Chicago ’68

In the spring of ’68 I’d been hired as an editor at Ramparts magazine. The office was on Broadway off Sansome Street in San Francisco. One day in early summer Tom Hayden called and asked me to come to Chicago to put out an internal newsletter for the anti-war activists coming to protest at the Democratic National Convention. What Tom had in mind, as I recall, was a mimeographed map telling people where to go the next day.

I went into the office of Warren Hinckle and asked for a week  off to do the newsletter in Chicago. Without skipping a beat he said, “Do it for Ramparts! We’ll call it The Ramparts Wallposter!” [Political wallposters were going up all over China at the time, part of the “cultural revolution.”] One side would be news for the demonstrators, Warren declared, the other would be news from inside the convention hall. Ramparts would pick up the tab.

Warren Hinckle had real creative vision as a publisher and, when he had money, he was generous and willing to take chances. Ramparts was a hell of a magazine.

I spent two weeks in Chicago making arrangements for a newsroom (second floor of a YMCA near Division St.) typesetting (Shorey) and printing (Hinckle suggested Playboy’s printers, but they were about to go on strike). I started doing speed, which increased my efficiency no end. David Cantor, a middle-aged businessman/peace activist from Chicago, told me where to go and what to do. A college student named Huntley Barad recruited a distribution staff. I bought an old Peugot 403 with a sunroof for $250 (through a want ad) and as I drove it through the South Side Jackie DeShannon was singing “Pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin bout half past dead…” Joe Russin, the producer of KQED’s “Newsroom” show, and Elinor Langer, then with Science magazine, came to town to edit the thing. All the movement-oriented writers found the Wallposter office and offered their services.

The Wallposter was a single full-folio sheet (36′ x 24). The first issue, dated Saturday, August 24, has a page-one story entitled “Busts Begin” describing how the police shot and killed 17-year-old Dean Johnson, a full-blooded Sioux Indian from Sioux Falls, South Dakota (after he pulled a gun on them and fired first).   There is a story about Jerry Rubin, Phil Ochs and five others getting detained for disorderly conduct after they held a nominating convention for the Yippie candidate, a pig, under the Picasso statue in Civic Center Plaza. There is a map of Chicago and a key to the headquarters of various “movement” entities. On the back page is a column by Hayden entitled “The Reason Why.” It clearly states his tactical thinking: “Our victory lies in progressively de-mystifying a false democracy, showing the organized violence underneath reformism and manipulation.” There are other articles by Paul Krassner, Arthur Waskow (alternate delegate from the district of Columbia), an interview with Phil Ochs, and a gossip column called “The Caucus Reporter.”

Wallposter Two has a huge photo of the great basketball player, Cazzie Russell, in his National Guard uniform. PFC Russell’s unit had been activated and Jeff Blankfort took a great photo of him, holding a Military Policeman’s helmet in his hand, looking not too happy at the whole situation. The caption said “Cazzie Russell Playing Guard.” The lead story (“Special to the Wallposter” via a phone call from the GI Coffeehouse in Killeen, Texas) described how more than 160 black soldiers from Fort Hood had refused to take part in riot-control operations in Chicago. Some 43 were being held in the Fort Hood stockade.

The map had three locations keyed: The Conrad Hilton Hotel, the Palmer House and the Sherman House. “There will be demonstration in three key hotels in the Loop today to protest against the war, racism and the politics of manipulation. The demonstrations will begin at 2 p.m…” The back page had another  column by Hayden (“The Machine can be stopped”), another lively Caucus Reporter, and stories by Waskow, Krassner, Peter Weiss (a lefty lawyer from New York who was a Gene McCarthy delegate), Chris Hobson (about a wildcat strike by Chicago bus drivers), Lee Webb, Adam Hochschild (longtime publisher of Mother Jones), Paul Cowan and the great Marvin Garson (“Troops Smoke Pot, Yippies go without”).

As the protests outside the convention became the major news story of the moment (thanks to Mayor Daley’s over-reaction), Warren Hinckle and Ramparts editor Bob Scheer jumped on a plane for Chicago. These young men, who had not been planning to attend, flew first-class. They rented a suite in the Ambassador Hotel, and proceeded to spend $10,000 partying over the course of the next few days. Hinckle phoned me at the  Wallposter office when we were in production with Wallposter Three.  “Stop the Presses!” he bellowed cheerfully. He had the biggest story of the year.

Lyndon Johnson had decided to run after all!

Warren had it from somebody he’d met at the bar in the Pump Room, the fancy restaurant at the Ambassador. He was writing it up and wanted to run it as our lead story. I said I’d come get it, thinking it sounded very far-fetched and that I could talk him out of it when the time came. I parked outside the hotel and was on my way in when a brown Rolls Royce pulled up and from it, wearinga chocolate-colored suit, with brown pumps and white spats on his feet, emerged Colonel Harlan Sanders.  I didn’t know that there really was such a person, I thought it was a corporate logo. I stopped and stared. I wondered if I was having my first-ever “bad trip.” Maybe the so-called speed people had gvien me contained some really strong hallucinogens.

On his way into the hotel, Colonel Sanders handed out dimes to the shoe-shine boys, just like they say John D. Rockefeller used to do.

That evening Hinckle got wind of the fact that we weren’t planning to run his LBJ-to-run story. He came over to the Wallposter Office with a friend named Herb Williamson. “You’re drunk, Warren. You’d embarassed if this thing ran. Go back to the hotel and get some sleep.”

“I’m the boss!” he reminded me. There were lots of people around.  It turned into a shoving match between me and Herb Williamson at the head of the stairs. I remember the glint of excitement in the eye of a young woman who was soon to become a Weatherman as she watched. I knew that violence in and of itself turned her on. I knew I was engaged in an absurd struggle in every respect.

The lead story of Wallposter Three was a toned-down version of the rumor Hinckle had heard, headlined “What’s Marvin Watson doing for LBJ?” There was also an essay by Carl Oglesby evaluating Eugene McCarthy’s candidacy, and some good Jeff Blankflort photos. The map had been put on page 2. My Ramparts career was history.

After his stay in Chicago, Hinckle went to New York, where he visited Roy Cohn’s yacht. His introduction to the sleazy right-wing lawyer had been made by Sidney Zion, who thought Cohn could devise a superior tax dodge for Ramparts, and might also help with fund-raising. Hinckle told Cohn how the magazine went after liberals and CPers. I don’t think Cohn came through, however. By late ’68 circulation had flattened out and Ramparts was losing money (due mainly to lavish editorial and production costs). Hinckle had even given up the title of publisher to a nice guy from Kansas named Fred Mitchell, in exchange for an infusion of cash.

Chicago PS —December ’69

Clara Bingham’s recently published oral history, “Witness to the Revolution,” includes a chapter on the trial of the “Chicago Eight” (reduced to seven after Black Panther leader Bobby Seale insisted that the court had no jurisdiction over him and he was bound, gagged, and hauled away). I testified at that trial, but my memory of it is dark and dim.  In a rarely opened file cabined I found a folder marked “12/69” containing three Associated Press dispatches and this droodle of Judge Julius Hoffman done when I was in his courtroom.

Judge-Julius-Hoffman.png

Leonard Weinglass, a very good criminal defense lawyer, was trying to establish that police in Chicago had been intent on a riot occurring during Democratic Party convention. I testified that two cops had warned Tom Hayden, not in a friendly way, that the feds were planning an incitement-to-riot case against him.

I could truthfully affirm that I’d never seen Hayden, Abbie Hoffman et al conspire in the months preceding the convention to incite a riot. Their goal was a large demonstration. I did see them plotting to lure “the kids” (Rennie Davis’s contemptuous term) to Chicago with false promises of Credence Clearwater Revival. But the prosecution didn’t ask about that.

This is from the AP dispatch by Tony Fuller:

“Gardner said that during the convention he was the editor of the Ramparts Wall Poster, a one-page newspaper which was circulated among the demonstrators. He said one of the defendants, Thomas Hayden, came to his office at 4 a.m. on August 26, 1968, and told him he had just been released from prison on bail.

“Gardner quoted Hayden as saying his ‘tail, Riccio and Bell, threatened to kill him.’  Frank Riccio has already testified in the trial that he is a Chicago policeman who was assigned to tail Hayden during the convention. Bell was not identified but was also reported to be a policeman.

“Gardner said Hayden told him he had ‘been told by Riccio and Bell that there was going to be an FBI cast against him for crossing state lines to incite a riot.’ It is on this charge that Hayden and the others are now on trial.

“Assistant US Attorney Richard Schultz objected that Gardner’s account of his conversation with Hayden was hearsay evidence. US District Judge Julius L. Hoffman ordered the defense to cease this line of testimony.

“Hoffman also warned Gardner against interjecting personal opinions into his testimony and added:

“’You look disturbed. You know you don’t have to testify.’

“Gardner said, “I feel ill at ease here.’

“’Well don’t be critical of me,’ Hoffman said. ‘I didn’t ask you to come here.

“Tuesday a member of the British Parliament testified she got mace in the face from a policeman when she tried to sing ‘We Shall Overcome.’”

I have two vivid memories of that trip to Chicago, both involving sex, sort of.

One: The defense had paid my fare and I flew into O’Hare, arriving on the afternoon before I was supposed to testify. They put me up at an apartment on the South Side where Hayden and members of the defense legal team were staying for the duration of the trial. The pad had been put at their disposal by a University of Chicago grad named Bill Zimmerman, who someone described as “Tom’s gofer.” After dinner Hayden and Zimmerman were going out to a strategy session and I was going to sleep.

Zimmerman handed me a phone number on a slip of paper and said, in reference to one of the lawyers, “If Kinoy’s wife calls from New Jersey, tell her he’s just gone down for a quart of milk.” Then I was supposed to phone Kinoy at his girlfriend’s, elsewhere in Chicago, so he could call his wife in New Jersey.

If I had never been betrayed myself, maybe I wouldn’t have been so offended by the causal request that I be party to someone else’s betrayal. I said I was tired and didn’t plan on answering the phone. I should have said, “Why do you think I would lie for him, or you, or anybody, you prick?” But at the time I hadn’t split with them all the way.

Two: Allen Ginsberg and Phil Ochs were supposed to testify after me. I remember being with the two of them in a large, dark room, adjacent to the courtroom. Ginsberg asked Ochs where he was staying. Ochs told him: a friend’s place or another defense pad, I can’t recall. Ginsberg asked if there was any room for him and Ochs said there wasn’t. Are you sure? Yes. Ginsberg asked if he could share Ochs’s bed. Ochs said no. Ginsberg asked again. Ochs said no. Ginsberg asked again and again and again and again. Ochs was obviously embarrassed and so was I, Zelig. Ochs was straight, as far as I knew, but what did it matter, no means no and the famous poet’s come-on was relentless —and not very lyrical.

My only Kodachrome memory from the witness stand is… After I’d be asked a question on cross-examination, grinning Abbie Hoffman would cup his mouth with his hands and offer a word of silent advice: “Lie.”

Dave Dellinger, one of the defendants who was not into showboating, died long before Clara Bingham began her research. He didn’t describe himself as a pacifist, but everybody else did. Here’s Dellinger’s account of the famous “Conspiracy.” He describes one event I took part in but have no memory of whatsoever. What a drag it is getting old.

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

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