This is no ordinary memoir. Paul Krassner started out as a child-prodigy violinist, the youngest concert artist ever to perform at Carnegie Hall, but he lost his real virginity - literally and figuratively - at Mad magazine. However, Mad's humor was aimed at teenagers; America had no satirical magazine for adults, so in 1958 Krassner launched The Realist. Irreverence was his only sacred cow. When People magazine called him "father of the underground press," he immediately demanded a paternity test. Nevertheless, ...
This is no ordinary memoir. Paul Krassner started out as a child-prodigy violinist, the youngest concert artist ever to perform at Carnegie Hall, but he lost his real virginity - literally and figuratively - at Mad magazine. However, Mad's humor was aimed at teenagers; America had no satirical magazine for adults, so in 1958 Krassner launched The Realist. Irreverence was his only sacred cow. When People magazine called him "father of the underground press," he immediately demanded a paternity test. Nevertheless, The Realist was indeed a forerunner of the alternative media, serving as both an influence on and a chronicler of the burgeoning counter-culture. His life story is enhanced by encounters with such folk heroes as Norman Mailer, Dick Gregory, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Jerry Garcia. Krassner never identified anything as either reportage or satire in The Realist, and it was often hard to tell the difference. His most infamous such piece, "The Parts Left Out of the Kennedy Book," has become a modern classic, and its complete text is included in these pages, along with the story behind his "Fuck Communism!" poster and the Disneyland Memorial Orgy. All his readers see Krassner through their own subjective filters. Joseph Heller told him, "You practically write Catch-22 with every issue of The Realist." And Kurt Vonnegut said, "You make me hopeful." But the FBI sent a poison-pen letter to Life magazine: "To classify Krassner as a 'social rebel' is far too cute. He's a nut, a raving, unconfined nut." And Harry Reasoner wrote that "Krassner not only attacked establishment values, he attacked decency in general." Krassner's style of personal journalism constantly blurred the line between observer and participant. He interviewed an abortionist, then became an illegal abortion referral service. He covered the antiwar movement, then founded the Yippies with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. He published material on the psychedelic revolution, then took LSD with Timoth
In 1984, when People magazine published a special section on the 1960s, it hailed Krassner as the ``father of the underground press.'' Krassner's typically puckish reaction: ``I demanded a blood test.'' On and off since 1958, Krassner has published the Realist , a no-holds-barred satirical magazine whose influence is wildly disproportionate to its modest circulation figures. Along the way, he found time to edit Lenny Bruce's memoirs, introduce Groucho Marx to LSD, and serve as Larry Flynt's publisher for Hustler. Krassner is an engagingly modest man who constantly seems surprised to be asked to appear in public with Norman Mailer, Ken Kesey, or Allen Ginsberg. A marvelous portrait showing how a man kept his sanity, integrity, and sense of humor through some very turbulent times; for most popular collections.-- Thomas Wiener, formerly with ``American Film''
Krassner's satirical journal, "The Realist", was one of the most important counterculture magazines of the 1960s. At a time when iconoclasm became the norm in American society, "The Realist" never faltered at staying jumps ahead of the shifting standards of acceptability. As outrageous as Krassner's articles were, they were always written to be strangely believable. Thus, an authentic-sounding account of Lyndon Johnson practicing necrophilia on John Kennedy's corpse was just one story that caused quite an uproar. The key element in Krassner's satiric success was his ability to keep imaginatively focused upon how ordinary people might react to a world out of order. This grasp on the depths of human feelings makes these memoirs enjoyable to read, too. Moreover, chapters on such friends and cohorts as Lenny Bruce and Abbie Hoffman greatly flesh out the personalities of the 1960s pop-cultural revolution. Krassner also recalls his own personal anecdotes, stretching from childhood days as a violin prodigy to dropping LSD with Groucho Marx, with considerable shrewdness. Even as ridiculing the sacred seems bound to become a time-honored American tradition, Krassner's "Confessions" reminds us how and where it all began.
Actually, on the evidence here, Krassner—founder/editor of The Realist and the most outrageous cultural critic of his era—no longer raves now that he's in his 60s. Which is just as well, because otherwise it's hard to imagine the provocateur who published spurious outtakes of The Death of a President that had LBJ having sex with JFK's corpse being mellowed out enough to write this affectionate memoir of his countercultural life and times. Much of the fun here comes from sharing Krassner's gallery of famous friends, limned in generally crisp portraits and starting with publisher Lyle Stuart, who in 1958 bankrolled The Realist; Stuart's then-employer, Bill Gaines of Mad; and, a bit later, comic/junkie Lenny Bruce. As The Realist's fame grew, so did Krassner's circle, which came to encompass Groucho Marx (who took LSD with the author and soared on Bach); Abbie Hoffman (gutsy, wired) and Jerry Rubin (with whom Krassner formed the Yippie Party); Ken Kesey, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, John Lennon; Manson-slaves Sandra Good and Squeaky Fromme (who nearly seduced Krassner into a m‚nage … trois); and Larry Flynt (who in the late 70's hired Krassner as publisher of Hustler). Also nostalgia-worthy are Krassner's sepia-tinged memoirs of his N.Y.C. childhood (especially a humorous run-in with a dwarf at Coney Island) and of his first glimmers of the absurd. More personal-emotional and less interesting are his recollections of his paranoid breakdown in the 70's, and, a decade later, of his grappling with his daughter's sexual awakening; more scattered are his most recent memories, of reviving The Realist and joining the 60's Memory Lane circuit. There's little of the edgy naughtinesshere that, at its peak, had Krassner publish an infamous cartoon of Disney characters at an orgy; what's taken its place is an engaging avuncular impishness that Krassner wears well—and even with dignity. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen) (First serial to Playboy and High Times)