by the outcome of their action.

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

An hour later, the RYM II forces, making their first open appearance, are rallying at the Federal Building where the Conspiracy Trial is going on. RYM II is supported by the Black Panthers and the Young Lords and is attracting a comfortable coalition of movement groups. There is none of the tension that the Weathermen elicit. It is lunch hour, Abbie Hoffman is down from the 23rd floor, spotting cameras, greeting friends, running his monologue. “Hey, Dick Tracy, did you get the money we sent you? … Let’s go see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid … We wanted to support the Weatherman action but there’s the Panther thing … I can’t go tomorrow — I’m Jewish and I gotta go to church … ”

An army of newsmen and camera crews is on a rooftop across the street. Squads of cops surround the skyscraper tower. The building itself is impossible to get into — all four entrances are heavily guarded by federal marshals. Even the press is having a hard time getting into the courtroom, and defense attorney William Kunstler has just filed a motion charging that legitimate newsmen are being excluded in favor of certain friends of the judge. (The New York Times had just run a spread on society women turning up at the trial.)

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A Young Lord from New York addresses the milling crowd of 500. “Fascism is here. Look at the life and property the pigs protect. It ain’t my property and it ain’t my life. In Puerto Rico, students just blew up the ROTC building.” Wild cheers. “But we’re talking about revolutionary love. Revolutionary love says you gotta pick up the gun. We’re not racists or hate mongers or war mongers. But revolution is not a dinner party. We’re fighting for all of you in those glass offices.” Speeches by Mike Klonsky, RYM II coordinator, and Carl David­son, Guardian columnist. And then Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party: “We support RYM II only. We oppose the anarchistic, adventur­istic, chauvinistic, individualistic, masochistic, and Custeristic Weathermen. We don’t dig con­frontations that lead people into struggles they’re not ready for. We want government by the people, for the people, and of the people. Fuck this shit of government by the pigs for the pigs, and of the pigs. This town’s hungry, and we need a barbecue.”

The Weathermen meanwhile have reshuffled their schedule — it had been clearly laid out on two sides of a detailed information poster.

They have abandoned the “Wargasm” (a revolutionary youth culture celebration), have postponed their high school actions, and are now filtering into the Federal Plaza for what is rumored to be a rally to co-opt RYM II support. But security quickly alerts Hampton who is speaking. The rally is abruptly ended, and everyone is urged to show up at the International Harvester plant in an hour for a massive action in support of the workers. About 150 Weathermen are now left alone in the plaza under heavy police scrutiny. They huddle together for a while and then, slipping helmets under coats, move out as unobstrusively as possible. But as has been happening since Wednesday, several are picked off and busted, identified as part of the action the night before, by Chicago’s Red Squad (The “subversive” division of police intelligence).

The RYM II action at Harvester is an orderly, sedate rally of about 40, sandwiched between the massive Cook Country courthouse and jail and the sprawling Harvester plant. About 60 brown-shirted deputies line the steps of the courthouse and more than 100 blue-helmeted cops guard the fences and entrance of Harvest. There is the familiar spectrum of movement groups, hawking politics and papers, passing around hats for bail money. The movement’s banner­-maker YAWF (Youth Against War and Fascism), provides some satin splashes of color, a gaudy orange. The sound equipment has arrived and is working perfectly. There is the repeated invective against Weatherman, this time from an organizer within the plant: “They’re a bunch of fool-ass punks running around downtown breaking windows. We shut this plant down today without firing a single shot and cost the company a quarter of a million dollars.” (It was announced that enough workers had walked out of key production departments to shut down the plant for the day.) More workers rose and told of inhuman working condi­tions, an uptight company and working men sold out by the UAW.

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The Harvester Plant is going to be torn down and moved to the suburbs where it will be inaccessible to the many black and Puerto Ricans now working in the factory. Thirty-five hundred jobs will be lost. It is rumored that a jail will replace the plant. “So the worker’s got no job, he’s standing around, he’s busted, and he ends up living — in jail — where he used to work!” The rally ends with a singling of “We Shall Overcome” and “Solidarity Forever” “When we say the ‘union,’ we mean the union of working men, not the UAW.”

Thursday night. The Weathermen mysteriously call a 10:30 news conference at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel. Sensing a hot late news item, more than 60 newsmen push through the convention crowds and pile in the narrow Club Room amidst the usual tangle and clutter of mikes, cables, plugs, lights, tripods, meters, tape decks, and cameras. There is the familiar news batter, traded with light readings, juvenile obscenities (“Stop goosing my ass!”), clowning with a helmet and gas mask, and what passes for fourth estate humor: “Call me a racist pig, Charlie.” “SD — what?,” “I wonder where our little friends are.” “Honky news collective over here.” and “Let’s get this show the road so I can eat dinner.”

Four Weathermen arrive, announce they will make a brief statement, and answer a couple of short questions. Half the newsmen start to walk out. Order is restored, and with two men standing behind them, the women give their names. One was shotgunned in the leg the night before and announces that a brother has just been shot. “Who?” click the questions, but she won’t elaborate for security reasons. Several cameras turn off and mikes are pulled out. There is a “no comment” on the Black Panther attack, and a short rap about Third World struggles from the other girl: “White people have lived off the labor of black and brown people for centuries. This is theft, and we are giving up the fruits and privileges of that labor.” She displays an NLF ring, recites “Determined to fight, determined to win” in Vietnamese, raises her fist along with the others, then the four quickly walk out past the angry and astonished newsmen

Friday. The Weatherman high school action is now cancelled. Too many people have been identified and arrested, high schools are reportedly under heavy police guard, and a long Weatherman meeting Thursday night began to challenge some of the tactics employed so far. Primarily, it is clear that not as many Weathermen have come to Chicago as expected (ditto for RYM II, who had predicted “more than 5000″), and that what was planned as demonstration actions are turning into highly vulnerable cadre actions. The Wednesday night attack has exposed the Weathermen to continued identification and arrest.

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The RYM II action for Friday is at Cook County Hospital where organizers have charged medical genocide, forced sterilization of blacks, and the use of the hospital by doctors as a cheap educational steppingstone into suburban practice. “We are sick and tired of medical moonshots, like heart transplants,” says one doctor at the rally. “We want health care that serves the people.” A Black Panther announces the opening of a free health clinic, and there is an elaborate skit depicting the “systematization” under Pig Daley of a sick welfare woman with 25 children, followed by some “radical surgery” at the Panther clinic. Awaking from the operation, the woman slowly sits up on the table. “How do you feel?” asks the Panther doctor. A huge grin spreads over her face as she slowly intones, “Ho … Ho … Ho Chi Minh!”

Again, RYM II draws about 500 people, a noisy buzzing police helicopter, hundreds of police around the street and hospital entrances, and no trouble. Some doctors join the rally, a few heckle, and many line the streets or hang out of hospital and residence windows. Organizing at Cook County has been strongest in the non-skilled job areas.

After the rally, RYM II calls a press conference at their move­ment center, a church on the North Side (in fact, all SDS groups spent the three days operating out of churches). The purpose, explains Klonsky, is to get a little press coverage of RYM’s work which is being ob­scured by a “handful of people running crazy in the streets.” Klonsky tries to keep together the idea of SDS as mass organization with some internal struggles, and repeatedly denounces the growing characterization of RYM II as non-violent and pacifist. A Young Lord adds another Weath­erman criticism: “Whoever heard of people breaking windows in a store and not taking anything?”

While RYM II meets openly and continues planning for the finale march and rally Saturday, the Weathermen are on the run. They have been temporarily thrown out of Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston when 150 Weathermen turn up instead of the expected 30. They are tossed out of another church when the pastor finds them in the basement beating a cop who has infiltrated the center. And as the Chicago rains pour down Friday night, flooding streets and cellars, there is frantic racing from center to center, from church to church, to head off an expected bust. It eventually comes at two o’clock in the morning at an Evanston church when 100 police break in on the Weathermen (mostly from New York) and arrest 43. Four warrants have been issued; two of those named are found in the church, the rest are arrested on charges of mob action and inciting to riot stemming out of Wednesday’s clash.

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Saturday. The final day of the national action. Everyone is both exhausted and primed for the final offensive. Both RYM II and Weatherman have marches and demonstrations scheduled. Both reportedly have parade permits. RYM II goes through black and brown communities, attracting several thousand marchers and a heavy police escort. The windows are filled with clenched fists. It ends with a somewhat listless, overlong rally in Humboldt Park demanding independence for Puerto Rico and withdrawal from Vietnam. Those in RYM II feel that the support has been impressive along the way.

The Weatherman action is uncertain. Nobody knows how many are left, how many are out of jail, or how many are in hospitals. Weathermen have been having trouble communicating, finding safe refuges and untapped phones. Those walking the streets have resorted to jackets and ties and straight dresses. In Chicago there is an uneasy sense that every third person is a cop. The march is slated to start from Haymarket Square where the statue’s pedestal reads “In the name of the State of Illinois, I command peace.”

As Weathermen begin to gather at the statue, plainclothesman — most disguised as longshoremen heavies — wade through the newsmen and pull out clubs. They haul off four Weathermen, among them Mark Rudd, who is making a rare public appearance. Despite the quick bust, the Weathermen group grows. Bands of 10 and 20 march into the square chanting “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh!” and join the larger group. There are speeches, Marxist-Leninist cries, raised fists, chanting, and then the Weathermen suddenly swing into the street. The cop escort is especially heavy, in front, in back, and along the line of march that sweeps through the Loop and the financial district. National Guardsmen are poised at all nearby armories. Two baby-blue sanitation sweepers swing menacingly behind the marchers, their brushes twirling, but are unable to keep up with the pace of the Weathermen. Unlike Wednesday night, there are few stragglers or observers. Newsmen are keeping to the sidewalk.

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Halfway down the route, the march suddenly breaks east through policelines. Bricks, clubs, and pipes are pulled out. Windows are smashed and chaos erupts as the column disintegrates into wild skirmishes with the police. Cops pour into the streets, grabbing everyone they can, pinning them to the ground or against cars until vans race up to cart off the arrested and injured. Several policemen appear badly beaten, the city’s corporation counsel lies motionless on the street, paralyzed from the neck down. Clumps of Weathermen dot the street and sidewalk with cops standing over them. The violence this time is brief. No guns are drawn. One hundred and three Weathermen are arrested.

It is difficult to assess the impact of the action. RYM II has not made much of a splash. Their numbers are not impressive for a much-publicized national action, despite grass-roots organizing with the Panthers and the Young Lords. Among those caught between RYM II and Weatherman, there is criticism of RYM’s political rhetoric, of a non-revolutionary appeal to workers, and of rather staid, uninspired actions and rallies. RYM has devoted a lot of energy to disassociating itself from Weatherman violence and confrontation and finds itself labeled as non-violent and pacifist. Suddenly, the Panthers and SDS (RYM) are the good guys, the friendly revolutionaries. They have been temporarily robbed of their bizazz, upstaged. On the other hand, they have incurred no liabilities, have not been busted, and have undoubtedly built up a stronger base of support than they had before the action.

With Weatherman, of course, the reverse is true. Close to 300 have been busted, some several times. Sympathies are low and bail money scarce. All are identified, labeled, photographed, catalogued. They have captured the headlines of Chicago papers for three days. They have demonstrated a street gang force that can march into the heart of Chicago and attack the police. They have provoked the calling out of 2500 National Guardsmen. They emanate an energy far in excess of their numbers. They aim to polarize and clearly succeed. At the moment, of course, returns are only in from the establishment poll, where there is extravagant hostility to the “roughneck fanatics.” At least in Chicago, there is a new sense of middle-class communion with the police. Police are praised and clucked over. Daniel J. Walker, architect of the report condemning the “police brutality” at the Democratic Convention, issues a statement applauding their behavior. Mayor Daley is smiling comfortably; his troops were restrained — at least in the publicity of the streets — and behaved as instructed. And even within the movement, there is an abundance of open hostility and despair at Weatherman politics and strategies.

Weatherman actions, however, are designed to turn on high school youths, white street gangs, working class kids. But it is unclear to what extent they have succeeded. Many Weathermen believe they are accomplishing just that. Many believe the Chicago action was a success. They have demonstrated the seriousness of their intention to physically smash the state.

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There is much internal criticism of tactics, however. The women’s action was clearly a bust. The high school actions were aborted. And there is a growing feeling that Weathermen cannot expose themselves as publicly as they did in Chicago, that the only alter­native now is to go underground.

The key to much of Weatherman politics appears in their conception of Third World struggles and the ideal of a world in revolution. They are out less to create a revolutionary movement in this country than to identify all “behind the line” white revolutionaries with anti-imperialist struggles throughout the world. It is this perspective that encourages a certain insularity from more “people-serving” organizing. There is a religious intensity to the Weatherman turn-on, a de­sperate exorcism of all mid­dle-class hangups and privilege, and a lunging attempt to magically raise the level of revolutionary consciousness through exemplary actions.

The impact of the Weathermen in Chicago is still uncertain. All returns are not yet in. ❖

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

1969 Village Voice article about Chicago 7 trial

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From The Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Ringmaster is Sitting on the Bench

CHICAGO — An impressive ragout of the Legal Left poured into Chicago Monday, caucused, picketed, caucused, and came away with a major victory: contempt charges against four defense attorneys were abruptly dropped by Judge Julius J. Hoffman in the Chicago “Conspiracy Eight” trial. “We have changed the entire complexion of the trial,” exulted Michael Kennedy, one of the lawyers cited by Hoffman for withdrawing from the trial by telegram instead of in person. “The judge collapsed completely. He painted himself into a corner. If they ever try to bust another attorney, in Pig City or anywhere else, we’ll be there.”

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Briefcase Power in the streets. At least on the sidewalk. One hundred fifty lawyers from all over the country — crying “foul” at Hoffman and the trial — picketing the Federal Courthouse. Motions filed, letters presented, and petitions signed demanding an end to “the travesties of justice” in Hoffman’s courtroom. Committees formed, to “stop the trial,” to impeach Judge Hoffman, to organize more actions. A half dozen press conferences. Confrontations with federal marshals. And a mini-drama with Chief Judge William J. Campbell, who descended robed from his skyscraper chambers with the court reporter, marshals, and a clerk to order the lawyers out of the glassed-in lobby. (Since all had signed an amicus curiae brief, condemning the proceedings, the lawyers claimed they had “official business” in the building and requested a larger courtroom to accommodate their numbers.)

Lawyers marching outside, sifting through the heavily guarded building, caucusing at the Pick-Congress Hotel while 74-year-old Judge Hoffman, looking like a dehydrated Elmer Fudd, lurched on through the trial in the small antiseptic courtroom on the 23rd floor of the federal building. And throughout the day, machine-gun indictments from lawyer after lawyer: “The trial is a farce,” “The trial is a charade,” “The trial is an outrage,” “The trial must be stopped.”

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Since the trial opened last Wednesday, lawyers and observers have been stunned by Hoffman, by his overt hostility to the defendants, by his rejection of routine defense motions, and by his denial of fundamental constitutional rights. Leonard Weinglass, one of the two trial attorneys, had been cited for  contempt for his opening statement. William Kunstler, the other lawyer, was sharply admonished for describing the judge’s reading of the indictment as “prejudiced.” And Hoffman had refused to postpone the trial on account of the illness of Charles Garry, a third attorney, now in the hospital recovering from a gall bladder operation. Bobby Seale, one of the eight defendants, then dismissed all his attorneys until he could be represented by Garry, the West Coast Panther lawyer.

The whopper, however, had yet to come. Four other lawyers, retained for pre-trial work and motions, withdrew from the case by telegram last week. Not good enough for Judge Hoffman. If they wanted to withdraw, they had to appear in person. (One is in New York, the other three in California.) So Hoffman charged them with contempt, ordered warrants issued, and when two appeared in Chicago — one voluntarily, the other in handcuffs — he ordered them held over the weekend, without bail, until sentencing Monday. For icing, he agreed to release the attorneys if the defendants waived their Sixth Amendment right-to-counsel objections. (Hoffman later denied he ever offered such a bargain.)

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It was too much — A shotgun mobilization was initiated by the National Lawyers Guild, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, calling for a massive descent on Chicago, for a crusade for the lawyers. And late Sunday they began arriving. From New York, more than 50 loaded onto an early morning flight. They came from Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington. And the demonstration turned out to   be vigorous, cheerful, and unprecedented. “We have achieved a major victory,” cried Gerald Lefcourt, one of the four attorneys, when charges were dropped. “Lawyers have come to Chicago from all over the country, and the judge has crumbled under this massive pressure.”

Not surprisingly, however, there was disagreement on the nature of the attack on the trial. ACLU members preferred to confine their complaints to civil libertarian issues. The more radical Lawyers Guild wanted some political mileage out of the trial, to use it to dramatize more generalized issues. The slogan “Stop the Trial” was adopted at an afternoon caucus, but with less than enthusiasm by the ACLUers. In addition, a return action was set for October 17, with the aim of broadening the base of support and shifting the focus from the protection of attorneys to the exposure of other legal-political repressions. Such a shift may jeopardize the involvement of the ACLU.

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The media has been loaded with criticism of the extra-court activism, the exotic support demonstrations — Yippies on Monday dispersed free apples — and the sartorial excesses of the defendants. But among the achievements of Monday’s gray-suited, attache-cased demonstration was one dramatic message, if there is a circus going on, the ringmaster is sitting on the bench. ❖

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: Bobby Seale Case

Legal Left Says the Heat is On

ASHEVILLE, North Caroline — Paranoia? Not according to attorneys Arthur Kinoy and William Kunstler. Not if you’ve read the headlines for the past week. “I don’t want to sound like a Cassandra,” said Kunstler, speaking at a recent conference for movement lawyers, “but I don’t have to. It’s no longer a guess. It’s here.”

Kinoy outlined a cluster of grim developments that had staggered him over a 24-hour period: refusal by the government to postpone the trial of the Chicago “Conspiracy Eight”; indictment of Bobby Seale on a first-degree murder charge — “the first time the chairman of a national political party faces the electric chair”; refusal by a referral district court to reduce the $100,000 bail of 17 defendants from the New York “Panther 21” by the counsel for the House of Representatives that it had no intention of following the virtually unanimous Supreme Court decision reinstating Adam Clayton Powell, and the district judge then issued no order, saying this country “suffers too much from government by judicial oligarchy”; and finally, withdrawal by the government of its Mississippi desegregation plan, which prompted the revolt or half the lawyers in the civil rights division of the Justice Department.

And Kinoy paused, stopped pacing, his hands gripped the table, and his voice dropped to a whisper: “What the hell is going on?”

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Kunstler, also of the Law Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, focused on Seale. Movement leaders no longer face minor penalties, misdemeanor charges, and a few worthy months in jail. Seale, said Kunstler, faces the very real likelihood of execution. “The fun has gone out of our practice. We now face a deadening responsibility.”

The government’s case is good. There is incontrovertible proof that Seale was in New Haven on May 19, the night Alex Rackley was allegedly tortured and beaten for informing on the “Panther 21”; Seale was speaking at Yale. Police say they have the murder weapon, a .45. Police say they have tapes of the kangaroo “trial” of Rackley. And police say they have telephone proof that Seale was in the New Haven house where the trial and torture took place. Finally, police now have George Sams’s affidavit, and George Sams’s affidavit is strong stuff.

According to Sams, Seale stopped by the Panther house and, when told of Rackley’s treachery, ordered him to be killed. Legally, that means murder one. There is no room for self-defense or non-premeditation. There is no room for a mitigating defense, no room for reduction to manslaughter, as with Huey Newton.

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Sams’s affidavit could be strengthened if corroborated by one or more of the Panthers in the New Haven house. There are six girls age 16 and under. Faced with the possibility of death for murder, it is not inconceivable that one or more might cop a plea, get 20 years, be out in seven — at the age of 23 — and testify that Seale did order the killing.

And finally, there is the sensationalism of the crime itself. Rackley was reportedly tortured with boiling water. He was brutally murdered and dumped in a swamp. Seale himself was melodramatically picked up on a federal fugitive warrant for “unlawful flight to avoid prosecution,” at night, in his car, and arrested by about 20 FBI agents, with shotguns.

“These are enormous odds,” said Kunstler. ”I don’t know how we can overcome them. We need a major miracle, and that can only be the breaking of George Sams’s story.”

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So far, little is known about Sams. He was expelled from the party for stabbing another Panther in the leg, but was returned at the request of Stokely Carmichael. The circumstances of his capture, indicated Kunstler, are extremely suspicious. All the Panthers indicted for the New Haven plot were picked up almost immediately. Only Sams remained mysteriously at large, months after the crime, prompting a series of raids of Panther headquarters across the country. Then, quite extraordinarily, Sams is found in Toronto, not the most likely refuge for a fugitive Panther.

This summer’s raids and persecutions of Panthers by the government may stack up as child’s play if Seale is convicted. No one knows how much of a scare this could put into the movement, and no one knows how much it might alienate the broader base of Panther support. But few at the conference disagreed with the importance of Kunstler’s call for a crusade to Connecticut.

The speeches by Kunstler and Kinoy marked the emotional watershed of the 10-day conference organized by the Southern Legal Action Movement (SLAM). About 160 movement lawyers and law students shared notes, conferred, debated, and partied in this picture-book retreat in the North Carolina Smokies, with ideologies from ACLU to SOS. The focus of the conference was the South, but topics of discussion included the military, poverty law, school strikes, narcotics, political repression, housing, and new life-styles for lawyers. ❖

1969 Village Voice article about Bobby Seale and Chicago 8 -Chicago 7 trial by Jonathan Black

1969 Village Voice article about Bobby Seale and Chicago 8 -Chicago 7 trial by Jonathan Black

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Twilight of the Tribe: The Wedding that Wasn’t

SYMBOL OF GAY POWER

“I always wanted a formal wedding,” Jackie Curtis said, weeks before the wedding, as she chalked the marriage announcement on the sidewalk outside the Albert Hotel: Superstars Jackie Curtis (“Flesh,” “Cock Strong,” “The Moke-eaters”) and Eric Emerson (“Chelsea Girls,” “Lonesome Cowboys”) to Be Married on July 21. Everyone Welcome! “Even when I was a little child, I dreamed about getting married in a beautiful white gown and everything, with rice and a minister and a cake and a handsome husband. Eric is very handsome, you know, he is really very handsome.”

Last week her wedding happened— scheduled, the press release said, “to coincide spiritually and metaphysically with the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Which will be the bigger event? Only history will tell.”

It was a depressing and a discomforting occasion. About 100 of her friends were there on the East 11th Street roof, among­ them Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey, Stefan Brecht, Danny Fields, and the Playhouse of the Ridiculous actors: Penny Arcade, Rita Red, Holly “Miss Speed” Jones, Suzanna Bankstreet, Reginald Rimmington III, Marlene D-Train. Jaime de Carlo Lotts, thin-faced, intelligent, looking like an extra in “God’s Little Acre,” moved around the roof with a wine bottle, making people feel at home while the New Andrews Sisters sang “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” “Stormy Weather,” “He Touched Me.”

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The guests mingled on the front section of the roof, drinking Gallo white wine and soda; they tended to bunch in small groups and stare out at one another, everyone growing nervous because the wedding was delayed in starting. It was the first time this season that the underground tribe had been together for a “public” happening — for that is what the event was, what justified it and gave it what beauty and grace it possessed, the warmth and renewal felt by all of us there, by the freaks and heads and actors and queens and the few hustlers­ and the poets and most of us, the majority, losers, the fact of being together again and of really hoping Jackie would pull off her wedding in style, that it would go well for her. Listening to David Peel and his band play, watching Melba La Rose tap-dance, Jackie Curtis and her bridal party sat nervously on the back of the roof, behind the chimneys and the pipes, waiting for the groom. He never appeared.

The wedding began about an hour late. Stewart Eaglespeed was importuned to stand in for the missing groom, Eric Emerson. Both Stewart and Eric work at Max’s Kansas City. The presiding clergyman was Louis Abolafia, who was dressed in Roman Catholic vestments plus a large “Louis Abolafia — New York’s Mayor in ’69” button. Jackie Curtis … looking quite stunning in a white ante-bellum gown, a beige shawl thrown over her right shoulder, her red-brown hair teased wildly, long simulated pearl earrings and white ribbons dangling from her ears, a bridal bouquet of daisies clutched in one hand, a carton of milk in the other, was finally carried from the back of the roof on the arms of her bridesmaid, Bunny Eisenhower, and her ersatz groom, while the maid of honor, the actress Ruby Lynn Reyner, followed in her train.

At the altar. The guests gathered around tightly, cracking jokes, giggling. A few photographers and a movie cameraman took shots, and the bridal couple paused and smiled sweetly for the press. Then sometime Reverend Abolafia began the service. At the question, “If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him speak now,” the only man in the place to raise a protest was Jackie’s bridesmaid, Bunny Eisenhower.

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“This woman has a baby!” Bunny screeched, raising a baby-like bundle high in her hands.

Jackie: “I do not. I never saw this woman before!”

Bunny, louder, “You know me!

Pause, Jackie, irritated, speaking in her best Audrey Hepburn we-are-not-amused voice, looking with contempt at her loud-mouthed bridesmaid: “All right, for Christ’s sake. I met her in a laundromat.”

The service proceeded. Someone interrupted and asked Jackie why she was marrying Stewart and not Eric. Jackie, aloof: “Oh, my husband had to work. So I have to marry someone else.”

The couple finished their vows. Reverend Abolafia pronounced them man and wife under the laws of New York State. The guests began to dance. Jackie and Stewart moved out and into the crowd, men and women rushing to kiss the happy couple, moving carefully, stopping again and again to receive congratulations, over to the side where Andy Warhol stood by himself with a polaroid camera. He took several pictures of the couple and gave them away. Larry Re, wearing an enormous, fluffy tutu, sheer tights, ballet shoes, flitted up to the couple on his toes, twirled, and informed Jackie and everyone else that Stewart Eaglespeed, the man she had just married, had “a past.”

“I don’t care,” Jackie said. “I know Stewart has a past. What’s a past between friends?”

And Stewart, protesting his masculinity among the fluttering queens, said, rather too emphatically, “Stewart also has a cock … ”

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Larry Re twirled off and took over the center of the roof and made great, sweeping leaps and pirouettes. He was soon joined by Ruby Lynn Reyner, and they alternated in turn, each trying to out-dance the other like “Original Amateur Hour” contestants.

Penny Arcade came up to Stewart and asked if he was going to consummate the marriage. Stewart replied, “God, I hope not!”

Darkness came. The party continued under the photographers’ lights, interrupted once by a cop who appeared with a complaint to check out the noise. He left bewildered.

Jackie danced into the night, working at having fun, for it had become a disaster for her. It was to have been a real marriage, and she was to have been a real bride, like in the movies, femme, a virgin no less. Married and carried away into a Honeymoon Sunset in the arms of her Supestar. That she had believed possible, as she believed in such Shirley Temple things as happy endings and marriages-made·in-heaven and people flying like goddamn bluebirds somewhere over the rainbow. But the groom had not showed, and she could not entirely pull it off as a bride, and so she remained illegitimate somewhere between a drag queen and a woman, like Dylan’s Cinderella sweeping with echoing sound up Desolation Row.

Gradually people began to drift off, most of them heading for an informal wedding feast in the back room of Max’s. As dusk came, Jackie, now wearing a royal blue cape over her bridal gown, danced with the men, laughing too much, playing it up as Authentic Woman for all she was worth, for all she was worth trying to make it come true in time.

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I watched John Vaccaro dance. He was dressed in bermuda shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. It was he who, with Warhol and Jack Smith and a handful of others, had begun, in his early productions nearly a decade ago, what would become the underground scene. And I thought, Christ, how jaded we have become, with a kind of defensive insensitivity, jaded to the war raging while we danced, to the poverty in the city north of us, how introverted and self-regarding we had grown as we grew older, Vaccaro and Warhol and Jack Smith, among the few who created the tribe, getting older, fatigued, pressing, however distantly, middle age. Warhol especially worn through, beyond endurance, speaking tiredly in barely audible whispers, timid of crowds, conscious of their violence, his skin unusually white and drawn, the blood vessels on his face vividly scarlet, his chest scarred from the shooting. And what was worse, Warhol bored, making little games with his camera, but overwhelmingly, obviously bored. His boredom — broken only by the appearance of an incredibly handsome blond boy from Erie, Pennsylvania, straight, naive, refreshingly, comically, beautifully middle-brow, Midwestern, an inceptive quail who appeared at the non-wedding by chance and was, being utterly out of place, threatened by it and defended himself with silence broken only by occasional radical comments on the “capitalist” nature of the affair — and the undifferentiated sexuality of the gathering, unisexual, and the labored-at giddyness, the overdone homosexual gaiety, the spiritual and, yes, sexual inappetance of the tribe, this caused me to think that it had come to its conclusion, the tribe, it had become what it had once parodied, the drag queens no longer took off the falsies and the rest, Jackie Curtis was for all intents and purposes, to the tribe a woman; so far over the line, that was the pathos of the wedding, so far gone, baby, that her distress was real. She was the proverbial bride left standing humiliated at the church door, the rejected woman, marrying a man she never loved to spite a man she could not possess. Like a godawful bad novel, and the heroine was trying so goddamn hard not to admit her raging disappointment, her grief — all her life wanting to be married like a real American girl and then, on the day of her wedding, her initiation into femininity with the press and party and marriage feast and a dreamed-for marriage night, CONSUMMATION! and for the bridegroom not to come! Christ! With her lamps all lit, the feast prepared, for him not to come. At the end, alone on the roof, like Eleanor Rigby picking up rice after the wedding on the church floor.

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***

Later at Max’s Kansas City the party was reunited, Jackie straggling in late, alone, unescorted. She spent the night drinking champagne and table-hopping in the back room among her friends while her former husband-to-be, Eric Emerson, remained in the front room making cracks about her to passing friends.

Eric, thinking he had missed out on a bad thing, thinking he would be leaving for France in two weeks to be in the Paris edition of “Hair,” so what did it matter, Eric explaining. “She said I didn’t have to be faithful. Now what the hell kind of marriage is that?” And, “If she wants to be a woman let her learn to take shit.” And, “Who wants to marry a wife with a five o’clock shadow?”

And Jackie, as morning came, sat amid the empty champagne glasses, Tally Brown and the poet Gerard Malanga keeping her company, as her wedding night withered, saying to me, “If you quote me, tell them, ‘Jackie Curtis laughed!‘ ” Pause. Then changing her mind, as women will, “No, say … say, ‘I was a ravished pixie,’ say that, Dotson, say Miss Jackie Curtis, rejected by Eric Emerson, oh, wasn’t that cruel? and it wasn’t even a legal marriage, he’s cruel. Say, ‘Jackie Curtis looked like a ravished pixie.’ ”

Before I left, I spoke with John Vaccaro again. He was sitting at a booth some distance from the round table where the bride lingered. The blond boy from Erie was with him. The boy said he was an SDS member and he kept trying to place some political judgment on the event, claiming that it was capitalist.

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“Capitalist?” Vaccaro said, “how’s it capitalist? None of us have any money. Kid, this was an affair of the poor.”

The boy went on to ask rhetorically why you people are wasting your time on fag weddings and underground art crap when there was a war going on and a revolution to be made. “Those were two men who got married,” the boy said, “Two men! And Andy Warhol was shot by somebody and he still isn’t political. None of this shit has any political content. It’s counter-revolutionary bourgeois decadence. It’s going nowhere, man, I mean, really, where do you think this stuff is going to end, what’s next? After marrying two men, what else can you do? Why don’t you people wake up and do something for the Movement instead of all this decadence?”

Vaccaro, tired and more than a little bored, “I told Esquire once,” he said, “when they asked what we would do on the stage next, I said I would be interested in seeing someone murdered on stage. Maybe that’s next, huh?”

The kid did not understand.

Vaccaro: “We … I think we made the revolution, the Movement possible, in a sense we did, a long time ago, everybody who in their art attacked the basic values of American culture, all those people made you, even maybe made SDS possible. We gave you room, baby. And maybe, I think, maybe what we gave birth to, maybe what we made way for was a new batch of prudes. Where’s your tolerance, your compassion, huh, outside your speeches, where is it in your life? Jackie gets engaged and she gets jilted and she gets hurt and you have no understanding of her pain. What good is that to anything, that lack of understanding, what good is that to us?”

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***

It was growing light outside when Jackie started for home. “I think,” she said, “I think maybe for the divorce we’ll have a party, what do you think?” Maybe there, in her refusal finally to give way to defeat, in her rebellion, in her inability to give way to the destiny of her birth, maybe in that resistance, however sentimental and apolitical, she was doing what she could to save the goddamn world from the prudes. ❖

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CULTURE ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: Indictment and Protest

Spring’s Awakening 

It’s been a busy week. Thursday the Federal Grand Jury indicted eight “non-leaders” of the Chicago demonstration for conspiracy to break the law and incite a riot. Friday Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, and Dave Dellinger held a press conference at the Hotel Diplomat welcoming the indictment as “the academy award of protest” and asking others to “join the conspiracy.” Saturday there was a demonstration at Foley Square while the conspirators surrendered themselves to the authorities. Saturday evening another protest sponsored by Alternate U. and a group called the Crazies ran from the New York Times to Grand Central to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park and then back again. And then late Sunday night Abbie Hoffman’s office on East 5th Street was busted for narcotics and guns.

Spring had come. After months of being restricted to indoor sports everything seemed to burst out into the streets. There was a great deal of excitement and agitation leading nowhere in particular. The events seemed to follow each other in no particular sequence. One after another they would capture one’s attention and then disappear as rapidly as they had arisen, leaving the impression that they were somehow tenuously strung together and yet tracing no discernible pattern.

The indictment came as something of a surprise. After having anticipated it momentarily, waited for it patiently, feared it endlessly, and finally dismissed it entirely, Rubin claims that he was really shocked when it finally descended from the higher courts. “I was into something new and now they bring this whole thing back to us,” he complained. “Will Chicago never end?”

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The evening of their indictment, Rubin and Hoffman met uptown in the plush offices of their defense attorneys. Everyone hugged everyone else, talked about how this trial would go all the way, how they’d push it to the Supreme Court, how it might take six months of trial and years of appeals, but how this was what they’d been waiting for.

Most of the speculation centered around why Bobby Seale, (one of the last Black Panther leaders who isn’t in jail or in exile) had been included in the list of those indicted. One of the theories was that the New Left had friends in high places who wanted to see all its various factions unified. Others claimed that whoever had been the architect of the indictment was just plain stupid and clearly had no idea what the consequences of this cross-cultural, cross-racial, cross-political indictment would be.

The lawyers seemed more jubilant about the indictment than the indicted. Here was the test case every liberal constitutional lawyer in the country had been waiting for. The 1968 Civil Disorders Bill had been pushed through Congress by Southern reactionaries who were convinced that there was a combined black power-communist conspiracy to burn down the American cities. The bill was passed in order to stop H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael from running around the country preaching revolution. Now, for the first time, it had actually been applied, and would probably face the test of constitutionality before the Supreme Court.

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Later that evening, back at Hoffman’s apartment, the grim reality of it all began to come down hard. At first, when his mother-in-law called to ask about the indictment, Hoffman said lightly, “It’s all right, it’s just in the line of work I do.” Then, sitting in front of a color television set, listening to various garbled accounts of the indictment by pink-faced newscasters, Hoffman chewed reflectively on a lamb chop and mentioned for the first time the possibility of jail. Abbie the clown was instantly replaced by a real person. Under the law he is eligible for a grand total of five years and a $10,000 fine.

Saturday morning I arrived at Foley Square in front of the courthouse where Rubin, Hoffman, and Dellinger were to surrender themselves. An impressive contingent of some 20 elite Black Panther troops were on hand to give evidence that the Panthers are not going to be quiet about Seale’s indictment. Standing in formation in the cold morning sun, their uniforms and discipline gave them a presence which the twice as numerous white protestors lacked.

Once the three indicted men disappeared into the courthouse, the Panthers moved up and faced off with the police who were jealously guarding the steps leading up to the halls of justice. Kafka must have been somewhere in the crowd. Each Panther stepped up nose to nose with a policeman, raised his crossed arms in front of him, and started chanting: “No more brothers in jail. Off the pigs.” Then they filed out.

Inside, Hoffman lit up a cigarette in front of the judge and was told to put it out.

Outside, Paul Krassner, editor of the Realist, complained bitterly about not having been included in the indictment.

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***

The demonstration Saturday evening in front of the New York Times came as comic relief when compared with the seriousness of the indictments. The police, however, did not take it as a joke and deployed such an arsenal of force in front of the truck loading platforms on 43rd Street that only an idiot would have made a move. The Tactical Patrol Force lined the barricades, paddy wagons were invitingly open at each end of the street, patrol cars were illegally parked all over Times Square, and there were more plainclothesmen than people.

The United States is probably the only place in the world where demonstrations have turned into a spectator sport. Sailors, prostitutes, newsmen, printers in four-cornered newspaper hats, passing motorists, theatre-goers, local bartenders, and the whole gang took time off to come out and watch the Crazies do their bit.

“What are they bitching about now,” a cross looking little old lady with a Macy’s shopping bag asked a plainclothesman.

“Are you in this demonstration or reporting on it?” a detective from the Red Squad questioned me as he examined my press card.

“What’s in the bag, kid?” a detective asked a long haired boy who was carrying a sign which read “The Saturday Load and the Sunday Bullshit.” The boy handed the officer the bag. Opening it he found to his eternal disappointment and minimal embarrassment that it was not a concealed weapon of infernal destruction but only a bologna sandwich.

“Move along, miss,” a young cop suggested politely to a beautiful blond girl who was standing on his corner watching the picket line. “I can’t,” she said, batting her eyelashes at him shyly. “l’m with them,” she continued, gesturing toward the demonstrators.

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Suddenly there was the very strong smell of puke at the Broadway end of 43rd Street. Apparently one of the stink bombs which the demonstrators had brought with them went off by mistake within their own ranks. It was not the only weapon which ran afoul that evening. Several plastic bags of yellow paint, intended for the windows of the trucks which were taking away the Sunday issue of the Times, fell on the ground and splattered several hapless demonstrators who stepped on them.

A pregnant woman who had been holding a toilet-paper-roll version of the New York Times was snatched out of the picket line and hustled away by detectives for no apparent reason. Attorneys who tried to accompany her were turned back. For a moment it looked as if something might happen. The demonstrators surged forward and the police pushed back, banging their clubs on the barricades in a manner which invoked no less than utter terror.

“Scotty Reston is a You Know What,” one poster teased, “All the News That’s Shit to Print,” someone else claimed, “The New York Times Disguises Bald Racism with a Liberal Toupee,” another whined.

But no one could really get it up for the Times. Everyone had their own little bitch, everyone read it with their own kind of skepticism, but the point was that the picketers knew in the back of their minds that after the demonstration was over they were going to slink off to their local newsstand and buy a copy of none other than the Sunday edition of the Times — the very one they hadn’t been able to stop from coming out. They would buy it Sunday and buy it again on Monday to see if their little display of annoyance had hit the Big Times.

By 9:30 p.m. things were beginning to peter out. The picket line was getting shorter and shorter between the rows of policemen and everyone was just about shouted hoarse. The general movement seemed to be toward Grand Central. There another group of Crazies promised to lay a wreath of flowers at the information booth where last year’s bloody riot had begun when someone had climbed up on top of the clock and ripped the hands off.

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At a meeting at the Crazies’ storefront in the East Village several days before, Hoffman had told the others who were planning the demonstration that he didn’t think it was a good idea to go back to Grand Central: “I was knocked unconscious there last year and I don’t plan to do it again. Let’s at least make it a different place next time. Once you’re inside the station the cops can block off all the entrances and you have to run the gauntlet in order to get out.”

“All I hear is fear, fear, fear,” a boy by the name of Danny who was sitting on the floor complained. “People are supposed to be afraid of us. Remember?” he reminded the others.

In the end it was decided that they would go ahead with the Grand Central demonstration in spite of its risks. As one bearded member of the group explained, the strategy of the Crazies is “to walk that thin line between getting your head bashed in and just managing to get away with it — that’s what it is to be a Crazy.”

But by the time the Crazies got to Grand Central on Saturday it was already effectively blocked off by the police who had locked most of the doors and asked for tickets at the few entrances they left open.

“Where’s your ticket, kid,” a policeman asked a Crazy who had decided to make a test of his constitutional right of free movement.

“I don’t have one, but if you let me go in I’ll buy one,” he promised.

“Uh uh, you got to have it with you.”

“But how can I have it if you won’t let me in to buy it?” he argued logically.

“Look kid, we don’t want your demonstration here.”

“I’m not going to demonstrate, I just want to go out to Long Island to visit my grandmother,” he lied.

“Try Penn Station,” the cop countered.

“Here we are at the Prague border, everyone take out their ticket, you can’t travel here without a passport, remember, you’re in Amerika,” the boy shouted at the other freaks who had been listening intently to the dialogue.

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According to Howard Smith, who arrived at Grand Central slightly later, the police were not the only ones who were guarding Grand Central against an invasion of crazies. A number of men wearing buttons which read “PFB” (Peter Factor Brigade?) were patrolling the area, promising demonstrators that if they got inside they’d be “only too happy to kick the shit out of you.”

“What does PFB stand for?” they were asked. “You’ll know when the time comes.”

“What time will that be?”

“When Lee gets ready to tell you.”

“All right, now I guess we have to ask who Lee is,” Krassner said.

The question remained unanswered. Lee will remain a mystery … “until the time comes.”

Meanwhile, outside, most of the demonstrators had grown tired of standing around and headed off uptown, some 150 to 200 strong, toward the park where they were scheduled to meet at midnight. Marching together up Madison Avenue they began to feel their strength and [the] disruptive possibilities of such a large mobile force. “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh,” they chanted over and over, as if the second verse (“The NLF is gonna win”) had been forgotten over the winter or had simply disappeared out of pessimism. A few marchers strayed out in the street dodging in and out of traffic, trash barrels were overturned, and then the police arrived. They drove alongside the march for several blocks and people began to think they were just giving them an escort uptown. No such luck. At 50th Street a gray car drove up onto the sidewalk, splitting the marchers in half. All four doors opened simultaneously and plainclothesmen poured out, grabbing whoever was nearest. Half the group was forced back downtown and the other half continued east. A few blocks later it happened again, only this time it became clear that there were police spotters in the ranks who pointed out the demonstrators they thought were ring leaders. Each time it was the same. The police would run toward the center of a group arresting one or two and leaving the rest to wander around wondering where the hell everyone else had gone to. By the time I arrived at the park I was with four other people.

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“This is all bullshit,” a boy next to me mumbled as we walked through the park toward the Sheep Meadow. “This isn’t a revolution, it isn’t even a decent demonstration. It’s an outing,” he explained as if he finally divined the truth, “a walking tour of New York City.”

“Maybe the revolutionary logic behind it all is to keep the troops physically fit,” I suggested, “like Mao leading everyone down to the river for a swim.”

“Yeah,” the boy agreed, “it could be listed in ‘100 Ways to Lose Weight,’ or whatever that bestseller is called.”

Sheep Meadow was a bummer. The cavalry had the high rocky ground to the south, plainclothesmen blocked off the east, scooter cops could be seen to the north, and patrol cars covered the west. “We’re surrounded,” someone observed in the dark.

“Let’s go home, the cops have made their point, they can have this place if they need it so desperately. The Viet Cong never try to hold a hopeless position when they’re out-gunned,” a dark-haired politico with a pointy goatee announced. “Go home, no one’s having any fun here anyways. This sure doesn’t look like any festival of life to me.”

After a huddle it was decided to take the young man’s advice. On the way out of the park, the wreath (which was supposed to have been planted in Grand Central) was placed in the hands of a lovely nude statue which stands in the plaza in front of the Plaza Hotel. Cheers went up and everybody got their thrill. Then we walked back down to Times Square again, where again the police insisted on intervening. A fairly large group then subwayed down to Sheridan Square and marched triumphantly over to St. Mark’s Place where they were greeted by those who had been too spaced out to make the trip. It had been a long walk and everyone was fagged out. No one except the most naive thought any of it had been worth it.

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***

The next night, Sunday night, Abbie Hoffman’s office on 5th Street — down the block from the police station — was raided and the police discovered a suitcase full of guns and blackjacks and a packet of heroin. It was all vaguely reminiscent of Rubin’s bust last year just before the Chicago convention when the police broke into his apartment, tore the posters off the walls, riffled his papers, and busted him for possession of pot.

While it’s still impossible to say whether the raid on Hoffman’s place was a frame-up or not (the young man who left the suitcase full of guns, for example, has mysteriously disappeared), we may never know for sure. However, Hoffman claims that “it is totally inconceivable that a person in my position would hide an arsenal of guns and dope a couple of houses away from a police station.”

To make matters even more mysterious, rumor has it that heroin was found planted in the Peace Eye Bookstore and at the Switchboard — both likely places for busts if there was to be a heavy crackdown on the Movement in the East Village. Nothing, however is revealed. ❖

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THE FRONT ARCHIVES

The Trial of the Chicago 7: Birth of a Conspiracy

Courtroom in Chicago

CHICAGO — Conspiracy. See conspire. To join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end. To act in harmony.

A conspiracy is what they throw at you when mere causality is not enough, or when the absurd becomes too painful to bear. The great explanation.

Conspiracy. Bear that word in mind. You’re going to have it shoved down your throat before the year is out.

Jerry Rubin is in Chicago because of the Conspiracy. He is charged, with Rennard (Rennie) Davis, and Bobby G. Seale, and John R. Froines, and Lee Weiner, and David T. Dellinger, and Thomas Hayden, and Abbot H. (Abbie) Hoffman, with crossing state lines to foment disorder or to otherwise violate the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end. To act in harmony.

“With my indictment,” he wrote in the underground press not long ago, “I join the list of outstanding world figures who have crossed state lines to create disturbance: the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the late Marilyn Monroe, rock bands, the President of the United States, and Joe Namath.”

Ever the Yippie. He wears a Jimmy Hoffa for President button over one nipple, a Jerry Rubin for Mayor over the other. On the plane to Chicago, he talks about Cincinnati (where he grew up, and where he plans to return for a visit in late April). He talks about television (both he and Hoffman own color sets and find the viewing experience essential — the watched watches). He expounds on why the assassinations must be viewed as positive events (they helped inch America toward a revolutionary context) and he speculates on the chance that he himself might some day be the object of someone’s insurrectionary ardor. He admits he is afraid of being killed, sometimes. I admit I am afraid to travel with him, sometimes.

In Chicago, we go to meet Bobby Seale’s plane. Three Panther bodyguards greet us in the lounge. The brother who is currently under indictment, charged with stealing 710 ice-cream bars, nods and whispers, “Power to yuh.” I lean forward and offer a bleached handshake.

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***

The lawyers meet their clients in a banquet hall on the fourth floor of a Y which stands in the shadow of the Conrad Hilton. From the window, you can see the hotel’s worn brick backside, and beyond that, Grant Park. You keep expecting to find a commemorative plaque along the walk, but the city fathers have done all they can to restore that strip of lake front to its former gentility. Freshly planted grass and newly sprouting flower beds face the hotel. The masquerade is reflected in the faces of pedestrians. They want very much to forget that the equestrian statue of General Logan, which guards the park, was ever aswarm with grimy, vulgar conspirators.

The attorneys sit around a long table, fortified with legal pads and iced tea. Even the veteran defenders seem like mavericks on this case. With good reason. To some on the left, the Chicago indictments represent the most brazen attempt since McCarthy to crush active dissent, and anything less than acquittal will signal the start of a massive governmental drive. Even those who are not about to read pogrom into the charges admit that a conviction would stunt the movement. “At the very least,” suggests one attorney, “it would have a chilling effect on those not really committed yet.”

This little scenario hangs over the proceedings as the defense begins to construct its case. It’s an awesome task, and the odds against aquittal seem formidable. Which could explain why the men sitting around that banquet table seemed so sober.

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***

Chicago’s Federal Building stands like a glass and steel truncheon. A skyscraper with style … polished gray stone lobby … the great seal embossed in black … the jails upstairs and outasight.

Ten marshals and 45 policemen keep the crowd outside the courtroom in order. I wait my turn, then file past the world’s spiffiest crewcut plainclothesman, who searches me for weapons and then lets me pass. The galleries are already filled with people — many black kids and a few unrepentant freaks.

“Take that hat off,” a marshal orders a brother in a purple beret.

The man points to a cop in uniform. “If he take his hat off, I take mine off.”

“Throw him out,” the marshal snarls, and the crowd begins to hoot.

The judge enters, Julius J. Hoffman, a balding, 74-year-old man who settles into his chair, casing out the surroundings. He stares hard at the press section, trying to fathom the presence of long hair. His eyes wash over the defendants, settling momentarily on Abbie Hoffman, who has come to court in a blue shirt with Chicago Police Department insignia affixed to the sleeve. Finally, he turns his attention to the attorneys, and even here, he is displeased to note the presence of facial hair around the earlobes.

“These men taking bread out of the mouths of our Chicago bar?”

William Kunstler, who defended Jerry Rubin at the recent HUAC hearings, stands and answers: “Your honor. It’s not bread. It’s only water.”

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And then the arraignments begin. This is a preliminary hearing, designed to set a date for trial. But there are crucial matters to be decided such as travel restrictions. The U.S. Attorney has requested that the defendants be confined to the district of Southern Illinois, and the defense intends to contest that motion, as an abridgement of free speech. The decision will serve as a fair indication of what the conspirators can expect from Judge Hoffman when their trial begins.

But now it is time to plead, and David Dellinger stands against the lectern. “Obviously not guilty,” he announces. “The guilty party has not yet been indicted.”

“Sir, you were asked to plead guilty or not guilty,” Judge Hoffman says. “There will be no speeches. How do you plead?”

“I said obviously not guilty.”

“Obviously has nothing to do with it,” the judge scowls, and then be instructs Dellinger’s lawyer to help his client out.

“Sir, he has pleaded.”

“No, he has not pleaded. There will be no speeches or embellishments.” Titters from the gallery. “If there is any further laughter or any other disturbance, I will have the courtroom cleared. Now, how do you plead?”

“Not guilty,” Dellinger mutters.

“Now that’s the way to do it.”

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The procession continues with Abbie Hoffman, who pleads not guilty in the softest voice I have ever heard him use in public. He has never been convicted in court. It’s a record he’s fiercely proud of. Now, charged with defacing the American flag by wearing a starred and striped shirt at HUAC, and charged with possessing guns and narcotics after a raid on an apartment registered in his name, he is not about to risk contempt of court.

Jerry Rubin grips the lectern and pleads with his fist raised. “Let the record show,” the judge intones, “that Mr. Rubin pleaded guilty with a fist raised in the air.”

“He pleaded not guilty, your honor,” Kunstler interrupts. “That was a Freudian slip.”

“I’m sorry, but that raised fist confused me. I didn’t know whether it was directed at me or not.”

“Sir, that is a symbol of defiance against certain things these defendants think is wrong.”

“Certainly they don’t think I’m wrong.”

Kunstler lets a quick sharp smile cross his lips. “I won’t even bother to answer that, sir.”

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***

It had been a small but energetic lunchtime rally. Four hundred people filled the courtyard of the Federal Building, and when the Conspiracy Eight (as they had already begun to call themselves) emerged from the arraignment, the shouts of “power to the people” managed to drown out the canned organ music which came from hidden speakers and was audible from blocks away.

First to speak was Bobby Seale, who denied that the Panthers were a racist organization, and buoyed his audience with the chant “Black power to black people; white power to white people.” Tom Hayden said the movement was expanding despite the indictments, and he offered as evidence a mutiny at Fort Carson, Colorado. He said 80 soldiers had gone over the wall with M-16s and ammunition, and had set up a camp somewhere in the Rockies. He said the Army knew about it, but was afraid of the publicity a confrontation might produce.

And Abbie called the hearing “the beginning of the spring offensive. We are joyful at this attempt to combine our forces,” he intoned, “and we thank these people for getting us together because these are the signs of a dying system and we shall dance on the graves of the empire.”

It was true. If the federal sweep had drained the movement of its jaunty brashness, it had solidified some unsteady alliances and created, in the eight men under indictment, a potential popular front for radical youth. The government itself had suggested, by its choice of conspirators, that the best defense lay in unity. And in the tradition of generational combat, the strongest response to a parental attack was to turn the oppressor’s weapons back on himself. Or as Jerry Rubin told the rally: “The only way to defend ourselves is offensively.”

So it looks as though the United States of America may actually succeed in creating a conspiracy in its midst.

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***

It had been a depressing morning and a grueling afternoon. They had to admit that Judge Hoffman had intimidated them. And it was true that the government had coerced the defense into negotiating, against its will, for the lifting of travel restrictions. Despite repeated appeals, the judge bhad refused to consider the defense motion on confinement, but he suggested rather broadly that the two sides work it out together. When the defense refused to engage in collective bargaining, the judge shelved the issue, and sustained a prosecution motion that the bonds for out-of-state defendants be transferred to Illinois. That seemed innocent enough, but when the actual transference was attempted, it became apparent that the law would require confinement anyway, as part of the process of re-establishing bond. With the futility of their resistance finally clear, the defense retired to the U. S. Attorney’s office, where it was agreed that the prosecution would drop its demand for travel restrictions if the defendants would keep the government informed of their whereabouts. This smacked of surrender, but the alternatives were exhausted, so the defense retired to a conference room to lick its wounds, when Tom Hayden and Gerald Lefcourt (an attorney) spotted a man with a transmitter outside the door. When they pursued him, a second man appeared and told him not to say anything. The prosecuting attorney identified the men — who were indeed FBI agents — and insisted that, while they had been relaying information on the defendants’ whereabouts, they carried no recording equipment.

But the incident set the mood for the rest of the day. By the time they left court, the charter members of the Conspiracy had achieved some measure of their own legitimacy. At least they knew when their trial would start (Judge Hoffman had set the date for September 24) and they knew what to expect from the court, the newspapers, and the government. And these were important discoveries, because a knowledge of your environment is the first step toward mastering it.

So they went off to have their picture taken in Grant Park, around the statue of General Logan. And as they got closer to the Hilton, each began to feel again something of the rush which was Chicago last August, and Jerry Rubin waved to the cars along Michigan Avenue, and Tom Hayden, in his new beard and his wrap-around shades with the purple lenses, looked at all the frowning faces on the pedestrians around him, and he hugged Abbie Hoffman and shouted: “It’s us. It’s us.” ❖

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Band from Dylanland: Big Pink in Quake City

“Big Pink in Quake City: Respite for the Restless”

SAN FRANCISCO — Darling Dolly Dane, a rachitic teenie waif from the wilds of Petaluma (“Egg Basket of the West”), was rattling off her semi-pro panhandler’s hype at the intersection of Post and Steiner, while up the block at Winterland, the reclusive band from Big Pink was making ready to strike up some sweet country funk, and rock mojo-domo Bill Graham, after his own emotionally hemophiliac fashion, was sidling up to the mound to strike o-u-t OUT.

“Don’t be a tacky cunt, hon,” Darling Dolly coaxed a sailor in the stream of ticket-holders pressing toward the entrance. “Do me some good with your spare change.”

Dear, darling Darlin Doll she wasn’t alone — the tribal rock hounds and stone guerrilla hippies of the Bay Area had turned out in force for the occasion. Flapping along the sidewalks, preening and shrilling, they soared into the cavernous recesses of the old ice-skating rink-turned-rock ballroom like flocks of bright, demented birds.

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The mood of expectancy ran high; “This will be a stoning thing,” a mustachioed kid from Berkeley promised his chick in sepulchral tones.

Promises, promises. From the outset, The Event that had been broadsided for weeks in advance as sure to hang heavy, heavy over our collective long-haired heads turned out to be — with a brief respite to be noted — merely onerous.

The spooky vibes began in the lobby. Poker-faced security guards — a lot of them, all looking like Tac Squad reservists — swarmed through the foyer and along the hall’s aisles, barking at people to move along, seemingly at whim. After being shooed away a couple of times, I managed to buy a coke at the refreshment stand and started working my way through the crush toward the stage, where the house sound system reared up out of the darkness like a massive and sinister radar installation. The Ace of Cups, a local all-femme group who occasionally generate an ambience of pure physical fun because they’re such fetching chicks to look at, played listlessly. The acoustical reference in the room was muddier than Vic and Sade on an Atwater-Kent table model.

I ran into one of the Family Dog people, an acquaintance from Texas, and we watched silently as the Sons of Champlin, another local group, set up onstage. They would play an overlong and uncharacteristically lackwit set. After the first couple of numbers, the crowd stirred restlessly; the smell of burning weed was stronger than a ten-minute egg.

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A kid in a smudgy, buttonless tunic, his face pocked with scabies pimples, wandered through the crowd, obviously stoned. He kept running his fingers through the flame of a lighted candle and mumbling what must have started out as a chant. A half-hour later, when I caught sight of him a second time, his hands were black and literally smoking.

My friend groaned; “Jesus, that dude must’ve been shooting up the Chronicle Sporting Green for days. He’s gonna wake up in the morning — some morning — and feel everything but good.”

After the Sons had bowed off to polite but disinterested applause, there was a lengthy delay of a type that telegraphed to the audience: Something Has Gone Stone Wrong. Then Bill Graham popped up at the mike, earnest, thin-skinned, a-stammer, attempting to apologize for the apology he was about to tender —

“Fuck you!” someone yelled distinctly from the balcony.

Graham winced as if he’d been slapped, but, gathering his aplomb about him with the equanimity of a wino wrapping up for the night in a bundle of Moral Rearmament pamphlets, he bore grimly on to relate that Robbie Robertson, the band’s lead guitarist, had been ill with the flu for two days, and was having a little trouble getting together, but if the audience would only be patient, the whole band’d be there, Graham guaranteed it —

“A 15 minute delay at the latest,” he promised, and scuttled off the stage into the shadows.

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Promises, promises. We waited — 30 minutes, an hour, ultimately an hour and a half. A few in the crowd waited merely for the chance to red-ass Graham when he worked up the nerve to reappear; others were determined to dig the young musical gunfighters from Woodstock at any cost, even if they had to invade Robertson’s hotel room and give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Finally, straggling onstage one by one, the members of the band assembled, Robertson assisted to his place by a man named Ralph Gleason later identified as the guitarists’s personal hypnotist. At last they were on.

The respite mentioned earlier lasted 35 minutes. The band from Dylan Country played only seven songs, only two of these new, but it’s not inconceivable to me that during that brief session, a few hearts and heads and lives might have been turned around for the better. The band’s sound and stance were flawless. From the strength of their personal decency and dedication, the musicians summoned up an oceanic passion, a commitment to the true experience of their materials that short-circuited the hair on the back of one’s neck. For a little better than a half-hour, the band didn’t redeem the morbid vibes that had been going down all evening, but simply transcended them.

Then, in a wink, the players were gone, and the howl for an encore went up. “Come back to the raft a’gin, Huck honey!” a male voice boomed from the floor. A volley of boos greeted Graham as he worked his way back to the mike. He stood visibly shaken in the rain of catcalls and curses until the yelling and stomping gradually subsided.

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“Well,” he drawled pouty, “there must be a lot of tourists here tonight, because San Francisco people just don’t act that way —”

The crowd groaned in unison, a long-drawn-out wail of derision and contempt that must have chilled Graham’s deep soul, for he stepped back from the mike, his mouth working silently. “TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, GRAHAM!” somebody cried from the press of bodies at the edge of the bandstand.

In small eddies and surges, the audience began to disperse. “The band got it together,” I heard a college girl saying philosophically, “but Bill Graham kind of bombed, didn’t he.” Outside Darling Dolly Dane collared my friend and me at the corner. “Don’t be a tacky cunt,” she began, but he put a quarter in her palm and gently closed her palm and gently closed her bony little fingers around it in a ball. “Take a load off, Fanny,” he told her gravely, and we strolled on, somewhat armed against the night’s chill.  ■

Categories
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Jack Kerouac: ‘The Night and What It Does to You’

Jack Kerouac: ‘The Night And What It Does to You’

October 30, 1969

LOWELL, Massachusetts­ — Jack Kerouac, the man who unwillingly named a generational sensibility and wrote an American classic, died on Tuesday, October 21. He was buried here on Friday, October 24, and I went up with mingled feelings (warmth, regret, a patronizing curiosity, an obscure kind of longing to pay homage) to witness his funeral.

I traveled by plane to Boston, and then by a commuters’ train the 26 miles to the small manufacturing town of Lowell where Kerouac grew up, and from which he continually, repeatedly bolted for the whole of his life. I decided to walk the mile or so from the station to the Church of St. Jean-Baptiste where Kerouac was to be buried. I wanted to look the town over and think a bit about what he might have seen on these streets.

It was a brilliant, very cold, very clear day, and the four and five-story buildings of brick or stone that lined Lowell’s narrow streets looked cut out against the cloudless blue sky; the sun danced, the air sparkled, the distant trees tossed their yellow and red and brown leaves and it seemed especially indecent that Jack Kerouac lay dead 10 or 20 blocks from where I now walked. What I found most remarkable in the town was the friendliness of the people. The garbage man said “Good morning, dear” and didn’t ogle me; a grocery delivery man said: “Oh, it’s a day for your mittens, dearie!” and laughed in the sun; a waitress in a diner gave me coffee and we talked for 10 minutes about how we were both getting colds, the weather was changing so suddenly; the counterman strained to give me exact directions to the church and in the end offered to take me over there himself.

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The church, on Merrimack Street, one of the large arterial streets of the town, was enormous, a testament to the position and prosperity of the French Canadian Catholics of Lowell, among whom Kerouac came of age: massive gray stone, lots of stained glass, statues in carved draperies, steep steps. I was early, the church was locked; but the rectory next door was open and I was made welcome there by Father Armand Morissette, the priest who would later deliver the eulogizing mass. He offered me coffee and proceeded to talk briskly and smilingly about Kerouac.

“Yes, Jack grew up in this church; he always came back here, always. He called me Father Spike; he said one day he would write a book named ‘Father Spike.’ But he never did. You know he used to come here often for comfort and for consolation and yes, we had many, many fine talks, Jack and I. You know, he had a real spirit, Jack did. He had such a zest for life; he understood that the universe belongs to each of us, not all of us, but each of us. And after all, that’s what Jesus Christ was all about, wasn’t He? Yes, Jack and I had lots of talks, lots of talks. Right here in this room.” I listened silently to the good father and noticed, curiously, that he wore a toupee.

In the rectory hall stood a man with a red face, a bulbous nose, a raincoat, a pad of lined paper, and a pencil. I introduced myself and he said he was from the Boston Globe. “Say, kid, what the hell is this all about? I mean, you know who any of these famous writers are who are supposed to show up? Can you point them out to me? I mean, I’m strictly a cops-and-robbers reporter myself.” I said sure, I’d point them out to him, and he agreed to drive me over to the funeral home where Kerouac’s body was laid out, and where the mourners were now all gathered.

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The funeral home was named Archambault and the street was Pawtucket. It was interesting and, of course, ironic that Kerouac had written of this street often; it had been the center of the distant and wealthy “town” he had had no part of and had resented so heartily and so complexly; now the street’s aloof mansions had been turned into French-Canadian and Irish funeral parlors and he was being buried out of one of them. I walked under a canopy extending from the curb to the door, up wooden steps, and onto silent, heavily carpeted floors filled with standing wreaths and standing mourners. At the end of the double room in which we all stood the open casket containing Kerouac’s body was placed, with two carpeted steps for kneeling in front of it. Couches and chairs were scattered, with people sitting on them, and others milling all around before them. The crowd was almost entirely composed of family and friends from Lowell. I realized there were two distinctive kinds of faces there: sharp-featured Northern faces, and sallow, drooping-eyed faces; I remembered then that Kerouac’s last wife was a Greek woman from Lowell, and realized that many of these people must be her relatives, as well as Kerouac’s. What was most interesting, however, was the resemblances rather than the differences among the people present. Nearly everyone there looked so well-fed. They generated the atmosphere of neat, decent, fairly prosperous burghers who have worked hard and steadily for what they have and whose lives are now in order. I was reminded, irresistibly, of the democratic and impersonal friendliness I had found in the town’s streets; I felt it everywhere in this room. It was hard to imagine, with all this composure, that these people had really known Kerouac; but then I remembered the funerals of my own family and I realized, resignedly, that of course they were probably all intimate relations.

Only one person in that room had upon her face that terrible, unmistakable confusion that deep and genuine grief causes. She was a middle-aged woman sitting on a couch in the seat nearest the casket. Her face, utterly void of makeup, was worn and sallow; behind rimless glasses her eyes were terribly anxious; her hair was short and gray, her dress black and long; she sat sort of hunched forward, responding distractedly to the procession of faces that bent, one after another, over her. At first I thought it was Kerouac’s mother, but quickly changed my mind; his mother was supposed to be really old. (I learned later that hie mother was hopelessly bedridden in St. Petersburg, Florida. It had been utterly out of the question, her coming up to Lowell to help bury her devoted son.) Was this woman a relative of his wife? Which one was his wife, anyway? Well, whoever she was, there was no doubt that she had loved Kerouac, and felt his loss keenly.

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On the other side of the room, and at the other end of the casket, were two chairs together, separated from the rest. On them sat Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, hands folded quietly on their laps, gazing intently at the casket. They looked calm and good, as though their emotions were in order, and they at peace; I had been told by Father Morissette that the night before they had placed a wreath of flowers upon Kerouac’s body, and that they had knelt and wept. Ginsberg’s long hair and beard were pressed neatly down; he wore a pair of chinos and a navy blue nylon parka and clasped a worn-looking woven Greek bag. Neither he nor Orlovsky appeared to have aged much in the last 10 years.

And then there was the casket. And in the casket Jack Kerouac. I walked across the room, took a deep breath, and stood beside the open box. Kerouac lay there, hands folded, eyes closed, dressed in a white shirt, a little bow tie, a hound’s-tooth jacket. His black hair was cut short and neatly combed aside. His face was a waxen cosmetic mask that bore no resemblance whatever to the appearance of a human face; in fact, it looked as though beneath the makeup and the rouged lips and cheeks there was surely some plastic composition, such as a mannequin in a window display might be made of. What can I say? He was hideous to look upon. He had been stripped of all his ravaging joy. They had turned him into what they probably thought he should have been all along: a decent, properly dead Lowell businessman.

I retreated into the open hallway and stood looking at the big guest book propped on a lectern; a man beside me began to talk to me; he was Joe Chaput, a proofreader for the Lowell Courier and an old, old friend of Kerouac’s; in fact, it was Chaput who had driven Kerouac and his wife and mother down to St. Petersburg the year before.

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“That was some trip,” Chaput said, “I drove all the way; Jack used to say there was only one driver in the world better than me, and that was Neal Cassady. We spread mattresses across the back of this station wagon and Jack’s mother and his wife spread out on them; and me and Jack in front. He talked and drank all the way down. Talked and drank. Never stopped. God, he was great.”

Chaput turned and introduced me to a large crowd of neat Northern faces over big bellies inside tweed overcoats; they were all Kerouac cousins; they shook my hand vigorously and smiled warmly. And then, suddenly, there was John Clellon Holmes in the crowd. Holmes had known Kerouac for more than 20 years.

“Were you shocked by Kerouac’s death?” I asked him.

“God, yes,” he said.

“Surprised?”

“No. Not really. The man drank so damn much. He’d get lonely. He was always living where nothing was happening, no one to talk to. But then, he seemed to want to be alone … ”

Gregory Corso appeared, in a long black coat and a black Indian headband around his black black hair, and threaded his way through the relatives, his eye pressed to one end of a big black camera with a snout a foot long. He moved in and out, he knelt, he hovered, he leaped back and forth, getting old Jack’s funeral responsibly on film.

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After a while, Ginsberg was sitting alone. I went over to him, introduced myself, and sat down next to him. He said to me:

“Have you talked to Mrs. Kerouac?”

“No. I don’t even know who she is.” He pointed to the grieving middle-aged lady I’d been watching. “That’s her,” he said.

“Oh!” I said. “Oh, no. I couldn’t go over to her.”

“Why not?” he eyed me coolly. “You’re a reporter, aren’t you? Well, that’s your job. Go over to her. Ask her about him, ask her what he’d been thinking about in the last month, what he’d been talking about. Other­wise you’ll have nothing but your own subjective impressions.”

I felt a sudden astonishing warmth toward him. I wanted to put my hand on his shoulder and feel his blue nylon back cupped within my arm, so firmly, so neutrally, so decently, did I feel him to be instructing me. But I did neither: I did not embrace Ginsberg and I did not disturb Mrs. Kerouac, although I did say hello to her. But when I looked into her miseried eyes I thought: O God, what could she possibly tell me? What correcting truth could she bestow on me?

And then suddenly everyone was leaving; it was time to bear the body to the church and begin the high Catholic mass celebrating the salvation of Jack Kerouac’s eternal soul. Ginsberg, one of the pallbearers, remained behind. Outside, I looked around for a ride, and entered one of the black limousines when the driver beckoned me forward. It turned out to be the family limousine, and I was wedged in between the driver and Mrs. Kerouac’s brother, while in back of us sat Mrs. Kerouac, her sister-in-law, and three Kerouac cousins. Mrs. Kerouac’s brother spoke dolefully and sincerely of Kerouac all the way to the church; he spoke of how Kerouac had been Lowell’s true biographer, of how every street in the town had had meaning for him, of how Kerouac’s life crossed the three main cultural strands of Lowell: he had been French-Canadian himself and had loved Irish Maggie Cassidy as a young man and then had married Greek Stella Sampas, this man’s sister. Behind us, his wife kept nodding eagerly at nearly every sentence; she was a well-endowed brunette in her middle 40s with a black pillbox on her head and a mink collar on her coat. She spoke smilingly of how crowded the town had become and how she had written something about it, and then one of the Kerouac cousins said: “You write too, don’t you?” and very quickly she said: “Yes, I do.”

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I heard her speaking for a few furiously fast seconds to Mrs. Kerouac, saying something like: “She’s going to write it … ,” then silence. I didn’t know what to make of it or what to do. Finally, I twisted around in my seat and said miserably: “Mrs. Kerouac, is there something you’d like to say to me?”

She looked so startled, the wretched woman. “No,” she said softly, bitterly. “There’s nothing I want to say.” And she stared relentlessly at the floor of the car until we pulled up to the church.

Inside, the 200 or so of us were scattered throughout the cavernous church. I sat down between the two Boston reporters there, and noticed Jimmy Breslin, looking burly and penitent, sitting directly in front of me. The priest began his mass. He read from St. John the Blessed in the Book of the Apocalypse: “They shall rest from their labors for they shall take their works with them.” And the mass went on and on; and they shook incense out of ornamental gold shakers; and then the lovely aching sound of Catholic voices raised in the sweetness of pure lament; and then the priest spoke again, this time in English; and then, again, the healing singing. And suddenly in the midst of the whole thing I had the unmistakable feeling that Kerouac was hovering somewhere, in the air above our heads looking down on all of us, sort of embarrassed, sort of bewildered, and saying: Jeezus, what’s all this got to do with  me? And I thought: God, yes! Where are you, Kerouac, in all this? What are you doing here among middle-class businessmen and pontificating priests and Jewish gurus and patronizing intellectuals and cops-and-robbers reporters? Where are you, you poor dislocated bastard, in this elaborate appropriation of Jack Kerouac: the Man and the Myth?

And Kerouac answered me sadly: Oh, I’m a little here. That’s the whole trouble. I’m a little here.

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* * *

In “On the Road” Kerouac’s narrator, Sal, explains why an affair he’s having is bound to end: “Lucille would never understand me because I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer except my own confusion.”

Sitting there in that church I remembered the passage and I felt then that that was what Kerouac was all about until the last day of his 47 years. And that, also, was why he was a “little here,” and why all these people could claim him in death as they had claimed him in life, and why he stood still and smiled, and let everyone pick at him for a while, and he even feebly picked back, because it gets so lonely, so damn lonely out there with the falling stars and the confusion, and a man needs to feel a part of things; but ah, then it would be no good at all, and he’d get off by himself and go leaping across the continent and get roaring drunk and those fabulous yellow Roman candles would burst again and then he’d come back, always back. And that compulsive lusting after life went restlessly on and on and on, and when he lost the will or the strength or the taste for it, he lost everything, because Kerouac was one of those men in whom the proportions are mixed just a bit differently than in the rest of us. In him that youthful lunging after sensation was wider, deeper, fuller than in most men; it filled him up and left no room for aging and for moderation; as a result, his youngmanhood was a metaphor for the entire adolescent sharpness of response; all that he had in the way of courage and conviction and sweetness and clarity and ripping urgency and glorious lunging was dumped onto that narrow ribbon of road, and on the pages of his books there is captured, for all of us, those amazing rhythms that sing in the blood and wash through the head and gratify the belly when one lives through the senses. At his best, Kerouac is a man strapped to the globe, first on his back and then on his belly, gulping and hugging, gulping and hugging.

Kerouac was a true American original, in the direct line of men like Jack London and Thomas Wolfe and Sinclair Lewis and Theodore Dreiser and Norman Mailer; men not of exquisite European sensibility or tragic Russian depths but of enormous American appetite; men who understood appetite in their brains and in their balls and in their inflamed nerve endings; in their wet dreams and egalitarian surroundings, and in their amazing grasp of the raw sweep of this country; men who not only understood appetite, but also that appetite was what America was all about, and that America, like most of them, would die forever young.

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Kerouac, like all the rest before him, was powerfully dislocated by his appetite, and bewildered by what it brought him. He was bewildered by his fame, bewildered by being told he was a founder of the Beat Generation, bewildered, I am willing to bet, as much by the New York poets and intellectuals as he was, ultimately, by the good folk from Lowell whom he increasingly could not return to. For what he had, he had full strength, and to have anything full strength (especially something which outlives itself) is to insure increasing isolation; and isolation is an outrage to the emotions and a bewilderment to the soul. Lonely is hardly the word for what the inside of Jack Kerouac’s later life must have been like …

I took my place in the procession to a charming cemetery filled with sunlight and crunching leaves and tossing colored trees and we gathered around that meaningless box once more and listened to some more mumbo-jumbo for a while and then we all went away, and Kerouac was left alone to transcend it all, and I hoped that he could know that at any minute now another one, just like him, was getting ready to surface into American life.

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Gimme Shelter: Blowing Up a Movie to Solve a Murder

Blowing Up a Movie to Solve a Murder

December 25, 1969

SAN FRANCISCO — “Is anybody besides me seriously worried about what the Hell’s Angels might do to us if they find out we’ve got footage of the killing?” Albert Maysles asked. “I mean, when that sequence is blown up, there’ll be a full-face picture of the actual slayer. Look, Stanley, if you were the particular guy in question … ”

“I’d kill your ass,” Stanley Goldstein shot back with a tart grin.

“I was never really sold on the idea of doing a straight tour film of the Stones,” David Maysles said. “What we actually have is a mystery story, you realize. A detective story, sort of.”

Last Thursday, I was awakened early by a phone call from David Maysles in New York. He explained that he and brother Albert, who had been authorized to film the gigantic free Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Speedway on December 6, had just viewed a portion of their color footage showing the fatal encounter between Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old black youth who was shown to be armed with a revolver, and a stocky, knife-wielding man dressed in a Hell’s Angels tunic. The two Maysles Brothers, along with a small technical crew, David said, planned to fly here that evening to resume filming and to confer with officials of Young American Enterprises, Inc., the company that claimed to represent the Stones during their American tour. Could I rent a limousine and hire somebody to handle their luggage, and meet them at the airport for a talk?

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I could, and I did. A jump-seated black Cadillac was secured from Gray Line Tours, and I engaged Greg Curtis, a young writer from Texas, to serve as chief baggage grip.

The TWA flight that night was late, and Greg and I were both a little antsy; in the course of our phone conversation, David had mentioned that his party would be traveling, at the insistence of the Stones’ management, under the protection of two armed bodyguards.

“The Stones’ mafia,” David had explained with a nervous laugh, and the pair of bodyguards lived up to the advance billing as they preceded the film crew off the plane; they were both big, tough-looking, taciturn men with coldly staring eyes and unmistakable bulges under their jackets.

The Maysles Brothers came out shooting,” with Albert, who resembles a kind of Mr. Peepers with character, manning a mammoth, shoulder-rig camera, and David, wearing head phones and a purple shirt with epaulettes, picking up the sound with a shotgun mike. David made the round of introductions. Others in his party included cameraman Ron Dorfman, all-around trouble-shooter Stanley Goldstein (one of the prime movers and shakers at the Woodstock Festival), and a freelance still photographer named Michael Alexander.

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After a series of stop-and-go camera takes, we all headed for the limousine. David, Albert, Stanley, and I rode in the lead Cadillac to the Hotel Mark Hopkins. A second car was hired to accommodate the bodyguards and the rest of the crew. Greg stayed behind to collect the luggage, most of which was scheduled to arrive on a later flight.

All the way to the Mark, which is located near the crest of Nob Hill, David and Albert plied me with questions about the after-effects of the Altamont debacle. I found the process of being “interviewed” somewhat bizarre and not a little bit disorienting; in the end, I felt something like a human out-take from “Medium Cool.”

Our appearance en masse in the sumptuous lobby of the ultra-staid Mark caused the night clerk to blanch. “I don’t think that cat appreciates us using his hotel as a movie set,” Ron Dorfman said, grinning lopsidedly and continuing to shoot away. Since there’d been no hostile welcome by the Angels, as had halfway been expected, the mood of the party quickly turned high carnival.

Somebody in the Young American organization — John James, Ronnie Schneider, or Michael Scotti — was supposed to have made reservations for the Maysles crew under the name “A. Hitchcock.” No reservations had been made. A doddering bellman let us into John James’s small apartment while the decision was made about what to do next. Albert wandered into the bedroom and came back out, laughing aloud: “Know what’s sitting on the table beside ole John’s beddy-poo? A can of Sof-Stroke. Do you suppose he’s trying to tell us something?” A call to the desk disclosed that Ronnie Schneider had turned in for the night: the desk clerk didn’t know where either James or Scotti were. Stanley — “Stanley G. Logistics,” as David called him — was dispatched downstairs to arrange for a suite. “Charge it to A. Hitchcock,” David called after him. “No, seriously, charge it to James — we’ve already sprung for the air fare out here.”

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Three stewardesses who had been on the TWA flight from New York knocked for admittance. “Let’s have a party,” they pealed in unison. The group crowded into the small room now numbered 10 people; there weren’t enough chairs to go around. After talking to somebody on the phone, Mike Alexander told David the crew had been invited to view some films the following evening. David frowned: “Well, thanks, but no thanks. I don’t like to watch films much any more, except what we’re actually working on. I don’t have any sense of the history of films, I guess.”

Everyone prepared to move to the suite Stanley had rented, two flights down on the 10th floor. “Oh, shit, man, what’re you doing?” Stanley roared at the bellman, who had removed all of John James’s clothes from the closet along with our coats. After the damage had been undone, we descended to the new quarters by the fire stairs to avoid waiting for the single elevator in operation.

“Yeah, this is much more like it,” David said, yawning and stretching out on the living room carpet. “Hey, I’m starving, though. Can we get a meal for everybody from room service?” ”It’s almost 2 o’clock, David — they’ll be closed up for the night,” Stanley said, shaking his shaggy head no. “Well, Christ, we can’t fast for the next six hours,” Albert complained. Mike Alexander volunteered to put together a movable feast at David’s Delicatessen. Stanley handed Mike $80 in bills: “Get enough food, beer, and soft drinks for 15, 16 people, okay?”

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Greg Curtis came in to report that 11 pieces of luggage had failed to arrive. “It may have been dropped off over in Oakland,” he suggested hopefully. “Shit, shit, shit,” Stanley raged, racing for the phone. “That’s most of our raw stock and equipment. We can’t function without that stuff.” Somebody began passing a small, elegant pipe around. “You may wonder why I’ve assembled you here at this unseemly hour,” David quipped, imitating Richard Burton. He followed up with an impression of Mick Jagger at Madison Square Garden: “Well, all rot. New Yock Citeh. Far aht?” Somebody flipped on the color tv set; frequency patterns blipped up, up, and away.

Across the room, Stanley was attempting to place two long-distance calls at once. “Stan’s about to levitate,” Albert said, winking and grinning. Mike Alexander returned with two carts of food and $35 change. “Now just listen to me, man,” Stanley bawled into the phone, “If you don’t connect me with the flight operations officer in one minute, I’m going to call the fucking FAA.”

By now, it was early morning. Ron Dorfman was sprawled out asleep on the carpet, and one of the stewardesses periodically dozed off and snapped awake on the couch. After eating, I phoned for a cab. David suggested that I return to the hotel “around 9-ish” for the meeting with the Young American people. By the time I arrived home, that left me two hours to sleep.

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***

Nine-ish on Friday morning. Mike Alexander peered morosely out the window at the rain below. “It’s going to be a great day for shooting exteriors, Albert,” he muttered, scratching his bare belly. “All you’ll need to do is bounce your lights off of the sky and punch a hole in the reflector to let the rain pour through.”

Albert Maysles looked tousled and still half-asleep: “Has anybody seen my shoes? I can’t seem to find my shoes. Oh, well, I guess they’ll turn up. Listen Ron, maybe you’d better rouse Stanley, right? He’s going to have to get a move on after that lost luggage.”

Stanley was asleep on the couch. Gently, Ron tapped him on the shoulder: “Uh, Stanley old chap, could I talk to you about something? Could I talk to  you about getting your ass up?” Irritably, Stanley rolled over onto his stomach and growled, “Fuck off.” A couple of minutes later, groaning piteously, he sat up and began to dress.

“Listen, we’re going to have to hire a public stenographer sometime today,” David announced to the room at large. “Yeah, to prepare that contract,” Stanley answered. “Have we retained Mel Belli to represent us yet, by the way?” “Public stenos cost $75 a minute,” Ron joked. David grimaced: “By the way, what’re we paying for this suite a day? A hundred dollars, you think?” He turned to me, spreading his hands: “Christ, we’re doing all of this on spec, you know. It was the same thing with ‘Salesman’ — we put all our own bread into that film, too.”

After various delays, Stanley hustled off to the airport to check on the errant luggage and the rest of us trooped up to Ronnie Schneider’s suite on the 14th floor. Also present at the meeting were John James, a cheerful balloon of a man, Michael Scotti, who resembles the young George Raft, and the two bodyguards who had escorted the Maysles crew from New York. One of the men carried his pistol in his hip pocket, and both took pains to stay out of camera range. Two tables littered with a dozen plates of coagulating breakfast remains gave the room an eerie, beggar’s banquet flavor. The ambience of power present was as strong as an odor; you knew that these men had only to lift the phone and whatever was asked would be delivered by someone with his hand stretched out for a crinkly tip. But the Stones promoters also exuded another air, sadder, wearier, as if they existed nowhere except in the airless anonymity of hotel rooms. I was suddenly glad that I lived out in the section of the city a friend bad once derisively dubbed “the Queens of San Francisco.”

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John James started the conversation by announcing that his organization had settled property claims with “perhaps 90 per cent” of the Alameda County ranchers who had complained of damages in the wake of the concert. The sum paid out, he said, represented “about a tenth” of the $500,000 originally sought. “Those damn idiot farmers, some of them were complaining that their cows had swallowed beer bottles,” one of the bodyguards sneered. “Cows with beer bottles in their stomaches. Sheeit.”

Ronnie Schneider was asked what the Stones’ reaction to the slaying had been. Speaking in a hoarse, basso rasp, he said, carefully: “Grief, disgust … the Stones didn’t really know what had happened at first, couldn’t grasp what’d occurred.”

“What happened, just happened,” James interjected. “There’s simply no infallible way to bring together 300,000 people without the possibility of violence arising. The Stones only wanted to thank their American friends for making their tour so successful. Every possible precaution was taken, given the hurry-up circumstances of having to move from the Sears Point raceway to the Altamont site at the last possible minute. I blame that development squarely on Filmways, Inc., which owns the Sears Point track. At the last minute, Filmways made exorbitant demands on the Stones for the use of the grounds, demands that were so outrageous they couldn’t be met. We did the best we could under the circumstances. Richard Carter, who owns the Altamont track, hired 100 uniformed security guards. We hired 100 more.”

What about Sonny Barger’s claim that the Angels had been hired as security guards for $500 worth of beer?

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“Nobody from any of the three organizations promoting the concert paid the Angels anything,” James snapped testily. “Maybe the Angels brought their own beer, who knows? But Sam Cutler, the Stones’ road manager, tried to get the whole bunch of them off the stage repeatedly throughout the day.”

“Look,” Schneider put in, “one lone guy pulled a gun, and in the ensuing confusion, he got himself killed. What if there had been regular city cops up on the bandstand? Five people might’ve been killed, see what I mean? The Stones paid out a quarter of a million dollars to put on an event for everybody to enjoy. Why shouldn’t the Stones get a film out of it to help repay some of their expenses?”

As the interview continued, a streak of stunning-looking girls paraded in and out of the room. “Our groupies in residence,” James snorted with a wry laugh. One of the bodyguards was clowning around with a woman’s red wig. “Let me know before you begin to shoot again,” he ordered Ron Dorfman, “so I can go and hide in the john or someplace. I mean it, I ain’t shittin’ you, kid.”

“You guys in the press,” Schneider said to me with a hint of metal in his voice, “you all say pretty much what you please, whatever we do or say. That’s why I — why all of us — rarely if ever give interviews. Hell, 17 or 18 different guys have tried to get through to us since we’ve been here, and we wouldn’t talk to any of them. You’re the first reporter we’ve seen, so I hope you’ll be fair and accurate about what’s being said here ”

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Scotti, who had remained silent until this point, asked to go off the record so he could freely discuss the legal and security problems the Maysles Brothers faced. After I agreed, David described the footage showing the slaying. James groaned: “Jesus, just having that sequence is like sitting on a powder keg.” David nodded: “Yes, I know. Death, we found out, is very quick.” “I saw the killing take place,” Albert mused moodily, “but I didn’t personally shoot it. It was so ugly, I just didn’t want to. The truth is, at this point, we don’t know precisely who did shoot the sequence. We had about 18 freelance cameramen working for us on the day of the concert.”

The off-the-record discussion followed. Concluding that simple possession of the film implicated the Maysles Brothers as material witnesses to a homicide, Scotti, looking pale and grim, called the Alameda County sheriff’s department, and within minutes two plainclothes detectives, Robert Donovan and J. N. Chisholm, arrived at the suite. Scotti described the footage to the officers in general terms, and then whisked his entire entourage, bodyguards and all, back to New York by plane. David made arrangements for his associate, Porter Bibb, to ship a copy of the sequence here from New York via air express.

“Wow — the old crud just hit the fan, didn’t it,” somebody murmured softly after the plainclothesmen had left.

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On Saturday afternoon, the footage was screened for the two officers and an Alameda County assistant district attorney at Francis Ford Coppola’s ultra-sophisticated new film facility, American Zoetrope. The sequence was shown repeatedly, frame by frame; it proved to be grisly, explicit, and harrowing to watch.

Afterward, David asked the detectives, “Can we film the grand jury, do you suppose? No? Damn, maybe we can get the foreman to talk outside the jury room, what do you think?”

Late in the afternoon, the officers left to take the film print to the Alameda County police lab for enlargement. When it was feasible, they said, the blown-up photos would be presented, along with any other evidence that had developed, to the grand jury in order to secure an indictment.

For the slayer of Meredith Hunter, the crud had indeed hit the fan.

Maysles Brothers Gimme Shelter filming

Maysles Brothers Gimme Shelter filming 2

Maysles Brothers Gimme Shelter filming controversy