And so, after many a back-road interview and mysterious late-night call, on the heels of the sale of his book to the movies and the publication of his memoirs, it happens -- America's most flamboyant fugitive is to give himself up to the law.
Abbie Hoffman, 43, on the lam for 6 1/2 years, is scheduled to surrender Thursday morning in Manhattan Supreme Court and face charges of jumping bail and dealing drugs that could carry a life sentence.
The judge expects to see Hoffman Thursday morning, and the country will see him on television that night. Coincidence? Not at all. Three weeks ago, Hoffman called ABC and said he was planning to give himself up sometime this week and wanted to be interviewed by Barbara Walters.
Without being told her destination, she flew off Tuesday from a Teterboro, N.J., airport and was met in upstate New York and spirited away by Hoffman's friends to an island in the St. Lawrence River between the United States and Canada.
Not for nothing has Hoffman been called the most accessible fugitive the country has ever known.
Polite as well. Scheduled to have lunch with a Washington Post reporter today, he did not merely let things slide when the story of his imminent surrender leaked. He called to cancel.
"I can't have lunch with you. My lawyer says no more interviews. I'm giving myself up. I can talk with you on the phone, though," he said.
That's Hoffman, ever courteous to the press and conscious of deadlines.
While underground, he would call the Associated Press and the local gossip columnists if he did not like a story. He had interviews in Playboy and New Times magazines. He breezed into New York to have a birthday party with friends at an expensive Chinese restaurant and to autograph his new book in a bookstore downtown.
Nor was it hard to get through to Hoffman in the first place. Local leftwing operators always had his underground area code and dial information. Fifteen minutes or two days later, Hoffman would get in touch, and introduce himself in a code name. He would try to set conditions for an interview. The Washington Post won't pick up his travel expenses to meet the reporter? How about a little coke? No, then lunch. Yeah, lunch Wednesday at the Russian Tea Room for him and his girlfriend. Going to gobble that caviar.
That plan dashed, Hoffman said he would tell all on the phone.
"I think the atmosphere has changed from when I went under," he said. "There was a good deal of hysteria, the Rockefeller [tough drug] laws had just come into effect, the Vietnam war was still going on. I think those times are behind us now.
"I don't like to quote The New York Times but two days ago they more or less said that any number of movie stars, singers, sports athletes had been arrested for drugs and none had ever spent a day in jail. I think the attitude is different now. I also think people's attitude will change when they learn the story of how I've been living the past few year. . . .
"I was involved in an environmental struggle that won the approval of the governor of the state, I was appointed to a presidential committee . . . I'm different from Abbie, I don't even think of myself as Abbie Hoffman anymore -- I think of myself as Barry, that's my new name."
Hoffman refuses to give specifics. He will not say to which presidential committee he was appointed, or name the evironmental cause with which he has been involved or even give his full pseudonym.
Walters will reveal that Hoffman used the pseudonym Barry Fried, that he lived in an upstate New York town, that he opposed the dredging of a local lake by the Army Corps of Engineers, and that he testified in Washington on behalf of water resources and posed for a picture with an unaware Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). "I'll be damned," said Moynihan, later.
"Barry is different from Abbie because the times are different. The political world Abbie lived in, it was blacks against whites, the early '60s, the Vietnam war, generational revolt . . . confrontation politics. Now in the environmental field, it's coalition politics, because everyone is involved -- if an area is destroyed, it's destroyed for everybody."
He's still secretive about the area he's been living in for the past few years, rumored to be upstate New York, near Watertown. He also, in calling, identified himself by an old code name -- underground habits die hard. c
He said he had just watched a news show that said Abbie Hoffman "threatened" to return -- "like, Gotham, beware," he laughed.
He said that, while he had decided he wanted to come in several months ago, he had resisted until now for several personal reasons: his lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, was "involved in a very important case"; he wanted to spend the summer with his son, america; he wanted to wait for his divorce from america's mother, Anita, to come through.
And there was another reason -- the woman he's lived with for six years, "Angel," whom he calls his "running mate," resisted the idea.
"It's like Superman in reverse." Hoffman said with a laugh, "she loves Clark Kent . . . She loves Supershmuck who is stuck in the phone booth . . ."
He talked about jobs he had held in the past years, which ranged from short-order cook to teacher, admitted he had shoplifted at times and also occasionally was paid for interviews. He spoke of one $20,000 deal with a network but would not elaborate. He talked of the extensive underground network about him (from executives to a "prominent person in the White House"); and his continous fear.
" always thought two things, that I was gonna be caught or I was gonna come in," he said, laughing. "I lived with fear constantly. They looked very hard for me, especially the first year . . . Once heard a rumor, and within an hour, Angel and I were driving, out of town, thinking we'd have to run a roadblock. . . .
"Once at a town meeting where I lived, somebody said, 'Wait 'til everybody finds out you're Abbie Hoffman' . . . I just laughed . . . or sometimes, people would mistake me for this guy Stuart Margolin who plays Angel on the 'Rockford Files.' I'd immediately go along with it . . . I figured it might be a good idea considering who they could think I'd be . . ." f
He was also in touch, he said, with many other people in the political underground, though not Patty Hearst, whom he once admitted, inadvertently, had him on the move even more than the law. ("I'd think, 'Oy, she's got to come here!Who need this? I got enough problems.'")
For all his flamboyant tricks -- he claims he toured the FBI building and covered an inaugural ball -- he insists he never wanted to get caught.
Now Hoffman, who first sprang into public view as the founder of the Youth International Party, says, "I'm very very upset about the myth of the [figure from the] '60s . . . who went cynical in the '80s. I was used as a symbol of that in the movie. 'The Big Fix,' where is showed me as having turned into an ad executive with a pool.
"I think I was a cook at the time that the movie came out, living in Santa Fe, and that right after that I was unemployed and collecting food stamps . . . And I've seen what's happened to all the other political fugitives who've come in . . how the press says they've given up. Like with Mark Rudd, they say he's not an activist anymore, when he's one of the biggest [anti] nuke organizers in the Southwest."
One of the "Chicago Seven" antiwar demonstrators, once cited with his codefendants on 200 contempt of court charges, Hoffman said. "I want people to know I'm not coming back embracing the system . . . I'm coming back fighting to save one of the most beautiful sections of the country . . ."
But that won't be, of course, for some time. There's the charges he faces, of selling 3 pounds of cocaine to an undercover agent. Arrested in 1973, he jumped bail in 1974. He and his friends have been busy raising money for bail -- yes, they expect him to be released on bail.
There's family business; a reunion scheduled before his day in court. His family is happy to see him, his mother -- who told him his letters from the underground still had too many words -- is very excited. His brother, too. "Oh, that's terrific," he said, when Hoffman first told him, he was giving himself up. "Nor you can come to the barbecues."