Underground Resurfaces to Celebrate ‘Other’ NY Herald Tribune

Scott Lynch David Peel performs, and other scenes from the party.

The invitation called on members of the New York underground press who were still alive or not in jail to “party like it’s 1969,” and that’s what they did on Saturday night at the Yippie Museum Cafe.

At a communal dinner table, about 16 people from the inner circle of the New York Herald Tribune reminisced about a heady time four decades ago when they were revolutionaries publishing articles about Woodstock, the Black Panthers, and the war in Vietnam.

To be clear, this wasn’t the New York Herald Tribune of Tom Wolfe fame — after that one folded in 1966, a group of Stuyvesant High School students appropriated the name and ran with it.

“We stole it,” admitted Toby Mamis, one of the editors who helped shape the paper in the late ’60s.

“I was a high school radical at Stuyvesant and I had a paper called The Flea and a paper at Washington Irving called the Weekly Reader,” Mr. Mamis explained. “We merged them into the Herald Tribune. It was published every month or two. It was about rock and roll, ending the war and ending sexism.” For a while, the publication operated out of a donated storefront at 110 St. Marks Place.

Underground Press Reunion at Yippie Museum - Toby (Herald Tribune) and Pat Foote ("part of the crowd")Scott Lynch Toby Mamis and Pat Foote.

Mr. Mamis dropped out of Stuyvesant — then located at East 15th Street, near Second Avenue — at age 15 and went on to represent rock bands like Blondie and The Runaways. Now living in Utah, he said he wanted to see his old cronies in the East Village because working at the Herald Tribune “altered the course of all of our lives.”

“Everyone around the table said we empowered ourselves at a time when nobody knew what empowerment was. We needed to do stuff that the system wasn’t teaching us to do,” he said.

Xavier Leslie Cabarga, a prolific author and illustrator now living in California, left school in New Jersey with his mother’s help after submitting comics to the East Village Other and Rat. He worked on graphic design and created cartoons for the Herald Tribune alongside a crew of “mostly high school dropouts” like himself, he said.

Like other underground papers, the Herald “slanted towards the high school revolution,” he said. “There would be articles on a walkout of students to protest the Kent State situation. We would run some stories from the mainstream press. We had Black Panther news. We had some syndication.”

Wrinkled, undated copies of the paper were available near the bar. Issue 13 featured a page-two picture of Huey Newton, then Minister of Defense for the Black Panther party, holding a shotgun and a spear. Another issue blared a story about Bill Graham and the Fillmore East.

Underground Press Reunion at Yippie Museum - Rex Weiner (Herald Tribune), Lisa Gottleib (filmmaker)Scott Lynch Rex Weiner and Lisa Gottlieb

According to Mr. Cabarga, his true education didn’t begin until he left high school for the Herald. “When I was a kid I would be going to CBS Records or Paramount Pictures and it really just grew me up,” he said. “I was a teenager dealing in an adult world. I was 15, 16 and now I’m 58. I’ve written 40 books.”

Rex Weiner, an organizer of the event who is a Hollywood correspondent for Rolling Stone Italia and writes regularly for The Forward, agreed that his life changed when he joined “the revolution,” dropping out of N.Y.U. at age 20, beating the draft, and joining the East Village Other and the New York Ace. “There’s a lineage here,” he said. “From about 1969 to 1972 I was engaged with this group to create the last of the underground press and to create radical graphics and political writing before it moved into the mainsream press.”

The event wasn’t all good vibes. Days before the party, Dylan garbologist A.J. Weberman attacked Mr. Weiner in a Facebook post for inviting a one-time top Herald Tribune editor to the Saturday night reunion. Mr. Weberman accused the editor of having been a purported snitch who turned in over 40 pot dealers to the authorities to cut a deal for himself. “Don’t go to this party,” Mr. Weberman said, adding that he would “destroy” Mr. Weiner.

Underground Press Reunion at Yippie Museum - Michael (Herald Tribune and White Panthers) dancing with his daughter Olivia2Scott Lynch Michael Kleinman, a Herald Tribune founder,
traveled from Vancouver with daughter Olivia.

Asked about the war of words, Mr. Weiner laughed and took out a piece of paper with scrawled sentences stating that Mr. Weberman “solemnly” swore not to physically attack him. “This is his apology and his retraction of all this nonsense,” he said, noting that the purported informer had been instrumental in starting The Herald. “We’re all here tonight because of the group effort and we’re not writing anybody out of history. We’re not Stalinists,” he said.

“We had a complicated history,” he admitted, “but basically it was fun and meaningful. We were passionate and committed — and we still are.”