Paul Krassner, anarchist, prankster and founder of the Yippies, dies at 87


Paul was a violin prodigy, playing a Vivaldi concerto at Carnegie Hall when he was 6, but he gave up practicing regularly because he found his instructor too controlling. Still, he traced his penchant for humor to this Carnegie Hall recital. When halfway through he tried to relieve an itch in his left leg by scratching it with his right foot, the audience burst out laughing and he realized he loved that sound more than the applause for his game.

He was a bar mitzvah, but, he said, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had already persuaded him to identify as an atheist. He attended City College’s Baruch campus, although he dropped three credits before graduating, disappointing his parents.

“They had learned by then that I was a rebel,” he said.

He was already making money working for The Independent, a newspaper run by anti-censorship activist Lyle Stuart. As it turned out, Mr. Stuart was Mad’s business manager as well, and Mr. Krassner started writing comedy pieces for her.

Mr. Stuart also gave him a list of subscribers to a small progressive magazine that was shutting down, and Mr. Krassner managed to persuade 600 of those readers to buy his satirical replacement, The Realist.

An interview in the magazine with a doctor who performed abortions at a time when they were illegal led to Mr. Krassner’s first foray into serious activism. After receiving calls from women asking how they too could have an abortion, he set up a service to refer pregnant women to qualified doctors. He was subpoenaed by two different prosecutors but was never prosecuted.

With the decline and demise of The Realist, Mr. Krassner had to make a living, and Social Security checks were ultimately a mainstay. He wrote columns for magazines like High Times and Adult Video News and blogs for The Huffington Post (now HuffPost). He served a short stint as editor of Hustler. In 1994, he published a memoir, “Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counter-Culture”, which he subsequently updated, and he also produced three collections of memories on people’s experiences with marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and other drugs.

Mr Krassner’s first marriage, to Jeanne Johnson, ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter, from his first marriage, his survivors include his wife, Nancy Cain; a brother, George, and a grandchild.


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