Diggers & Yippies (fwd)

Thu, 1 Feb 1996 17:37:50 -0500

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 1996 12:22:43 -0500
From: Michael Wm. Doyle <md15@cornell.edu>
To: sixties@jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: Diggers & Yippies

This is in response to Jeffrey Apfel's 31 Jan. 1996 posting to Aron "Pieman"
Kay's account of Yippie pie-throwing.

>Hello Pieman:
>I have two pie-related questions for you.
>I've been interested the the chronology of pie-throwing in the sixties. ...
>So part one of the question relates to whether you agree with this
>Digger-Yippie handoff. ...
>Part two comes in when we fast forward a year to 1968 ...
>Is there a tie between the Digger/Yippie pies and the Action Faction pie?
If so, what?

I am currently finishing my Ph.D. thesis entitled "The Diggers and the
American Counterculture: Invention, Transformation, and Persistence,
1964-1984." My research documents, among other things, that the New York
Diggers explicitly modeled their actions during their short existence (ca.
Feb.-late Fall 1967) on the Haight-Ashbury Diggers. Both Jim Fouratt and
Paul Krassner -- who later (on 1 Jan. 1968) helped launch the Yippies, had
separately traveled out to the Haight to check out the scene for
themselves and met the Diggers there. Abbie Hoffman was first introduced
to Emmett Grogan in the East Village in ca. March 1967 when Grogan was
there to stimulate Digger-type activities, so well before the June 1967
SDS Back to the Drawing Boards conference that both men report on in their
respective memoirs. Thus the activities and alternative institutions
associated with the New York Diggers and later, to a lesser extent, the
Yippies, were innovated on the West coast and swiftly reproduced on the
East coast. These include the 1st Grand Central Station and Easter Sunday
Be-Ins, the "Sweep-In," the "Mill-Ins," the New York Communication Company
(which largely reprinted the broadsides of their H-A predecessors), the
free crash pads, the Free Store, the free feeds in Tompkins Square Park
and Newark ghetto, the public burning of money, and the guerrilla theater
disruption of live TV talk shows (Hoffman and Marty Carey on the David
Susskind show) and other organized meetings of the more conventionally
political Left (e.g., Hoffman et al. at the Socialist Scholars conference
in NY in August 1967).

Bear in mind that it was H-A Digger Peter Berg who coined the term
"guerrilla theater," for San Francisco Mime Troupe director R.G. Davis's
1965 manifesto which first projected this cultural practice. Berg met the
rest of the founding core of the Diggers when they were members of the
SFMT. I'm not suggesting that the NY Diggers/Yippies were slavishly
imitating their H-A counterparts; in fact, I argue that the latter groups
performed these routines as theatrical scripts that were intentionally in
the public domain. The counterculture was invented as and propagated by
"spectacles and scenarios of radical dramaturgy," in Lee Baxandall's 1969
term. Also the New York-based groups did create a number of unique
spectacles of their own, the best known of which are the Tompkins Sq. Park
tree-planting ceremony, the NY Stock Exchange disruption, the Con-Ed
pollution protest, and most notoriously the Pentagon exorcism/levitation
and the Festival of Life debacle at the 1968 Democratic convention.

If there is sufficient interest, I'd be willing to work up a paper on this
topic for next Fall's Sixties Generation conference.

Michael Wm. Doyle Department of History
49 Penny Lane 451 McGraw Hall
Ithaca, NY 14850-6269 Cornell University
(607) 277-3243 Ithaca, NY 14853-4601
E-Mail: md15@cornell.edu Fax: (607)255-0469