Those of you who are up on your 1960s counter-culture know that the Yippies were formed, for the most part, by a group of Jewish troublemakers from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Some of those mischievous Yidden are no longer with us: Abbie Hoffman committed suicide in 1989, Jerry Rubin got hit by a car in 1994 and Stew Albert died of cancer in 2006. But Bob Fass is alive and well and living on Staten Island. Nearly a half-century after starting his late night radio program on WBAI-FM, Fass is still on the air keeping the movement alive.
“Radio Unnameable” is the name of Fass’ free-wheeling live radio show and it’s also the title of a new feature length video documentary that tells its story. The night after Rosh Hashanah those who still have a bit of a freak flag flying will want to head over to Film Forum in Manhattan, where the doc begins a two-week run. On October 4 the film will open the Voices in Action: Human Rights on Film festival in Portland, Oregon (the Rose City screening is sponsored by KBOO, Portland’s version of WBAI). And just before Labor Day, Kino Lorber, Inc. announced that it had acquired North American distribution rights to the documentary, so the story of Fass and his free-form radio show will be screened in St. Louis, St. Paul and other cities in the coming months.
Full disclosure: this reporter began his radio career after being mesmerized by Fass on “Radio Unnameable” in the early 1970s. The tall Brooklyn-born broadcaster once attended a Seder at the Kalish loft where he screened a lengthy video of Abbie Hoffman making gefilte fish from scratch and TV footage of Bob Dylan performing at the Vatican. In Fass’s mind, this was totally appropriate Passover fare.