Abbie Hoffman: the Anti-War Rebel Who Got Plastic Surgery to Hide from the Feds

In some circles today, Abbie Hoffman is still thought of as a hero and the ultimate rebel. He was liked by women, followed by millions and even peace-loving celebrities like Jane Fonda and John Lennon adored him. You can even see him Oliver Stone’s Vietnam film Born on the Fourth of July, in which he basically played himself: an anti-war rebel.

Abbie Hoffman Smoking a Joint with John Lennon

A 1960s radical, Hoffman was often in trouble with law, mainly for being the leader of the “Yippies” who were strongly against the Vietnam War and capitalism. He was arrested as one of the famous Chicago Seven (a group of anarchists) for conspiracy and inciting to riot at anti-war demonstrations, but the charges were later overturned. The feds kept a close eye on him despite that fact.

Hoffman was famous for dressing in the American flag while ridiculing the system, even going so far as to write books such as Fuck the System and Steal this Book, both of which slammed capitalism, encouraged young people to quit their jobs and live for free so as to shut down the Vietnam War. He wrote instructions on how to drop out of society–where to get free food, free showers, free housing, free healthcare and anything else you may need for free. Maybe if he hadn’t been so convincing and didn’t have so many followers, he wouldn’t have been so strongly watched by the Feds.


Many of his readers followed Hoffman’s advice and stole his books, leading many bookstores to refuse to carry Steal this Book.

Hoffman went into hiding in 1974, after jumping $10,000 bail. The reason he went underground was he was charged again, this time for selling cocaine to undercover agents a year earlier. While in hiding he penned his famous Letters from the Underground, which were distributed to his followers who still kept tabs on their rebel hero. He continued to head environmental campaigns and frequently appeared on television while on the run, much to the annoyance of politicians.

As a fugitive for six years, Hoffman had plastic surgery on his nose to change his appearance. He began a life under the alias Barry Freed, but he couldn’t take the life of hiding forever. In 1980, he granted interviews to Barbara Walters and several newspaper journalists before turning himself in to authorities. Hoffman also timed his surrender with the publication of his autobiography, Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture.

Hoffman received a one-year sentence for the cocaine charge, but was released after four months.

After being freed from prison, he didn’t stop voicing his opinions. In 1987, he said:

“You are talking to a leftist. I believe in the redistribution of wealth and power in the world. I believe in universal hospital care for everyone. I believe that we should not have a single homeless person in the richest country in the world. And I believe that we should not have a CIA that goes around overwhelming governments and assassinating political leaders, working for tight oligarchies around the world to protect the tight oligarchy here at home.

Abbie Hoffman with Jane Fonda

Hoffman was 52 when he died in April 12, 1989, which was caused by 150 phenobarbital tablets and liquor. His death was officially ruled a suicide, but according to some conspiracies, he was murdered.