Yippie, Zippie, Pop!
And Resurrection City II in Miami Beach, 1972
Another dispatch from the events outside the Democratic Convention, Miami Beach, 1972. Excerpted from columns originally posted in the student-run independent newspaper, the Colorado Daily, in Boulder. A 22-year-old's audition to be one of The Boys on the Bus.
MIAMI BEACH –– The smell on Collins Avenue is cold turkey in search of a power fix. And the night before the convention, it throbs through the nostril like Canoe cheek-to-cheek at a junior high dance.
The stench is strongest around certain hotels. The Carillon, for example, has in beaming lights: "Welcome Future President [Hubert] Humphrey. Less pompous on the outside, but no less dramatic, the lights on the Doral say it simply: "McGovern."
Further down the strip, it's loser's alley. Scoop Jackson headquarters at the glum Montmarte while North Carolina's Terry Sanford hangs out at the DeLido, which had seen better days. . .
Shirley Chisholm [Brooklyn Congresswman and the first black woman to run for president at a major party convention] and Mills [could that have been Wilbur Mills of Arkansas?] are at the Deauville. [Maine Senator Edward] Muskie, Gene McCarthy, and VP candidate Endicott Peabody, are at the Americana. [Alabama Governor George] Wallace is way across the bay in Miami at the Four Ambassadors. And Yippies, Zippies, gays, women, Vietnam veterans opposing the war, and Resurrection City down at the bottom of Miami Beach in Flamingo Park.
Traffic is jammed on Collins Avenue: SDS is picketing the Playboy Plaza. Driving a few more blocks you notice the traffic lights aren't working. Then you notice there's no traffic coming in the other direction at all. Suddenly, they break-on through: A caravan of Florida State Troopers battle ready, four to a car, heading towards the Playboy Club. [No riot ensued, as far as I know.]
In case you hadn't heard, the Miami Beach City Council changed its mind, and voted 4-2 to allow demonstrators to camp at Flamingo Park. The park is south of the Lincoln Road mall, so familiar to New York tourists, not far from the convention center. It's a mostly poor, retirees neighborhood, near Drexel Ave. and 15th St.
We park the car and head to the park. A short guy with a punching bag face that makes him like like a lizard Lou Costello is leaning against the lamppost. "Better lock your doors, boys, they'll walk away with anything down here." There's nothing in Elliot's exotic British Rover, but we walk back and snap the locks.
The park is large and wide, with well-manicured lawns and shrubs, and well lit basketball and handball courts. A pool is open all night while the demonstrators stay here, as long as there is no skinny-dipping during daylight. Another example of the Miami Beach official mantra: This will not be a repeat of Chicago 1968.
What's happening in Flamingo Park is no different than any other counter-culture get-together of the last five or so years. It is a fair, a carnival, a be-in, a rock concert with no electricity, a religious revival without the hard sell. There are Hare Krishna people with pamphlets stacked in Canadian Club boxes, gays with t-shirts announcing "Super Queer" and "Glad to be Gay." McGovern stickers are everywhere, the only real straight political game in the park. One exception: the corner of the park set aside for Resurrection City II, led by the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. The original Resurrection City, under the leadership of King and Abernathy's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was a tent enclave that stayed up for 42 days on the National Mall in D.C.
Stoned curly haired weirdos and snaggle-toothed old men eat watermelon. Blacks with Afro combs stuck in their hair hang out with long-haired White toughs looking for drugs. A pamphlet: "How to Lead the Revolution, or Power Through the Holy Spirit, All Power Through Jesus," has just become my supplemental notebook.
The Zippies are pissed off at the Yippies. The Yippies have a rented a five-room carpeted office suite at 1674 Meridian, a medical building nearby. They also have four rooms at the Albion Hotel, just in case they get tired of their pup tents in the park. Yippie Stu Albert told the Miami Herald: "We never viewed the revolution as crowded living conditions.” To be fair, Zippie leaders, whomever they might be, rented a $215 a month house in Miami's Coconut Grove.
The Endtime Crusade from Pensacola, Fla., is here, as is the Pot People's Party (PPP). One PPP-er is running around yelling "John Lennon is the way. John Lennon is light. John Lennon is truth." He’s definitely more popular than Jesus, at least in Flamingo Park. There are also the usual sexist displays of long-haired macho, surprising only because the Miami Women's Coalition did so much work getting the park together.
There is the usual muttering, or rather shouting, from people looking to buy or sell drugs. "Anybody got any STP? How about MDA? Spare joints? Spare chicks? Anybody got any downs?" Allen Ginsberg floated around, looking pretty spaced-out but otherwise healthy.
The T-shirts were always entertaining. A Vietnam vet against the war wore a "Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club" shirt. Best, and most popular since they were being made in the park, was a stroke of Zippie genius that said "Eat the Rich." The logo was a fork and spoon and a skull and crossbones.
On Abernathy Drive in Resurrection City II, a group of various races sang "When the Saints Go Marchin' In." The song was interrupted by a jolt of human electricity: Reverend Ralph Abernathy had arrived, stage right. He looked charismatic in a tailored blue, mock-denim suit, with a blazing red ascot. Someone at the microphone started giving out directions: "All spectators out of Resurrection City while Rev. Abernathy assigns tents."
It's hard to believe that Resurrection City and Yippie/Zippie Acres can coexist. But so far, the attitude in Flamingo Park is more Woodstock than Chicago. Also, officials estimate there aren't more than 3,000 demonstrators under various counter-culture banners.
The presence of Abernathy implicitly keeps the factions in line. Trying telling Ralph Abernathy you're the new n----- because pot ain't legal. Try telling his poor people’s campaign that money sucks and light your joint with a burning dollar bill. Then say something like, "right on, brother." Let me know how that goes.
(c) 1972, 1992, 2002, 2023 by Wayne Robins.
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