Ti-Grace Atkinson and Nixon’s Kiss-Off


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October 26, 1972, Vol. XVII, No. 43

Just another dirty demonstration?
by Blair Sobol

“Kiss off you Nixon Suckers, and watch it ’cause Ti-Grace Atkinson has returned.” And a stunning return it was, complete with singing, shouting, shoving (remember that Atkinson left hook to Pat Buckley, now known as “the Buckley Belt”), and a climactic arrest. The occasion was WARN’s (Women Against Richard Nixon) “Kiss-Off Nixon” demonstration held on Monday in front of the “Nixon Now” headquarters on Madison Avenue and 53rd Street. Apparently this is the first in a series of “demos” celebrating the “‘Year of the Woman,’ kicking off a war against Richard Nixon and aimed at ass-kissing no one.”

As for Ti-Grace, for many it was a thrill to see her on the scene again. She has taken almost two years off to write and to study political science with a few legitimate mafiosi. She says she feels she can apply some of their tactics to her own cause.

Whether “Kiss-off Nixon” was one of her mafia-inspired examples seems questionable.

The event started with Ti-Grace, Florynce Kennedy, Sandra Hochman, and various other feminists arriving in an old English cab and dressed as lips or in death masks and white shrouds (exemplifying Nixon being the kiss of death). As soon as they hit the sidewalk, the cops moved in insisting that they move across the street to the designated demonstration area. Resisting the cops the “sisters” started marching and shouting such great oral one-liners as “Nixon kisses Kissinger,” “Kiss abortion repeal goodbye with Nixon,” “Nixon kisses like Bela Lugosi,” “Kiss Nixon and kiss child care goodbye.” “Look, Nixon does suck,” explained Sandra Hochman. “We feel he is talking out of both sides of his mouth and giving lip service to feminists and all women.” Then does that mean all the demonstrators are for McGovern? “Some are, some aren’t,” says Ms. Hochman. “The point is to get rid of Nixon.”

There was talk at one point of actually occupying the Nixon headquarters but there wasn’t time. Tempers began to soar, voices began to roar, and within seconds the event ended with a bust. As Ti-Grace, Flo, Sandra Hochman, Merle Goldberg, and Ellen Povell stood in a circle singing their moving “Suck off/Kiss-in” hit tunes, the cops started to descend once more. In an amazing performance, Flo Kennedy whipped around and shrieked, “Keep your hands off me you motherfuckers. Go ahead and arrest us and you’ll make us famous.” Other sisters came to her aid and warned the cops to “keep your piggy hoofs off her.” They then broke into a chant of “move in and we’ll move all over you.”

Meanwhile, behind Flo and her followers was another feminist having her own battle with a tv cameraman which immediately erupted into a punching “suck-off” sidewalk brawl. After the demonstrators threw their bags of Hershey kisses and paper money at the crowd and cops, an inconspicuous raincoated Inspector Reed arrived with three black cops (obviously brought for Ms. Kennedy’s behalf) and instructed his men to “move in and round up these broads.”

Instantly the explosion took place, with sisters trying to save sisters and more insinuating “fuck-offs” screamed at the cops. All of it resulted in the final arrest of Ti-Grace, Merle Goldberg, Ellen Povell, and Flo Kennedy, who was taken in a separate car by a black cop. As Flo was being driven away, the crowd resounded in refrains of “Free Flo Kennedy.” Soon everyone marched themselves over to the 17th Precinct where the women were charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and then released on a vera summons.

Meanwhile, back on Madison Avenue and the Nixon Now headquarters, there was more action. As soon as the kiss-in crew marched off (leaving Inspector Reed, his helmeted henchmen, along with Red Squad’s Jack Finegan, who was picking up the stray paper money and squashed Hershey kisses as evidence) the Vietnam Veterans made a dramatic entrance down 53rd Street and stood behind the appropriate police barricade with shouts of “Free the people” and “Vets more jobs.” It was quite a contrast and a solid second act to the kiss-in, but a bit confusing to one bystander who was trying to figure out the whole sequence: “What is all of this — kiss in, suck off, and now what do these signs say…V, E, T? Is that a new VD abbreviation? What is this anyway — just another dirty demonstration?

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