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Paul Krassner

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McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Paul Krassner
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: Carrie Blabac-Myers
Date of interview: 10 March 2010

(Start of Interview)

SM: Testing 123 ̶

PK: Exists and so um, I look back and I am very pleased. You know, I am disappointed in the sense that all the stuff that I have wanted to accomplish I have not or not yet and, and you know most people know you for what You have done and you know yourself somehow for what you still want to do.

SM: You have done so much what do you still want to do?

PK: Well, you know, I am going to be seventy-eight in a few days.

SM: Well, congratulations, happy birthday!

PK: And I have and so I am working on my first novel. And as a friend, Avery Corman, told me, he wrote Oh, God! and Kramer Versus Kramer. He wrote his very first article in The Realist, we became friends. And I said to him, boy, it is really hard, writing fiction, you have to have to make stuff up. And he said, "Come on Paul, you have been making up stuff all your life." And I said, "Yeah, but that was journalism." So it is a different kind of challenge. You know, I could just describe, I did not know, I could describe Abbie Hoffman by just describing what I already knew. And I want to try to avoid ever describing anybody at having chiseled features, which is one of the description clichés, I cannot help but notice.

SM: One of the things that I think you are proud of this is what the FBI said of you, you know what I am saying here, and that is what is the inspiration for the title of your book. The FBI said, "To classify Krassner as a social rebel is far too few he is a nut, a raving unconfined nut." Are you very proud? You are pretty proud of that aren't you?

PK: I guess, sort of like people were proud of being on, like Daniel Ellsberg, said he was proud to be on the enemies list. You know, I mean, my mother was not happy about that. But it was so absurd but also significant because they were trying to, you know, this was written on a poison pen letter so as if it came from a college student complaining about the articles that Life Magazine had published about. And so that was the context of it. But you know, and they were doing that, you know, character assassination, which did not bother me so much except that is not what taxpayer money goes to do. And as you can could read in my autobiography, it escalated the next year, character assassination to what was virtually a literal assassination. When the FBI put out a leaflet with, it had a huge swastika on it. It had the four black faces. It had photographs of four people. One was Mark Rudd, who was the head of the SDS, Students for a Democratic Society. Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, cofounders of the yippies, the Youth International Party as was I in the fourth corner there. And the headline was Lampshade! Lampshade! Lampshade! And it was essentially something in their files which, and the file was trying to create rifts between Blacks and Jews. This was the FBI's wonderful work behind the scenes. And in the copy below that headline, they talked about how Jews have been oppressing Negros, for so long but we know what happened years ago so we must, these leaders must be eliminated. And then they have to get permission. This is all from my FBI files. This was Washington, and they had to get permission from the New York office. These were J. Edgar Hoover's DuPont assistants who approved it. In their approval of it gave instructions to the New York office, make sure that, and I am paraphrasing but the essence of it, make sure that these pamphlets or leaflets are not traceable to the Bureau. But how they described it the word they used was that these leaflets facetiously suggesting the elimination. And so, you know, it was as if some militant black militant black picked up this flyer in Florida he now he might have been a little bit off kilter. But if he had assassinated one of us the FBI defense would be, we said it was facetious. So, so anyway, so even though I got a book title out of it, the "Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut" but you know, it was it was really proletarian that was what they were doing.

SM: I would say and you know that we know the workings of J. Edgar Hoover but and when they ask you this, when you looked at the relationship between Jewish Americans and African Americans over the years in the (19)50s, the (19)40s, the (19)50s and into the (19)60s, it was one of the strongest relationships ever in American history. Because they understood, each group understood the rights and you have to fight for rights and there is prejudice against various groups based on your religion and ethnic background. Do you believe there was some sort of jealousy there too? That even though you were looked upon the four of you as maybe radicals in their eyes, there was this anti-Semitism too that was there and maybe anti-black, that to these two groups working together no matter where they were found have to be divided.

PK: That is right exactly right, divide and conquer. You know anybody who, who would question authority. My daughter once said she when she was growing up, she said, I really thought my Dad and his friends were paranoid. But as I grew up, I began to understand that there was a police state involved. And so you know, a lot of the stuff that is coming out now are just continuations of what, because of technology, you know, has turned you know, say with cell phones or video cameras. What was once used for porn and entertainment is now used as evidence. So, the scandals are coming out now. You know as Ken Kesey once said to me, you know the spirit of truth. And it is that classic metaphor of there being grass pushing its way through the cement blocks.

SM: It is amazing because when you think of the strongest relationship in the anti-war movement, it was the relationship between a Black man and a Jewish man. And that was Rabbi Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr. They were the united arm and arm and they were both united in their effort to end war in Vietnam. And actually they were both criticized within their religious communities. They were they were visionaries. One of the early questions I asked of all of our guests, or all the interviewees.

PK: I like that, guests! Hah!

SM: Well, interviewees. I actually sent that I actually said that in an office once down in New York City, and she said, I am your guest, you are not my guest, and that was because I was in her office done at NYU. But the question that I am asking is, George Will oftentimes whenever he gets a chance, he'll take shots at the (19)60s generation or that era, as the reason for a lot of the problems we have in our society and you can go to any book that he has written and he'll have an essay, when Newt Gingrich came into power in (19)94, he made some very strong comments against that era around the time that George McGovern was running for president and that particular period, kind of criticizing that time and that Generation. And then when you read your book and your books, some of the quotes from John McCain when he talks about Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee, in his comments on drugs, and, and also David Horowitz and I saw this in where he claims that, and you know, this is from an article that was in the web said that "Although he likes Krassner personally, he believes that he in the yippies must shoulder much of the blame for the crisis of AIDS and drug addiction. It was one of it was one long incitement against America against all the guidelines and morals and mores and help people make it through life." He said, "The yippie movement, and I think the yippies in the end were a terribly destructive force." Now he is only talking about yippies here, but as George Will and Gingrich, they are talking about the generation.

PK: Oh, yeah.

SM: Just your thoughts on all these commentaries, that the drug culture that break up with the American family, the extensive divorce rate, a concept of all these "isms", the concept of the Welfare State all these things. Let us just blame it on the lack of respect for authority.

PK: Well, yeah, I think that (19)60s bashing is going to be in the Olympics in a few years. It is you know, it is scapegoating, in retrospect. And I have written a few a few things about it, as I see the pattern, and, and what sometimes it is not even conscious scapegoating is just sloppy journalism.

SM: Mm hmm.

PK: You know, it is kind of shorthand. An example of that was a linking of a New York politician Ned Lamont, the writer was saying that he was, that blinding him as a politician running for some office was, not the same as and, the two people he linked was Osama bin Laden or Abbie Hoffman and I thought well there you know, talk about strange bedfellows! And the line I used to differentiate between them was that Bin Laden a plane to fly into the Pentagon and Abbie, he only wanted to levitate it.

SM: Yes. Yeah. One of the questions I wanted to ask you and I have read a lot of in your biography, but could you talk a bit about your college days? Obviously, you were a child prodigy, you were on the stage of Carnegie Hall as a very young kid. And I understand from reading about your background, how you went in another direction. But were your college years in the (19)50s, did they have any kind of an influence on you?

PK: It just intensified my obsession of what I was going to do with my life. It was just so important because I saw people, a lot of people just unhappy or angry about their work, but you know that and yet they wanted to support their families. And so I really just so I was not happy in politics, did not know what I would major in and second semester I took a leave of absence. And went every day in the afternoon, I have afternoon job and I would go to a vocational library and read about different vocations. And then through a series of chain links, I ended up in my senior year in college working for The Independent of course, the paper run by Lyle Stuart.

SM: And the college? No, no, no. No, I mean the name of the college.

PK: Excuse me?

SM: I am just putting it in for the record where you went to school.

PK: Oh, oh! CCNY, City College of New York.

SM: Okay.

PK: And I started working for him, this was in my senior year. And I just, I realized I would rather work there than at the New York Times. I mean because it was an anti-censorship to paper in a long tradition from Thomas Paine to [unintelligible] and I was just thrilled to have, even though I was just at the start stuffing envelopes. And so it was, it was, I just felt so grateful to have landed in in that position. I ended up becoming the managing editor. In college, really my mind was wandering a lot. You know, I remember a couple of things, one was in Philosophy 101 the definition of philosophy was the rationalization of life. And, and the other was that some anthropologist said happiness is having had as little separation as possible between your work and your play and everything else is kind of a blur. I mean, I know I got through one course not having paid attention for the whole semester, but the night before the final exam, I studied everything that was in italics in the textbook. So that you know, it was not it was nothing that I... I was the assistant manager of the basketball team. I think I wanted that really, I was one of those jackets. A silk jacket, a sports jacket. So and I left college, I was already working there. I knew what I wanted. I did not want to have any job where I needed a degree, because to me that was false snobbery. I mean, I do not mean that, you know, somebody is going to medical school. But, but for me personally, I did not. And, and so, in my, I would pick, I needed one three credit course, to get my degree and I just walked out of the class one day. And it was liberating. Although, you know, it was incredible to my family. And, but, you know, I had to live my own life. It is that simple.

SM: Mm hmm. Well, it is interesting because some of the biggest moments the (19)60s are linked to you. At least anybody who cares about the (19)60s who grew up in the (19)60s or who grew up in that era. It is the how the term "yippie" became a term. And of course, we'll talk about the Twinkie Defense later on in the interview, but I have Jerry Rubin's book. I remember buying that book in 1971 when I was in grad school and reading it in the summertime and him saying in the book that the term "yippie" they were in a meeting someplace with a lot of people, they did not know what to name their group and so somebody in the background was yelling "yippie". And so that was how it became the group became "the yippies." Well, that is misinformation from do it? Because when you look at your book and read your background, that was a meeting that you and Abbie Hoffman had along with Abbie's wife.

PK: I have read I have read several different versions of that but you know, I was there as a friend as an activist, and as a journalist, so I made note of it. And as a journalist, I knew that you need a ̶ who, what, when, where and how.

SM: Right.

PK: And so I just had this brainstorm trying to, and this was on the afternoon of December 31st 1967. And it was at the apartment on the lower east side of Abbie and Anita Hoffman. And there were about maybe eight or nine more activist friends, there gathered, and, the essence of what we were talking about was going as a counter convention in the summer of (19)68, Chicago when the Democrats would have their convention. And it was the Vietnam War was bipartisan, but it just happened to be under the democrat's watch at that point. And as Abbie once said, we do not want to go to Miami in the off-season anyway. So I was trying to think of Bob Bass was one of the original yippies, he said that no, he said this later, I am getting ahead of myself. The San Francisco the "diggers" had a march through the streets, a funeral called "the death of hippies" because it had definitely become you know a media term and they wanted to call themselves "Free Americans," which was bizarre because when the hostages were released from Iran, the first thing when they went to in America was get a haircut and it would be silly for hippies, you know, to hear somebody yelling at them, you know, get a haircut, you "Free American" but it was an oxymoronic epithet. So I was thinking of a different, something that would rhyme with hippies seemed natural, and then I was trying to think of, of a an acronym that you know, would represent what the event was going to be for us, one of the original, the folk singer, Phil Ochs, had described the mood we wanted to bring to Chicago. He said a demonstration to turn you on, not turn you off.

SM: Yeah, it is a quote I have here. Yes.

PK: And so came up with "Youth" because it was a generational thing at that time, "international" because this kind of evolutionary jump in consciousness was around the globe and so in Paris in Mexico and Czechoslovakia, the same rebellion against repression was in process and so "international" was in the middle and then "P" for party which was perfect because of both like a political party and have a lot of fun party. Excuse me for one second.

SM: Yeah.

PK: I thought my wife came in. So, Let us see where was I? And so the initials for that would be "Y.I. and P" for the acronym and so out of that derived the "yippies" and so at our first press conference as a result of that, the Chicago papers had a headline: "Yipes, the Yippies are Coming" and so, you know, we could see that the myth developing. We would hear from, you had to open an office, we were hearing from groups on campuses, you know, who, who finally, had a name for what they represented. Because all I did was, was come up with a name, which was essentially a shout of joy. So I did not even make up the name. But just a name a phenomenon that already existed. And this came from that had originally been an adversarial relationship between the hippies and between the straight politicians, political activists, and so that the hippies thought that straight politicos were playing into the administrations chance by protesting against the war and the politicos, thought the hippies were being irresponsible because they were just sitting around in the park smoking pot but each one came to realize as it was a kind of cross fertilization of the stoned hippies and the straight politicos you know, seeing each other at maybe civil rights demonstrations or antiwar rallies and hippies began to see.. the straight politicos saw that the hippies, that they had a smoke-in at the park, that they were committing civil disobedience to protest against an unjust law and the hippies could see in turn, they could see a linear connection ultimately from putting someone behind bars for smoking weed and they could see that that connection to dropping Napalm.

SM: Yes.

PK: On kids on the other side of the world. And the connection was, it was the ultimate extension of the dehumanization, of punishment without crime. And o in each whether it whether it was young people imprisoned for giving themselves harmless pleasure and people turning the other one other way, not seeing the terrible injustices and expanded ultimately to people turning away from the war in Vietnam, you know and being gung ho about it.

SM: That is a beautiful description, I read a part of like that in the book too but this linear connection is very important to hear because even when you look at the 1968 convention in Chicago, correct me if I am wrong, the yippies and people who were around that group looked upon it as the convention of death. Because we were killing Vietnamese and we historically had not talked about the people we were killing. We are thinking about the people that are losing lives from our nation, which is equally important, our troops, but certainly not a whole lot about the Vietnamese people themselves and you thought about it. The group is, as I have got here "The Festival of Life" so you are making a connection even there, you know, changing the name for Youth International Party and now going to the convention for challenging the convention of death. Is that correct?

PK: Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And we were going to do it, not just music instead of speeches, but what happened in Woodstock the following year was our original vision and we thought we would have a booths around the perimeter with, you know, information on the draft and information on the drug and so it was, so it really was a it really captured the attention of people who, you know, we would pull stunts, like throwing money off the balcony onto the floor of the factory today.

SM: Mm hmm.

PK: But then there would be a press conference outside and we would talk about the relationship between Wall Street and the war.

SM: Yeah, yeah, a couple of the antics that people define them as antics. Levitating the Pentagon in (19)67. The Wall Street where the dollar bills were thrown out. Jerry Rubin had one you may remember it and do it where he went into the bank. Do you remember that scene?

PK: He went into the bank, and what?

SM: He went into the bank, and he asked if he could use the restroom. And they said, get out of here, we do not like your types in the bank. And he said, I going to go to the bathroom. And they said, no, you got to leave. And he says, if you do not let me go in the bathroom, I will go right on the floor. And he did.

PK: If I knew about that, I forgot it.

SM: Yeah, it was and it was do it. It was because it was linked to his book, "Do It." So I am remembering things from back when I read this book a long time ago, but it is kind of a; you guys had a very a lot of energy I remember. You have a lot of energy and in some respects, you determined. Why do you feel that we are not talking to the Newt Gingrich's in the Mike Huckabees, and John McCain's of the world but what do you think some of the liberals have today I have interviewed some who, when I go at the end of the interview, and I mentioned Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and the hippies, and they just saw that was nothing. And these are liberals that were in either, they might have been an SDS, the Women's Movement and the Black Power Movement. I am not talking about

PK: Well, you know, we got a lot of attention that they did not. So there was a resentment out of the new left. You know we were having fun and the new left was kind of serious. I mean we were serious too, but humor was our vehicle.

SM: Paul, if I were to ask you to give them a quick definition of the definition of a hippie the definition of a yippie and then the definition of a zippy, how would how would they differ?

PK: A hippie and a yippie and a what?

SM: A Zippy.

PK: Okay.

SM: And please speak up too.

PK: Okay. A hippie and the name came from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Burt Caen and (C.A.E.N) and from, I guess hipster or hip itself and essentially, it was to describe young people who, especially males, who were letting the hair grow longer and wearing colorful clothes and smoking marijuana and they were stead fullness and sense of community and sex, drugs and music was their Holy Trinity, but and at the core of this psychedelic revolution was a spiritual revolution. As Lenny Bruce said, people were leaving the church going back to God.

SM: [Laughs]

PK: But I was thinking of that as we speak because of that is what is happening with the Catholic Church now.

SM: Oh, I know.

PK: So let us see, where was I? Oh, ok so a yippie was, oh now something comes something I was going to say before, Bob Fass who had a nightly show, all night show on WBAI radio in New York and his description was a yippie is a hippie whose been beat on the head with a cop's billy club and I would say a yippie was a someone who saw without even articulating, someone who knew that the right to smoke marijuana was related to the right to protest against a war, or it was just a sense of freedom and in terms of LSD, it was one of the drug of choice at the time. It was originally started by the CIA in the hope of an exploited I should say not distorted in the hope that it could be used as a drug of control. And the methodology, especially with people, which is what they did with their Mk-Ultra experiment, on unsuspecting volunteers. There was a process of de-programming and then reprogramming them in whatever way they wish. And what happened in the (19)60s was that the young people who experimented with LSD, and for the most part, the experiment was a success, one vehicle of connecting one conscious with one's unconscious, or subconscious and so they were able to program themselves to deprogram themselves from mainstream culture, which has so many inhumane aspects to it and reprogram themselves, not only reprogram themselves to a more humane value system, but to practice it it. To practice the alternative. Whether it was forming communes, or playing music or any of the arts it was it was a kind of utopian vision, but it was not just a fantasy. Which is why I am still doing research into the government had, what level the government had with wanting to neutralize that movement because think tanks saw how it affected the economy. And so I am supposed to meet up the former FBI agent who was in what they called the hippie squad, and where they among have other things they learned how to roll a joint. The better to infiltrate a commune. So, okay, so hippie, yippie, zippie.

SM: Yippie? Zippies were the latter group.

PK: Okay, so in 1972 when at the republican convention in Miami, I think both conventions were held there that year. And there were some people and I was in California I was not there at that time. And getting out an issue of The Realist which by the late queen of conspiracy researchers Mae Brussell (M.A.E B.R.U.S.S.E.L.L) and publishing an article, a front page article by her on the relationship, all of the implications of and the conspiracy behind the Watergate break in. And this was at a time when the President and the media was still saying it was just a caper or a third rate burglary. So you know, in my own function it was to stay there and get that out and not go to Miami. So there was some of the younger people from the Lower East Side mostly who they started calling out Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin's age difference. And they called themselves the Zippies. And, and they were, and it was, you know, and they would making bread while you know, while the yippies were trying to make friends with elderly people there, the zippies would kind of taunt them and it was a very tense atmosphere between them. The zippies later of course named themselves the yippies because obviously, you had a better brand.

SM: Would say that the, the issue with the zippies and the yippies was like, in some of the other, even in the civil rights movement where the Black Panther Party challenged Dr. King, Bayard Rustin, civil rights leaders that your time has passed, they were just basically telling Abbie and Jerry and the others your time has passed. Is that what they were trying to do?

PK: Oh, yeah, that that they were trying to say your time is passed but the other side of that coin was our time has come and so you know, they were creating dissension rather than cooperate.

SM: Yeah, one of the things that is when you look at the people that were in the yippies, they were, you know, you were in there. Jonah Raskin who I interviewed was in there. He has written some great books, and ones on Abbie. Obviously, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Robin Morgan, on the biggest names in women's studies. You had John Sinclair, Stu Albert, who I am learning more about Ed Sanders and Judy Gumbo and others. These are major people. How did you ever link up? You know, like, what I am really trying to get at Paul. You are a person who graduates trying to figure out who are and what you are going to become. You become a comedian. You get to you have that particular what when was the first time you met these people and you knew they were your friends and you had similar ideas and you hung out together? When did all that begin?

PK: Well, I was living on the Lower East Side now known as the village. And other folks I knew, including Abbie Hoffman, including Bob Fass would have a weekly meeting with called the Community Friends because we were not going to be the community with the milk of mines and I do not know some, some rhetoric like that, but it was just a group of people who and I became friends with them in the process. And then especially, I became friends with Abbie and Anita Hoffman and, and they were just two blocks away from me and so you know, we had a lot of dinners together and movies and I think the moment that my friendship with Abbie was cemented was when Abbie, I am sorry, Lenny Bruce had died the previous year. And I told that Abbie that he was the first one who really made me laugh since Lenny died and Abbie said, oh, really, he was my God. And so you know, there was, that was the only sense in which I believe in an afterlife. The posthumous network.

SM: Let me switch my tape here.

PK: Okay, I got my lemonade.

SM: I hear you live in a very hot area. Is that true?

PK: Yeah, this is Desert Hot Springs and the weather sometimes you know is like one hundred and twenty degrees.

SM: No humidity though.

PK: But I will tell you I would I never used to like air conditioning but I grew to appreciate it.

SM: Yeah.

PK: And, and my wife Nancy and I had just moved from Venice Beach and right you know a block away from the ocean.

SM: Mm hmm.

PK: So going from the ocean to the desert was a real what was the word I want?

SM: Culture shock?

PK: Yes, it had a certain culture shock, yeah that is the word.

SM: It is amazing how we use that term a lot. Even in passing. Yeah, and we were talking about these personalities and you getting to know Abbie. Now, before we get back to these personalities that were in the yippies, Lenny Bruce has a little boy growing up in the (19)50s I knew all about Lenny Bruce. And then the only thing I can remember as a little boy was I think he was refused? Ed Sullivan would not allow him on his show because he could not predict what he would say or something? I remember hearing that. And that he was way ahead of his time that and here you are a person who was involved in editing his what his biography?

PK: Yes, I was the editor of his autobiography. It was not it was not ghostwritten but Playboy hired me as his editor.

SM: What is amazing is when I think of as a little boy again now in the (19)50s and the people that there is two people that come to mind to me that I wish I knew more about its Lenny Bruce and Ernie Kovacs because they both died young, they were both very talented and I think sometimes they were misunderstood. What was it about Lenny that he was so ahead of his time you were one of his closest friends and he kind of pushed you into being a comedian too. He was kind of a mentor or a role model for you. What was it about Lenny?

PK: Well, he saw through the bullshit and aimed for the truth and ultimately, he just was going to have the same freedom in nightclubs that he had in his living room. But he was his antenna, his antenna was always out. A lot of the comedians I have met George Carlin is certainly like this.

SM: Oh one of my favorites.

PK: His mind was always going and going and going, you know, it was just his nature. It was almost as if he had no control over it. So Lenny really just wanted to make people laugh. He was not trying to change them. He, you know, when I asked him about that, he would say, well, you know, maybe they get changed for twenty minutes and then they were home and they were into something else, you know, so he had no delusions about that. But he just wanted to communicate without compromise, which is what I wanted to do with The Realist. And in fact, when Newsweek did a story, they quoted Steve Allen, who was the first subscriber, they quoted him as saying The Realist was the periodical equivalent of Lenny Bruce. So the connection was there. With what each of us did was did so, you know when we got together it was not small talk, you know, you would start several steps ahead.

SM: Can you honestly say, Paul, that if it was not for Lenny Bruce, you would never have been able to produce the Realist?

PK: I think it is more [laughs]no, because I started in 1958 and I did not meet him until 1959. Okay, and Lenny would have many would have surrendered his talent with or without me. The only thing I helped inadvertently helped him get arrested was when he saw the use of language in The Realist when I interviewed somebody. The example specifically was the late Dr. Albert Ellis who had in our interview, he talked about the semantics of profanity and saying that if fucking was a good thing, then, if you want to say something nasty to somebody you should say "unfuck you." And the first time I met Lenny, I had an advanced copy of that issue which I gave to him and he looked at it. This was in his hotel room in the theater district at the time, we were in New York. And he and he was looking through it. And he saw that, that dialogue, and he said, do you get away with that? Of course at the time, most virtually all magazines were not would have dashes or asterisks instead of spelling out the word. And so and I said yeah, it talks about the Supreme Court's recent decision then that something was obscene if it had prurient appeal. It appealed the prurient interests and had no social positive, social redeeming social value that was the phrase. And Lenny would say: prurient? What does that mean? And he got out of the suitcase that was on the bed in his hotel room, a large, an unabridged dictionary, which he had carried with him where he had event ̶ He was a mono-didactic south pawed semanticist as was George Carlin the difference between them being that improvised a lot whereas George Carlin wrote down and memorized everything he did. But the point of view was extremely similar. So you know both in making fun of organized religion and political leaders and Lenny's arrests were ostensibly for obscenity but actually for having this powerful hysterical targets but you know there was a law against obscenity there was not a law against blasphemy. And so that was when Lenny had only used euphemism by spring before that and he started using the language that anyway, he was not trying to be a martyr and he would use the language not the way of so many comics do today we as an all-purpose, noun, adjective, adverb, verb, epithet, whatever.

SM: Mm hmm.

PK: And so I am not saying that is a bad thing except it is like sort of a reduction of vocabulary but it takes the edge off, you know the magic powers of four letters in certain combinations.

SM: Yeah, I remember reading; you admit to Tallulah Bankhead the actress. Something about the use of that term, a four-letter word and somebody used the term food.

PK: Oh, no, no, no, this was Norman Mailer. Okay. The first time I met him and he and in The Naked and the Dead, he had used the word a "fub", (F.U.B) as a euphemism.

SM: Oh, okay. That is it.

PK: And I asked him if it was true that Tallulah Bankhead said to him, oh, yes, you are the young man who doesn't know how to spell 'fuck' and his response was something like, oh, yes, then you are the actress who doesn't know how. That is the background of that.

SM: When you were, I have a question here about The Realist too. But when The Realist was getting started to keep it going, you needed to raise funds and that is what that poster came in 'fuck communism' was not that the uh, you sold them to raise some funds to keep the paper going?

PK: Oh, no, no. Well, the background of it was just it was just from gone with the art director of Mad and did a column called Modest Proposal and he wanted to give me a gift, this poster and he has the word "fuck," but he did not know what the object of the verb would be and he would think about "Fuck America." And it kind of made me uncomfortable because the paradox of America was that we have the freedom to express ourselves as to how lousy the government was doing such as waging wars in our name and so I thought about it, and I said, how about communism? Because it was such great, at that time, it was such a great incongruity, because it was the conservatives who were for the war. And it was conservatives who were against using language like that. And so it was a little bit confusing to them. And when the post office questioned me about it, and because I was going to send them, I had, oh, I am sorry, the printer would not print it. I could not get the people who did the engraving of the plate that we needed. They would not do it. And so I decided that I would have mention of it in The Realist and do it as a poster and the red, white, blue word "fuck" with stars and stripes and the word communism as red with hammers and sickles and says in small print at the bottom additional copies available from the Mothers of the American Revolution. And um, so it was, you know, I mean it helped. It helped. If they had printed it in the first place, and I had just used it in The Realist, it would not have brought any additional income. So bringing income was inadvertent, that was not the original purpose of that.

SM: Okay.

PK: But, but it had a purpose, which was Robert Scheer. S.C.H.E.E.R.

SM: Oh yeah I know. Yup.

PK: Oh, okay. Oh, he would be a tremendous uncompromising journalist. And now he has Truthdig. He has what? "Truthdig" (with two g's) T.R.U.T.H.D.I.G. as an online magazine. So he came to New York we had met in when he was working at the City Lights bookstore in San Fransisco. We were just talking I did not even know it is 1963 early and I did not even really know about the Vietnam War much. And he was enraged by it and he started explaining to me what was going on. And he went and he was writing a booklet for The Republic. A West Coast think tank and he wanted to, but they would not send him to Southeast Asia so he can see for himself. And so I said well, what would a round trip ticket cost you? And he said one million nine hundred dollars. And by that time, we had sold about a couple of thousand at one dollar each, so I gave him a check for the uh, to go to Cambodia, Vietnam and, do his research. So you know that was a blessing in disguise.

SM: Okay.

PK: Of not printing it in the Realist.

SM: Well one of the most important things you know, I am a big fan of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. and we have actually had people from the museum when I worked at the university come and speak about it and of course, it has got a brand-new building now. But the question I want to ask you is The Realist what it was like to be the editor of an underground paper, and all the pressures just to survive as a paper during these times. And the second part of the question, which I hope is an affirmative answer, has the underground press, like papers like the Realist ever been recognized by the Newseum in Washington D.C. for all of the great things that press has done? It is part of the history of America after the war, and I am I was curious if you know anything about what the Newseum has done to pay tribute to or do programs on, the underground newspapers.

PK: I honestly do not know. I do not know.

SM: And Paul please speak up too.

PK: Yeah, I am just, I am mumbling because I just do not know actually. I mean, there have been books about it, there is a fellow named Abe Peck, he did a book called Uncovering the (19)60s, it was a history of the underground press. And I know, I know, I think the University of Michigan had a microfilm of The Realist. And now all the issues are being put online. But I do not know if there was ever, ever any official recognition of it, by the, you know, like the Smithsonian or any of the museums.

SM: I think that would be I am not, I could not do it. But someone like you. And the person who was the leader of one of the biggest names: The Realist but the other newspapers whether if they are truly a Newseum that they are whether they recognize the importance of the underground press.

PK: It is a great idea. There should be that. You know, they, I think that those times, everybody was living so much in the present they did not think of the future like that. But sure, it is, it is a part of, of journalistic history really all of them I mean, the LA Free Press, the original publisher of that lives near me. He is now into alchemy. What are they doing now and, longevity. And it is you know there is here and there is recognizing different ways people have collected that they sometimes try to sell on eBay but it could come to pass but let us face it, you and I aren't going to do it.

SM: The key thing is as a person who ran an underground paper all these years what pressures did you receive from the public to shut you down ever. I mean, did you when we talked about individuals being watched by the FBI and the CIA, whether it be you, Abbie, Jerry and others, what, what were they doing in respect to the underground papers? Were they doing the same things to editors around the country and were you worried about lawsuits? Because you are doing things that other papers are afraid to do.

PK: Well, first of all, The Realist never did any advertising. The weekly underground papers had big advertising from the cigarette companies, and the liquor companies and the government pressured them stop the advertising, which helped diminish the underground papers. You know, I got threats and certainly the FBI attempted to harass but the serious ones, the book to read unless you wanted to interview Abe Peck goes into a lot of detail about the pressures and the harassment and the sabotage of underground papers. But I was, and those that have had problems I would sometimes do benefits for papers who were having trouble but you know the details of how the pressure and the hassling came about are revealing. You know, while the FBI was accusing us of being a conspiracy, they were the conspiracy. Conspiring to diminish whatever effect on the underground papers had.

SM: Mm hmm. One of the things too and I am going to get to some of the general questions here in a minute that I asked a lot of other people, but one of the things I admired about the yippies from afar was their ̶ the way; their theatrical efforts. Because when I was in college guerrilla theater was very important. Something we do not ever see today. I do not if you were talking about guerrilla theater in college campuses today, they would say what the heck is that? But I have a book that noted a lot of the participants of the (19)60s are actually interviewed in is the importance of guerrilla theater in the whole (19)60s and (19)70s era on college campuses. And actually, when you think about the yippies, you are thinking about massive guerrilla theater. Just your thoughts on whose idea was it to come up with these skits? I know you did the, talked about the Wall Street, the dollar bills, levitating the Pentagon, but coming up with colorful outfits and some of the things! Like I saw Jerry, when he came to Ohio State, Jerry Rubin, he came there one night and he look just like he does right here in the front cover of Do It. No different. And he gave he gave a tremendous speech. The place was packed and he had so much passion I will never forget! They gave him a standing ovation. But whose idea was it to do the theater part? Did you did you have practice?

PK: When the House of American Activities Committee came to the bay area and Jerry was going to testify. This was his first encounter with using that kind of theater. And there was the San Francisco mime troupe. And Jerry had a meeting with Ronnie Davis who ran the troupe and it was Ronnie Davis who suggested to Jerry that he go to the hearings dressed in a revolutionary costume from the American Revolution. Which he did and we have got a lot of attention and then Jerry would make comments about what was going on with the playing the American Revolution. But I asked him one time, I said, Jerry, how did you feel actually doing that? He said, I felt like an asshole but I had to do it. Because he has an example, could break through, others could break through. You know, that was a lot of feedback that I got about doing The Realist, people said to me, you know, I saw that lightning did not strike you and so it made me freer. I mean, this was people who were in mainstream media. Who said that it gave them a little show to be a little bit more risky?

SM: I think that is what George Carlin said to today, I was reading something about that. When he was younger that did what Lenny Bruce did and what you did and others did was made him feel hopeful.

PK: I do not know. No, no, it was Kurt Vonnegut who said that The Realist made him feel hopeful. Carlin said, and he wrote and then Vonnegut said it in an introduction to one of my books, the Winner of a Slow Bicycle Race. But the Carlin quote came from an introduction he had written to another one of the books Murder at the Conspiracy Convention and in that he described how it was impossible for him to read The Realist without feeling inspired. So you know, that was one of the most honorable things that have been said about my work. I was very touched. And particularly because Carlin in turn inspired so many people who have never heard of The Realist, so it is kind of you know, you throw your pebble into the stream and then it makes its own ripple.

SM: Yes, yes. One of the things that the tragic things of this period is I was interviewing a professor last week Dr. Petchesky at Hunter College and we were talking about I said, I have always brought up, I bring up in some of the interviews Abbie Hoffman's suicide, and the note that he left because I remember he died over here in Bucks County not far from where I live.

PK: But wait a minute. I do not think he left a note.

SM: Well, I will have to look it up, but it was from the press I think at that time, he said no one was listening to me anymore was in the note. I got the article.

PK: I will um, it might be true, but I am sorry if I had not known that I was under the impression, huh.

SM: But what I am getting at is that Abbie Hoffman committed suicide, Phil Ochs committed suicide, this professor's husband had committed suicide and he was a big anti-war Professor up at Wellesley College, because he was so upset about the war, people were not ending it and he did himself in. And then of course, I interviewed Lewis Poehler and he committed suicide as well. A Vietnam vet even though it was in 1994. My question is this. When I asked this to this professor last week, Dr. Petchesky she said, you have got to understand that when you are dealing with all these personalities in this particular era of American history, there is a lot of other things going on in their lives besides just what you see the anti-war or civil rights activities over there. They could have depression, they could have manic disorders. There is a lot of other things. And also, there is so I do not know what your thoughts were because you were close to Abbie and you knew Phil Ochs. And I remember one hearing that Phil Ochs, I believe killed himself as well. When I think of Abbie, I and that note that was in the supposedly attached to the article, it said, no one is listening to me anymore. And to me that struck me right in the heart because here is a man that I believe dedicated his entire life to doing good things, even though he may have been theatrical at times. If you saw him on Phil Donahue, when he came out of hiding, you saw the real Abbie Hoffman, who cared about saving the Hudson River and doing so many good things. And then feel that here is a man who says that no one is listening to me anymore. And I like he had two thousand dollars in the bank. I mean, it is like, unbelievable, just your thoughts on the loss of Abbie and Phil Ochs.

PK: Two thousand, that is a lot. [laughs]

SM: Yeah, well, those are that I remember that in because he lived in Bucks County.

PK: Yeah. Well, you know, it was always the loss of a personal friend. At the same time, the loss to the culture of what more they could have contributed. And because they were public figures, I got calls from the media asking for some kind of comment. And I had to put my grief on hold in order to kind of respond. And so you know you cannot. No one can experience the pain of someone else's suffering. Unless they suffer it themselves and you can identify with them but you feel pain that you cannot stop their pain but anybody that takes their own lives it is both cowardly and courageous, simultaneous. And Abbie had been on some meds and went off of them which had something to do with it. That is the thing about antidepressants they have tools because they give you suicidal tendencies and he had been he had been diagnosed as a manic depressive and clinically and so whereas Phil Ochs had incredible stomach pain and when he was in Africa, his throat had been slit and affected the singing and to a certain extent that nobody is listening to me anymore was in his case how some people thought he was better than Bob Dylan and but still Phil had outshone him and it was a disappointment. So, you know, these are just human emotions and human nature and the only way I can handle it is that I was grateful to be here when they were here. And in a way, they are still touchstones. You know, I will think of something that I might say on stage and this is the touchstone of Lenny is will be: hey come on, do not do that, it is a cheap shot. I mean, there was a point where I thought that I was channeling Lenny till one time that I said, come on Paul, know, you do not believe in that shit. So then I no longer channeled him. And Ken Keesey, he still appears in dreams. But you know it is just a projection of my memory of them. I do not give it any mystical, so, you know and but these are all people who have inspired us and as Dylan said, What can be better than inspiring unless you are Charles Manson and you are inspiring others. [laughs]

SM: Yeah, I did not even know Abbie Hoffman but, the mere fact that people have criticized him not during this interview process but people that I know through my life, and I read some of his books and I saw him on TV I always considered him a lot different than Jerry Rubin. And in so many ways because I felt that he had the gift of humor, like you do. And I can remember reading in certain books that even inmates, even the police liked him, because he made the police laugh.

PK: Oh, yeah,

SM: He made people feel good. They may not have liked the other guys, they may not have liked Tom Hayden, or Jerry Rubin or Dave Bellinger or whatever. They may not have liked them for certain reasons, but they somehow even his enemies kind of liked him. Because it was the way of who he was how he talked to people. He made them laugh.

PK: In "Confession" I described them. I said that Abbie was, that Jerry was the right lobe of the brain and Abbie, I am sorry, I am sorry. Jerry was the left lobe of the brain and Abbie was the right lobe of the brain. Jerry would calculate things and Abbie would just be spontaneous.

SM: Wow.

PK: Abbie was truly witty and Jerry he once told me that he would listen to a Lenny Bruce album before he went out to make a speech but you know, you cannot capture that it is not something you can set a trap for. Okay, now I have humor in there.

SM: Yeah, the spontaneity you going to have it or you do not.

PK: Yeah, I mean, I do not, you know one of my oxymoronic maximums is: practice spontaneity.

SM: A couple of general questions I have here because this is a book on the boomers and all the things you are talking about is have taken place in boomer lives and people experience these personalities in your work as well. When in your opinion, when did the (19)60s begin and when did it end?

PK: Well, for me, it began in 1958 when I launched The Realist and it ended I think in 1974? When Nixon resigned? Okay. How important do you think the, I have been asking this question is for college students in ending the Vietnam War? It might have been (19)95. I am not sure but anyway, whatever year it was, that was it.

SM: Yes. (19)74.

PK: A nice symbolic ending.

SM: Let us see, the (19)60s begin and end? Yeah. The question is, how important are college students in ending the Vietnam War, in your opinion during the (19)60s and early (19)70s and how important were the yippies in this process? So some people, again, whether they are the liberals or the conservatives, because I have interviewed a lot of conservatives and they have a totally different opinion. That is what is great about this book project. They have all different thoughts, but what parts did the yippies play in ending that war in Vietnam? And what part did the college students play?

PK: Hard give a percentage, but I think that the largest percent biggest percentage goes to the Vietcong. And, and who inspired the protesters in the state? You know? We were not in harm's danger the way they were. You know, it started with some black students who got shot down south in 1968, I am sorry, 1970. And, and then soon after that it in May that year, the Kent State killings occurred and this is, by the way the year this May be the fortieth anniversary of that.

SM: I am going to be there. Oh, you are?

PK: Yeah. You know I wrote a piece about that with the help of one of the one of the victims Allison Krause, her sister.

SM: Oh yes.

PK: Her sister Lauren, Laurel with her mother has been organizing this truth commission kind of thing for this fortieth anniversary so and because it was never quite understood why, like I can email you that article.

SM: Please do. I will be there for the first through the fourth.

PK: Yeah, it is going to be a powerful event but so many. Again, this is, you know, part of the history that people do not really know. I am sure it is not taught in Texas, I am sure it might only be bought locally in Ohio. Who knows! I remember that night watching the Walter Cronkite on CBS Evening News and he opened it was something like it finally happened. And you know, of course you think what finally happened? World peace suddenly? But he said how American students were shot dead by the National Guard and it was just a shock. Even though I have to admit that I said out loud, "good" and the reason was because I felt it happened already. Even while I thought that was a horrific tragedy, even while I felt that, I said that, because there was nothing I could do about it had already happened and now because I remember that shootings of the black students two months before that did not get much attention if at all, I mean, it got some but miniscule. And when I said good, I meant now they'll pay attention because these were four white students. Because I shocked myself when I said that and I had a, you know, think why did I, you know?

SM: The Kent State students were killed on the fourth of May and the African American students, the two that were killed at Jackson State eleven days later.

PK: They were killed at Jackson State?

SM: Yeah, they were killed at Jackson State. I think it was eleven days later.

PK: Oh, okay. I was not sure of the chronology. But in any case, you know, that only strengthens the point I was trying to make, which is that the white students will be much more attention paid to them than the black students so you would think, that is not to make less or to negate the killing of the whites but you know.

SM: I have to change my tape. Al right, we are back. One of the questions I have been asking.

PK: Oh, by the way it was not the Hudson River it was the St. Lawrence River that Abbie was working on.

SM: Oh that Abbie was working on? Yeah, yeah because you remember when he went on the Phil Donahue show? He was in Seattle I believe. Phil was on the road. I was living in the Bay Area from (19)76 to (19)83 and I remember when he came on, and he had been in hiding. So this is the first time we would come out. And he had an operation on his nose so he looked a little bit different and he was remarried. And he had been living with his. I thought I had been on the Hudson, but the St. Lawrence then and he had been really working hard to save the river and he had been doing it for quite a few years under a different name.

PK: Yeah, the name he used underground which was Barry Freed.

SM: Right. The question I have been asking you we took students to Washington D.C. in the mid (19)90s and we met Edmund Muskie, it was at that (19)68 convention. The students, none of them were born obviously at that time, but we came up with a question about healing. Because there was a perception that America was coming close to a second Civil War. I remember reading about it. Some people say yes, some people say no, but the divisions are so intense, and they even came about at that convention in Chicago. And of course, it was the year the two assassinations and the president resigning and then Tet took place early in the year. And the question was this, with all the divisions between black and white, gay and straight male and female, both who for the war those who are against the war, those who supported the troops, those who did not, and all the divisions that took place, do you feel senator Muskie that we were close to a second civil war? And do you feel that this generation of seventy-four plus million people will go to their graves like the Civil War generation, not healing? And I will tell you, the senator's response after, I would like to hear your response. Whether you think we have an issue with healing in this nation, within that seventy some generation. And of course, let me say this, Paul, I consider you a boomer even though you were born in thirty-two. When I interviewed Richie Havens, who was born in 1940, he said, I have always considered a lot of people do not like these terms, boomers and Generation X and all this other stuff. But there is a linkage between generations of people who think alike and who were influenced by. And many of the leaders of the antiwar movement were born between 1940 and (19)46. They were not boomers that were defined as people born in (19)46. So what I call our pre-boomers, and pre-boomers are people who have ideas that were very influential on the generation that came about after World War II. So do you feel that as a nation we have a problem with healing?

PK: But you are not talking about when Muskie said it.

SM: I am going to let you know what Muskie be said in response to that question.

PK: I see. I see.

SM: But do you feel we have an issue with healing?

PK: Now? But you mean now?

SM: Yes right now.

PK: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. But the first thing the prerequisite for healing is to acknowledge what needs to be healed and the reaction to Obama's health care plan is the prime example of the hostility for, racism which was, even though it will be denied and even though he won the presidency there is another civil war. It is that the first civil war never ended. And it has come to the surface.

SM: Guess what?

PK: I, you know, I thought there would be another revolution. I did not know what would be the Tea Baggers. But it is not a revolution. So I am just saying because I wrote that article contacting Abbie Hoffman and Glenn Beck.

SM: You are right on target Paul because what happened is Senator Muskie said he thought he was the same guy that we saw who cried on TV, which many people felt that he was not a man and he could not be president. He had tears in his eyes and he could not respond right away. He waited a minute. And the students really admired him for this. And he said, we have not healed since the Civil War, and he said he had just saw the Ken Burns series on television. He died six months later too. He was not well, he had just gotten out of the hospital. And he said that that series touched me because we lost 440,000 men. And if you consider the percentage of the population of America at that time, we almost lost an entire generation, particularly in the south. And so, he said, we had not healed since the Civil War, talking about racial issues and the divide between North and South. And so I have gotten a lot of different responses. And he did not even he did not even respond to (19)68.

PK: Muskie, I mean, everybody interprets events through the prism of their own subjectivity. And so I know conspiracy researchers who said, oh, yes, one of Nixon's men, slipped a tab of LSD this is something that Muskie set adrift. Other people had said that there were variety but, but the one thing that occurs to me and I can understand it because when I was just talking about Keesey before, I almost teared up. And what happened was Muskies opponent had said something about the Senator's wife. Yes. And he said when you do that, you know, then you are not too far from like that and that was when he started, you know, weeping a little bit. Now of course, that would be considered. I mean, that was just sort of sexism really. Because it was okay for women to cry but not a real macho man. And so if someone was to do that now, it would be considered a good healthy thing. And even a sign of respect. And I think what was that movie one of my favorite movies and I forget the name, not network. Broadcast was it? It was where William Hurt.

SM: Oh!

PK: Got fired from a show because he had tears flowing down his eyes listening to somebody but, but it was ̶

SM: Mmmm.

PK: It was edited in to that that context, and I think he did it later. But it was it was that kind of thing now, you know, it was, if Mitt Romney could cry at will he would do it.

SM: Well one of the other issues that I have been trying to solve, I just wanted to say too that it is interesting that Obama prefers to distance himself from the (19)60s generation. All the time, he said, I am not the (19)60s. Yet he was criticized by many of his opponents, by thinking that he is bringing back to the (19)60s with his mentality being way to the left. So I find it interesting that we have a leader who wants to distance himself from that era, of that well actually, the boomer generation and yet he has been criticized by his opponents as bringing it back. So talk about an oxymoron here.

PK: Well, but, you know, that the thing about giving names to decades and generations, is that it is not that clear cut and so he spoke like, you know, I was going to say, like a true Boomer but you know, the protestors is really were just a small percentage of the boomers. I mean, it was not, a lot of people kind of stick it together and they are boomer bashing instead of (19)60s bashing.

SM: But what is interesting is he actually is a boomer, if you look at the terms because it was those born between (19)46 and (19)64, was not he born in (19)64?

PK: Oh, so I, you know, in the novel of writing, the narrator is a female reporter who was born in (19)64, and her mother was born in (19)46 so ̶

SM: Oh!

PK: So they book end.

SM: Oh, yeah.

PK: And have a lot in common because they communicate not because of the year they were born. But the Obama thing, I think it is more of attitude that you know, Obama was the first politician admitted to smoking marijuana and somebody said you know what you inhaled, or you enjoyed it. And he said, well that was the point. Not saying oh, I experimented with it like all the other young guys, but he did it because he liked getting high. You know so that depicted that aging hippies could identify with was him no matter what, what generation they were part of.

SM: The other issue I bring up besides healing is the issue of trust. And this boomer generation seems to be a very a generation that doesn't trust for obvious reasons, seeing so many leaders had lied to them during their lifetime. Whether it be President Johnson or the Gulf of Tonkin certainly Watergate with Richard Nixon. Nobody trusted Gerald Ford when he was giving a pardon to Nixon. Eisenhower lied about the U2. There were things about President Kennedy and what happened in Vietnam. That were suspicious. And there is another even as boomers have aged, there has been things that leaders have done, but you cannot trust them. Is that a good quality to have within a generation is the lack of trust? Because I think a lot of people will say that that generation, if you talk about a quality, they just do not they did not trust people.

PK: Well, I and I think they have earned the distrust. I mean, it has become a given now, you know, it was not even what was the ̶ what was surprising, about John McCain, saying that he was never considered himself a maverick is that there is all this footage of him identifying himself as a maverick, and even using the word in the title of his autobiography! That was how shameless these politicians are. But you cannot generalize and that was why so many people thought, who voted for Obama, thought that he was, that he really did give people hope, a hope for change. And so, you know, I have got back and forth disappointment. Now I am pleased by this, I am disappointed by that. Because if he got into the presidency, under the delusion that it could be bipartisan and, you know, I think it is so evil of the republicans to have voted against the health care process, not because they truly believed it, but because the name of the game was to give Obama his Waterloo at the expense of the countless people who have ever suffer and die because of that. And so it is no wonder that people are discouraged and cynical.

SM: And it is difficult for you to say but you have had a lot of people who have friends who are boomers in this age group you have seen throughout your lifetime. And by looking at them you think they have been good parents and grandparents and respect to two things. Number one sharing history and what it was like when they were younger and in making comparisons between then and now. And secondly, the activism that was seemed to be so prevalent within this generation. And again, I get criticized when I keep saying the boomers are only 15 percent we are probably activists of the seventy-four million. But still, that is a lot of people.

PK: And it has always been that way that the majority of people have a certain sheepishness about them. And it was Margaret Mead, who says, you know, individually, small groups of people can sometimes accomplish more. So it is not numbers but in the attitude of the public attention and having them ̶ see the contradiction. Its leadership.

SM: Yeah, you had a great quote in fact I got one chapter in the Grateful Dead Play the Pyramids. You have a line at the end of a paragraph here "what we need to do now", and this you are doing this with your beautiful satire though, "what we need to do now is hire Mexican workers as guest protesters so they can do the job that Americans do not want to do". And you were referring to the Bush administration and what was going on in the war in Iraq and making some comparisons. There was a draft during the Vietnam War now there is not really anything now of comparison. So that to me, is not that what you are really saying here?

PK: Oh, wait, did I say that in the context of the Grateful Dead?

SM: No, it was in the chapter. It was in the section the parts left out Chicago Ten.

PK: Oh yeah the Chicago Ten movement.

SM: Yeah. Yeah, I just think that is a beautiful statement, although people from people could miss read it, but that is to me it is satire and it hits it in a way that it connects truth.

PK: But I have said that on stage and the audience laughs and it is the kind of laugh that moves into applause because they take an image of you know, hiring of Mexican workers to march since, they have had proof of it in Los Angeles. But I do not, you know, I am used to being misunderstood. I want to be understood. But I think it was ̶ who said, please do not understand me too quickly. And that is one of the risks of trying to be as free as you can. Is being misunderstood and but, you know it. And that is why there is a need for damage control. [laughs] Or as I said that Toyota has borrowed McDonald's slogan, you deserve a break today. But you know a lot of the things or for the pope excommunicates himself, you know, a devout Catholic, might be offended by that, but you know, I cannot. It is just that that is the simple statement, you cannot please everybody. So, you know, any artist usually they want to reach as many people as possible but when it gets commercial art, then you kind of aim to a lower common denominator. And so I tried to aim for the highest common denominator and Dan O'Neill, a cartoonist said something real. And he said we have to remember we are not ̶ we are not fearless. And meaning that you know, that I thought my job as articulating the consciousness of the readers that I was just I had an outlet, before the internet, we are now the outlet and the creativity and imagination and insight and abilities of these citizen reporters and citizen video makers have make everybody an investigative reporter, or anybody can. You know, it helps to have training, but if you get a story that a ̶ journalist can all the better. The more the information there is, the more opportunities for people who deal in disinformation. To counteract it. I mean, that is the whole thing is that that really that we talked about that the republicans in cahoots with the pharmaceutical and the insurance industries have a tremendous propaganda machine and the only thing scarier than that is how many people swallow the line of that propaganda and it was disheartening. I mean, there are still people who think that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 911 even though it was finally denied. So, but you know, I think it was Mel Brooks says 95 percent of everything is bad. So it could be with, whether it is the movies or TV or Twitter, or whatever the medium is. And so if there was a, an ebb and a flow of power, you know, I did not even know the pope had approval ratings one way or the other, but, but it is being lowered now. Oh my god. Yes. So you know, it is so it is one big popularity contest and, public relations can hurt or help.

SM: Obviously, you are a little bit older and so was Jerry and Abbie and some of the Merry Pranksters, they were a little bit older. What when they were seeing these young people coming up on college campuses in the mid to late (19)60s and of course, SDS and the black power movement. And the women's movement then in the early, late (19)60s, early (19)70s, the gay and lesbian movement, the environmental movement, the Chicano movement, Native American, I mean, they all kind of came about same time. Some of them were, some of the leaders were followers were the younger ones but did you ever sit down as a group? And not just talk strategy but talk about what you thought about the generation known as the boomers. Did you think they were intellectually had generation just seen before? Were they smart? Were they knowledgeable? Were they courageous? What may have been some of the positive and negative thoughts you had on the generation?

PK: I do not think we ever referred then as the boomers.

SM: Okay.

PK: I do not know when the use of that term really started. Or, when it was popularized. We thought more of them in terms of their belief system and how they acted on it. And I say how they acted on it because I was a militant atheist. Until I realized at a certain point that Martin Luther King who had agreed to be interviewed by me, but the assassination interrupted that possibility. But he was but he, he was a Christian. And I interviewed George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi Party, and he considers himself an agnostic. So the epiphany for me was that it really did not make any difference. What anybody believed it was just how they treated others, you know, ultimately and so for your question there, oh about sitting around and boomers and so it was just easy, you know, either they were not for some it was whether they did psychedelics or not, and those were the students but it was really about I guess the closest encounter I had to that was with my brother who was while I was protesting about the war he was involved with selling helicopters that were being used Vietnam. And, so I, I felt that he was not an evil person I knew that and that he had a high security level, level of clearance and which almost was damaged by my being his brother. But, the thing is that he once said that in his lines of work that he was trying to make himself replaceable, you know, you could continue to drop along the line and I said oh, I was trying to make myself irreplaceable. So in other words, where he was talking about what was the kind of the machine grinding on and it was and so there was a level of conformity you have to do you know when you are in the corporate empire and so he was part of that scene and yet his contribution was perhaps greater than mine which was he was the co-author of the first textbook on space communication and he could appreciate the irony that people would come up to him and say you are Paul Krassner’s brother. And you know, it was only because I did stuff that got me the attention and he did not. But and so that is why that is why whatever level of fame I have, I do not take it seriously because it has nothing to do with, with me it has to do with whatever people's image of me is so because I try not to take the criticism personally, in the same sense I do not take the praise personally, just because I know if I want to praise somebody else's work, it is just an expression of my appreciation and it connects me with that person. But I have learned, you know, once I got passed my false humility that it was a mutual thing that all these people that I fell in with from Abbie Hoffman to Tim Leary, Ram Daas, Ken Kesey, that there was a mutuality, you know, we respected each other. And that was not a one way thing like, you know, a fan and the celebrity.

SM: Okay. You just liked being around each other.

PK: Liked what?

SM: You just like being around each other.

PK: Ah, yeah, yeah, it was. You know, it was interesting because a lot of these leaders were serious but they all had a sense of playfulness too you know, as I discovered when I was at some party, there were a lot of new age gurus. And I had just been covering the Patty Hearst trial and standing around in the kitchen at this party and the gurus were talking about some of the difficulties they will have with their servants and I said you know, that was just what I what the Hearsts were talking about. So, you know, that was my role. To be a court jester.

SM: Do you think it was a mistake for Jerry Rubin to say do not trust anyone over thirty, he was twenty-nine when he said it. I know somebody who will say that is the most one of the most ridiculous statements ever because he was one year away from being thirty himself.

PK: Well, it is a mistake to believe that Jerry Rubin said it.

SM: Okay.

PK: It was said by Jack Weinberg at the free speech movement that sort of triggered the free speech movement. He had been arrested and was in a police car on the Berkeley campus, which got surrounded by students. The police cars could not move. And then other people were jumping on top of the police car and bouncing on it. And then he was in the backseat ok, officers are in the front at this point.

SM: So he was the one that said it.

PK: I always think that, I knew what he meant. I knew what he meant. I, you know, I, and I knew it was ageist and I knew it was a generalization and argued against it. You know, I argued that you needed people on the inside, if we were over thirty, like Daniel Ellsberg, who released defense who was in a position to really defend risk takers.

SM: Right, right.

PK: So I tried my best not to generalize like that, but it was it was a statement. It was rhetoric really. And, it was just, it was just kind of acknowledging that there was a certain generation gap. But it was not meant that literally any more when Abbie Hoffman said kill your parents, and he had two kids, and he was not wanting them to kill him, and Jerry Rubin borrowed that. And Jerry Rubin was an orphan so it was a moot point. And, you know, there was some rivalry between them and the National Enquirer picked up Jerry saying that and he was on the front page of the Enquirer, the picture of Jerry saying, and the headline was something like: Yippie leader says "kill your parents."

SM: Oh, my gosh!

PK: I objected to it. Ironically, because it would be misunderstood but it was obviously a historical metaphor about it was like when I when I left college with only three credits needed to graduate, one course. I was killing my parents, in a sense, in that sense. I mean, that is the sense it meant, symbolically. Not living up to the vision that they had, that you would become.

SM: Well, I know that Miri Savio, when the leader will always the main speaker of that movement. He is ̶ there is a brand new book out it is a very good book by Dr. Croen from NYU, I encourage you to read it. It is a great book. And he talks about the fact that it was the differences there was that his generation, that generation of the Free Speech Movement was we were a generation of ideas. And we are not a generation of careers like our parents. And that was the big split right there. And I interviewed Arthur Chickering, the great educator who wrote Education and Identity which was a textbook used in higher education, the early (19)70s and when I interviewed him, he was telling me the biggest weakness today in the university is we have gone back to exactly what it was before the Free Speech Movement we would become a corporate University again. And that is his biggest criticism as an educator is the corporations are priority number one in higher education and of course, Clark Kerr's Multiversity, and he explained that back then the students were trying to change it, but I guess what goes around comes around again. I have a couple more questions here. How long were you involved with Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters? Who were they and why are they important as cultural figures?

PK: Well, Let us see. I did not go on the bus trip. But Kesey always said you are either on the bus or off the bus but he said to me, you were on the bus even though you were not on the bus. And so it was about, I met him first, he had read The Realist and Kesey told me that when I published the issue with the parts of that out of the Kennedy book, which had to do with an act of presidential necrophilia, in a context built up in literary form of apocrypha so that started to think it was totally true and then things that were known by reporters but not by the general public, and then things that were happening and leading up to this climactic scene. And so, Neal Cassidy who was driving the bus and one day he was reading this and he handed back issue too Kesey and said and fit, hey chief, you better take a look at this. And, so we knew of each other's work and then I met him for the first time at the Berkeley campus during the first Vietnam feature and which I was emceeing and he came up to me and continued a conversation that had never started. He did not introduce himself, he just came up and said his wife, you know, Fay was just as saying; because the connection already existed before we actually met and I mean, I was fortunate to have a magazine where I could meet these people and interview them and you know, and they would and I could never have that opportunity interacting with it without the magazine. And so the point I was going to make. It will come back.

SM: The Merry Pranksters?

PK: Well anyway, and then that was I think around (19)65 maybe. And then in 1970, I got a call from Stewart Brand, publishing the Whole Earth Catalog and he had asked Kesey to edit the last supplement for the Whole Earth Catalog, and Kesey said he would do it if I could co-edit it with them and so Brand called me up and asked me that and I remember answering yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! And when I moved to the west coast San Francisco and then Venice Beach. And so we became close friends during that time when we were putting out preparing the last supplements. And then I spent a lot of, we would spend Christmas there sometimes and my daughter Holly and I would, that is how Holly became part of the extended family and, and then I did go on, there was a reunion bus trip and I went, I did go on that. But until we get to the heart of your question what the original bus trip went across country. It looked like you know, kids used to want to run away with the circus this way they wanted to hitch a ride on, on the bus further, right? It was colorful. It was humorous. It was gentle. It was like a traveling the guerrilla theater and the people who joined in became part of it. You know, we just hung around and talk to people on the bus or marvel about all of the paintings that were around it and so it was it was a certain kind of, it turns people on. And, you know, it was like a movie, you know the colorful gas, but with these colorful figures popping out it was like aliens in a way. And I remember on the on the reunion trip Kesey was at the back of the bus and he was filling balloons with helium and with a string attached and giving them to kids and this woman and her young son came by and he gave one and the mother gave Kesey a quarter. And he said, with a smile, so she would know he was kidding. He said, "what a quarter? I am a famous author, madam." And she did this double take she did not know whether she had embarrassed him or, or whether she should give him $1.00 was a nice moment, as it was, you know, it was revealing his personality that he was doing that he did not assign it to somebody.

SM: Right.

PK: And, and he was he was always gregarious. He and I did a lot of events together and then we would hang around with the college booking people or whoever organized the event. And Kesey said that was really part of the deal so they could hang around. And it was true. And humbling, you know, which brings me right back to your original question about how I felt about my life. You know, whether I was proud of it and it was more of more, more gratitude than pride. And you know, both often as an atheist, you know, I, I still felt gratitude but there was a phrase I used in one of my books The Tell Tales of Kung Foo about a man with a fifteen inch Schwanz and very popular with the ladies.

SM: Hmm.

PK: And one of the characters in that says, God never says you are welcome. And I thought yeah that that, that that summed it up. I am in awe of nature and of evolution and lately becoming almost as much in awe of technology.

SM: Of course Ken Kesey he was a great writer too, yeah a great writer. Because of your work with The Realist and your magazine articles and everything and books you were able to link up with these people. You linked up with the Beats. I know there is things in there about Allen Ginsberg and obviously some of the Merry Pranksters, I think. Neal Cassidy was one, I believe, and um, how important were the Beats? I know there is this section in one of your books where Jack Kerouac is asked about whether the Beats were part of a social movement of protests, and he said, no, we were just, we were not about social protest. And he disagreed with Allen Ginsberg on this, on some sort of a panel.

PK: It was not a panel, this was at the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of On the Road.

SM: Right.

PK: And it was in Golden, Colorado at Naropa, the Buddhist College.

SM: Yes.

PK: I was a moderator and the panelists were William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman and Tim Leary.

SM: Is that on tape? That should be a documentary that should be on tape! That should be seen! Golly!

PK: I probably have a cassette of that particular panel.

SM: Wow.

PK: And I quoted from it in ̶ biography and it was so it was, so Ginsberg and Abbie were, were arguing about whether the, this panel title has something to do with, with a socially activist ̶

SM: Mm hmm.

PK: And, and Abbie's, Allen's point was that Kerouac and the Beats, they were neither winning nor losing this conspiracy. And Abbie argued, you know, that you were being political, when, when you hired that case that that lawyer obscenity case you wanted to win so, and that was Abbie's point of view. And I asked as moderator when Ginsberg had said that, I asked Abbie, well I forget how I phrased it but I quoted Abbie for quoting Che Guevara who said in a revolution one wins or dies. And so, so it was really a discussion about not winning or losing but winning and losing were kind of equal in the sense and it gave me a flashback to when I was an adolescent. And I played baseball and basketball. And I never cared if my team won or not. I just played my best, you know, it has just been because I was obsessed with infinite time and space, it would give me a headache. So I, you know, and so a game like that, you know, I could understand how people get disappointed or get thrilled, depending on whether they lost or won.

SM: Right.

PK: But, you know, ultimately it was just a game. And unfortunately, that is the way the politicians are, going back to why there is much skepticism. To them it is just a game,

SM: Right.

PK: And the goal of the game is to get reelected and so and so their occupation has become fundraising.

SM: Appreciate it.

PK: It is simulating so you know.

SM: Yeah, your, your life is just like, I wish I was in person I could interview all day, eight hours. I mean, you got so much and I have so many questions here. And I am not going to get into all of them. But one of the things here is, it is, I am fascinated because you obviously are a very outgoing person because you have made so many friends in so many different areas, whether it be the yippies or the merry pranksters or the beats or writers all over the country. You name it. I even saw you on TV. I saw a video on TV where you were on a panel with the former mayor of San Francisco's daughter. She was on there you were reminiscing the (19)60s.

PK: Oh, wait was that Alioto?

SM: Yes, she [Angela Alioto] was she was the daughter of the mayor of San Francisco. She was on the panel. You spoke and she spoke in it and she made a comment about you know, the she her dad kind of hid her from things, but she had to sneak out to enjoy the (19)60s as a seventeen year old or something like that.

PK: That is right. Yep. I remember at a dinner party that my daughter gave where I told her about, when I had a radio show in San Francisco. Her dad was going to be somebody, the producer arranged for him. No it was not arranged. I did not have a producer, it was that they were on tour with the mayor and his bodyguard, whoever they were ̶ And he and he wanted to be on the program ̶ perform an interview, but I was but I was told that I could not ask a certain question about some rent control or some question that he had been involved in. And I said if I cannot ask him that I am not going to interview him for that. So I think a guy from the news department interviewed him instead.

SM: Oh my gosh!

PK: I got a kick out of that.

SM: One of the things about Timothy Leary, of course, Ram Daas, I did not know that he had a stroke. He was that I saw him on television just the other day on some sort of a documentary. But one of the things when I interviewed people, and I mentioned these names at the very end for just responses and comments. I have not gotten one positive on Timothy Leary. Everybody's negative about them in every single way. And when they mentioned Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, and occasionally some people talk about Abbie and nobody will ever say anything positive about Jerry Rubin. But the question is this, he is known for his slogan "tune in, turn on, drop out" and for a lot of people that believed that the ̶ (19)60s was all about not tuning in turning on and dropping out but about being out there on the front lines like the yippies were. Seems like that is even counter to yippie thinking that you can turn on, yes. But to drop out? Just your thoughts on that slogan and whether that is really hurt his image overall beyond his links to drugs because that is the biggest negative.

PK: First of all, since You have gotten, let me first say, you know, I have positive things to say about Abbie. Positive things to say about Jerry Rubin and Jerry Rubin got criticized a lot because he became a yuppie.

SM: Yep.

PK: And they went around, toured the map, Abbie and Jerry went around having debates, the yippies versus the yuppies which I moderated. At one point, I made a remark that they were throwing money in the stock exchange. Today, that means then, this time Jerry would invest it. And of course Leary, Leary was a friend and I have positive things to say about him. You know, the point is that people remember what the media said about them. And I just know one thing that Kesey said to me, we were talking about his image. And he said, and he said, the difference between his energy and his image, my energy is what I do. My image is what people think I do.

SM: Mmm.

PK: And so that is, that is the way it is, and people get used to shorthand used to describe people and it becomes like a quick caricature. And you know, or the movies I have seen whether it is a biopic about Billie Holiday or Lenny or others that I might know personally, it is always difficult. I did not know Billie Holiday but the thing happened to her but people who did see the movie were horrified by how it left out the basic truth but he died on the way to the hospital because other hospitals would not admit her because she was black. And that was not in the movie. How could it not be? And so the same thing with Lenny and the same thing with a movie about Abbie, and so people get the images from the entertainment rather than from history.

SM: Mm hmm.

PK: And so what exactly was your question then?

SM: It was whether you think that that philosophy have "tune in, turn on, drop out" it seems to be a negative term and just about everybody I have spoken to. You know, when I mentioned the name, that is all they think of is "tune in, turn on, drop out".

PK: [Inaudible]

SM: And even on television a week ago, you might even be able to find it on CNN, they were up at Harvard University, and they were interviewing college students at Harvard, they said, did you know that the LSD was started here at Harvard? And the students were saying, yes, yes, I know. But then some said, do you want to talk about it? Have you ever taken it? And some said, yes. And another said, no. And then some would say, I am not going to talk about it. And they all knew who Timothy Leary was, but there was a perception that it was a negative for Harvard. That was the bottom line.

PK: Yeah, and understood. That you know, they have no inclination of countercultural history. Even though it is part of history, it is marginalized. And so it is understandable, you know, there is probably people now who think that Abbie Hoffman is the Congresswoman from upstate you know, and it is their fault. But they cannot be resented for it, they just did not learn about it and the more time goes on the more there is to learn and is unlearned. You know, that is unfortunate, but the people that they did influence are the better for it. And you cannot win them all. Or you cannot lose them all.

SM: Right. The one thing I have here and again, these are just direct questions to you. Do you think your links to the issue hurts your effectiveness as a cultural critic as a satarist now and I am might even be saying with Tim Leary's image, the idea here is that drugs take you away from reality? Do not you have to be in reality to change it? And, I know I have read your books and I understand the experience and some writers say they can even write better on marijuana or LSD, some of these other experiences. But do you think people are ever going to understand drugs and understand not only obviously a part of history, but the effect that has and there is still this all it is always negative, it is all negative?

PK: Well, that is because it goes back to the propaganda machine. The Partnership for Drug Free America was founded and funded by the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries for all of whom a drug, a weed that you grow in your garden, your window garden for nothing was a threat to the economy, to their, their industry why would anybody if they had all the facts want to smoke cigarettes they have killed one thousand two hundred people a day or marijuana which gives you a good feeling and it is not addictive as cigarettes are and who and that make that allows people to be more social and they credit it as being an aid to creativity or ̶ or for medicine now that now that you seem to be on the point of it is possibly marijuana possibly becoming legal, and the right thing being done for the wrong reason you know they are not doing it as a as a moral imperative they are doing it because the country's going broke and so it has gotten bad press and but more and more, just like gays came out of the closet, people are coming, you know, Ellen DeGeneres was on the cover of Time saying yep, I am gay and it is possible that they'll have it a photo of somebody on the cover of Newsweek saying, yep, I am stoned. I think that will be an advance. Because as long as any government can arbitrarily decide which drugs are illegal or illegal, then anybody in prison on the on the nonviolent drug offense is a political prisoner. That is my position.

SM: Just a couple more, and then we are going to be done. Okay, now looking at the music of the era, you know, it is too much to ask you, you know, every musician that you are liked, but when you look at all of your experiences in the (19)50s, the (19)60s, the (19)70s, and maybe the (19)80s, or even beyond, are there a few songs that stand out more than any other that you feel had the greatest influence? You personally maybe number two, the whether it be the merry pranksters or the yippies or just the boomer generation as a whole those born after (19)46 which musician which musicians and music or specific songs have the greatest impact.

PK: Oh, Let us see. I guess the one that comes to mind is John Lennon's Imagine.

SM: Mm hmm.

PK: Because, you know, it was outrageous to hear a song with "imagine no religion", and then here is played by muzak in an elevator. So you know, and I would love the Senate Glee Club singing “Imagine no possessions." But anyway, it was really ̶ song of uniting people rather than fighting at that song was really about. And, and I think that is what but no one either as a (19)60s generation or whatever. But whatever it is that the thing that stands out about that like Woodstock, that there was a sense of community and their sense of cooperation as opposed to competition. And, so those, those are the qualities that fight for advance and you know, there are there are people who say they are always good and evil. And um, but, but you know, and if that is true I remember once I was saying, it is never going to end and he said what? And I said when is it going to end this battle between good and evil. And my friend said, maybe never. And suddenly I was relieved. So, just do the best you can, instead of trying to save the world to start with yourself and work your way out.

SM: Very good advice.

PK: With the thought that the people that you have touched, will work their way out. And at least it is not so overwhelming a soul as to change world. You know. Socrates said, know thyself. Norman Mailer said "be thyself" and the counterculture said "change thyself."

SM: Hmm.

PK: But that that is the evolution of "know thyself"

SM: Essentially because I was coming right into the terms. I have probably half the interviews I have done and not the early one back in the late (19)90s. When I first started this, and that is, there were three terms that seemed to stand out symbolizing the boomer generation that grew up after 1946 to (19)64. And then asked people to respond to these three and then one came up, which was a fourth one. The first one was Malcolm X said "by any means as necessary" they were symbolizing the more radical, violent aspects that whether it be the Weatherman or some people; black power, the Black Panther Party or the Young Lords and the Chicano movement, what happened at the end of the AIM situation (19)73 at Wounded Knee. The second one was Bobby Kennedy, which was Henry David Thoreau's quotes. I do not usually get the quote 100 percent right but you do "some men see things as they are and ask why. I see things that never were and asked why not" which is symbolic.

PK: Bobby Kennedy said that.

SM: Yes, but it was originally a Henry David Thoreau quote.

PK: Oh, I did not realize.

SM: Yeah, and that symbolized the activism, the concept that I want to make a difference in this world and I am going to fight injustice and make the world a better place to live. And the third one was kind of what was on a Peter Max poster in 1971, which I thought was more of a hippie mentality, which was "you do your thing and I will do mine if by chance we should come together it will be beautiful." That was a Peter Max poster is saying I know that was very popular in (19)71. And the other one that came up from other people was We Shall Overcome symbolizing the civil rights movement. And the only other one that a few people have said is John Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for, ask what you can do for your country. And then the Timothy Leary too quote that I mentioned earlier, are there some quote You have already mentioned quite a few quotes today, even some of the yippie quotes and your quotes and is there a quote that you feel is also very important that defines the boomer generation?

PK: Not the boomers or the boomer generation, I was going to put people identified. Yes, it could be. With Harry Chapin the singer songwriter said "If you do not act like there is hope there is no hope."

SM: Hmm.

PK: And then there is my own which is "If you eat a pub sandwich at a delicatessen, be sure to take the toothpick out for your first bite."

SM: That is a good one.

PK: That is my philosophy.

SM: That is a very good one.

PK: You got to be practical before you get into the deep stuff.

SM: Right?

PK: If you have a bleeding upper palate, it is not no fun.

SM: It is a good point uh, Paul when you think of the ̶

PK: Was the pun intended?

SM: What?

PK: You said "good point", no pun intended?

SM: No! no! No! No pun intended.

PK: Pun intended.

SM: P.U.N. right?

PK: P.U.N. as in toothpick.

SM: Yes. The pictures. I think I know what you are going to say in this because I read one of your books that the pictures that you feel define the generation because pictures say a thousand words, oftentimes, and when I thought of the (19)60s and (19)70s, I think of three pictures that came to mind and but when you think of, say the (19)50s (19)60s (19)70s or (19)80s, what are the pictures that come to your mind photographs that were in front of newspapers or magazines that if they had not read a thing they could, it would tell a lot about the time that we are talking about.

PK: Well there are two sides to pick from, besides the big one, one is a horror picture of a group of people including a little naked girl running in Vietnam had just had been splashed with Napalm.

SM: Thats Kim Phuc, that is one of them.

PK: Uh, huh .And, on the other hand, it was a poster. It was originally going to be it was "the war is over." And I think it was and the design on a poster was going to be that classic one of from World War II of the sailor kissing a woman on the street. And feminism was an early contemporary feminism, was in it is early phase and so there was a kind of sensitivity to even the implication of that, you know that it is good that the war was over, but that was no reason to impose yourself on a stranger and so to be politically correct, there was a photo on the poster of a Vietnamese woman with her arms outstretched and there was doves, white doves, perched on her arms in that gesture.

SM: Wow.

PK: And that is kind of the anecdote to the other one.

SM: Of the three that I was thinking of in that you mentioned one. One was the three athletes at the 1968 Olympics, the black power with the fists up. Right.

PK: Tommy Smith and John Carlos and the third one was the girl over the body at Kent State. Jeff Miller was shot and Mary Vecchio that made the front cover of Newsweek and won the Pulitzer Prize that picture. And the one that I thought you were going to mention was the one of the gentlemen putting flowers in a gun at the 1967 protest at the Pentagon. Oh, yeah, that ̶ actually was yippie organized. He was known as "Super Joel."

SM: Mm hmm.

PK: But the other one also stands out. Another horrible one was the Vietnamese, South Vietnamese general shooting?

SM: Yes.

PK: Sitting there on his knees, shot him in the head.

SM: Yep.

PK: That, that kind of remains.

SM: Another one was the, the My Lai massacre where you have the picture of all the people alive and then all of them dead on the ground.

PK: Yeah.

SM: That, that is a, that is a terrible picture too.

PK: There was a photo I had taken by Paul Avery a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who investigated the Zodiac and Patty Hurst case, and he had been in Vietnam and the photo which I had on my wall many years. And it was of both mother and child, obviously has been geared by Vietnam, just looking out in horror, looking directly at you. And then when my daughter came to live with me, she said Daddy, why do you have that on the wall? And I said, Well, you know, it puts my problems in perspective. But then one time, after I had been living there for ten years, Ken Kesey came to visit us and we had such a relationship that he could get away with this and he just ripped it off the wall and he said it is time to take that off the wall. And you know, you would not want a stranger to do that, but, but I saw Kesey's point of view and you know, because but I had wanted to see it because that picture so horrified me at first it just became part of the scenery you know, you can ̶

SM: Right.

PK: Just repetition just each time I looked at it another level, another layer of edge was taken off and it just and it was kind of a metaphor for horror in general you know what people have gone on through that, you know, you cannot really remember pain, you can remember having it but and then so it is like that with art. You have it on your wall and then it is there and it is there and that is it. But if you move it to another place in the house and you are tense again. But I think what has happened is a lot of people have become inured to horror by twenty-foor/seven news cycles as well as all of the Chainsaw Massacre movies. Just part of the culture.

SM: You cannot end an interview without a couple of things that you said in your book that needs to be on record. That is the, the positives of the counterculture. I am very pleased that you have given me the names of these individuals to interview to make sure that their point of view is heard and it will be. But in your book, you mentioned four or five items here that are very positive results, lasting results of the counterculture. And I just want to mention them, and you can expound on any of them if you want to, but organic food, environmental movements, the alternatives spiritual practices, which I see all the time with our students, alternative medical practices, certainly the peace movements that are ongoing even though we would like to see more of them. Organic food is a big one. It is part of our life now. And so, if You have any thoughts on what any more that you can say about some of the positive results of the counterculture that the critics never mentioned,

PK: Well, well, what we really wanted we wanted to have people in the future party with a (19)60 theme where everybody could have oregano in a baggie and give it to other people, in their tie-dyed shirts. That was our real goal.

SM: I did not hear you what? I said that was our real goal. To inspire (19)60s fashion parties in the (19)70s and (19)80s. Really?

PK: Not really! But you have to take the risk of being misunderstood.

SM: I do not remember reading that in the list. Go ahead. [laughs]

PK: But it is as if but it is as if that was it that is the only you know, evolution continues and, and something else deems campy when it was the way that we lived our lives. But you know and so that is why it is important not to remain frozen in the (19)60s, because I would miss a lot of this century then.

SM: You, obviously you are really anybody who is in a position of responsibility or I do not want to say always authority but somebody who is out there speaking their mind having points of view the ultimate integrity, Arthur Chickering, the great educator Rhodes educated identities, said the ultimate is integrity. Integrity means I know who I am. I know what I stand for. I know what I believe in. I am willing to be criticize and praised for it. I am strong enough to take both. And I believe you are that kind of person too. And it is interesting when you have the kinds of critics here like a Harry Reasoner, I remember this. I remember Harry Reasoner I remember he did not treat. Forget her name very well, when she was on television with him, um Barbara Walters. "Krassner not only attacks, establishment values, he attacks, decency in general." You have got to be a pretty strong person to be able to handle that kind of stuff.

PK: Oh, well, I never. I was amused by it and the noise of being coupled with Joe McCarthy when he said that McCarthy and I were the only people that Harry Reasoner would not shake hands with if he met them as part of his professional career.

SM: Wow.

PK: And so I was annoyed by the fact that says Senator Joe McCarthy had immunity from with everything he said whereas I had to deal with the possibility of libel so I was amused by it otherwise and was going to try to arrange with a photographer friend that could get me into a party where Harry Reasoner was going to be just so I could introduce myself and put my hand out to shake so that the photographers could get a photo of that and then I could publish it with his quote underneath.

SM: Hmm.

PK: I never got around, but you know, I just had learned that he said for his needs, not mine

SM: And of course he died way too early too I think he fell down stairs or something like that.

PK: But again I had a one person show in Los Angeles and it was called Attacking Decency in General, so nothing gets wasted.

SM: Right! [laughs]One couple things I want to throw in here I love the quote you had in your book Dave Dellinger said "the power of the people is our permit." I thought that was a beautiful that is a quote. And of course Phil Ochs, even though he has passed on. I Ain't Marchin' Anymore is still a very important music that goes through many generations. So his legacy lives on.

PK: In fact, a documentary about Phil Ochs in production now.

SM: Oh, really? That is good.

PK: But that will hopefully bring a, somebody is also writing a screenplay about him. And Sean Penn originally wanted to do something about him and play him and even do the singing. So it is good that is his legacy.

SM: I am down to my final two questions here. And one of them is the Twinkie defense. I cannot as another term that came from you. And that is because I did not know until I read the book that that that term came from you. And of course, I lived in the Bay Area when that happened. I was in Burlingame. And I was there from (19)76 to (19)83. So I was out there when all this happened, and the two killings and then the trial and, and then of course, he committed suicide a couple years later, but just your thoughts on comparing that experience of being out there in San Francisco when all this happened to compared to some of the other things, this is like this is (19)78 now we are talking about this is not the (19)60s.

PK: Well, you know what, I covered the Patty Hearst case and a trial and, and the Dan White trial and I was struck by the contrast between because Patty Hearst was kidnapped and forced to be present with a machine gun when a bank was robbed. And she had to and she was, and she was found guilty. Whereas, Dan White deliberately committed a double political execution and got off easy and that is it summed up by Lenny Bruce's maximum that "In the halls of justice the only justice is in the halls."

SM: Hmm. Wow. Yeah because I, I was I were you outdoors that day when Joan Baez was singing it was the outdoor event? It was after the I guess the caskets were inside City Hall and they had that event out there they had a flyer and seemed like?

PK: Oh yeah, I remember that.

SM: There were thousands of people.

PK: Marching with candles.

SM: Yes. It was an unbelievable experience to be there, another person murdered.

PK: Because I got caught in the post-verdict riot and beat by the cops and which affected my whole posture and my gait. So it is you know, it had its own effect on me.

SM: Right, how you doing?

PK: Well, I have walk with a cane now, so I would skip over that. But you know, I would like to do it over. But I have to accept the reality of it. So.

SM: I think Rex Weiner said that he was there too. He was there. Maybe not with you what with others after that verdict was given, he was pretty upset. And the last question I have here is, again, it is kind of goes back to the first question. How do you feel as time passes? As all the people who experienced what you experienced pass on I am feeling this now and I am 60, my parents felt this when all their friends were going on. I saw them in the World War II generation. And it is like, it worries me because I worry our history just is not there when we are gone. But here is my question. How do you feel as time passes as all the people who experienced what you experienced pass on? Are you fearful that one: time will wipe out you and your peers history away from the history books, because of the people who will be writing it when the boomer generation is all gone? They did not live during that period. And secondly, fear that the future writers will look at the yippies, your work as nothing but the theatrics? Acting childish, adults never growing up? No real meaning beyond what I just mentioned, because that has been some of the critics of a lot of the boomer generation, that they never grew up.

PK: That is a good question because I have thought about that and you know, I had the fantasy that my autobiography would become required reading because it has gotten a lot of praise and it was Art, the fellow who wrote Art Spiegelman who wrote Maus, and got a Pulitzer prize for it, and they called my book the definitive book about the (19)60s and because my life kind of was a microcosm of how that evolved. And so that is, that is my contribution to that history and you know, I cannot, I will not know about it when I am dead, of what they say about whatever my legacy is, but you know, there is nothing I can do about it and I cannot worry about it. It is just, you know, you do what you do. It is all summed up by Popeye "I am where I am." So I um, and, you know, and in the long run, ultimately it doesn't matter, you know, there is only so much history people can absorb. And, and my personal history is nothing in comparison to global warming. And so I just try to keep my perspective.

SM: And so when you talk about your lasting legacy that is what you are saying then ̶

PK: That what?

SM: What do you hope your lasting legacy will be and what would you think the lasting legacy ̶

PK: Oh my lasting legacy, I want to be that whoever I inspired will inspire other people, so it continues on with the without me. You know, I have my goal was to communicate without compromise, which is what Lenny's was and most of the people I know, and I was fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to do that. And then so you know, if I can whenever something happens, I am always aware of, is something I can do about this or not something I could do about it? And if there is not something I can do about it then I go on to the next thing. And, you know, and it is a lot of decisions, whatever passes before your perception. You know, going to get involved and not get involved. And the older I get, the more of my priorities fall in place. And it is too late, you know, I would like to have the novel I am working on become a best seller, but if it doesn't, at this point, you know, as my wife once said "process his product" and so I am enjoying the process of it.

SM: That is what I am doing.

PK: I am pleased through that Simon and Schuster published the autobiography Confessions of a Raging Unconfined Nut, Misadventures in the Counterculture in 1993. And since then, I have expanded on it, and it is about to be published digitally. And so, you know, people will be able to get it on their iPads or whatever. So, so my legacy is, in my case, what I have written, and that can go on and, that is it, you know.

SM: And lastly, what do you think the legacy of this boomer generation will be? Again, if someone is born right after World War II, that was how they were defined. There were all these babies born after World War II.

PK: Well, they are realizing what a commodity they are. You know, there are, as you know, there are a demographic. And what I just read in today's local paper here is that this there are two, at least two senior centers that are taking the word 'senior' out of their title out of the title of the centers they run, because boomers do not like to think of themselves as senior citizens.

SM: Wow.

PK: You know, that is and so that goes to show that they are, you know, that they are worth, that they are worth something as, as consumers. And that is better than nothing at all.

SM: Yeah, and one of the things too, that you bring up in your book is the AARP or something, people that produced that movie on the History Channel about I think it was the hippies.

PK: Yeah.

SM: Yeah, that.

PK: But that had nothing to do with the AARP.

SM: No, did not have anything to do the AARP, but I am saying the history channel that they, it was almost like they, the attackers were more prominent than the people who experienced it or whatever. Are there any questions that I did not ask that you thought I was going to ask?

PK: Oh, just what my favorite color is.

SM: What is your favorite color?

PK: Orange.

SM: Ah, yeah, talking about colors, that flag! Whose idea was the flag for the yippies. Who came up with that design? Yeah, the marijuana plant. I do not have a right in front of me here. Oh yes, I do. Yeah, who came up with a design for the yippie flag? The red star with the marijuana the flag of the youth international party?

PK: You mean the calligraphy? Well, I do not remember off-hand who did come up with that, but, but that is the thing about it. A lot of people in in those days did things boundlessly and did not want credit for it. And in a certain sense, it did not matter. You know? I am going to change my name, to anonymous so that I can get credit for a lot of things that I did not write.

SM: Also, you know, you got Groucho. I guess he tried drugs for the first time? So that was an interesting experience. Would you consider Groucho a real (19)60s person?

PK: Oh, I just never, you know, I think that there is a quality that goes through civilization that there are people they question authority. And, and so I think of Groucho as having as a, as somebody who encouraged questioning authority by making them by his irreverence, and I just do not label him with a ̶

SM: Very good.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Stephen McKiernan


Krassner, Paul

Biographical Text

Paul Krassner is an author, journalist, comedian, and the founder, editor, and publisher of the Realist magazine. One of the major figures of the 1960s counterculture scene, Krassner is a founding member of the Yippies and the member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. He published several books including his autobiography Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in Counter-Culture. He studied Journalism at Baruch College.





Digital Publisher

Binghamton University Libraries

Digital Format


Material Type


Interview Format


Subject LCSH

Authors, American--20th century;
Realist (New York, N.Y.);
Krassner, Paul--Interviews

Rights Statement

This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as: McKiernan Interviews, Special Collections, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries Special Collections for more information.


1968 Democratic Convention; Abbie Hoffman; Abe Peck; AIM; Allen Ginsberg; Anita Hoffman; Arthur Chickering; Avery Corman; Barry Freed; Bayard Rustin; Black Panther Party; Black Power Movement; Bob Fass; Bobby Kennedy; Burt Caen; City College of New York; Chicano movement; CIA; Clark Kerr; Community Friends; Conspiracy; Dan White trial; Daniel Ellsberg; Dave Bellinger; David Horowitz; Dr. Albert Ellis; Dr. Rosalind Petchesky; Ed Sanders; Edmund Muskie; Eisenhower; Ernie Kovacs; FBI; Festival of Life; George Carlin; George Lincoln Rockwell; George McGovern; George Will; Harry Reasoner; Hippies; House of American Activities Committee; J. Edgar Hoover; Jack Keroauc; Jeff Miller; Jerry Rubin; John Carlos; John Kennedy; John McCain; John Sinclair; Jonah Raskin; Judy Gumbo; Ken Kesey; Kent State; Kim Phuc; Kurt Vonnegut; Lenny Bruce; Levitate the Pentagon; Lyle Stuart; Mae Brussell; Mark Rudd; Martin Luther King Jr.; Mary Vecchio; Merry Pranksters; Miri Savio; Mk-Ultra ; My Lai massacre; Napalm; Neal Cassidy; Ned Lamont; Newseum; Newt Gingrich; Norman Mailer; Osama Bin Laden; Patty Hearst; Peter Max; Phil Ochs; Proletarian; Rabbi Hesche ; Ram Daas; Rex Weine ; Richard Nixon; Robert Scheer; Robin Morgan; Ronnie Davis; SDS; Stewart Brand; Stu Albert; Super Joe ; Tet Offensive; The Independent; The Realis ; Timothy Leary; Tom Hayden; Truthdig; Twinkie Defense; U2; Vietcong; Vietnam; Vietnamese; Wall Street Dollar Bill event; Walter Cronkite; Watergate; WBE; Weatherman; Women’s Movement; Wounded Knee  Yippies; Young Lords; Zippies.




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