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Interview with Radical Satirist Paul Krassner

by Dwayne Eutsey Thursday, Feb. 20, 2003 at 1:59 PM

Nixon and Bush have in common that they put their own careers ahead of their souls, the human race and the earth. The difference is Bush has better technology and propaganda. Nixon said, "I am not a crook." Bush says, "I am not a dictator."

If you lived through the 60's you might remember Paul Krassner as a radical activist who co-founded the Youth International Party (Yippies) with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. You might also know him from his days as editor and publisher of the counter cultural newsletter "The Realist" (a role for which People magazine later dubbed him "Father of the underground press;" Krassner’s bio says he immediately demanded a paternity test).

But I had my first encounter with Paul Krassner in the bedroom of a teenage girl in Southern California back in the early '70s.

I was in third grade at the time and the teenage girl was the daughter of my babysitter. I would go into her bedroom under the pretense of watching cartoons on her TV, but in reality I wanted to look at the strange hippy posters she had hanging all over the walls.

Among the trippy psychedelia and iconic pictures of the Beatles in Sgt. Pepper regalia, there was one poster in particular that completely blew my pre-pubescent mind. Over by the television in the corner of the room hung a lewd depiction of various Disney cartoon characters indulging in unbridled acts of sexual debauchery.

It was the infamous Disneyland Memorial Orgy Poster, the brainchild of Krassner, who published it in "The Realist" back in 1967. The poster was Krassner’s satirical commentary on the death of God, with Walt Disney as the Creator whose death frees his creation to, as Krassner puts it, "finally shed their cumulative inhibitions and participate in a Roman binge, signifying the crumbling of an empire."

That was all lost on me, though. At the time I was more concerned with Tinkerbell’s striptease than with any existential questions the poster may have raised.

Even so, I never saw the Magic Kingdom quite the same way again. A childhood illusion had been forever subverted. In ancient Athens, Krassner probably would have shared a hemlock cocktail with Socrates for corrupting youth. In counter cultural America, though, he got off with ingesting hallucinogens.

Over the years since that first encounter with Krassner’s unique worldview, I've learned a lot more about him: He was friends with '60s iconoclast Lenny Bruce and, Krassner alleges, accompanied Groucho Marx on his first LSD trip. A conspiracy theorist, anti-war activist and prankster, Krassner also conducted several interviews with leading cultural and counter cultural figures of his time. John Lennon and Yoko Ono financed the issue of "The Realist" in 1972 that exposed the truth about Watergate long before Woodward and Bernstein became Hollywood commodities.

Like his friend Lenny Bruce, Krassner, now 70, is also a stand-up satirist and has counted among members of his audience FBI agents who attended his shows and wrote reports about them for the guys back at headquarters. His FBI files indicate that after Life magazine published a favorable profile of him, the FBI sent a poison-pen letter to the editor, complaining: "To classify Krassner as a social rebel is far too cute. He's a nut, a raving, unconfined nut."

Comedian George Carlin agrees: "The FBI was right: this man is dangerous -- and funny, and necessary." I'm sure somewhere in the Patriot Act there's language in the fine print laying out what needs to be done about "that Krassner fella."

Paul Krassner also happens to be a very generous man, and he graciously agreed to respond to a number of questions I sent to him via email. What follows are his responses sent to me from his home in Desert Hot Springs, California.

For the interview, go to http://www.buzzflash.com/interviews/03/02/18_Krassner.html

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