Paul Krassner Dead at 87

The tabloid he founded in the 1950s, The Realist, violated every taboo. If you discovered Mad in your early teens, at 17 you were mad for The Realist. 

Krassner was a leader of the Yippie contingent at the Democratic National Convention in '68, and wrote a piece for the Ramparts Wallposter describing some of their childish ideas. ("Yippie chicks who can pass in the straight world have obtained positions as convention hookers. They will be putting LSD in the drinks of unsuspecting delegates.") Last time I saw him was at the 2012 NORML conference in LA:

Paul Krassner did a stand-up routine (sitting down) on the “Marijuana and the Senior Citizen” panel. Krassner hit the scene in the late 1950s with The Realist, a biting, bawdy satirical rag that was like Lenny Bruce on newsprint. To the NORML audience Krassner revealed, “I owe my longevity to never taking any legal drugs. Although a few months ago I did take an aspirin. I didn’t have a headache or anything. I was at a party, they were just passing them around. It was just submission to peer pressure.”

Krassner’s patter is a syncopated mix of straight jabs (facts) and looping left hooks (jokes). He noted that the Partnership for a Drug-Free America was funded by the alcohol, tobacco and prescription-drug industries. “Ambien is supposed to put you to sleep but you can wake up and drive to the 7-11 and buy a Hershey bar and you don’t even remember… Provacol is supposed to make you feel not depressed but one of the side-effects is suicidal tendencies. That’s also one of the side effects of Ambien. So you could commit suicide without knowing it so you wouldn’t know to leave a note.”

The NORML leaders had given their conference a bold name: “The Final Days of Prohibition.” Grampa Paul said slyly, “These are the last days of prohibition. But we don’t know how long the final days will last.”

At one point he was reaching for a thought and turned to his notes. “I made a few notes,” he said, “ because my memory is okay but my vocabulary is escaping.” I knew just what he meant.

“Drones have killed 175 children in Pakistan. Obama says he’s not perfect and he’s right.

“When I took LSD I told my mother and she was very worried. She said it could lead to marijuana. And my mother was right.

“People are afraid of it. When High Times ran a questionnaire, one question was ‘Is it possible to smoke too much pot?’ And a reader replied ‘I don’t understand the question.’

 “Recreational marijuana serves as an enhancer. If you’re going to have a great dinner and you get stoned before it, it enhances the taste. If you go to a movie, it enhances the film experience. If you’re gonna have sex, it enhances the sensuality of it. Listening to music is very much enhanced by getting stoned. And I’ve been getting stoned before I roll a joint in order to enhance that experience.

“As long as any government can decide arbitrarily which drugs are illegal, then anyone in prison for a drug offense is a political prisoner.”

Krassner credited the writer/organizer Harvey Wasserman with the observation that “the prohibition of marijuana is the cornerstone of the police state.” 

After riffing about some new plant strains (“Michael Phelps,” “OG Charlie Sheen”), the OctoGenarian realist expressed the hope that Obama would stage “an October surprise and remove marijuana from Schedule One. In honor of that fantasy we would have another strain of medical marijuana called ‘October Surprise.’”

Incidentally, the doctors in the Society of Cannabis Clinicians all report that the average age of their patients keeps rising. “I’m seeing a surprising number of patients in their seventies and eighties lately,” says Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD, of Sebastopol.

2 Responses to "Paul Krassner Dead at 87"

  1. Jonah Raskin   August 7, 2019 at 10:58 am

    This is good. We get a smart and funny and insightful view of Krassner, that unlike some obits, doesn’t make him better than others in the counterculture, or more glorious than others. Krassner was part of the counterculture; he was also pre and post counterculture and part of something that often ran parallel to the counterculture and that sometimes overlapped with it, but that was also distinct and that for better or worse has been called the drug culture. Great to read Paul’s own words. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Louis Bedrock   August 10, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    I’m sure Yeats would have agreed to share with Paul his epitaph.

    —Cast a cold eye
    On life, on death.
    Horseman, pass by!

    I couldn’t agree more strongly with Jonah.
    Thanks Fred.

    Reply

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