Nice Guys Finish Dead
Shit, the old sixties miasma again. The thing with Janis, the trips with Leary and the bunch, hippies and yipies and acid-rock groupies. And “Roger Wellington Rat.” My biggest hit. My only hit. Hey, they say all you need is one.
I really hate this, my sick fascination with the sixties. Who I was, who I thought I was. I guess that’s the big letdown, the one that won’t quit. We thought we were so great then. We could touch the stars. We were Love, we were God, we were Music. Everything was of the same fabric, we were only one thread each, but oh, what a miraculous tapestry we all made together. Then Reality set in. While we were making love, Someone Else was making money. While we were making music, Someone Else was puncturing the ozone. While we were being God, Someone Else was killing the dolphins. Sure, we stopped the war. And we helped our black brothers and sisters into colleges and voting booths. But we exhausted ourselves. We made the big push and it didn’t go far enough. And there, at the end of our line, was Someone Else, ready to take over again.
Did I know Abbie Hoffman? Yes, and loved him. Abbie and Albie. Jerry Rubin used to say we ran the gamut, from A to A. If official history ever reflected the truth, Abbie would have been acknowledged as one of the great freedom fighters of the twentieth century. But, poor Abbie, for all his flag-shirted, pig-nominating clowning, he took it too seriously. He finally killed himself because he found out that higher consciousness in this new age is mostly a vanity label, like Polo or Guess? We used to say, you are what you eat. Today, you are what you wear.
Twenty-five years ago, I wrote a book about a rat with an inferiority complex who learned that the world will perceive you the way you perceive yourself. It was a pretty good concept, particularly in those days when blacks and women and alienated youth were openly dreaming of freedom and equality. It hit just right in the public’s third eye and I became an instant celebrity, along with the likes of Peter Max, Rod McKuen and Tiny Tim.
The initial thrust of the book’s impact carried Roger and me through most of the seventies but by the end of the decade we were beginning to experience the intellectual backlash that identified people of the sixties as a bunch of cultural fossils with tie-dyed brains. Naivete, which had its own charm and cache in our decade, became laughable in the seventies and a crippling disability in the eighties and nineties. The author of “Roger Wellington Rat” was typecast into a time and a way of thinking that made him unpardonably obsolete.
Fuck it. Have a drink. Do what you can. So what if we didn’t take this world into Nirvana. Maybe if we save a kid from starving or save an elephant from being butchered or stop a bomb from being tested we’re doing all we have to. That’s what I’ve got to tell myself, being in the Protest business or, as Shrike, my editor, calls it, the Great Consciousness Movement. He rescued me from my comfortable obscurity, living on the paltry royalties from “Roger,” to write a column for his underground glossy, “Up Yours,” an exercise in alternative journalism that is read by several hundred thousand people a month.
“Mother Jones,” “High Times” and “Spy” all owe a debt to “Up Yours,” in continuous print since 1964 on the heels of the Kennedy assasination. Shrike hired me to write a monthly column, the old yippie soldier spewing a tell-it-like-it-is-before-it’s-too-late harangue.
Yeah, I made my debut in the sixties and slept through the seventies in a fog of indifference. It wasn’t until the mid-eighties that I decided to make my comeback.
“Who shot gentle environmental activist Linda Selby full of heroine and strung her body from her bedroom ceiling? Hard-headed LAPD Lt. Danno thinks it was her most recent lover, fossilized 60's radical Albie Marx--so Albie joins forces with Linda's long-unacknowledged daughter Mariah to find out the truth. A sheaf of stolen papers in a Hollywood postbox leads the two to your basic government conspiracy to invade the Caribbean island of Libertad and harvest their crop of salvia plants to synthesize into NICE, a heavy narcotic that makes its users think, hey, everything's okay, no problem. Can jogging, tequila- chugging Albie and his buddies (his editor Shrike at Up Yours, innocuous NICE inventor Felix St. John, and an unlikely bevy of lovelies) make the crucial connections in visionary retired singer Ahmet Ludi's Libertad paradise to name Linda's killer in time to head off pursuing Danno, the CIA, and the President's chief of staff? Hey, no problem. If you've been waiting 30 years for a gonzo detective story, here it is--a first novel with a series waiting in the wings.”
“Like his hero, Mr. Debin takes outrageous chances just to see how far he can get on chutzpah.”
--The New York Times Book Review
“This is what Raymond Chandler would have written if he’d heard ‘White Rabbit.’”
“In the world of the unexpected, irreverent, and unconventional, first there was Harpo, Chico and Groucho. Now there is Albie… Entertainment of the first order.”