Hoffman, Abbie

(1936–1989)
   Hoffman was not only a uniquely powerful activist but also a literary link between the Beat Generation and the baby-boom rock and rollers that came after. Abbott Hoffman was born on November 30, 1936, well before the baby boom got going in 1946. He began life in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was the son of a well-to-do Jewish family, but he loved the street-fighting ethos of the Worcester working class and shared much of the worldview of jack kerouac, the seminal Beat writer from nearby Lowell. Hoffman’s Brandeis University degree in psychology, awarded in 1959, seemed a logical career link to a life as a clinical psychologist. (At Brandeis he came under the influence of the philosopher Herbert Marcuse.) He married and had two children and seemed on the road to a reasonably calm middle-class existence.
   But his passion for social justice led him to early political activism. He traveled to the South to fight for civil rights, often putting himself in significant physical danger in places like Americus, Georgia. Confrontations between white racists and black activists, with their northern allies such as Hoffman, often erupted into violence. Hoffman’s theatrical genius and gift for passionate, compelling prose and speech embraced the Beat traditions of Kerouac and poet allen ginsberg, whom he knew well. Abbie acknowledged no artistic boundaries, and the stream-ofconsciousness style of the Beat poets were at the center of much of what he wrote and said. His writings in revolution for tHe Hell of it (1968) and Steal This Book (1971) reflected the free-form, stream-of-consciousness style that the Beat poets pioneered and perfected, alongside jazz music and the Living Theater performances that were revolutionizing the life of the stage.
   As seriously as he took the issues of war and social justice to which he devoted his life, Hoffman never forgot the power or politics of humor and good theater. He vowed first and foremost never to be boring and viewed as his most important right the ability to “Shout ‘Theater!’ in a crowded fire.” His political masterstrokes were profoundly literary and theatrical and bridged the gap from the downbeat free-form of Beat poetry to the wild, unruly, confrontational energy of rock and roll and the psychedelic drugs whose use he helped pioneer. When he and Jerry Rubin (with whom Abbie founded the Youth International Party [Yippies] in 1968) showed up at a hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) carrying toy guns and dressed as American and Third World revolutionaries, the boldness of the theatrical coup collapsed the committee’s ability to intimidate. When he and Rubin tossed cash from the visitor’s gallery at the Wall Street stock exchange, they caused pandemonium and created one of the lasting antimaterialist images of the 1960s. Hoffman carried his Beat/rock activism right to the end. When he was forced to go underground as a result of a drug bust (Hoffman claimed he was framed) in 1973, he assumed the identity of “Barry Freed” and went to work saving the St. Lawrence River from environmental destruction. As a wanted fugitive he had his picture taken with the governor and the U.S. senator from New York. He then helped President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy demonstrate against the Central Intelligence Agency, probably a first for this country. When he died of an apparent suicide on April 12, 1989, from a barbiturate overdose in New Hope, Pennsylvania, friends and enemies alike speculated on whether it was actually murder. For Abbie Hoffman, the Beat/rock theater of even his death probably made profound sense. Hoffman is the subject of director Robert Greenwald’s Steal This Movie (2000) starring Vincent D’Onofrio and Janeane Garofalo.
   Harvey Wasserman

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hoffman, Abbie — orig. Abbott Hoffman born Nov. 30, 1936, Worcester, Mass., U.S. died April 12, 1989, New Hope, Pa. U.S. political activist. He attended Brandeis University and the University of California, Berkeley, and became active in the civil rights movement …   Universalium

  • Hoffman, Abbie — orig. Abbott Hoffman (30 nov. 1936, Worcester, Mass., EE.UU.–12 abr. 1989, New Hope, Pa.). Activista político estadounidense. Estudió en la Universidad Brandeis y en la Universidad de California en Berkeley, e ingresó al movimiento de derechos… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Abbie Hoffman — en una visita a la Universidad de Oklahoma sobre 1969. Abbott Howard Abbie Hoffman (30 de noviembre de 1936 – 12 de abril de 1989) fue un autodenominado anarquista comunista y activista social y político …   Wikipedia Español

  • Hoffman — Hoffman, Dustin * * * (as used in expressions) Hoffman, Abbie Abbott Hoffman Hoffman, Dustin Hoffman, Samuel (Kurtz) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Abbie Hoffman — Infobox Person name = Abbie Hoffman image size = caption = birth date = birth date|1936|11|30|mf=y birth place = Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S. death date = death date and age|1989|04|12|1936|11|30 death place = New Hope, Pennsylvania, U.S.… …   Wikipedia

  • Abbie Hoffman — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Hoffman. Abbie Hoffman Abbott « Abbie » Hoffman (30 novembre …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hoffman — Hoffmann and Hofmann are German surnames (meaning man of the yard, court ) which in American English or Eastern European languages are often rendered as Hoffman, Hofman and also Huffman.Hoffman*Abbie Hoffman, social activist of prominence in the… …   Wikipedia

  • Hoffman — Hoffmann y Hofmann son apellidos alemanes (que significan hombre del patio o de la granja) que en inglés estadounidense o idiomas de Europa del Este son a menudo presentados como Hoffman, Hofman y también Huffman. Contenido 1 Hoffman 2 Hoffmann 3 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Hoffman — /hof meuhn/, n. Malvina /mal vee neuh/, 1887 1966, U.S. sculptor. * * * (as used in expressions) Hoffman Abbie Abbott Hoffman Hoffman Dustin Hoffman Samuel Kurtz * * * …   Universalium

  • Abbie Hoffman — auf einer Demonstration gegen den Vietnam Krieg (um 1969) Abbott „Abbie“ Hoffman (* 30. November 1936 in Worcester, Massachusetts; † 12. April 1989 in New Hope, Pennsylvania) war ein P …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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