Tag Archives: Abbie Hoffman


By Steven R. Maher

Historically important Worcester businessmen like Harry Stoddard and John Higgins may have earned millions as industrialists and entrepreneurs, but they never received the accolade the Wall Street Journal recently bestowed upon 1960s radical Abbie Hoffman, a Worcester native.

A WSJ December 15, 2016, column entitled “Steal This Election” by Daniel Henninger described Hoffman as a “marketing genius.” Hoffman had authored “Steal This Book.” Henninger said the Democratic party was trying to steal the 2016 election from Donald Trump the way Hoffman urged the public to steal his book. Henninger’s column can be read in its entirety at the Wall Street Journal website, http://www.wsj.com/articles/steal-this-election-1481759796.

“The progressive Democratic demonstrators that filled Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower after they lost is the same party wing that rioted in 1968 in Chicago outside their own party’s convention,” wrote Henninger. “Among the leaders of the Democratic street politicians back then was Abbie Hoffman — activist, radical, marketing genius. For Democrats of that generatio — which is the Podesta and Hillary and Bernie generation — Abbie Hoffman was their Michael Moore. Now Michael Moore is exhorting thousands of bereaved and angry Democrats to descend on Washington next month to ‘disrupt the Inauguration.’

“Most American voters become uncomfortable when they see an Abbie Hoffman or Michael Moore cavorting in the streets with the country’s politics,” continued Henninger. “Today, the effort to ‘delegitimize Trump’— with Electoral College conspiracy theories and ‘disrupt the Inauguration’— sounds like something from antic Abbie Hoffman’s ‘Steal This Book.’”

Laughed out loud

We contacted Hoffman’s brother, Jack Hoffman, who lives in Framingham and occasionally contributes political columns to InCity Times, to inquire what he thought his brother would say of the Wall Street Journal’s description.

Hoffman admitted he laughed out loud when he read the description, and went on to say, “My brother would detest anything said by the Wall Street Journal.”

Jack did talk of his brother Abbie’s knowledge of, and ability to, channel the media, to meet his objectives. He also talked of Donald Trump’s manipulation of the media, saying at one point, “I thought Trump read three of Abbie’s books.”

“It’s going to be a sad day for America when Trump becomes President,” commented Jack.


Remembering Father Bernie Gilgun – Worcester’s hippie priest

By Jack Hoffman

On the early afternoon of Easter – Monday, April 25 of this year – Father Bernie Gilgun died quietly in the company of his family and friends at the University of Massachusetts hospital, here in Worcester. To those of us who knew Bernie, as he was so affectionately addressed by many of us, he was a legend in his time. His battles in the 1960s for civil rights, the anti-war movement and within the hierarchy of his own church will never earn him a statue at Newton Square. Or a light shining on a bust of him in one of the local churches. Bernie used to say the battles he fought were what freedom and democracy were about. And most important, they were some of the basic tenets of the religion he took and oath to obey and practice.

I once sat down with him to do an interview for my book — Run Run Run The lives of Abbie Hoffman. I must have run out of tape at least three times. You see, if Bernie was in the mood, he could win the prize for being loquacious. And when he got going, you could hear the walls of Jericho beginning to crack.

One of the first questions I asked was about a story my brother told me. Now Abbie Hoffman was no slouch for telling some bubba misters -especially with his kid brother. It was a Sunday morning when Father Bernie was giving a sermon on marrying for love – not religion – at the Blessed Sacrament Church on Pleasant Street – so the story goes. I think he already knew about our disdain for that particular church and many of its bullies who always tried to find a good opening for a fight or to blame us for killing Jesus. Although the latter was propaganda spread throughout the years by Mel Gibson (Sorry! Mel wasn’t born yet!) Finally, we were taken off the hook in the late 1960s by Pope John. Amen.

Back to my Bernie story: It didn’t take long for the church elders and Worcester’s Bishop Wright to hear about this one particular Bernie sermon. Bernie soon found himself transferred to a parish in Leicester.

The powers that be were already upset at Bernie for his extra curricular activities e.g. demonstrating with a group of 50 of us against the Vietnam War. I can still see Bernie leading the march holding palm leaves; leading us in prayer and singing “We Shall Overcome” as we began to get pelted with eggs from the Holy Cross students in front of City Hall.

Back to the interview. I asked Bernie about that sermon. With that usual arm gesture Italians and Jews use when they want you to forget about what the conversation is about – swinging your left arm out from your chest – You don’t have to say it. You just end that conversation now.

The first encounter with Bernie before the demonstration was at the old Phoenix house on Worcester’s lower Main Street where luminaries of the Worcester area would come and speak on the problems of the day. Money raised would go to Prospect House and payment for educational toys for the kids of Prospect House. There was Father Bernie preaching on something I can’t remember, but he had you mesmerized. All of a sudden, Abbie, no stranger to controversy even in those days, yelled out: “You are full of shit.” It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship – a friendship between two of Worcester’s infamous rebels that lasted nearly 40 years.

Abbie and Bernie went on bus trips to the South registering blacks just a few miles down the road where Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were killed. Before they would leave, Bernie would show up at the backdoor of the old Worcester Medical – “Got some med supplies? Make sure your father doesn’t see what you are giving us.” (my dad owned Worcester medical – a pharmaceutical supply store). It was just a few weeks before at the old Moore’s club where a group from the Phoenix held a dance to raise some money. Abbie introduced Bernie to my dad and Bernie said “Oh! You’re Abb’s father”?

With a grumpy old dad’s tone my father said, “He isn’t Abbs or Abbie. His name is Abbott.” It was the first and only time I heard someone call my brother Abbott. That’s if you don’t count the F.B.I. – and Mr. Fenner, the principal, at Worcester’s old Classical High.

At the memorial to Abbie at the Temple two weeks after his death, I asked Bernie to give one of those famous eulogies. And did he ever. He said, “Abbie was on the side of the angels.” The crowd roared.

I asked Bernie for a good passage for the end of my book. He countered with what a radio caller once said to Abbie: “Wait until Jesus gets his hand on you.” I won’t repeat the rest of the caller’s comments.

Rest in Peace, Bernie

The 1968 Democratic Convention

Forty years ago, it rocked Chicago, the nation and the world

By Jack Hoffman

There has never been a year like 1968, and it’s highly unlikely there ever will be one again. It was a year that has had more books written, music composed, scenes from movies, parts of plays all portraying a piece of that tumultuous time than any other year in American history. Even today historians, academics and students are still analyzing, dissecting and debating over why and what happened during the most disturbing and pivotal year in American history. It all seemed so incongruous to my feelings about Chicago, where I once attended college nearby, a city I always loved, to see America undressed and exposing its ugly side along the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan and once tranquil Grant and Lincoln Park.

Now forty years later and to the week and day watching The National Democratic Convention of today I can hear the strains of Crosby Stills and Nash singing a welcoming song to Chicago 68, one of several metaphors of the sixties, In To begin to try and understand what led to Chicago we need a chronological encapsulated picture of that momentous year.

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