Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87


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

He was bar mitzvahed, but, he said, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had already persuaded him to identify as an atheist. He attended the Baruch campus of City College, though he dropped out three credits short of a degree, disappointing his parents.

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

He was already earning money working for The Independent, a newspaper run by the anti-censorship crusader Lyle Stuart. It turned out that Mr. Stuart was also the business manager of Mad, and Mr. Krassner began writing humor pieces for it.

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

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

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

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

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