From the looks of yet another “Looking for a Girlfriend” parody flyer, the boxing gym that took over the Yippie building on Bleecker Street is seeking “real fighters.” Maybe for another underground party?
Last month, a day after we spoke to owner Joey Goodwin, Overthrow set up a ring in the middle of a Broome Street loft and pitted “midgets and models” against each other in order to raise funds for Dana Beal’s ongoing efforts to bring an ibogaine clinic to Afghanistan.
At that party, Beal, who in February was released from prison after serving time for marijuana trafficking, revealed that he was living at a synagogue at 38th Street and Sixth Avenue after being ejected from 9 Bleecker as a result of foreclosure proceedings. But the Yippie statesman with the bushy handlebar mustache told us he isn’t yet down for the count. “We’re still fighting the case,” he said. “We’re trying to get a group of people together to pay off a foreclosure, and then we’ll have the building – we’ll have the title. And then I’ll be renting to Joey Goodwin.”
Beal is glad the building has at least been taken over by some “Yippie-flavored people” who appreciate the address’s history as a locus of counterculture (Goodwin’s gym is named after an old Yippie journal, copies of which are plastered on the walls). But he has his doubts about whether a boxing studio can work there. “Don’t you think No. 9 is a little bit small for a gym?” Beal asked. “I don’t know if it’s going to last there, because it’s not really an appropriate space.”
The Yippies took over the building in 1973, when, according to Beal, there was a cocaine dealer living in the basement. “The cocaine people could not pay the rent,” he said. “But pot people can pay the rent. The thing about pot is you smoke half a joint and put it down.”
In 1999, Beal started the first Global Marijuana March — a continuation of the smoke-ins he had organized in Tompkins Square Park starting in 1967. He’s still involved in planning the annual march — but with pot legalization now a mainstream issue, it’s no longer his priority. “I’m not really working on medical marijuana anymore,” he told us. “I’m only working on ibogaine.”
His goal, specifically, is to help open Afghanistan’s first drug rehab clinic specializing in ibogaine, an African shrub derivative that advocates say can curb addiction to heroin and other substances without symptoms withdrawal. He’s also trying to get New York City to test ibogaine against 18-Methoxycoronaridine, a derivative that’s closer to getting clinical trials in the U.S. but that Beal believes is not as effective.
Beal’s faith in the healing properties of ibogaine is partly personal – in 2006, he used a mild dose of the illegal hallucinogen to treat a lung infection (the high was equivalent to a “really strong hash high,” he reported). And his history with ibogaine goes back still further.
On December 12, 1980, he said, he and ibogaine advocate Howard Lotsof had a momentous meeting on the second floor of 9 Bleecker, where Overthrow now keeps its offices. “Probably the most important thing that ever happened there is that we said, ‘We’re not going to be able to legalize pot. Jimmy Carter is gone, this guy Reagan is a major asshole – we already know that from his history in California.’ We had a big heroin problem and we said, ‘Let’s start development of ibogaine.’”
Lotsof, who first tried ibogaine as a 19-year-old in 1962 and was amazed to discover that it cured him and some of his friends of their addiction to heroin, went on to patent the drug for treatment of addiction, and convinced a Belgian pharmaceutical company to manufacture and market capsules of it in Europe. In 1991, the National Institute on Drug Abuse began the process of researching Lotsof’s findings, but the effort was defunded by the mid-90s. The drug still hasn’t been clinically tested in the U.S., partly because of deaths associated with it.
Beal ultimately wants to see ibogaine clinics opened in 50 countries, starting with heroin-plagued Afghanistan, where he and his partners have already made some headway. He says they know how to make the substance from voacangine — an alkaloid found in the root bark of certain African plants — for $15 per gram. “We can have it on the market for the same price as heroin,” he assured.
At the same time, Beal isn’t ruling out a comeback of the Yippie Museum, which he said failed because of managers who “either misappropriated funds, ran it into the ground, or stole the money to do something else” (one management team, he said, took thousands of dollars from a tv shoot and used it to open an ibogaine clinic in Costa Rica that has since failed). “In order to do the museum properly,” he told us. “You need a good management team.”
In the meantime, as a result of the foreclosure proceedings, Beal is barred from entering 9 Bleecker and the address will remain home to Overthrow. The boxing gym’s website — in addition to Instagram photos of midgets and models — now features a quote from Abbie Hoffman: “Cold-bloodedly throw your body into the fight. You are an instrument of change.”