… And the Yippies on St. Marks

P5300082Jesse FishThe Yippie movement started in the basement of this building at 30 St. Marks Place.

“New York is naturally fantastic — especially where I live — just one gigantic happening,” wrote the young 1960’s political activist, Abbie Hoffman, while living on Avenue C and 11th Street. Hoffman, the counterculture, anti-war advocate had recently arrived in the city divorced, jobless and estranged from his family in Worcester, Mass. Feeling free and ambitious, Hoffman promptly set out to organize political and spiritual movements which he believed would change the warring Western world.

Hoffman, along with Jerry Rubin, went on to establish the Yippie — short for Youth International Party — political group while residing in a basement apartment at 30 St. Marks Place, until recently home to the Japanese restaurant Go. In Hoffman’s mind, the Yippies would be an answer to the hippie movement, which he believed was aimless and too drug-centered to accomplish any real change in United States policy.

Hoffman once affirmed that a “Yippie is a hippie who’s been beaten up by the cops,” and thought that the neighborhood was the perfect launching pad for his alternative faction. Abbie spoke of the East Village as “the real hip underground, the successor to Greenwich Village as the heartland of bohemianism.”

Hoffman remained a well-known presence throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s and frequently made national headlines as an eccentric protester. Author of “Steal this Book,” he vowed during an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., to levitate the Pentagon to express his objection to the Vietnam War. His fellow East Village resident and friend, Allen Ginsberg, was present at this demonstration and led a series Tibetan chants.

Throughout this period Hoffman encouraged many theatrical antics with fellow Yippies around New York City, including the infamous incident in 1967 which involved raiding the New York Stock Exchange with a group of protesters and throwing both real and fake money down on the trading floor in protest of capitalism.

Despite his success as an organizer and activist, Abbie Hoffman suffered from manic depression throughout his life. In April 1989, Hoffman was found dead and the cause was attributed to a suicide by barbiturate overdose. Upon his death The New Yorker, which referred to Abbie as “a polemicist, with a sense of humor”, observed that “Hoffman led 3 lives … social activist, yippie anarchist and white-collar impostor.” Hoffman was 52 at the time of his suicide.

The Yippie Museum Café, which opened in 2007 as a tribute to the movement, is an establishment which houses a café and gift shop, as well as the Lenny Bruce Academy of Sick Comedy.  The café also holds regular performances such as plays and live music. It is located at 9 Bleecker Street between Bowery and Elizabeth.