He is the poor man's showman -- enigmatic and irascible, the self-righteously reversed image of his federal foes who have dubbed him "Hollywood Snyder."
Take 1: Mitch has a vision.
At age 26, Snyder, a Madison Avenue management consultant, wakes up in a cold sweat. "Is this all there is?" He questions life. He quits his job, leaves his family and roams the country searching.
En route, he gets arrested for driving a car rented with a stolen credit card. In prison, he sees the handwriting on the wall.
"I'd already walked away from one life, but I was having the problems of, as Camus says, 'What is the Yes after the No.' "
Take 2: Mitch says Yes to No.
In 1978. Eight years after becoming head of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, Snyder demands that the Holy Trinity Church of Georgetown spend some of its building improvement funds on the homeless -- specifically $80,000 to renovate the CCNV shelter where he lives. The parish refuses. Mitch says no to food and water. The parish says no to Mitch. After a 12-day fast, Mitch says yes to food and water.
Take 3: Mitch finds himself.
In 1981, saying he needs to pray, Mitch goes to a monastery in Kentucky. Acknowledging that this was an "escape," he returns to Washington and takes up residence on a heating grate. He becomes an invisible man. But he can see clearly now.
"People look through you as though you were a head of lettuce," Mitch says of the experience. "I couldn't look them in the eye. Being declared a non-person is terrible."
Take 4: Mitch becomes a saint.
In 1983 Snyder surprises his critics and supporters alike by going beyond 12 days -- in fact 63 days without food. The results: The Reagan administration changes the name of the new attack submarine from Corpus Christi (body of Christ) to the City of Corpus Christi.
The following summer, a CCNV group in Kansas adopts Snyder's tactics and goes 30 days without food to call attention to the millions of pounds of surplus food stored there.
Congress moves to give some of the food to the hungry.
Now Snyder is being taken seriously. He even serves congressmen meals made from scraps scrounged from grocery store dumpsters. He is likened by friends to John the Baptist.
Take 5: Mitch becomes a personality.
With the 63-day fast under his belt, Snyder goes for the max, threatening a total fast to the death unless Ronald Reagan agrees to renovate a shelter for the homeless at 2nd and D streets NW that is run by the CCNV. Snyder lasts 51 days and loses 60 pounds before he is the subject of a profile on CBS' "60 Minutes." Suddenly, Reagan administration officials agree to his demands.
Take 6: Mitch goes to Hollywood.
Basking in his glory, Mitch meets with a TV producer at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel to discuss a movie deal about his life story. He signs for $50,000 with the stipulation that if the film is produced, CCNV will get $100,000 more.
Take 7: Mitch becomes persona non grata.
Starstruck, Mitch suddenly ups his demands on the Reagan administration. Instead of the $5 million originally requested, he now wants $10 million to convert the shelter's one large room into a series of small cubicles that afford privacy. In a meeting with city and federal officials over the issue, Snyder declares that they are talking nonsense and requests a private audience with the president. He is turned down. He refuses to evict the several hundred homeless from the shelter so renovations can begin.
The original deal, sparked by his gallant 51-day hunger strike, begins to unravel. And the homeless people, although moved from the squalor of the street, now live in a decaying habitat that existed when Snyder's story began. Cut.