By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
MIAMI BEACH, 1972: THE EVE OF SELF-DESTRUCTION
Regarding Steven Almond's "Where Were You in '72?" (August 19): I was at Flamingo Park for the Democratic and Republican conventions in 1972. While true that the death of political idealism was born in Miami Beach that year, it was suicide. Even as an idealistic young man right out of high school, I found myself coming to the same conclusions about the "movement" as people like Ellis Rubin.
I was involved with the Student Mobilization Committee, and somewhat affiliated with SDS and the YIP, but I found to my dismay that the majority of the people in these and other organizations represented at the park were there to have a good time.
Generally, no one had a comprehensive platform or plan of action. The women's movement was into proving they had nipples. The gays were into proving how blatant they could be. And the rest of the people were into seeing how high they could get before they bummed out. The only group with a purpose was the vets, and though true that they threw out the Nazis and kept the "bad" drugs out of the park, whenever we needed some "stash," my girlfriend would wander into their camp and come out with fistfuls of reefer and Quaaludes (we gave the ludes to the gays).
We were gassed and maced, and I witnessed one guy who later turned out to be an FBI man get the shit knocked out of him, but the cops were mostly congenial, as if they recognized the event for the joke it really was. The only things I accomplished were to get thoroughly disgusted with the movement and my name on the fed's "bad boy" list. In 1973 when I was editor of a community college's "radical" newspaper, I was contacted by an FBI agent who wanted me to supply him with information in exchange for "financial aid." My heartfelt response was to tell him I thought the movement was even more "full of it" than the people he represented.
The "revolution" will not be televised. It is something that takes place in each individual and (hopefully) spreads by example. I recently stopped by a local "hip" establishment where I once worked, prominently displayed was a sign stating their support for Desert Storm. When I asked the proprietor if this was a joke, he explained that things were different now, and as a Jew he was concerned for the safety of Israel. I said, "Guess it's okay to kill Persians for oil," and he almost hit me over the head with a bong. I went home, rolled an "organic" cigarette, put Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" on the stereo, and got down on my knees and prayed for peace. Later, not wanting to believe we're on "The Eve of Destruction" I went and pulled the weeds from my garden.
Luis Lucien Touzet
THE TRAFFIC PROBLEM SURE HASN'T GOTTEN ANY BETTER
Steve Almond's collection of pieces about the 1972 convention ruckus in Miami Beach -- the "Freaks' Last Supper" -- brought back some indelible memories. While I was not a direct participant, some images, mental snapshots if you will, come to mind.
Walking through Flamingo Park one morning with my wife and two oldest daughters -- then ages two and four: The park was full of trailers, campers, tents. One young man emerged at the top step of a trailer, nonchalantly took off every stitch of clothing -- and just as casually changed into a different outfit.
Entering the park in midafternoon at the Meridian Avenue entrance, I saw two boys run up to an elderly man and start taunting him. Within seconds, several of the "hippies" appeared from nowhere, scolded the boys, and shooed them away.
Trying to leave Miami Beach, the last afternoon of the convention: The police had stupidly sealed off the MacArthur and Venetian causeways. I ended up crawling in Collins Avenue traffic, trying to get to the Julia Tuttle. Ahead of me was a middle-age man in a big Cadillac -- with paint slopped all over the hood. As I sat stalled in traffic, one of the "hippies" crouched in front of my car, preparing to let the air out of my tires. I revved the engine and lurched forward. He fled like lightning.
The Flamingo Park Gazette: How I wished I'd saved my copies -- does anyone have any now? It was run off and handed out each day by the park's varied inhabitants. I remember articles about how the VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) was protecting women campers from being raped by men of other groups in the park, and how one contingent from the park righteously broke windows at the Gayety Burlesque Theater, wich "demeaned women."
The marijuana tree: It was under one huge tree that everyone congregated to smoke pot -- knowing that there was no risk of arrest. As I walked by, a fetching young woman asked me for a contribution to buy more pot. Joints were occasionally handed out free. (No one, however, offered me any!)
One image is especially enduring. In the middle of Meridian Avenue, just opposite the park's main entry, one of the "hippies" was directing both auto and pedestrian traffic. He was doing an excellent job. Wrapped around his head was a red, white, and blue bandana. I sometimes wonder what he's doing today -- hopefully not working for a brokerage firm, like Jerry Rubin!