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February 1st, 2006 Carson K. Smith | News Stories
 

The Last Yip

Yippies founding father Stew Albert's final interview.

     
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STEW ALBERT, 1939-2006
IMAGE: AMY OULETTE
Stew Albert, one of the creators of the 1960s Yippie movement and a political activist for a lifetime, died Monday morning in his sleep at his Southeast Portland home.

He was 66, and is survived by his wife of 28 years, Judy, and daughter Jessica.

Days before his death from liver cancer, Albert spoke with WW in what he described beforehand in his blog (stewa.blogspot.com) as "maybe my last straight-up newspaper interview."

Fighting exhaustion from chemotherapy during that two-hour interview last Wednesday, Albert reflected on his life in the 1960s with the Youth International Party, and what's wrong with today's peace movement.

On who the hell is Stew Albert (the title of his 2003 memoir):

I'm a man who went out to change the world and had fun doing it. And I did have a lot of fun.

On the framed doctor's permission letter on his mantel saying it's OK for him to use marijuana:

That's just in case I want to go out and score a bag. It's helped with appetite control, mostly. My friends have been generous.

On the Yippies' historical impact:

To engage the peace movement, and the Yippies included, raised the price domestically. Did we help end the war? Yeah. I'm not claiming we did it alone. There were other groups. The fighting skills of the Viet Cong were faltering. We played a part. And we celebrated that.

On the spiritual legacy of the Yippies after the deaths of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and himself:

Well, I hope there's a certain permanence of spirit that the idea of the audacious, creative, imaginative rebellion is not dead ... We didn't use the name Yippie. That in itself isn't that important. It's the spirit. What I hope is that the spirit is alive and will have a great rebirth.

On whether the Yippies could have achieved more if they hadn't done so many drugs:

We enjoyed drugs, but that doesn't mean we were passive. When we were drugged, we weren't lethargic. We were energetic people. Drugs, music was part of the lifestyle, in a strengthening sort of way. You look at the Haight-Ashbury part of the lifestyle, it was more energized than not. Our lifestyle was the alternative. On the whole, we gained by being a part of that alternative.

On the current peace movement:

As much as we can, we go to peace demonstrations. But they're boring. Rallies these days are atrocious. They lack good speakers, someone to psych up a crowd. People think they have to be boring to be considered serious. We were serious, but we were able to charm people. When there was a demonstration, people would want to go like it was a circus.


The service for Albert will be held at 1 pm Wednesday, Feb. 1, at Havurah Shalom, 825 NW 18th Ave.
 
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