Volume 75, Number 37 | February 1 - 7, 2006

Villager photo by Clayton Patterson

Dana Beal in the future Yippie Museum at 9 Bleecker St.

Museum will have Abbie’s trash, Rubin’s road kill

By Lincoln Anderson

The Yippies, or Youth International Party, were always known for their sense of the absurd. In 1968, a year after their founding, they ran a pig named Pigasus for president and the next year Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin famously turned the Chicago 7 conspiracy trial on its head with their courtroom antics.

But a plan for a Yippie Museum — along with a virtual coffee house, gift shop and counterculture comedy club — on Bleecker St. is no joke.

Among items slated for the permanent collection are part of Rubin’s remains scraped off a California road, a portion of LSD guru Tim Leary’s ashes supplied by Art Kunkin of the Los Angeles Free Press, a sampling of Hoffman’s garbage and F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. files back from the days when people could obtain such classified information.

“This is going to be a like a Hard Rock Cafe for Yippies. Instead of guitar strings on the wall, we’re going to have Yippie mementos,” said A.J. Weberman, a Yippie and Dylanologist — he takes a hermeneutic approach to Bob Dylan’s lyrics — who recently published “The Dylan to English Dictionary.”

“We’re just waiting for our charter from the New York State Board of Regents,” which is needed to open a museum, he said.

Dana Beal, a self-proclaimed “second-wave” Yippie, part of a younger generation of Yippies who got involved after the movement’s beginnings, lives in the building at 9 Bleecker St. that will house the museum. The Yippies’ former chief theoretician, Beal in 1972 started the newspaper the Yipster Times, later renamed Overthrow, which he said has “suspended” publication but may relaunch on the Web. More recently he’s been an advocate for Ibogaine, an African plant touted as a heroin-addiction cure.

Beal and a group of fellow Yippies moved into the building, just off the Bowery, in 1973.

Last Wednesday evening, he gave a tour of the place, a former factory, which is now well on its way toward being transformed into a sort of Yippie Smithsonian. As Beal showed off the interior, a worker on a ladder was hammering and sawing away at wooden two-by-fours.

The ground floor has been totally rebuilt, braced by closely spaced new wooden support beams underneath. In the rear, a unique curved ceiling made of small, glass-block circles is being restored and the exterior tarpaper scraped off to let through natural light.

“This is a restoration,” Beal emphasized. “We’re restoring the building to what it was. We got the guy doing this who maintains the Puffin Room Gallery. And if you know Carl Rosenstein’s got him, you know he’s got to be good,” he said, referring to the Broome St. gallery’s owner.

Three stairways are being added down to the basement and hopefully an easement to the sidewalk in front. Above part of the first floor, a platform is being constructed, which Beal dubbed a “hookah loft.” Asked about the new no-smoking law, he said, no worries, there will be a vent.

As for other types of smoking, Beal — a leader of the annual Million Marijuana March for pot legalization on May Day — said, no, pot will not be on the menu, and that a reporter could not get him to say that. And neither will hard liquor, though beer there will be.

“The Yippies were not into heavy alcohol. But beer is American — kind of German, actually,” he added on second thought, as he swigged a cold one himself while leading the tour.

Beal is excited about the museum, which will be located in the front. Andrew Hoffman, Abbie’s son, will be supplying $375 American-flag blazers made in Indonesia, of which his wife is a native.

“This is the Yippies man! This is real. They’re making them now,” Beal enthused.

Beal did not say, though, whether or not people will be encouraged to filch the pricey threads, a la Abbie Hoffman’s Yippie how-to manual, “Steal This Book.” Weberman said he thought it was American-flag T-shirts, not blazers, that were going to be sold.

On his seriousness about the museum, Beal added he feels he has more than a knack for it since his father was the state archivist of Michigan.

“This is going to be a real museum,” he said.

Beal said, they’ve always had plenty of stuff, it’ll just be a question of rotating it in exhibits. And people have promised to send more.

“The Yippies were huge in the ’70s,” he said. He’s expecting “boxes and boxes of s—t from a guy who worked at the Berkeley Barb. And Val [Orselli of the Cooper Square Committee] says he has some stuff in boxes.”

On prominent display in the museum will be the long-lost “50-cent cup of coffee.” The virtual cafe will serve actual coffee for this price for a small cup, though a mug will cost $1.

The cafe will have streaming video, of which the patrons will be the subject.

“It’s going to be the Yippie equivalent of ‘Cheers,’ ” Beal explained. “It will be a virtual cafe, a circa 1964 basket house — where they passed the basket to pay for the folk musicians.”

Waitresses will be outfitted in period-authentic Beatnik garb and, of course, Birkenstocks.

The Abbie Hoffman Radical Comedy Club will be in the basement.

And there’s more. Further upstairs will be the Institute for Advanced Political Protest. Weberman said this will focus on the study of the practice of “surreal protests,” like when Hoffman stopped the trading at the New York Stock Exchange by throwing money down onto the floor, which prompted the Stock Exchange to install Plexiglas barriers in the viewing gallery.

But the plan for now is that the Yippie Museum will come first, then the comedy club and then, hopefully, the rest.

The museum’s board of directors includes Beal and Weberman, as well as Aron “Yippie Pie Man” Kay, David Peal, William Propp and Paul Di Rienzo.

Beal said the whole operation will be a nonprofit and that they are in the process of applying for nonprofit status.

Although this would all seem to be a major change for No. 9, Beal doesn’t see it that way. Before the Yippies, the place was home to Pablo’s Lights, which did the lightshow at the old Fillmore East. A few years after they moved in, they renovated the place, but Beal said it didn’t quite accomplish what they were aiming for.

“We already were a museum,” he stressed. “We just didn’t do it right in 1978. We’re going to bring back an era.

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