THE LITTLE man with the slightly familiar, slightly manic brown eyes darts eager looks around the restaurant on a Saturday afternoon as he listens to the clinking glasses and chitter-chatter and guffaws from other tables. "This is a very important restaurant--everyone comes here. Models and everyone."
He is, himself, not flamboyantbutton-down oxford cloth shirt and tan slacks, closely cropped dark hair -- as he enters McMullen's. "Owned by Jim McMullen, the former model," he says with an in-the-know air, although the maitre d', it is clear, doesn't know him. "Barbara Walters and George Steinbrenner sat right over there the other day! I barely recognized her. She looks wonderful!"
The man says he is into power and money and that his marriage broke up because his wife was "totally uninterested in power. That was a huge conflict. I'm turned on by power. What's my idea of power in a woman? Probably the same as my idea about myself and power. Somebody who influences. She could be a businesswoman. Could be a media woman. What would I do if I fell in love with a waitress? Well, in New York, she'd probably be an actress, so that would be all right. I came up with a phrase I like. The 'leveraged' woman. Leverage in financial terms is when a small amount of money controls a larger amount of money. Leverage is therefore power. I'm into leverage. Now Barbara Walters is leveraged. She speaks, you know, and people listen. Right? Huh? You get it? The leveraged woman. Now Barbara Walters would be fabulous."
Enter Jerry Rubin, yesteryear's Yippie, now 42 and trying to make it in the '80s, as the Me Decade Meets Wall Street. More than anyone from the '60s' antiwar, anti-authoritarian protest movement, Rubin seems to epitomize the view of one cynical observer -- "money is the long hair of the '80s." Money. How to make it, build on it, associate with those who have it, how to leverage.
He plays it straight when asked if he would mind being known as "Mr. Barbara Walters." "Oh, I'd love it! Or 'Mr. Jane Pauley.' I'd love it! I'd love it. Yeah, it would just add to me. It wouldn't bother my ego -- because I'm defined enough. And I think it would just add to me." There is a glimpse of the old chutzpah put-on inside all that eagerness to grab the right leveraged woman. "Well," says Rubin, with a sly glimmer, "do you have Barbara Walters' home phone number? See RUBIN, H3, Col. 1 RUBIN, From H1
The excitement, the grins of onlookers, the bright lights of TV cameras warming marble halls of Congress. It is 1968 and in struts Jerry Rubin for a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing: Black Panther beret on exploding frizz of hair, Indian headband around forehead, streaks of red and green paint on cheeks, Egyptian earrings, black Viet Cong pajamas, Mexican bandoleer strapped across his bare chest, toy submachine gun cradled in his arms. What was Rubin supposed to be this time? asked the reporters. "The revolutionary of the future!"
Rubin was the leading actor-director-producer in the Freak rebellion that played so successfully in those wild and crazy years. The "Kill-your-parents!" guru of adolescent revolt. The exhorter of cathartic nihilism: "All money represents theft. To steal from the rich is a sacred and religious act. To take what you need is an act of self-love, self-liberation. While looting, a man to his own self is true!"
It is Manhattan, 1981, and Rubin is waiting for his guests in his East Side apartment. Done in early sterile modern (the clearest impressions are of oatmeal wall-to-wall carpeting and a blowup of Deborah Harry in the john), it is set up for circulating, with coffee table pushed against the wall; a stage waiting for arrivals. A carpet-covered platform divides the bedroom area from the rest of the room. Outside the apartment are two young women, eager imitations of high-fashion gloss, presiding over the guest book. (Name, address, home phone and, of course, business phone.)
Inside, lest you think there is anything at all casual about this gathering, are two piles of literature on a table set smack in your line of vision. One pile contains photocopies of a New York magazine article on Rubin's latest venture. The other pile explains it all. JERRY RUBIN SALON PARTY AND CATERING SERVICE INC. headlines the announcement: "For the past 26 weeks, Jerry Rubin's 'networking salon' has received recognition as a unique and fascinating concept in entertaining." Rubin -- who had a brief fling this year with a now-defunct Wall Street brokerage firm -- has purchased D'Arcy Enterprises, run by Timothy D'Arcy, who helped produce those "salons." And guess whose name is no longer up there in lights? Timothy D'Arcy -- the other half of the Jerry Rubin Salon Party and Catering Service Inc.
A slim wisp of a man in a skinny suit with his head practically shaved bald, D'Arcy seems not to care as he busily 'networks' by the basket of veggies and two dips. "We're just having the best time putting the parties together," he says, flinging out a hand to greet a guest. "We're full-service party planners. Everything from flowers to invitations to food." Rubin promises to turn any function into a "quality event." They are in the market for weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate and private dinners and "celebrity events."
As the room fills, men and women, mostly in their thirties, pass around business cards like they used to pass around pot. There is a lot of casing the room, looking past the shoulder of the person you are talking to, and a lot of vagueness: "I'm a business consultant." "For whom?" "Myself." "I'm in the investment business . . . " "I'm doing tax shelters . . . " "We're going public tomorrow . . . " "I'm a financial adviser . . . "
One three-piece pin stripe to another: "Let me give you one of my cards." He flashes a sterling-silver card case. The other tucks the card away. "Uh, my cards will be ready on Tuesday."
Rubin pursued the ethos of the '60s for personal liberation as much as for political conviction. He was "suffocating" in Cincinnati, surrounded by a large but quarrelsome collection of middle-class Jewish relatives who looked down on his blue-collar father (he later became a union official). Rubin was searching for a way to be famous, to make history. "I'm not that interested in being a religious figure anymore. Then I was. Then, my life and words were an example to people. I'm not responsible for the world anymore. I got over that. I no longer care about being an historical person. Or being famous. I did then." Rubin takes a large gulp of his lunch-time Perrier. He seems angry when it is pointed out that an obit today would lead with him as one of the codefendants in the Chicago 7 conspiracy trial in the aftermath of the 1968 Democratic Convention. "So who cares? You can't smoke it, you can't eat it, you can't take it to the bank.
"In the '60s I was very much a believer. I didn't have a guru. I was my own guru. I was very antiwar, very anticlass. I was an ideological fanatic." Rubin ticks off his remembrances of deeds past: helped to start the Youth International Party (Yippies), participated in the earliest antiwar movements, beginning with troop-train demonstrations and mass marches at Berkeley; helped organize the October 1967 march on the Pentagon (and got a lot of press by shouting that they were going to "levitate" the Pentagon); helped organize the 1968 Chicago demonstrations. "I have an ability to pick up what a lot of people are feeling and then feel it more intensely. There were the stirrings of the '60s in the late '50s. The beatniks and ban-the-bomb, all that stuff, was happening and I kinda created myself in my little mind in Cincinnati. Then came the '60s."
In the '70s, Rubin went from dropping acid to dropping pounds. "I got fanatic about health." Rubin at that time was 60 pounds overweight. Now he is taut, short but stocky. He looks, somebody said, like a bouncer in a doll house. He never grew past his 5' 5 1/2" high-school height. "To cure my own unhappiness at being small, I got interested in ideas," wrote Rubin in "Growing (Up) at Thirty-Seven." Ideas, explains Rubin with blazing banality, "like the meaning and purpose of life."
The metamorphosis from Marxism to mammon, from Cook County jail to capitalism, from prophet to profit was abetted by the simple process of growing older. By 1972, Rubin's mass political movement had disappeared. The kids gave him the hook. They "publicly retired me from the movement for being over 30. Newspapers began describing me with adjectives like 'erstwhile' and 'aging' . . . I felt dead at 34," wrote Rubin. The supreme injury came at the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami. Rubin had gone to the convention "hoping that history would create another Chicago and I would again be in the center of the action." Instead, a Yippie faction called him a sellout for sleeping in a hotel rather than the park. A youthful offshoot, the Zippies, marched to Rubin's hotel armed with a cake to throw in his face, celebrating his forced retirement from the movement -- because he was over 30. "Quite a karmic irony," reflected Rubin, "for someone who had helped popularize the slogan 'Don't Trust Anyone Over 30.' " Most karmic of ironies: "The Zippies used the same media tactics on me that I and others had used against LBJ and Nixon."
In a parody of Woody Allen angst, Rubin describes the terror of it all. "After the movement died down, I became paranoid. 'Does that person love me, or my name?' I didn't know who to trust. I was scared to sleep with a woman because I feared she'd spread it around if I were a lousy lay . . . Once I had loved being a living martyr; now I hated being a big name from the past."
Rubin's "movement sweetheart" ditched him. Fell for someone else while Rubin was in jail. ". . . the next day I furiously destroyed my apartment, running through it naked, crying, screaming, at the top of my lungs. I alternated between rage and getting down on my hands and knees to beg Ruthie to stay . . . . Ruthie disappeared with her suitcases and never came back."
Rubin just couldn't expire at 34. So he spent the next decade wandering through five-hour massage classes, yoga, meditation, sex-therapy clinics, est, searching for health-food gods. First there was Adelle Davis but then she died of cancer. Then there was nutritionist J. Rodale but he died of a heart attack on Dick Cavett's show. Rubin was taking so much carrot juice his legs turned orange. There was the acupuncturist alcoholic who made passes at his female clients. Rubin was shrunk by shrinks and pounded by rolfing sadists. In those days, Rubin talked of a "New Consciousness Movement" that would address itself to humanizing jail and ghettos, abolishing poverty, serving the needs of old and sick people . . . "turning the nation into one big encounter and growth group."
Today, Rubin says he doesn't have a political thought in his head, although he says vaguely, "I'm still a humanist. But before, I would have gotten very angry at certain things and now I never get angry at them." Like what? "Anything political." Reaganomics and what it is doing to the poor and elderly? Rubin waves the subject away. "No reaction at all. See, I used to have opinions about everything. Now I have an 'I don't know' to everything. It might be a healthier attitude. Who knows?" Why would it be healthier? "Let me think about it." Long pause. "People I know are not people who ask these questions. And I don't judge people by their political views anymore, either." Most of Rubin's friends are new. "I wish that weren't true, because long, deep relationships are better. But, you know. New things. New friends. You know?"
They are mingling now, going at the Perrier and white wine, the zucchini-cheese appetizers. Into the "salon" strolls a man in a burnoose and shades. Rubin watches like a stage manager, watches to see if the reporter will talk to the man. "Where'd you rent him?" asks the reporter. Rubin likes that; guffaws. Well, the man was brought by a public-relations type, Bruce Spencer, who steers the burnoose and shades toward a vanilla blonde in jump suit to match: "Mr. Emir Assad is from Saudi Arabia but lived in Geneva for many years." Assad, explains the flack, is a "business associate. He's in this country to make some investments." Then, in a coy aside, "I'd better not say what he's talking to Jerry Rubin about."
Spencer had heard of Rubin since the '60s and "always admired him. I feel we have something in common. I'm generally into off-beat ventures. For example, right now I'm using bald-headed men to carry the message of a company. I've tested it out in Seattle. There's enough bald-headed men you can pay $9 an hour to walk down the steet with IBM, for example, on their heads. It's a double take. Fantastic." Assad is saying little and moving toward the exit. "I met him in London and he asked if I could arrange for him to meet interesting people in New York," says the flack, hastily following. "My first idea was Jerry Rubin."
Rubin, in navy pin stripe, is busily whispering tidbits to a reporter. "The son of a famous actress is here, but don't tell him I told you . . ." "A very important person just walked in the door . . . " D'Arcy takes up the cue. "There's Sam Bellar over there; he has his own investment firm." Bellar is only too happy to name clients. "You can put down that Robin McNeill is one of our clients." Jim Lehrer is "beautiful" and McNeill is a "sweetheart." Bellar continues, "If Rubin were to say, 'Sam, I want to meet you at 2 o'clock in Alaska,' I'd be there."
"I get very stiff when people ask me about the '60s," says Rubin, looking uncomfortable as he attacks his veal steak at lunch. "Who wants to live in the past?" There is an injured look as Rubin talks about how he is, actually, a "victim" of the '60s. Rubin, who sought the limelight like P.T. Barnum sought suckers? Who turned every confrontation into a clown's act of publicity?
Selections from Rubiniana: His antiauthoritarian yammerings -- often funny as well as silly -- became cult paperback best sellers: "Take your parents to the polls. Voting against Nixon unites kids and their parents!" The court jester of the courtroom: At the 1970 riot conspiracy trial, a witness was asked whether Rubin was wearing "hippie dress" in the Chicago courtroom. At that, Rubin, wearing a flaming orange embroidered shirt and green corduroy pants, jumped to his feet, placed hands on hips and paraded from the defense table to the lectern, swiveling as he went. "Fashion show," said Rubin. Raising his right hand in a Nazi salute as he strode stage center, Rubin shouted directly at the judge, "Heil Hitler -- that's what you ought to be called." America became Amerika in all his writings and he exhorted the kids to, "when in doubt, burn. Fire is the revolutionary's God! Fire is instant theater. No words can match fire." Rubin and his Yippie sidekick Abbie Hoffman, raining fake money onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
That Rubin. A victim?
"Well," says Rubin today, "there's things about the '60s that weren't good. There was an antisuccess cult. A lot of people who were tied to the symbols of the '60s are also tied to 'stay poor, stay ineffective, stay a rebel.' That kind of thing doesn't interest me."
Rubin picks up the veal-chop bone and starts gnawing at it, then draws the back of his hand across his mouth, gestures with the bone and goes heatedly into a defense. "The '60s aren't relevant to my life today. Look, I'm a victim. I am a victim of this! Not to be immodest, I believe that I am a genius. I'm not allowed to express that genius. No corporation will hire me. You find a corporation that will hire Jerry Rubin." He mumbles as he gnaws. "I have been in many situations with people in high corporate positions where I believe I dazzled them with my ideas about what they could do." Exactly what ideas? Rubin waves at the air impatiently. "Public-relations ideas, business ideas, marketing ideas. So then, a few days later they say 'Well, look, fine, but, you know, we can't have a direct association with you.' People in business like to play it safe. The corporate mind is conservative. I'm just 'risky'. The image! That's the victimhood. It's the controversy of my name. You have to admit I'm controversial, okay? They don't even know the details. Nobody knows the difference between Jerry Rubin or Abbie Hoffman or Tom Hayden. People think I married Jane Fonda! So I'm victimized by the image because had I not had it, and was able to work on my talent alone, I would rise very fast."
Rubin, the aggrieved would-be corporate executive, cannot let go of the subject now and is talking rapidly. "You meet with someone on a corporate level and you have good rapport. Then they go into a meeting and someone says, 'Well, isn't he a cocaine nut?' Or, 'Didn't he marry . . . ?' Just enough questions are raised so the feeling is, 'Why do it?' 'Why take the chance?' 'So he's a genius, so what? We may lose clients.' "
But Rubin of the '60s cultivated the media spotlight with the full knowledge that it was going to type him. He's still saying, "Hi, I'm Jerry Rubin, remember me?" with his "Jerry Rubin's Salon." "He always had a hustle," said one antiwar protester. "He's sort of like our Monty Hall. Jerry Rubin is the kind of a guy who would go on Monty Hall dressed as a pizza." Rubin glowers at the accusation that he's crying victim while still trading on that name. "Yeh, but it's my name. I thought of changing it. But I like me. I like my name. And also," he says, the cocky grin emerging, "people would then just say, 'He used to be Jerry Rubin.' "
Rubin likes to think that he created much of the '60s. "I'm a good organizer. And I'm a good motivator. All the qualities of a good businessman I have.
"I mean, the '60s were like a business -- you know?"
It was 1969 and Jerry Rubin, grinning hugely, was ecstatic at yet another rejection from establishment society. They wouldn't let him in his Cincinnati alma mater to address the kids of Walnut High. So he stood on the front steps -- the outsider's hero -- looking like a debauched Apache dancer in his red and yellow polo shirt, his scruffy reddish-brown beard, wild mane untamed by the bandanna headband. He was surrounded by excited kids and plainclothes cops. The familiar litany -- punctuated with the 's---' and 'f---' that Rubin knew the establishment press would have to bleep -- revolved around establishment greed and avarice: corporations that steal, racial exploitation, capitalist napalm-makers. He wanted a society based on human relationships, shouted Rubin, "not money!"
"Capitalism killed my father," shouted Rubin. "It killed my father!" Rubin was at the home of relatives, following his moment at Walnut Hills High. It was a testy reunion of straight uncles and cousins and aunts and Rubin with a pack of media trailers. Rubin was drinking Scotch and his girlfriend muttered that he wouldn't be so hostile if he'd been on pot. Rubin carried on. "My father got up every morning at 3 o'clock to go to work." (He drove a bread truck.) "Junky businessmen forced him to do it and it killed him."
"Hardening of the arteries," said Aunt Mildred, "killed your father."
On went the evening. "About Chicago, Jerry, I'll be honest," said Uncle Sid, who used to be in vaudeville. "We were rooting for the other side, the cops. I was watching the TV and yelling, 'Beat 'em, beat 'em.' " Aunt Mildred was on Rubin about his hair. "His father," muttered Uncle Sid, sadly, "if he were alive today, he would kill him. He would absolutely break his neck."
Pat Frazer, who says she is a "commercial actress," speaks in a super-modulated voice at the salon. What is she doing? "Anything I can. I did a voice-over for a commercial, did three cable shows." She is 30 and says that in the '60s "Jerry was my ideal. At college I was involved. Now I'm involved in the '80s. You're on your own -- and all of a sudden it's 'getting for yourself.' I'm interested in taxes." The social-budget cuts are "okay. I'm more concerned with defense now. My priorities are now in defense and space." And in the '60s? "Then I was anti-American." Because it was chic? "Partly."
In the next cluster, something is blowing Rubin's mind. He says that frequently. It is the woman he's just met who is a director of a major bank, leveraging away.
In another corner, a lawyer from the protest days, Morton Garbus, still handles civil-rights, welfare and civil-disobedience suits. He looks around the room. "The social commitment I had doesn't go easily. A lot of the '60s people stayed, a lot dropped out. Jerry's an example of one who dropped out. What I find reprehensible is a real rejecting of the values of the '60s and dumping on that part of their experience. I don't think Jerry does that. Does he?"
In days past, Rubin spoke long and loud of the oppression of blacks in America and how we should all be brothers. At the salon, the only black was the bartender.
"The salon thing is very high-level, very high-quality people," Rubin is saying. He calls it a "success salon." He runs off thousands of invitations that read, "I am inviting the most interesting people to bring interesting people." (In case of confusion over the meaning of "interesting," Rubin defines it: "compelling, fascinating, powerful, achieving, enthusiastic, intriguing, beautiful, dynamic, unforgettable, doers, leaders.") "It's a very unique idea and it's working fantastic. It relates very well to the '80s. People are into networking." Every week, for a cost to him of about $600 -- "it's a business expense" -- Rubin pulls together about 80 people in his salon. He is now trying to find a way to make money off the salons. He hopes some catering business will come out of it, some "business deals." If Rubin is less than subtle about his wheeling and dealing, so are the people who flock to be part of his gimmick. "My respectability level has risen a tremendous amount in the last year. This Yippie-to-Wall-Street image was very effective. And now, because of the salons, I'm probably one of the most talked-about people in New York right now." Rubin's "salons" are, in fact, the biggest snicker-talk among many of the '60s generation who have actually made it in New York's media and business world.
"I know what they say. People criticize the salon because it's a performance. Like, 'What do you do?' And then if you don't do anything important, then they will move on to someone else. Someone called me and said, 'Your salon is oppressive, you know. I have to be performing when I go to a party.' " But Rubin is banking on enough people feeling as "isolated" as he did when he started the salons to keep them going.
Last February, Rubin was in a funk; his marriage had fallen apart. Rubin's life is nothing if not an open book -- preferably written by him. So last year he laid bare the details of his and others' sexual anxieties and relationships in "The War Between the Sheets," co-authored with his then-wife, Mimi Leonard. A reader finds out that, while Rubin was extolling free sex and drugs, he was really, sexually, terribly repressed. Rubin focuses on the troubles of male sexual anxiety in the days of women's liberation. One woman called Rosalie and Rubin were -- here comes that word again -- "victims." This time, victims of a "place and time when the Sexual Revolution combined with the Human Potential Movement." At a Greenwich Village health-food restaurant Rubin complains to Rosalie: "Our relationship can never grow if you always hold out the threat of another sexual relationship." Fumes back Rosalie: "You never get turned on, anyway . . . You're impotent . . . "
Today Rubin emits a slight sigh about such confessional self-promotion. "Yeah, I regret all that." Because it was an invasion of his own privacy? "Oh no, no. I just think I should have become a businessman earlier. Instead of writing. In business you can create things that have effects on people. Take my salons. I'm like an artist with a creation. That survived my marriage breaking up, survived my leaving Wall Street." He has nothing but praise for his ex-wife -- she is a "great" person. "I'm very high on her. The attraction was, when we met I was into Personal Human Growth and I was not into power. I evolved into a power fetish. When we met I was into consciousness, spirituality and men and women communicating. So my wife fit into that period of my life. But then I started getting really interested in money and power and people that were leveraged. My wife wanted to live an ordinary life -- a few friends, close ties to parents, watching TV and hanging out at home. And I started getting nervous." Rubin beams. "So now I'm looking for someone just like her, only who is interested in power."
The salon is at its peak of "what-do-you-do's" and "haven't-I-met-you-somewhere-befores." Rubin is ecstatic. He claps his hands. "Oh, Ray Dirks is here! What a fantastic man to come." Then, in an aside, "When you meet him, don't tell him I told you who he is." At last the salon had a name in financial circles. "If it weren't for Ray Dirks I would never have been hired by John Muir."
Dirks, until recently, was a financial maverick who took over the staid brokerage firm of John Muir & Co., raised its annual revenue by $1 million and underwrote an impressive 43 new stock issues in just 18 months. Dirks knows about as much about self-promotion as, say, a Jerry Rubin. He is working on a book, "How to Get Rich Before You Get Old." Hiring former Yippie Rubin was such an incongruous act that it resulted in invaluable publicity for Muir. Rubin left to branch out on his own. A few months later, Muir went belly-up. Beset by a series of class-action suits brought by investors and SEC investigations, Muir was forced to close its doors in August. Dirks, a roly-poly little man, moves around the salon. He is, said Dirks, "just relaxing" these days.
Echoes of Rubin's past are tucked away in his closet -- stacks of copies of his books, including "Do It!" in Japanese. Scrapbooks are stacked on a shelf. He has read every critical article about him and he seems to be shaping a defense about going from anticapitalism to "capitalism is where its at."
"There's probably an inconsistency. But it might be creative inconsistency. You know what I mean? Let's say I was exactly a carbon copy of who I was in the '60s. Then people would say I was boring and couldn't give up the past. And, listen, the sellouts will call you a sellout. I've been called a sellout by some very wealthy people. Also, there's an identity crisis of a generation. They chose certain people to project their own feelilngs, maybe, of being a sellout. What I said in the '60s was appropriate to that period. What's appropriate now might be different."
Rubin is walking in fall sunlight, after lunch, returning, dwelling on that theme. "I look at myself as an event-creator." There is never any talk of an idealistic base to his moves. "The antiwar teach-ins developed out of my needs. Now '80s-people don't want to hear speeches. So now I thought, 'How could I meet New York's elite quickly?' Boom! I'll have a salon. You see, it meets my needs perfectly. I'm an event-organizer. Have always been. Poof!" The magician-and-the-rabbit act. "There is no inconsistency!"
The flamboyant costumes are long gone, leaving a man with thinning hair, indistinguishable from any other Madison Avenue consultant. There is something painfully pathetic in the eager smile of New York's newest caterer-and-party-giver, greeting freeloader after freeloader. Gone is the old insouciance, the poking fun at himself. (Once a follower took Rubin at his word in advocating stealing as a revolutionary act and ripped off his apartment. Rubin cracked, "I guess I didn't make clear the difference between stealing from General Motors and stealing from me. It's always humorous when your karma comes home.") Now there is a thin edge of anxiety to the voice as Rubin talks about trying to make money. Antiestablishment irreverence has faded into the riddle-words of finance. Rubin wants to "build a little conglomerate. The salon-catering thing, a public-relations company at some point, a financial-products company. You know, looking for investments for people."
Rubin likes a line in one article about him: "Maybe coming full circle will be Jerry's next incarnation."
"In other words," explains Rubin, "I could have, you know, a little financial empire, and then become a social gadfly." Rubin laughs a curious sort of sucking-in-air kind of laugh, thinking about playing out the self-promotion one more time. "I mean, I could become a capitalist and then write a book saying that I was right all along, 'Capitalism Is No Good.' " Rubin laughs again. "I'm not going to do that. I won't."
Then, a parting shot from the guy who shed the anti-dough idealism of the '60s and the find-yourself '70s like worn overcoats: "But I could."