Bill Kunstler and Judy Clavir hold homing device placed on their car by the FBI. (Courtesy of Greg Mitchell)
Of course, NSA snooping, collection of meta-data, checking e-mails and photographing our mailing envelopes is nothing to laugh about. But back in the day—that day being the late 1960s and early 1970s—the spying got more personal.
Even into my bedroom.
Stew Albert, the former Yippie leader once a suspect in a bombing of the US Capitol, wrote regular pieces for us (often with his wife, Judy “Gumbo” Clavir) at Crawdaddy throughout the 1970s. Stew had strong credentials, in our minds: unindicted co-conspirator at the Chicago 8 trial. Left-wing candidate for sheriff of Alameda (he carried Berkeley). Introduced John Lennon to local Yippies during John’s brief embrace of the left in New York City in the early 1970s. Helped get us to hire William Kunstler as our legal writer and Abbie Hoffman, then on the lam, as our “Travel Editor.” But he was more of a peacemaker than an agitator—a “lovable blond teddy bear,” a “wise old rabbi,” in Paul Krassner’s estimation.
In one haunting piece, Stew recalled meeting the great folk singer Victor Jara during an early-’70s visit to Chile with Phil Ochs and Jerry Rubin. Not long after that, Jara, only 27, had been tortured—his fingers cut off—and killed by Pinochet’s thugs following the coup that deposed of democratically elected Salvador Allende. (Phil Ochs, in probably the final major act of his tortured life, later organized a tribute to Jara in New York that I attended, featuring a surprise guest appearance by Bob Dylan.)
An easygoing chap, partly because of a heart condition, Stew had endorsed McGovern in 1972, but maintained his left-wing views. For Crawdaddy he met up again with his old friend Tom Hayden when he ran for the US Senate in California.
During this period, I often visited Stew and Judy at their modest mountaintop home in Hurley, New York, near Woodstock. And apparently I wasn’t alone.
One Sunday morning, at my Barrow Street apartment in New York, I got a call from Bill Kunstler and was urged to come quick, with a camera. Stew and Judy, who were staying with him in the West Village (we had attended an Emmylou Harris concert the night previous), had come out to their car and noticed that a few weeks of dust on its rear bumper had been cleared away in one spot. Judy reached under and—presto, pulled out an electronic “homing device,” complete with tiny antenna. It was the first such nefarious object captured by any lefty in recent years, as far as we knew.