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Al Martinez

The One and Only J. Rubin

September 11, 1986|Al Martinez

'It isn't just a failed march into oblivion. We've got it all together now and we're saying something important.'

My old pal The Other Jerry Rubin was back in town last week, taking some time off from the Great Peace March to catch up on a secondary project.

I'm not sure what the other project was but you can bet it had something to do with world disarmament.

He was in such high spirits that I thought for a moment he had come up with a way to eliminate war forever, but that wasn't it.

Rubin just likes working for peace.

The reason he is known as The Other Jerry Rubin is because, as you might recall, there were once two Jerry Rubins of note.

One was the 1960s Yippie leader, who was considered the Original Jerry Rubin, but he got out of the peace activism business and opened a singles club in New York.

The Jerry Rubin in Venice was always regarded as a kind of replicated Rubin, coming to prominence by pushing a cream pie into the face of nuclear physicist Edward Teller.

It was probably a bush-league thing to do, but at least it established him as someone willing to take chances for peace.

Al Martinez

He used to say in defense that if we'd dropped a cream pie instead of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, there would have been a hell of a lot less damage.

Rubin, as I mentioned earlier, has been out walking for peace. He left L.A. last spring with 1,200 others in the super-hyped cross-country march for world disarmament.

But by the time the parade got to Barstow, everything fell apart. Pro-Peace, the sponsoring agency, ceased to exist, and about half the marchers drifted away.

"I felt like hopping a bus to Las Vegas myself," Rubin said the other day in the Rose Cafe.

"We are suddenly without food, medical supplies or even toilets. I am thinking to myself, what am I doing here? I'm a street kid. I don't even camp. What do I know from survival?"

But stay he did and march he did and survive he did, and he'll be there in November when the parade straggles into Washington.

"It isn't just a failed march into oblivion anymore," he said. "We've got it all together now and we're saying something important."

He thought about it for a moment then added, "But the food could be better. I eat candy bars and cookies when I can find them.

"I'm becoming a junk-food junkie for peace."

I met Rubin several years ago while writing about the two Jerry Rubins and I was impressed by his wry self-assessment.

He had just come off a hunger strike and I remember thinking I was about to meet one of those driven, hollow-eyed peace evangelists you see on television staring out from a picket line.

But Rubin came at me with a wide, gap-toothed grin and said, "Hi, I'm from Philly, but don't hold it against me."

Then he went on to confide that the woman he had married a few months earlier was under the impression she had married the Original Jerry Rubin.

"She'll find out soon enough," he said. "The Original wears pants."

This Rubin, as it turns out, never wears anything but swim trunks, whether he is up on a podium or dining in a good restaurant.

A maitre d' was about to throw him out once but then recognized who he was and thought better of the whole thing. He ate squab in striped trunks.

"It's a great country," Rubin said, as we talked about the Peace March at the Rose Cafe. At the Rose you can wear anything you want.

"We've been welcome everywhere, even in areas I thought were conservative and might resent a peace march. So many barriers were brought down.

"We saw beautiful colors all across America. The Great Plains, the small towns, the mountains. . . .

"At Loveland Pass, two miles high in the Rockies, the view was glorious. The peaks were snow-capped and the air was crisp. We sang and danced for two hours. After that, I knew we'd make it to Washington."

Rubin, now a lanky 42, means what he says.

Years ago he was using every kind of street drug available, including heroin. Two of his friends OD'd. He was suicidal.

Then: "I was shooting up one day and the needle came loose and poured the stuff on my arm. I looked at it and thought, 'My God, what am I doing?' "

He swore he'd never even take an aspirin from then on, and he meant that too.

His high now is preaching peace like no one else I've ever known.

Rubin coordinates Alliance for Survival in Venice and never stops working for world sanity, whether it's planting a tree or going to jail, both of which he's done more than once.

Now he's marching.

"You know," he said when we had finished talking, "I used to think it was a small world. Then I started hiking across the country. . . . "

As we shook hands he asked the date. When I told him he said, "I think I missed Indiana. I'll catch it some other time."

I'm sure.

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