With the presidential election only 10 days away, I am reminded of the most dramatic, which took place in 1960. The race pitted JFK, the Harvard-educated senator from Massachusetts and husband of glamorous Jackie Kennedy, against two-term Vice President Richard Nixon who, with the Watergate scandal, would become the biggest presidential crook of all-time.
At 43, Kennedy was handsome, witty and inspired a generation in a hopeful era known as Camelot. Sadly, it lasted barely 1,000 days, ending with assassins’ bullets. (Though the Warren Commission stated it was a lone assassin and a “magic” bullet. Asked if he had read the Warren Report, Woody Allen quipped “I’m waiting for the non-fiction version.”)
The 1960 election was the subject of a best-selling book, “The Making of the President” by Theodore White, a Pulitzer-Prize winner. In retrospect it seems relatively easy to write about candidates seeking the most powerful office in the world. I am taking on a different challenge.
With last week’s column about City Council candidate Jon Mann and this week’s about Jerry Rubin, I hope to expand political journalism by focusing on candidates who, with all due respect, don’t have a ghost of a chance. Instead of “The Making of the President,” my book could be called “The Making of an Also Ran.”
This is the fifth council campaign for our Jerry Rubin. I say “our” because in the 1960s there was a famous Jerry Rubin who was a defendant in the historic Chicago 7 trial. In fact, it was this outlandish Jerry Rubin who reportedly coined the hippy anthem, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
But in the 1980s many felt that Rubin betrayed his revolutionary principles when, after a brief stint on Wall Street (talk about the belly of the beast), he became a millionaire entrepreneur. In fact, I contend that our Jerry Rubin has stayed truer to the radical beliefs of the other Jerry Rubin than the other Jerry Rubin did, if that makes any sense.
First a little background about our Jerry who, in 2003, legally changed his name to Jerry Peace Activist Rubin. (The other Jerry eventually became Jerry Network Marketing Rubin.) Tall and tanned, our Jerry has graying hair and beard. In a robe and with a staff he could pass for a biblical character. (Minus his wire-framed glasses, that is.)
A man after my heart, Jerry always wears walking shorts and a T-shirt. Proudly, he can’t remember the last time he had on a tie.
In 1980 anti-nuclear advocate Jerry became slightly famous (or infamous) when he attended a UCLA lecture given by Edward Teller, the physicist “father of the hydrogen bomb.” At Young Hall, Jerry sat in the front row cleverly concealing a whipped cream pie.
At a climactic point in the speech, Jerry treated the father of the hydrogen bomb like Soupy Sales as he abruptly pushed the pie into Teller’s startled puss. Unfortunately, security didn’t see the humor. Go figure. Pummeled, Jerry was treated at the emergency room and jailed for battery and disrupting a public meeting.
After a three-day jury trial, Jerry beat the “disrupting” rap but was convicted of battery. He was sentenced to 20 days in county jail, reduced to two months community service at the Israel Levin Senior Center in Venice. Actually, Jerry got the last laugh because it was there that he formed SAND, (Seniors Against Nuclear Development.)
In 1981 Jerry made the news again with his 186-mile, 15-day protest walk from the Santa Monica Pier to the Diablo nuclear plant in San Luis Obispo. Mistakenly, UPI attributed it to the soon-to-become Network Marketing Jerry Rubin, which started the serpentine saga of the two Rubins.
You see, just as our Jerry Rubin’s social protests were escalating the other Jerry Rubin was eagerly pursuing wealth in the business world. Needless to say, Peace Activist Rubin’s antics caused Network Marketing Rubin considerable consternation.
To clear the confusion, a press conference was arranged at the other Jerry’s plush Wilshire Corridor condo. At KABC radio studios, the other Jerry Rubin even offered our Jerry Rubin $10,000 to change his name. (“$20,000 if you change it to Tom Hayden” of whom he was apparently not all that fond.)
Tragically, only weeks later, the other Jerry was hit by a car while jaywalking across Wilshire Boulevard (akin to jaywalking across the 405 Freeway.) Evidently the name confusion still reigned because when the other Jerry Rubin died our Jerry Rubin received over 100 condolence calls.
While Jerry can be a tad long-winded, I still admire his integrity to run without accepting money or endorsements. (“I once had Ed Begley Jr., Martin Sheen and Ed Asner endorse me and I still lost,” he says with a rueful smile.)
The truth is Jerry Rubin’s winning a council seat is as unlikely as my writing “The Making of an Also Ran.” And yet, if Jerry weren’t in the race every two years, and even after 880 words I can’t exactly explain why, I’d miss him. Go figure.
The last Wednesday of every month, Rubin leads the Activist Support Circle held at the Quaker Friends Meeting Hall at 1440 Harvard St. For more information Jerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jack can be reached at email@example.com.