Throwback Thursday: Pigasus for President

Fame

Fame is fleeting. At best, if you obtain it, it’ll leave you alone and you can get on with your life. At worst, it’ll wrap its tentacles around you and not let go. Your life will no longer be your own. Regardless, Death will take it away. All of it. Unless you’re one of the special few, your works memorialized forever by the living. But there is no forever, not for us. Still, we tend to remember, remember even those we tend to forget, until they are resurrected by those of us digging into the past with the shovels of our own time. One, whom I remember well, will always remain with me. Until, I too, pass.

If Pigs Could Fly

Fame is not limited to humans. Animals, too, can achieve fame, even though they don’t know or recognize it. Perhaps they’ll like the extra attention thrown their way, not knowing why they are the receivers of such petting, oohs and ahhhs. Pigasus was such an animal, who obtained fame through no fault of his own. The name Pigasus is a play on words on Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology, who could fly. Yes, a pig who can fly. The impossible that makes it possible. If pigs could fly. And even though Pigasus has been largely forgotten (except in the backwaters of the minds of history junkies like me), he did achieve notoriety in 1968 at the Democratic National Convention. Yes, he was the pig heard round the world. The immortal pig who could fly. Pigasus was nominated by the Yippies as their candidate for president.

Pigasus for President

Prophetic Words

I was stoned out of my mind when I met Pigasus, and I even got to pet him for a moment during the protests at the Chicago Civic Center in 1968. It was a surreal moment. It happened the day before the convention began on the streets outside the convention center. The Democratic Party was electing their nominee, Hubert Humphrey, who, several months later, ultimately lost to Richard Nixon. Ten thousand of us were protesting the democratic plank of President Johnson, the part concerning the Vietnam War. My friends and I were part of SDS and, we, along with the Yippies and a number of other groups, converged on Chicago and the Democratic National Convention. Next to the Picasso Statue at the Civic Center that morning, the protests started with the nomination of Pigasus for President with the following pledge: “We nominate a President and the people eat him.” Prophetic words, indeed, spoken by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, leaders of the Yippie movement. What the hell was a pig doing in the middle of ten thousand protesters?

Pigasus Goes the Way of History

As legend has it, Hoffman and Rubin, along with Phil Ochs, a folksinger of some renown, scoured farms outside Chicago and bought the pig from a farmer in Libertyville. During the nomination process, the three were arrested, taken to jail and charged with disorderly conduct, along with four other protesters. Pigasus was last seen in the arms of three cops. Later that day, the seven were bailed out, but when they returned, Pigasus had disappeared. That was the last they ever saw of him. It was said he was sent to a farm outside Chicago and lived out the rest of his days planning his presidential library in a pile of manure. Another rumor, though, was going around: that Pigasus had graced the table of the cops later that night. Not eaten by the people, but by the police.

Pigasus for President

At the Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial that September, 1969, Phil Ochs gave his testimony in court:

KUNSTLER: After you arrived in Chicago did you have any discussion with Jerry [Rubin]?

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

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.

KUNSTLER: Did you have any role yourself in that?

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

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.

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

THE WITNESS: No.

FORAN: Objection.

THE COURT: I sustain the objection.

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

THE WITNESS: The pig was arrested with seven people.

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.

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.

KUNSTLER: What were you doing when you were arrested?

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

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 …

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.

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

FORAN: Objection. I ask it be stricken.

THE WITNESS: Yes.

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

Pigasus for President

Fame is fame; you can’t take it away from him just because he was a pig. Fame was fleeting for him, as it is for all of us, if we are lucky or unlucky to get it. So, he still lives on, at least for those of us lucky enough to have met and pet him. Pigasus for President in 2020!

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