Stew Albert (1939-2006)

Photo by Robert Altman

“Stew Albert is an almost-nice Jewish boy who grew up in Brooklyn between World War II and the Cold War. Many of us remember hiding under desks during practice nuclear attacks, but Stew remembers the brass pail in his vestibule filled with white sand in case the Japanese bombed his house and there was a fire. Yes, Stew grew up very bored in Brooklyn-and got out in a hurry. His was the unspectacular childhood of a not-especially-promising kid. He wasn’t good at punch ball, spelling, math, geography, or kick-the-can; although he did have some surprising skill swinging a stick at a spaldeen. He wasn’t particularly popular, nor was he disliked he was invisibly normal. He did, however, have one very distinguishing characteristic: he was, and still is, a very blond Jew.

Stew frequently daydreamed about outlaws and tough guys, as did his father, who worked as a city clerk for fifty years. By all rights, Stew should have followed in his old man s footsteps. But instead, we find a young man stoned and hanging-out, in bed with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, shvitzing in the Luxor Turkish Baths with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, drunk in Santiago, Chile with Phil Ochs and blasted with Allan Ginsberg on a manic drive through San Francisco s hills. An alert CIA agent would have easily recognized our former loser on an Algerian beach acid-tripping with Timothy Leary. Can this childhood mediocrity-outstanding only for his hair color-be the same guy showing off his Chicago riot head wounds to William S. Burroughs? Can it be him amidst the chaotic siege on the Pentagon in 1967, giving a speech to the 82nd Airborne about the Lone Ranger? How did this putz kid reinvent himself? Instead of taking a civil service test, he started taking his daydreams seriously. But why? It must have been the sixties-that brief period of time when everything seemed possible and the future was up for grabs…”


Podcast: Rag Radio – Chicago 7
Rag Radio broadcast about the Chicago 7 movie with Judy Gumbo and Alice Embree. The podcast can be heard anytime here: