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For him, that meant going to law school.
"Those were the last days of the Warren Court, and people were very politicized by the state of events. There were lots of us who wanted to use the law, or whatever field they were in, for change. So I went into law thinking that I would do class actions and all of that."
After law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he formed the Kansas City Law Collective with nine other lefties. "We did everything from race discrimination to sex discrimination to prison-law reform, women's rights, gay rights, First Amendment issues."
When Jerry Mitchell, a 19-year-old college student from West Plains, Missouri, was sentenced to 12 years in prison over $5 worth of dope, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws asked Eisberg to take the case. "It was so horrendous that we jumped right in," he says.
The case went to the Missouri Supreme Court, which ruled against Mitchell in 1978. "We lost, but we did get a couple of Supreme Court justices to write strong dissenting opinions," Iceberg says. Ultimately, Mitchell was released early, which Iceberg attributes to all the media attention — including his own picture in Playboy (with his clothes on) and appearances on The Mike Douglas Show and CBS News.
But hippie days were ending.
"As the composition of the [U.S.] Supreme Court changed and moved drastically rightward, it became clear that you couldn't use the Supreme Court to make the kind of change that I was interested in," he says. "The more you pressed local cases to the Supreme Court, the more you were going to get adverse results that affected the whole country, not just your region."
Feeling the urge to go out on his own, he left the Kansas City Law Collective and grew more interested in immigration law. He worked on political-asylum cases, going to trial to keep people from El Salvador and Iran from being deported to countries where they might be killed.
"I got to be very good at it," he says. "There weren't that many people doing that kind of work. It wasn't anything I ever dreamed of doing during law school, but it kicked in for me on a lot of different personal levels."
All four of his grandparents had been immigrants, Russians who had escaped the early 20th-century pogroms against Jewish communities.
Immigration law, he says, was a way he could help people who didn't have someone to speak for them. And meeting with people from other countries all day, he says, "was like a window to the world."
He also was an adjunct professor of law at UMKC and Washburn University.
Lawyering took 50 hours a week. Music was a hobby, something that could get him away from law for a while. He liked hanging out with musicians, and there were these songs that kept coming to him.
He remembers the first time he heard Elvis Presley singing "Hound Dog." It was playing on the radio as he walked down a flight of stairs at home. "I must have only been, like, 9 years old — just a little kid. On the one hand, it was a guy singing about a doggie. On the other, it was this rockin' beat that I'd never heard before."
He also remembers singing along to the Everly Brothers. But he didn't pick up an instrument until he left college for a year to become a military medic — his strategy for staying out of Vietnam.