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Times a-Changin'

Has Bleecker Street's last holdout gentrified?

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The door that the anarchists once tried to blow up has been replaced by an oak-and-stainless-steel number worthy of Balthazar, but the splintering Yipster Times sign still hangs over 9 Bleecker Street like the middle finger of New York's last Yippie. Ensconced in a chair beneath a huge cloud of pot smoke, building super Dana Beal explains: "It started with a broken lock. We had to put on a new door, and instead of doing a cheesy job, we decided to redo the entire front of the building."

In its heyday, No. 9 was ground zero for an often contentious collection of counterculturalists. The newly gentrified exterior conceals the time-capsule Aquarian atmosphere within, where it reeks of cat urine and bong water and the walls are plastered with pamphlets and bumper stickers that read MY OTHER CAR WAS SEIZED BY THE DEA. Beal, every bit the aging radical with silver Dennis Hopper-circa-Easy Rider hair and pants tucked into cowboy boots, is happy to give a tour to -- or burn a joint with -- a visitor.

It all started in 1967, he says. It was the Summer of Love, the Fillmore East was rocking, and 9 Bleecker Street was known as Pablo's Dispensaria of Joy. Owner Pat Firpo designed psychedelic light shows for the Fillmore East and ran a love-bead boutique at No. 9. He also allowed such groups as Abbie Hoffman's Diggers (which would merge with Beal's own Provos as the Yippies) to hold meetings.

In 1972, after three years on the lam for what he calls a trumped-up dope charge, Beal returned to find a different type of meeting being held at No. 9, where a legendary East Village coke-dealer-to-the-rock-stars was living. "He and his friends were doing more than they were selling," says Beal, "and they stopped paying the rent." Beal moved in and made No. 9 the home of his radical rag The Yipster Times, which changed its name to Overthrow before ceasing publication as a quaint artifact in Reaganomics-driven 1989.

But Beal never took down the sign. Like a carefully preserved museum exhibit, 9 Bleecker Street serves as a derelict historic landmark, its curator perfectly embalmed. "I'm the last Yippie," says Beal, exhaling, "for the sheer reason that I survived."


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