In Praise of Paul Krassner

I’ve made it one of my life’s missions to celebrate the under-celebrated counterculture figures, a list that includes Mezz Mezzrow, Johnny Griggs, John Sinclair, Tom Forcade, Ina May Gaskin, Stephen Gaskin….and, Paul Krassner, the dean of counterculture journalism.

Krassner created the first counterculture magazine, The Realist, and immediately became a target for a wide variety of intel ops. They followed him for the rest of his life. For a brief time, he was publishing some cutting-edge conspiracy research, but soon veered out of that orbit because it was making him paranoid. He was investigating possible CIA links to Charlie Manson at the time.

In a strange way, Krassner’s satire pioneered the creation of fake news because he loved inventing the wildest stories just to see if people would swallow them, and in most cases, someone always did.

Funny little known story: When Tom Forcade arrived in New York with great spiritual fervor, he was flying the colors of Sinclair’s White Panther Party, but Sinclair’s entourage did not trust Tom and revoked his chapter while John was in jail, leaving Rev. Tom in charge of the Free Rangers. Tom quickly decided Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin did not deserve to be chiefs of the movement and started a counter-revolution against them. But during that attempted coup, Tom never, ever spoke badly of the third in the Yippie trinity, Paul Krassner, and even offered him the job of editor of High Times, but Paul later went to Penthouse instead, which was probably a great loss to the potential of what might have been. (Later on, Ken Kesey would also choose him as a co-editor.)

At an underground media conference, Tom stole $500 from Jerry and burned it secretly in the parking lot because that’s a political act Jerry had encouraged. Tom would later brag about it in his little-known book Caravan of Love and Money.

Pot Stories for the Soul was the first book I edited when I launched High Times Books in 1999.  Okay, I didn’t edit a thing. Krassner is untouchable, but I did play a somewhat crucial role. The original manuscript was titled Amazing Dope Stories and contained not just pot, but all drugs. After being blown away by the material, I suggested to Paul that we break it into three books and call the first one Pot Stories for the Soul, to be followed by Acid Trips for the Soul, to be followed by Mushroom Trips for the Soul….

But after the first volume came out (and won the Firecracker Award and became a Book of the Month select), we got hit with some legal threats from the Chicken Soup for the Soul people and the other two volumes got their names diverted to avoid a lawsuit.

A new edition contains tons of new material as well as a new intro by the Dean himself. Five stars.

Oh, and check out my documentary on Paul:

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