Vol. 1, No. 2 August-September 1972
That's me there, stoned in a trench coat.
The SunDance people asked me for a photograph of myself to go with this column. The only one I could find was a photo that was taken a couple of years ago for my passport, although I've never used it. I've never even been outside my, uh, native land, except for a trip to Cuba a dozen years ago (diplomatic relations were broken off by the United States while I was there), Canada several times, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin once for the final Bratwurst Festival.
The reason I'd gotten the passport was because Playboy magazine was going to send me on a freelance assignment to England to interview John Lennon. But he postponed the meeting. I'd known Yoko Ono in the early Sixties on the Lower East Side when she was encouraging people to do things inside a black sack as an experiment in participatory theater. When they moved to New York, John said he would do the interview only if it was with him and Yoko. That wasn't exactly Hugh Hefner's cup of Pepsi.
I had planned to use my passport for the first time to go to Stockholm for the alternate ecology conference. . .Pick an institution. On every level. When I was a kid, I used to read Detective Comics to keep up with the latest adventures of Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. I even wanted a utility belt for Christmas. Now, Jeannie, my ex-wife and still-friend, reads Sufi stories to our daughter Holly at bedtime.
Recently in New York, while the American Newspaper Publishers Association was holding its annual convention at the Waldorf-Astoria, I was invited to be on a panel at a counter-convention held at the Martin Luther King Center, sponsored by a journalism review called (More) which was started by Tony Lucas, who had become disenchanted with the New York Times when he saw how they changed the copy he filed from the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, and Richard Pollak, who had interviewed me when he was working in the Press Section of Newsweek.
It was called the A.J. Liebling Counter-Convention, in memory of that jounalist who did the "Wayward Press" column for the New Yorker. Although his name has been virtually unknown in underground press circles, Editor and Publisher several years ago ran a classified ad seeking a newspaper reporter in which they included the phrase, "No Lieblings need apply."
Another forgotten pioneer is Don Hollenbeck, who committed suicide after the Columbia Broadcasting System dropped his program, "CBS Views the Press," because a national election was coming up and the network didn't want to be accused of influencing it (except by omission).
Anyway, Tom Forcade was at the counter-convention. He had once made the front pages all over the country after throwing a cream pie in the face of House of Un-American Activities Committee Chairman Ichord (golly gee, how'd he ever get away with that?) and then acted surprised because the White House didn't want to give him press credentials. What, he innocently wondered, could they possibly be trying to hide?
Now there was a rumor, started by Forcade, that a whole bunch of pies were going to be thrown at the counter-convention while I.F. Stone was being honored. I objected to this, pointing out that Stone had been putting out his Weekly providing ammunition for truth-seekers in all walks of life long before many of the current disenfranchised generation were born.
I think it's important not to be so smug as to forget our roots. In my own case, before the Realist started, I was managing editor of The Independent, which was begun by Lyle and Mary Louise Stuart with Joe Whalen. It was an anti-censorship paper, publised at the height of Joe McCarthy paranoia. I consider it to be the missing link between old-fashioned Upton Sinclair-type muckraking and contemporary underground journalism.
Before that was In Fact, edited by George Seldes, who wrote a book about his experiences called Tell the Truth and Run. And before that there was Brann and The Iconoclast in Waco, Texas. He told the truth and didn't run and got shot in the back for it.
If urban underground paper folks ever get to feeling self-righteous about their dedication, it would be appropriate to remember P.D. East, who put out the Petal Paper in the Fifties from the middle of Mississippi, where the livin' wasn't easy.
John Wilcock helped start the Village Voice, which is neither underground nor overground it's sort of sea level then went to the aid of the Los Angeles Free Press, and began the Underground Press Syndicate.
Ed Sanders was busy mimeographing Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts. Tuli Kupferberg and Sylvia Topp were going around on their bicycles distributing offset mixtures of anarchism and absurdity.
And, of course, the Pacifica listener-sponsored network in general, WBAI-FM in particular, and Bob Fass specifically, all contributed to a new concept of electronic community that was developing.
The Digger communications issued by Emmett Grogan and his Haight-Ashbury gang inspired Jim Fouratt to go and do likewise on the east coast. And Diane DiPrima's Revolutionary Letters in the form of poetry helped change the meaning of family not to be confused with The Family.
For the past six months, I've been obsessed with the parts that were left out of the Manson book. In the process of my investigation, I met an extraordinary human, Mae Brussell, who is a political research analyst specializing in assassinations. As a result, I'm starting with her a new periodical, Conspiracy Newsletter, to be published twice a month.
Mae's basic thesis is that when President Kennedy was killed in 1963, there was a literal takeover of the government. She cross-indexed the entire twenty-six volumes of the Warren Commission Report, and reads eight newspapers a day in the context of that masterpiece of deliberate falsehood.
The first issue, now in preparation, deals with the cover story of Arthur Bremer, the purpose of whose role in the attempted assassination of George Wallace seems to have been a deliberate attempt to prepare the American public for the assassination of Richard Nixon so that martial law can be declared. Look, Ma no election!...and that's why I gave up the chance for a free trip to Stockholm with the Hog Farm and the Grateful Dead. I don't relate to this as a sacrifice, though, because I no longer pretend that I make my decisions.
Rather, my decisions make me.
Paul Krassner is Editor of Zen Bastard of the The Realist, publisher of the Mae Brussell's Conspiracy Newsletter, and author of How a Satirical Editor Became a Yippie Conspirator in Ten Easy Years.