Nation: A Yippie Comes In from the Damp

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Abbie Hoffman surrenders on a 1973 drug charge

He was Puck of the 1960s underground, the frizzy-haired, war-painted Yippie leader who preached revolution against the American Establishment. In 1974, when he jumped bail in New York City on charges of selling $36,000 worth of cocaine, Abbie Hoffman began nearly seven years as a flamboyant fugitive. He personally reported himself missing to the New York City police department. He threw a book-publishing party for himself at a Manhattan restaurant. And he even attended President Carter's Inauguration. Finally, after a last interview in hiding, with ABC's Barbara Walters, Hoffman, 44, gave up last week. Said he, outside the state court building in Manhattan: "It's damp underground. I wouldn't recommend the life of a fugitive to anyone."

With his unerring—some might say opportunistic—instinct for the value of publicity, Hoffman timed his surrender to coincide with the publication of his autobiography, Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture (Putnam; $13.95). In fact, movie rights have already been sold to Universal for $200,000. Even so, Hoffman maintains that he has not sold out, as some former radicals accuse ex-Yippie Jerry Rubin of doing. Rubin now works as a financial analyst on Wall Street. Said Hoffman: "The idealism of the '60s that went sour, neurosis in the '70s, greed in the '80s—that didn't happen to me."

His early years on the run took him to Mexico and Canada and on a gastronomic tour of Europe, where he posed with famed Chef Paul Bocuse. In Los Angeles, to ease his anxieties about being recognized, Hoffman had his nose reshaped by a plastic surgeon. Then, four years ago, he moved with Johanna Lawrenson, 38, a former model and daughter of Author Helen Lawrenson, to a modest white farmhouse in Fineview, N.Y. (pop. 1,000), on an island in the St. Lawrence River.

There, adopting the alias Barry Freed, he helped organize the Save the River Committee, which stopped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from destroying several nearby islands to improve navigation. Freed gave frequent newspaper interviews, addressed Rotary Clubs, and even posed for photographs with New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan after testifying before a Senate subcommittee. For his efforts, Freed received a letter from New York Governor Hugh Carey praising his "keen public spirit." Last year, Freed was appointed to a federal advisory commission on the Great Lakes.

Hoffman was released last week without bail. On trial, at a date that has not yet been set, will be a mellower but still puckish Hoffman. One chapter of his autobiography describes the horrors of the six weeks that he spent in 1973 in the Tombs, a now closed prison in New York City. The chapter's title: "You Can't Have Your Coke and Eat It, Too."