Abbie Hoffman may not be that well known to a lot of people but he’s always been a personal hero of mine. He was by definition a social activist probably best known for his work organizing anti-war protests during the Vietnam War era. Truth is, he was much more than that. He was an amazing man involved in many different social causes: civil rights, the environment, the Women’s Movement, you name it, and he did it all with a terrific sense of humor.
Now with that in mind, one would not think that Abbie Hoffman would be a proper subject for a blog dedicated to Lee Marvin and my book Lee Marvin Point Blank. Truth be told, I like to think of this blog as that and other subjects of interest, especially when it concerns the lives of interesting and/or unsung individuals. Enter Abbie Hoffman.
Having watched the Aaron Sorkin film The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), recently, I decided to reread Abbie’s autobiography, since it’s always been one of my favorite books as mentioned previously. Glad I did as it is just as great a read as I remember. I could go on about what makes it so wonderful, or even pontificate more on Abbie’s achievements. Instead, read the excerpt below and you’ll see what I mean:
“Radio needed another frame of mind. I studied how it was different, always preferred it to TV, and felt I was better on the radio because the listener couldn’t see what was going on and respond to certain visual images I had to create. One night I was being interviewed by a hostile host live on New York radio station WNEW. I picked up my host’s pack of cigarettes and said, ‘Can I have a cigarette?’
‘Sure, help yourself.,’ he said, and I took one and dragged on it slurpily. ‘Hey, this is really good stuff here, man,’ I said, imitating the stereotypical stoned musician. The host got all flustered and announced, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, he’s just smoking a plain Marlboro cigarette…Tell them that — tell them it’s just a cigarette, man.’ I agreed then apologized profusely. ‘Oh my god, ah shouldna done it…I’m sorry I don’t wanna blow your gig. So cool, though, man, disguisin’ a cigarette.’ There was no way the host could get out of the little trap with just words. He completely lost his composure, but he had me back.
On another talk show, I got a call-in death threat. I said over the air that I’d be leaving the studio at 5 o’clock and went on to describe myself, only using the appearance of the host. ‘I got horn-rimmed glasses and a brown and white-checkered sports jacket.’ Most of the time I’d talk about the war or other social issues, using humor as a hook. I would use the opportunities to advertise upcoming demonstrations. It was free space and effective. … people actually talked on radio. Now it seems like everyone, disc jockeys, broadcasters, newsmen, are all hopping on the same monotonous beat. One-two-three. One-two-three.”
Ya gotta love Abbie! Seriously, how inventive and funny was he when it came to such things? I only wish he was still around as we could sure use his perspective now….maybe more than ever.
– Dwayne Epstein