Remembering William Kunstler

Ghosts of Electricity and the Honorable Mr. Bill



Stew Albert



Bill Kunstler died and everyone made a big fuss and wrote obituaries and organized large events paying powerful tributes to his mighty good works. I hope Bill's essence isn't lost in his beatification, for he was not a saint of piety, his holiness was antic and ironic, with perhaps a measure of dark surrealism tossed in for spice. Let it not ever be forgotten that William M. Kunstler was, of all things, a Yippie saint.

The last time I spoke with Bill was a couple of weeks before his death. He had just had a pacemaker installed and a few days after that, Kunstler performed as a stand up comic in a comedy club. "It was the leading comedy club in NYC," he assured me.

"I remember when you used to work Catskill weddings." I responded, reminding him of the time he was the hilarious M.C., when Judy and I got married in Woodstock N.Y.

"Was Jerry Rubin at the wedding?"

"He was my best man."

And then Bill told me he mentioned Jerry and Abbie in his comedy routine.

"They are my ghosts," Bill declared, "and I must pay tribute to my ghosts, Jerry and Abbie changed my life."

Now I must pay tribute to Bill. Was there anyone as driven to be larger than life than the Honorable William Kunstler? Anyone more uproarious and outrageous? More fun to get blasted with? More raging with passion against cruelty? More madly subversive, overwhelming, and surprisingly down to earth? Bill was all this stuffed into one bursting bag of energetic irrepressibility.

Now a revelation. Bill and I had developed an unusual nick-name for each other. We each called the other guy "dumbfuck." I haven't the slightest idea how this elegant turn of phrase came in to our relationship, but for reasons that can hardly be fathomed it was eminently suitable and Bill loved it.

Maybe it was because everything you say after you call someone a " dumbfuck" is bound to be a little more honest and on the level.

So good-bye Bill and say hello to our gang, Phil Ochs, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman , John Lennon, Mark Rosenberg and Huey Newton. And remember, heaven isn't perfect, just a stage to something better. Much subversion is still necessary.

Bill Kunstler

New York Mid-1970s

Stew Albert


(Photo by Judy Gumbo Albert)


Yippie Award Winner:

Best Questions Ever Asked in a Court of Law

The 'Chicago Seven Trial'



(Trial Transcript Excerpt)

MR. KUNSTLER: After you arrived in Chicago did you have any discussion with Jerry?

THE WITNESS: Yes, I did. We discussed the nomination of a pig for President.

MR. KUNSTLER: Would you state what you said and what Jerry said.

THE WITNESS: We discussed the details. We discussed going out to the countryside around Chicago and buying a pig from a farmer and bringing him into the city for the purposes of his nominating speech.

MR. KUNSTLER: Did you have any role yourself in that?

THE WITNESS: Yes, I helped select the pig, and I paid for him.

MR. KUNSTLER: Now, did you find a pig at once when you went out?

THE WITNESS: No, it was very difficult. We stopped at several farms and asked where the pigs were.

MR. KUNSTLER: None of the farmers referred you to the police station, did they?


MR. FORAN: Objection.

THE COURT: I sustain the objection.

MR. KUNSTLER: Mr. Ochs, can you describe the pig which was finally bought?

MR. FORAN: Objection.

THE COURT: I sustain the objection.

MR. KUNSTLER: Would you state what, if anything, happened to the pig?

THE WITNESS: The pig was arrested with seven people.

MR. KUNSTLER: When did that take place?

THE WITNESS: This took place on the morning of August 23, at the Civic Center underneath the Picasso sculpture.

MR. KUNSTLER: Who were those seven people?

THE WITNESS: Jerry Rubin. Stew Albert, Wolfe Lowenthal, myself is four; I am not sure of the names of the other three.

MR. KUNSTLER: What were you doing when you were arrested?

THE WITNESS: We were arrested announcing the pig's candidacy for President.

MR. KUNSTLER: Did Jerry Rubin speak?

THE WITNESS: Yes, Jerry Rubin was reading a prepared speech for the pig---the opening sentence was
something like, "I, Pigasus, hereby announce my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States." He was interrupted in his talk by the police who arrested us.

MR. KUNSTLER: What was the pig doing during this announcement?

MR. FORAN: Objection.

MR. KUNSTLER: Do you remember what you were charged with?

THE WITNESS: I believe the original charge mentioned was something about an old Chicago law about
bringing livestock into the city, or disturbing the peace, or disorderly conduct, and when it came time for the trial, I believe the charge was disorderly conduct.

MR. KUNSTLER: Were you informed by an officer that the pig had squealed on you?

MR. FORAN: Objection. I ask it be stricken.


THE COURT: I sustain the objection. When an objection is made do not answer until the Court has ruled. . .

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