Third-party candidates for president tend to come from out of the mainstream. That’s the case with Louis Abolafia, a 27-year-old East Village artist.
In the 1960s, Abolafia, the son of a florist, made a name for himself as an abstract expressionist painter who staged happenings around the Village and helped shelter teenage runaways in his East Fourth Street apartment.
His ticket was the “Love” party, according to a New Yorker article from 1967, and his campaign kicked off with a “love in” at the Village Theater.
“In running for the Presidency I’m trying to bring about a world unity,” he told a crowd there.
“We should be a country of giving and giving and giving. The way we’re going now, we’re all wrong. We could be giants; we should be 10 times above what the Renaissance was.”
Abolafia scored some attention from the media. He appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (as a candidate for the Nudist Party) and distributed a poster of himself naked except for a bowler hat.
Amazingly, he received 300,000 to 2 million votes that November, but it wasn’t enough to beat Richard Nixon.
“Louis decided to run for president because he understood that to be an artist, you have to do something a little outstanding,” his brother Oscar, a celebrity photographer, told Bedford and Bowery in 2013.
“Even today, don’t we look for people who are a little off the wall? I think my brother started that whole movement, doing something that’s off the wall so people notice you.”
After the publicity died down, Abolafia moved to San Francisco. His next appearance in the national press was his obituary in 1995, after he died of a drug overdose.