Sex, Drugs &
Paul Krassner has been around so long that we perhaps should think of him as the most wrinkled and geezered acid-head around. I remember when I was in college a few decades ago, our bibles were Pogo, H. L. Mencken, and The Realist. Krassner's highest moment from those days I do believe was his disgusting fantasy having to do and LBJ and JFK's body being flown back to the funeral, but what fascinated me more at the time was his problem with Walt Disney.
Paul Krassner at Work
A lawyer friend of mine worked for the corporation. Disney is famous for their vicious lawsuits against anyone who even hints at representing their cast of characters without permission and payment of heavy fees (they did a number on a minority-run child-care center in Watts that had the temerity to decorate the entryway with a crude drawing of Minnie Mouse). My lawyer friend told me that the Disney executives were incensed at a center spread in The Realist which showed Mickey Mouse and Donald and Daisy Duck and Goofy and the Seven Dwarfs tied up in bizarre sex acts but they were unsure as how to get Krassner.
Threats --- from the corporations or the FBI or the Thought Police --- never fazed Krassner because, over the years he was smart enough to never accumulate assets. He always jobbed out the printing of his magazines, which meant that he had no capital investment; thus nothing to lose in a lawsuit. He never got rich, but this gave him a certain holy freedom: he could be sued but would never lose his stock portfolio or his house because he didn't have any.
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Krassner revived the Realist not long ago, and then let it run down --- the last issue came out last year --- and it's just as well because most of his writers were just pale imitations of the master. For Krassner first and foreskin was and is a journalist and a reporter. His writing is clear and direct, and he marshals facts to make his point, no matter how bizarre: he trained himself to write in a snappy fashion, and he does his homework. In that way, we could say that he represents the New York Times of the acid set. People magazine had the temerity to say that he was the "Father of the Underground Press" which cleverly ignores other activists such as Milton, John Stuart Mill, Eugene V. Debs, John Steinbeck and all the samizdat magazine publishers.
The funniest thing he ever wrote, by my lights, appeared in Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut. It's a record of his testimony for the Chicago Seven while stoned out of his gourd on a tab of acid. The present volume is made up of fifty essays on the likes of "The Persecution of Lenny Bruce," "John Lennon and the FBI," "Who killed Bobby Kennedy." There is, too, an extended essay on the murder of the George Moscone and Harvey Milk, which not only provides us with excerpts from the trial of Dan White, but, as well, tells
- Where the Twinkie Defense came from (it came from "a former Merry Prankster who had become a lawyer" by the name of Dale Metcalf);
- A brief history of Twinkies (the world's largest Twinkie was unveiled in Boston in 1981. It was 10 feet long, and weighed more than a ton);
- The contradictions in the prosecutions case (too many to list); and
- What it was like to get caught in the middle of the riots that followed the jury's decision in the White trial (Krassner got banged in the knee and in the ribs by billy clubs, resulting in a fractured rib and a punctured lung).
It is in this reportage that Krassner shows his most beguiling side. If you and I were innocent bystanders who had gotten beaten up during a police riot, we'd probably spend several years in court trying to either get vengeance on those who beat up on us or, at least, extract a few thousand dollars from the state. Krassner says,
The city of San Francisco was sued for $4.3 million by a man who had been a peaceful observer at the riot following the verdict. He was walking away from the Civic Center area when a cop yelled, "We're gonna kill all you faggots!" --- and beat him on the head with his nightstick. He was awarded $125,000. I had wanted to sue the police myself, but an attorney requested $75 for a filing fee, and I didn't have it. I was too proud to borrow it, and I decided to forego the lawsuit.
Although he says, "This was one of the dumbest mistakes of my life," that's a throw-away line. According to those who know him, Krassner does not cultivate what we call a "venge personality." (Translation: Life's too silly to waste in lawsuits.) He does tell us that after six weeks of celibacy "while the healing process took place,"
I thought I was ready for sex again, but when my partner embraced me tightly during her climax, I felt a sharp pain and groaned. She got turned on by what she interpreted as a moan of pleasure, and she squeezed me even tighter, which only make me groan louder, turning her on even more.
The many essays here deserve your attention and love. Besides the ones of some seriousness listed above, there are tales of a trip to Ecuador, "An Interview with Chiquita Banana," and a visit to a swingers convention. In this last we get a sample of Krassner in the role of A Modern Everyman. When he and I were growing up, our primary worries were about getting laid, getting drunk, and avoiding our parents' wrath. Now that our we've grown up, more or less, and have done lust and booze as many times as we need to, we are free to develop a whole new set of worries, peculiar to the last days of the 20th Century.
Paul Krassner at Play
He's at a workshop called "American Tantra: How to Worship Each Other in Bed." When the participants are invited to the center of the room to "face their partners," Krassner tries to slip out the door. The group leader, Ramana Das, "who knows me from a previous incarnation," calls out,
"There goes Paul Krassner. Are you afraid to participate."
"I'm here as a journalist."
"Ah, he can't participate because he's a journalist. See how everybody has their excuses."
Suddenly I'm saddled with a dose of New Age guilt, as though I have aborted my inner child. Meanwhile, there's a lovely blonde who doesn't have a partner, and I'm tempted to participate, but some guy who's also without a partner links up with her. Unexpectedly, my guilt changes to jealousy. Just a slight pang of jealousy, mind you, but a terrible taboo in this particular world. Jealousy is an outmoded emotion, to be shunned like dandruff. There's even a workshop that advises "How to Handle Jealousy," and another titled "Swing Without Guilt or Jealousy." And so not I not only feel guilty about not participating, I also feel guilty about feeling jealous. I've committed a swinger crime. Any second, I expect to hear security guards shouting "Jealousy alert!" Loud sirens go off. "Jealousy alert!"
You and I and Everyman, plagued by a whole new set of angsts that come about in being in the Brave New World of the Uncommitted Passionate, Swingers, the Newly Liberated: "And so not I not only feel guilty about not participating, I also feel guilty about feeling jealous." The newest American Double Bind.
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When Krassner is covering the Parry Hearst trial for the Berkeley Barb, he heard rumors that Patty had been made pregnant by "Cinque" DeFreeze of the SLA. Krassner writes,
Now with their daughter on trial, the Hearsts have hired a lawyer who wears pancake make-up to press conferences, the better to transform a racist fear into a Caucasian alibi.
This results in Krassner's receiving a snippy letter from a corporate attorney by the name of D. James Pekin, who points out that "'Pan-Cake Makeup' is the registered trademark (U. S. Patent Office No. 350,402) of Max Factor & Co..." He expresses the hope that Krassner will be more careful with future references to pan-cake makeup. Krassner --- once again given the total freedom that comes from being a mendicant poverty-stricken journalist of his own merry devising --- responds,
I explained that there had been a slight misunderstanding --- what F. Lee Bailey had been wearing to all those press conferences was actually Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix --- and I hope that cleared up the matter.--- L. W. Milam