Abbie Hoffman Dies; Yippie Radical of ‘60s

Times Staff Writer

Abbie Hoffman, the flamboyant 1960s radical who co-founded the Yippies and later spent seven years underground after being indicted on drug charges, died Wednesday at his apartment in Pennsylvania, authorities said.

Hoffman, 52, was found dead in Solebury Township by Michael Waldron, his landlord and friend, said Police Chief Richard Mangan. Hoffman’s wife became concerned when her husband did not answer the phone and asked Waldron to check on him, Mangan said.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. April 14, 1989 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday April 14, 1989 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 5 Metro Desk 2 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
An obituary of Abbie Hoffman in some editions Thursday incorrectly described demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic convention as the “Days of Rage.” The term refers to demonstrations by the Weatherman faction of the Students for a Democratic Society at the 1969 trial of the so-called Chicago Seven.

“There was no sign of foul play, and no sign of forced entry,” the police chief said. “The apartment was not in any disarray.” An autopsy is scheduled for today, he said.


Along with Jerry Rubin and Paul Krassner, Hoffman founded the Youth International Party, or Yippies, during the turbulence of the late 1960s. The group’s members were principal players in the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.

Hoffman was convicted as one of the Chicago Seven on charges growing out of those demonstrations. The convictions were later overturned on appeal.

A pied piper to millions of young people opposed to the Vietnam War, Hoffman mixed Barnum, buffoonery and political protest in his high-profile battle against the political establishment. He had gained notoriety by dressing in the American flag and ridiculing the system.

Hoffman’s style was to capture a moment and to seize attention with daring humor to make a simple, symbolic point. He first etched himself into the public’s consciousness in 1967 by burning money at the New York Stock Exchange--an act he saw as tantamount to throwing money changers from the temple.

In 1974, he jumped $10,000 bail and went underground after being charged with selling three pounds of cocaine to undercover agents the year before. As a fugitive, Hoffman had plastic surgery performed on his nose to change his appearance, enabling him to star as an impostor in a fantastic charade.

He once threw a book-publishing party for himself and even attended President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration in 1977. For several years, he lived under the alias Barry Freed and tended his garden in Fineview, N.Y., an island retreat of 1,000 people in the St. Lawrence River. He posed as a free-lance television writer and resided in a turn-of-the-century home with Johanna Lawrenceson, his then companion.

He remained in Fineview until Sept. 4, 1980, when he surrendered to authorities. On Jan. 23, 1981, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possession of cocaine.

Hoffman timed his surrender to the publication of his autobiography, “Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture.” He granted interviews to Barbara Walters and several newspaper journalists before turning himself in to authorities.

It was then that he revealed that he had kept quite a high profile while on the run. Using his alias, he headed environmental campaigns and frequently appeared on television. New York Gov. Hugh Carey even sent Freed a letter of commendation. The avid environmentalist once testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, and had his picture taken with the chairman, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.)

When he learned who Freed actually was, Moynihan commented: “I’ll be damned.”

“He was a brilliant organizer,” said Irving Like of Babylon, N.Y., a lawyer for an environmental group, who knew Hoffman only as Barry. “He really could keep people’s interest.”

Hoffman was born in Worcester, Mass., on Nov. 30, 1936. He attended Brandeis University in Boston and UC Berkeley, studying under political scientist Herbert Marcuse.

Explaining his activism under a pseudonym, Hoffman once said: “That’s where my heart is. That’s where the struggle was. That’s where I took the most risks. That was the meaning of my underground existence.”

After surrendering, Hoffman was sentenced to community service work. He found himself once again in demand as a lecturer, receiving $3,000 for appearances at universities in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and Miami. He also wrote magazine articles, a book of essays and a screenplay about his life.