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- December 01, 1980
- Vol. 14
- No. 22
Finally, Jerry Rubin Trusts People Over 30, Especially Wife Mimi Leonard and His New Wall Street Pals
The big sellout? To Rubin, it's all consistent. "I'm still trying to close the gap between institutions and human values," he says. "But with the country's belief system in such disarray, it's not effective for me to be the shocking outsider anymore." So Jerry pulls down $36,000 learning to sell "environmentally positive" securities, while Mimi, 31, is a $20,000-a-year commodities futures trader in the World Trade Center, a few blocks away.
"It's a misconception that Mimi got me to go straight," Rubin cautions. "She'd have been willing to lead a more hippie-ish existence, but I'm either too ambitious or too bored for that."
When they met at a 1976 cocktail party in Manhattan, Jerry had just come through six years of Me Generation self-help floundering—rolfing, est, Arica, bioenergetics, Reichian therapy, hypnotism, acupuncture and, he says, so much carrot juice his legs turned orange. "I had changed myself enough that I could appreciate Mimi," he says. "Six years earlier I wouldn't even have noticed her. She's two inches taller than me, for one thing."
The son of a domineering bakery truck driver and an "intellectual, artistic but passive" mother, Rubin grew up in suburban Cincinnati "counting the days of middle-class prison until I could get out." In 1961, after both parents had died within two years of each other, Jerry, 22, became guardian of his brother Gil, 13. "In the long run it changed my life for the better," recalls Gil, now a Brooklyn dentist. "I had flunked the exam for the college prep high school, so Jerry put me on a rigorous study schedule, mapping out every hour. It created some tension between us, but I got in the school."
After living for a year and a half in Israel, the brothers wound up in Berkeley where Jerry entered graduate school (he got a B.A. in history from the University of Cincinnati in 1961). There he placed Gil with a local family and "went into the streets," where he and Abbie Hoffman became the Cheech & Chong of the antiwar movement. They were arrested during the violence at the 1968 Democratic Convention and became part of the surrealistic Chicago 7 trial. Rubin called being indicted "the Academy Award of protest." The only federal convictions that stood up on appeal were for contempt. But Rubin was also convicted on a state charge of inciting to riot and served a total of 3½ months in prison. The experience left him burned out. He began looking for the ultimate mellow while working on the book that became Growing (Up) at 37. "I needed a rest," he recalls. "Everybody was making demands on Jerry Rubin and driving me crazy." (Rubin has remained close to many Movement pals, including "my cosmic partner," Abbie, even when Hoffman was underground.)
Mimi's parents are both Atlanta bluebloods going back five generations. She always gravitated toward her father, George Leonard, the writer who first publicized Esalen, the self-improvement center at Big Sur, Calif. "We have always had a keen sense of being alike," George says. Mimi's parents split when she was 7, and she moved from California to Connecticut with her mother, but saw her father often. She graduated from the exclusive Hewitt School in Manhattan and came out at the 1966 St. Nicholas debutante ball.
She started at Bradford Junior College, then took time off to dip into theater in Berkeley and become absorbed in the scene at her father's San Francisco house. He was then West Coast editor of Look, and, he recalls, "Everyone who came through California stopped in to discuss ideas." Moving back to New York in 1973, she entered Columbia, graduated summa cum laude, and got into the sociology Ph.D. program but dropped out. She landed a job in advertising and later worked as an assistant to Pam Hill, executive producer of ABC-TV's Closeup documentary series.
When she met Rubin, she was "intrigued"; at Columbia, she had written a paper on him and Hoffman, The Youth Movement of the '60s. "There's something very familiar about Jerry," she says. "Daddy and Jerry are both intense, intellectual, idealistic, experimental." He proposed on their first date, and after four months they moved in together in a luxury high-rise on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Their marriage in April 1978 was the first for each.
Seven months later they put on an all-day pop-psych workshop called The Event, which featured speakers ranging from est founder Werner Erhard to body-builder Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then they retreated to their apartment for a year to work on The War between the Sheets, a book about male sexual problems in an era of liberated women. (They got a $15,000 advance on Jerry's proposal to write about male sexuality "in a human way, as Shere Hite did for women.") In the book Rubin frankly discusses his fears of inadequate penis size and recounts numerous sexual humiliations, including impotency with "a top reigning Hollywood sex symbol and TV superstar," whom he will not name.
After the book was finished, Mimi flew to Chicago for Continental Grain Co.'s prestigious three-month training course for commodities brokers. "I didn't like the separation," says Jerry, who's now himself studying to pass an exam so he can become a securities broker. "But I had to see it as an investment in her and our own future."
Rubin had had a struggle to raise money for The Event and had no luck financing such other projects as an Elaine's-type restaurant. So he decided to learn about business from the inside. A friend introduced him to Ray Dirks at John Muir & Company. Dirks, who had blown the whistle on the Equity Funding insurance company fraud, was what passes for a hippie on Wall Street and says he quickly decided Rubin could become a capable salesman. Also, Dirks admits, "I felt the publicity would help the firm." Adds new colleague David Van Vort: "Jerry has already brought in some substantial clients who want their money invested in energy-efficient companies. He's more than paid his way."
Says Jerry, "The learning process is so enormous, I wish I'd done this five years ago." While he catches up with his contemporaries in business, he's also bringing his personal life closer to the domestic mainstream. The Rubins' idea of a perfect evening is to invite a few friends to the apartment for a light meal and long, intense discussions. At 11 p.m. Jerry always flicks on the TV news, switching channels while keeping an ear on the conversation.
Rubin's unflagging energy still creates problems. "Jerry is a very emotionally demanding person: He wants contact all the time," she says. "I need separate time. Jerry has learned to respect my privacy, but at first it was difficult." "With women, I was always hooking into masochistic and power-oriented problems leading back to my family," Jerry says, "but Mimi and I don't have any interlocking neuroses. She's giving, yet strong. You'd really have to be a bungler to bungle a relationship with Mimi."
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