All hail the late Tom Hayden, reigning lion of ’60s-era activism, principal author of the 1962 SDS Port Huron statement, a Chicago 7 defendant and a California Assemblyman and Senator for almost 20 years. Hayden has passed at the age of 76 after suffering a stroke last year, and his absence is no small thing. Hayden was the George Washington of the rabble-rousing antiwar left from the mid ’60s to mid ’70s. The man was graced with exceptional smarts, vision and a pair of steel balls.
Hayden was also the only anti-establishment activist to marry a brilliant, sexy, major-league Hollywood actress — Jane Fonda. To the best of my knowledge no other SDS superstar, megaphone speech-giver or Chicago 7 defendant (Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Froines, David Dellinger, Bobby Seale, Rennie Davis, Lee Weiner) even dated a world-class, Oscar-winning Hollywood headliner. I’m sorry but that means something. Hayden was a political star and his 16- or 17-year partnership with Fonda was a significant part of that lustre.
Small note: The USA Today obit mentions that Hayden passed away “surrounded by his family at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica.” One, the UCLA med center is in Westwood or West Los Angeles, not Santa Monica. Two, why is it that when people die the spokesperson or significant other always reports that he/she passed with the family in attendance, holding his hand, keeping vigil?
Time and again we’re asked to believe that death never happens when the family is having lunch or dinner in the hospital cafeteria or in the middle of the night when only the graveyard shift nurses are around or when only one family member or partner happens to be there. The family is always in the hospital room en masse, together as a unit, offering their full measure of love and comfort. We all want our families nearby when we cross the final bridge but c’mon.