The Gate       

Anita Hoffman

Thursday, December 31, 1998
©1998 San Francisco Chronicle

Anita Hoffman, widow of the late counter-culture radical Abbie Hoffman, died Sunday at a friend's home in San Francisco.

She was 56, and died of breast cancer.

Ms. Hoffman was born Anita Kushner in Queens, New York. She became nationally prominent as an organizer with her husband of the Youth International Party, or Yippies, a political spin-off of the 1960s hippie phenomenon.

She met her husband while working at a store in New York that sold products made by cooperatives in Mississippi. She had previously been a supporter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a major group involved in the Southern civil rights movement.

The Yippies, led by the Hoffman couple, propagated pranks and other forms of street theater as a protest against the Vietnam war. Their capers included a demonstration at the New York Stock Exchange in which they threw money at brokers, and an attempted ``levitation'' of the Pentagon through Buddhist meditation, presided over by poet Allen Ginsberg.

The Hoffmans were also active in planning anti-war demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago, which turned into running street battles with police. Ms. Hoffman was a voluble spectator during the 1969-70 Chicago Eight trial, in which her husband was a lead defendant.

Under the pseudonym Ann Fettamen, she wrote a fictionalized memoir of her activity as a Yippie, ``Trashing.''

Abbie Hoffman was later convicted of drug charges and went underground in 1974, with Ms. Hoffman assisting him while he pursued a clandestine odyssey around the nation. Ms. Hoffman raised their son, America, born in 1971, seeing her husband only during occasional secret visits. However, she received letters from him while he was in hiding.

During that period, she described herself as happier than she had been in a long time. In one letter to her husband, she wrote, ``I needed to live desperately, separately from you in order to become a separate person. Do you understand?''

She also visited Algeria, where she met Eldridge Cleaver, a former Bay Area radical. But she found him authoritarian and anti-female in his attitudes.

She maintained her relationship with Abbie Hoffman even after he began living with another woman while in Canada. He committed suicide in 1989.

Ms. Hoffman also edited `` To America With Love: Letters from the Underground.''

She had recently moved to Petaluma, where she sold rare books. She had begun working on a film now in production and based on the Hoffmans' life, to be titled ``Steal This Movie.''

She is survived by her son, her younger sister Truusje Kushner, and her mother, Leah Kushner, of Laguna Hills.

©1998 San Francisco Chronicle  Page D4

SAN FRANCISCO Examiner - Anita Hoffman, who helped then-husband Abbie Hoffman plot the most memorable pranks of the Yippie movement and later helped him hide for years from the FBI, died of breast cancer Sunday. She was 56.

Ms. Hoffman helped Abbie disrupt the New York Stock Exchange by throwing money on the trading floor, encircle the Pentagon in a protest against the Vietnam War and plan the demonstrations in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

In one of her most audacious moves, she went to Algeria to meet with Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver and try to forge a coalition between the Panthers and the Yippies.

Though they eventually divorced, Ms. Hoffman may be most remembered for how she supported Hoffman for years while he lived underground to escape drug charges. After he went underground in 1974, she raised their son, America, while keeping law enforcement at bay. Her husband committed suicide in 1989.

Ms. Hoffman also was a freelance writer and novelist. She wrote a memoir of those years, "To America with Love: Letters from the Underground," and later, under a pseudonym, wrote the novel "Trashing."