A man named "Kenny the coke freak" once lived in the basement of the three-story brick building at 9 Bleecker St., just off the Bowery. In the early 1970s, when Kenny no longer could pay the rent, the Yippies moved in.
More than three decades later, the counterculture group founded by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin is looking to turn its Bleecker Street headquarters into a museum. The state Office of Cultural Education is recommending that the Board of Regents grant a five-year provisional charter to the Youth International Party - which spearheads an annual march calling for the legalization of marijuana - at its March meeting next week. The Regents are likely to follow the recommendation.
"It's sort of going to be like the Hard Rock Cafe of radical culture," a longtime member of the Yippies, Dana Beal, a co-curator of the museum, said during a tour through the building yesterday. Mr. Beal, who has a shock of white hair and a moustache like Mark Twain's, has inhabited 9 Bleecker St. since 1973.
The items to be on display will include some of the cremated ashes of acid guru Timothy Leary and an American flag blazer donated by Hoffman's son, Andrew, who lives in Indonesia.
"You can say the Yippies started in this building; the gay movement also started out of this building," Mr. Beal, 59, said as a worker in a red bandanna installed a new wooden floor behind him.
"'Sex and the City' did an episode here, where the main character goes home with a hippie and wakes up and is like 'Whoa, where am I?' That was here," he said. The television crew left behind a large wooden ladder that the Yippies have painted red. They will use it to usher visitors up to a loft that they originally hoped to turn into a hookah lounge. They have abandoned those plans in an effort to keep the place "legal."
The first floor will feature a coffee house and display cases, the basement will be converted into comedy club dedicated to the likes of Lenny Bruce, and the second floor will house the archives.
"We're still working out the admission issue," Mr. Beal, said. "The Yippies were always more anarchist than anti-capitalist ... everybody knows they're against capitalism, but nobody knows what to replace it with."
In 2004, the Yippies partnered with a group called the National AIDS Brigade to purchase their longtime headquarters for $1.2 million. They plan to finance the museum with grants and donations.
The Yippies are known for pranks such running a pig named Pigasus for president in 1968 and showering the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with dollar bills in an effort to protest against greed. Several members were indicted for conspiring to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention.
According to the application submitted to the Regents, the museum will become "a tourist attraction in New York City for intellectuals interested in the history of the new left, the smoke-in movement, the Ibocaine movement, Dylanology, the connection between rogue CIA agents and the Kennedy assassination including the housing of over 100,000 pages released under the JFK documents act."
The museum's six-member board of directors would include the founder of the White Panther Party, John Sinclair, and an anti-Nazi activist, Aron Morton Kay, who distinguished himself by tossing pies at those he considered political enemies, such as Abe Beame and William Buckley.
Another member, longtime Yippie A. J. Weberman, assembled the board and put together the charter application. He gained some notoriety years back for researching Bob Dylan by digging through his trash, and later coined the phrase "garbology." He recently completed "Dylan to English Dictionary," which was published by the Yippie Museum Press.
Over the years, he claims to have assembled 50 boxes of FBI files on Yippie members, which will be on display at the museum.
"People in the Weather Underground had the equivalent of penis envy - maybe something more like file envy - when they saw the footage of files we had on us," Mr. Weberman said while sitting on old chairs in the jam-packed second floor.
Mr. Beal sleeps in a loft on the second floor. Underneath his bed sit stacks of boxes with yellowing newspapers, overflowing file cabinets, composition notebooks with phone numbers for people like William Kunstler, posters for the annual "Global March for Cannabis Liberation," and two small cats.
In the building's new incarnation, this area will officially become the archives. Mr. Beal said he would be happy to host visitors between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Mr. Weberman now lives on the Upper East Side with his wife and daughter, who is a chess champion at Hunter College High School.
The remaining Yippies are crossing their fingers that the Regents will approve their charter next week. In addition to overseeing the state's public educational institutions, the Regents are empowered to create corporations to operate educational institutions of all kinds, including colleges, universities, schools, libraries, museums, historical societies, and public television and radio corporations.
Other cultural institutions up for consideration next week include the Town of Wheatfield Historical Society and the Johnsburg Historical Society.