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Happy Birthday Paul Krassner: Father of the underground press turns 80 today!
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Paul Krassner, Tuli Kupferberg of The Fugs and an unidentified woman. Photo by Paskal / The Rag Blog

“I predict that in time Paul Krassner will wind up as the only live Lenny Bruce.”—Groucho Marx, 1971

A very happy birthday to the great Paul Krassner! The father of the underground press (although he demanded a paternity test), editor of The Realist, Yippie co-founder and inspiration to two generations of rabble-rousers, turns 80 today.

You know when someone bullshits an old guy and says that they’re “80 years young!” or some nonsense like that? Well, that kind of line isn’t BS when discussing the perpetually youthful Mr. Krassner. Truly, Paul is the youngest 80-year-old I know. It’s an honor to be his friend.

Here’s an excerpt from Paul’s description of tripping on LSD while on the witness stand at the Chicago 7 trial:

I was scheduled to testify at the Conspiracy Trial in January, 1970. On the evening before, Abbie coached me with a chronology of Yippie meetings, but trying to memorize all those dates and places made me nervous. It was like being unprepared for an important history exam. And Abbie gave me mixed messages. On one hand, he told me, “There’s nothing you can do to help us, you can only harm us.” On the other hand, he told me, “I want you to give the judge a heart attack.” I assured him, “I’ll do my best.” I didn’t sleep much that night.

I had brought a stash of LSD with me, but things were too tense for an acid party. Instead, I decided to take a tab of acid before I took the witness stand—- call me a sentimental fool—- but it wasn’t merely to enhance the experience. I had a more functional reason. My purpose was twofold. I knew that if I ingested 300 micrograms of LSD after eating a big meal, I was very likely to throw up in court. That would be my theatrical statement on the injustice of the trial. Also, I wouldn’t need to memorize so much information that way. I had to psych myself up, to imagine it actually happening. The prosecutor would ask, “Now where did this meeting take place?” And I would go “Waughhhhhppp!” They couldn’t charge me with contempt of court because they wouldn’t know I had done it on purpose. The judge would say, “Bailiff, get him out of here!” But just as he was dragging me away, I would get one more projectile off, onto the judge’s podium—- “Waughhhhhppp!” And, although there would be no photographic record of this incident because cameras weren’t allowed, courtroom artists would capture my vomit with green and gold charcoal crayons for the eleven o’clock news.

Next day at lunch, while the others were passing around a chunk of hash, I took out a tab of LSD. Abbie said, “What’s that, acid? I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Jerry said, “I think he should do it.” I swallowed it despite what both of them said. The acid really began to hit while I was waiting in the witness room. A few volunteers were watching film footage of Dave Dellinger pleading with a crowd at the convention: “Stay calm! Stay calm! ” I said, “Boy, when the jury sees this, it’ll really be clear that Dave was doing anything but trying to start a riot.” The volunteers laughed. “Are you kidding?” said one. “They’re never gonna allow that to be admitted as evidence.” Then suddenly I was thrust into the middle of a Looney Toons cartoon. It happened at the precise moment that I was escorted into the court by Tom Hayden and Jerry Rubin—- or, as I perceived them, Tom and Jerry. The furniture started dancing merrily.

Judge Julius Hoffman looked exactly like Elmer Fudd. I expected him to proclaim, “Let’s get them pesky wadicals!” The court clerk looked exactly like Goofy. It didn’t matter that a Disney character was making a guest appearance in a Looney Toons cartoon—- one learns to accept such discrepancies in a dreamlike state. Now I was being instructed by Goofy to raise my right hand and place my left hand on a Bible that was positively vibrating. “Do you hereby swear,” asked Goofy, “that the testimony you are about to give in the cause now on trial before this court and jury shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The truth for me was that LSD—- or any other catalyst for getting in closer touch with your subconscious; whether it be meditation, Zen, yoga—- served as a reminder that choices are being made every moment. So naturally I assumed that Goofy was offering me a choice. “No,” I replied.

Although I hadn’t planned to say that, I realized it was a first in American jurisprudence. Ordinarily, the more heinous a crime the more eagerly will a defendant take the oath. However, my refusal to swear on the Bible was a leap of faith. Everything was swirling around in pastel colors, but there was still a core of reality I was able to grasp, and somehow I managed to flash back to a civics class in junior high school when we had studied the Bill of Rights in general and the First Amendment in particular. Now I found myself passing that lesson on to Goofy. “I believe in the constitutional provision for the separation of church and state, so I will choose to affirm to tell the truth.”

Paul Krassner was given PEN Oakland’s Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. He is now working on his first novel.

My Acid Trip with Groucho by Paul Krassner

Below, Wally Wood’s infamous drawing for the Disney Memorial Orgy, a centerfold that appeared in The Realist after Uncle Walt died.

Posted by Richard Metzger
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