Before he passed away in July, 2019, Paul Krassner contributed some of the most thought-provoking and engaging journalism for High Times and beyond. For the October, 1978 issue, the tables were turned and he was the focus. In honor of Krassner’s birthday on April 9, 1932, we’re republishing the interview below.
Paul Krassner: October 1978
Stand-up editor, investigative satirist, one-time publisher of two of America’s most notorious magazines—Hustler and the Realist—and crusading assassinologist, Paul Krassner was born in 1932 and raised in New York City. He first exploded into public purview in 1955 with an article for Mad magazine, “What If Comic-Strip Characters Sent Away to the Little Ads in the Back of Magazines?”
In 1958, Paul launched the Realist—and met one of his first subscribers, Lenny Bruce (they began an intimate friendship that led to Paul’s editing Bruce’s autobiography, How To Talk Dirty and Influence People). The forerunner of the underground press of the ’60s, the Realist led the way into journalism that was outrageous, drug mad, sex crazy, revolutionary. Krassner’s increasing political activism led to his cofounding of the Yippies and being an unindicted coconspirator in the Chicago 7 conspiracy case.
In the early 1970s, Krassner became a relentless student of the conspiracy that now seems certain to have led up to JFK’s shooting. Leading America by the funny bone to the truth that’s never taught in school, Krassner finally emerged from relative poverty to be the publisher of Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine—at $90,000 a year—a post he held for five months. In this interview—his first since leaving Hustler—Paul tells everything he knows.
High Times: When was the first time you fucked?
Paul Krassner: I was 26 years old. It was in the office of Mad magazine.
High Times: How many people have you fucked?
Paul Krassner: Hundreds.
High Times: Are you gay or bisexual, or have you ever been?
Paul Krassner: I was a teenage cocksucker. But that was just healthy curiosity. My preference is women. For me a woman is like my other half. I think if nature had an intent, it was to perpetuate the species. On the other hand, maybe homosexuality is God’s way of solving the population explosion.
High Times: What do you think about abstinence?
Paul Krassner: Well, you’ve got to do something between fucking. Actually I think that one can enjoy abstinence. If your pleasure comes from watching yourself and toying with your consciousness, you can enjoy the process of being horny as much as you can enjoy the process of having the tension released. I think the ultimate is fucking a soyburger. That’s the healthful next step after Portnoy’s complaint.
High Times: What effect did the women’s movement have on your sex life?
Paul Krassner: I went out with one feminist, and the next morning I said, “I’ll see you again,” and she said, “You don’t have to.” The women’s movement was almost like a regression to the ’50s, because then girls wanted to be wanted for more than their bodies. The movement gave that feeling an ideology and a history.
I welcomed the women’s movement because I’ve always been for equality anyway. But it enhanced my awareness of how insensitive I must have been on occasion. I was always interested in self-assertive women, so it was logical that I would get involved with feminists.
High Times: Are feminists better in bed?
Paul Krassner: Better than what? Ducks? It depends. You can’t describe a feminist as if she were a monolithic slab in 2001. Some of them are, because they’re less inhibited. Some of them aren’t, because they’re more uptight.
High Times: When did you first discover the clitoris?
Paul Krassner: Even though I didn’t fuck until I was 26, I did a lot of petting and necking from 18 to 26. I discovered the clitoris the first time I fingerfucked and gave head. I had heard so much about it. But I hadn’t really gotten educated into it yet. It was a magic button.
High Times: You’ve been associated with Margo St. James, the leader of COYOTE, the prostitutes organization, for some time. How did you meet her?
Paul Krassner: It was at a Christmas party she gave at the Committee, which was a satirical troupe in San Francisco. It was in ’64 or ’65.
High Times: How did she become the Realist Nun?
Paul Krassner: We became friends and talked about what we could do together. She had gotten a nun costume, and she’d noticed how differently people responded to her in that costume: so she decided she would become the Realist Nun and go out on one assignment a month and do something incongruous, sort of like “Candid Camera.”
Once she performed an abortion in her nun costume. But the first thing she did was drive me to the airport when I was flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles. We started necking at the airport. She had on her nun costume and I had on my Hell’s Angel-reject costume. People found it difficult to trust their own perceptions about what was happening.
High Times: Did you have any involvement with the founding of COYOTE?
Paul Krassner: Not really. We had conversations. I joked about how she’d be the Jimmy Hoffa of the hookers. But I think the women’s movement gave her the strength to fight and organize COYOTE. In the sense that hookers are the easiest targets, they are sort of the front line of the women’s movement.
High Times: Do you think there should be an organization of johns parallel to COYOTE?
Paul Krassner: I think it’s unrealistic, because obviously people are embarrassed by being johns. But I think they should organize. I also don’t think a hooker should get busted without the john being busted. And I think if that happens, then laws against hookers would disappear.
High Times: Did you ever patronize a prostitute?
Paul Krassner: Once. In Cuba, a year after Castro had taken power. I was doing research on the revolution. That was the only time I ever paid for it. I used to have a hooker for a girl friend. That was interesting because even though I adjusted to the idea of her having clients I still got jealous when she balled someone for free.
High Times: Didn’t you once give a hooker as a birthday gift to an invalid?
Paul Krassner: Not quite. It was a birthday present. And he had arthritis. But it was her idea. I was just the middleman.
High Times: What did the Realist do for sexual liberation?
Paul Krassner: It assumed that people have the freedom to seek pleasure. I guess the most obvious example is the stuff we published by Albert Ellis. But a lot of it was language. We used language other magazines didn’t. We loosened up the symbols, and that affects behavior.
High Times: Didn’t you advocate changing the expression “Fuck you” to “Unfuck you”?
Paul Krassner: No, that was Albert Ellis, in an interview with him. I pushed the program, but it was his idea that if fucking is good, then if you want to say something negative to someone, you shouldn’t say “Fuck you,” you should say “Unfuck you.”
High Times: Have you ever said that to anybody?
Paul Krassner: Only at the time. The problem with it was that you had to explain what it meant. But I’m not really hostile, so it doesn’t come up much. Every once in a while I’ll say it for practice.
High Times: You wrote a book called How a Satirical Editor Became a Yippie Conspirator in Ten Easy Years. What did sex have to do with yippies?
Paul Krassner: That’s what you say when you’re coming. Umm, our rhetoric demanded fucking in the streets. In fact we had one hoax where we had a combination of LSD and DMSO, and we said it would make people start fucking automatically. We had reporters there, and a couple of people tested it out and started balling, and the reporters reported it. It was an extension of the “Make Love Not War” slogan, that the war impulse was a perversion of the sexual instinct. Sex is the essence of our value system.
Every government wants to control the sexuality of its citizens, because they can then extend that control into other areas of life. Yippie really represented peeling all the layers of socialization off that basic life force, instead of having one’s sexuality sublimated and converted into being a cog in the consumer-military syndrome.
High Times: Did you ever feel you were in personal danger because of your sexual beliefs?
Paul Krassner: Only when the sexual beliefs became tied into political beliefs. In Chicago, the cops constantly made sexual references when they were beating people, arresting them, taking them to prisons, to jails. It was because the yippies were kind of children of the white middle class, and although the Chicago cops weren’t afraid of their children growing up to be Black Panthers, they were afraid that their kids would want to grow long hair and take drugs and experiment with free sexuality. So in the sense that my radicalism represented, or included, or implied, a threat to the establishment version of controlled sex, it might have been an indirect danger.
I really was in danger once because of my beliefs on sex, when I fucked a gangster’s girl friend. I spent two hours talking him out of killing me.
High Times: Do you think that dope enhances sex, and if so, what dopes?
Paul Krassner: Almost all dope has been a kind of aphrodisiac for me. I guess the most aphrodisiacal one for me has been MDA. Or hash, hash brownies. MDA seemed to serve as a direct aphrodisiac. Also maybe mescaline or mushrooms, because they make you feel sensual.
High Times: Do you think coke is an aphrodisiac?
Paul Krassner: I’ve heard people say that it isn’t. A woman recently told me about it affecting a guy’s ability to stay hard, but it didn’t seem to make me go limp.
High Times: What about sex and heroin?
Paul Krassner: I snorted heroin for the first time on the day Patty Hearst was convicted. I didn’t enjoy fucking under it because the sensations seemed to be deadened. But also I got sick. On the other hand, there’s almost a feeling of helplessness, where you want to cling to somebody. So there’s closeness but also a deadening of sensuality.
High Times: In a Playboy interview Timothy Leary said that his orgasms were a hundred times better on acid. What do you think about that?
Paul Krassner: Leary was, of course, a propagandist. He was trying to play to the stereotyped Playboy reader. If you wanted to get a Wall Street broker to take acid, you’d tell him it’ll give him the courage to sell his stocks short. For the Playboy reader you tell him he’ll come better. Acid heightens coming like it heightens everything else.
High Times: What do you think about sex and aging? Do you think that people have sexual peaks?
Paul Krassner: I’ve been doing research on that, because I’ve been working on a novel about the making of a pornographic film for senior citizens. And what I have always thought, and what my research verified, is that the whole culture is geared toward programming people for senility. There’s a change in that now. What with the Gray Panthers and contact of the yippies with old people in Miami, suddenly more and more people are realizing that it’s insane to treat your elders as waste products.
The thesis of what I was writing is, when people realize that they’ve been had, it suddenly wakes them up. And this is what happened with old people and sex. They suddenly realized that they were lied to, that they’d been betrayed, deprived of pleasure. And they can get along sexually; it’s just that it’s kind of an awakening experience. They’ve been able to cure senility with oxygen therapy. And obviously people who breathe in more oxygen end up balling. Or is it the other way around?
High Times: Do you pick up girls?
Paul Krassner: I’m not really good at it, because I’m basically shy. I don’t go to singles bars. I don’t go to many parties. I find it difficult to be presumptuous, which is what picking up is about.
High Times: Have you ever had any groupies?
Paul Krassner: They always say I don’t want you to think I’m a groupie.
High Times: Were they journalism groupies or radical groupies?
Paul Krassner: There are different kinds. When I was a comedian, there were comedy groupies. When I was an assassination researcher, there were assassination groupies. There are investigative-reporter groupies, there was even somebody who thought that I was Paul Kantner from the Jefferson Starship. There are mistaken groupies. It sounds like a derogatory term, but it’s really a way of getting to know people better. If girls want to get to know you better, they do it by the sex route, and guys do it by the dope route. I made up a word for the girls who are camp followers of the new messiahs. They’re gurupies.
High Times: What role do you think sex played in the Manson case?
Paul Krassner: Basic. Charlie used sex along with drugs and deep brainwashing as a control technique. He learned how to keep a hard-on for a long time in prison. Also he used cocksucking as a kind of meditation. He used psychological hangups as a means of manipulating people. The girls used sex as a means of hanging on to the bikers who hung around. There were orgies between the Manson people and some of the victims. The Manson family became the scapegoats of the sex and drug and witchcraft cults that existed in the Hollywood establishment. Sex was an integral part of it. But it wasn’t sex, really. It was power in the guise of sex.
High Times: Weren’t you once fired from a radio show for getting head on the air?
Paul Krassner: Not quite. I had my own show on KSFX in San Francisco for seven months. Then the radio-station manager came one day and told me that I shouldn’t talk about the evils of capitalism, and I said I’ve never mentioned the evils of capitalism. He said, “Well, be subtle about it”; so it seemed clear that even though the program was getting more popular, it couldn’t last. About seven months later they let me go, and then KSAN invited me on for an afternoon talk about why I had been let go by the other station. While I was there Margo St. James came to the station and started giving me head while I was talking. There was no FCC violation, but people were very paranoid. So for a while I was not welcome at that station.
High Times: You didn’t mention that it was happening?
Paul Krassner: Well, not directly. When the station-break time came I would just say, “This is KSAN, the station that blows your mind.” That was like a little in-joke, but it was perfectly acceptable, and it was meeting the FCC rule of doing station breaks. It was innocent because I could have said the same thing without her going down on me.
High Times: Was there anything about sex in your FBI file?
Paul Krassner: There was a poison-pen letter that the FBI wrote to Life magazine calling the Realist obscene. And in Chicago they knew whose house I was staying at, stuff like that.
High Times: You think the FBI was into more of the Martin Luther King style of vilification than just Martin Luther King? Were they documenting people’s sex lives?
Paul Krassner: One FBI memo which is kind of telling shows that they were trying to prevent Screw from being sold on the campus of Rutgers University, and a memo from Washington that approved the New Jersey request to interfere with the sales said “Screw represents an extension of the immorality of the new left.” So the government sees the connection. I see our real battle as being between productivity and permissiveness. That’s why they try to control sex and drugs—they’re hard to channel into a military-consumer economy. The government knows in the Reichian sense that sex is basic, and the conspiracy is to channel that energy as early as possible, like by starting to spank children on the ass. That’ll get them into S&M pretty quick. If the government can prosecute on the basis of obscenity, they can go after outrageous publications and establish precedents and then go after Playboy and Penthouse and the more respectable ones.
I once wrote a piece called “The Sex Life of J. Edgar Hoover.” I was willing to accept the rumor that he was gay, and I always supported his right to be gay. But since he didn’t want there to be any premarital sex among FBI agents, and since Hoover was never married, if he wasn’t gay, I had to assume either he had nocturnal emissions or he masturbated; so I called for this campaign for people to send their used pornography to Hoover to help facilitate his jerking-off sessions. He may have not needed it. He may have jerked off to the FBI secret files of actors and actresses. All the material that he was supplying Lyndon Johnson with.
High Times: Did you hear a rumor that the King tapes are being circulated as an underground album?
Paul Krassner: I imagined it, but I didn’t know it was a rumor. I spread it myself. But it’s also kind of an organic rumor, and it may even be true. Who knows? I’ve never heard them. I wonder what he says. “I have a wet dream.”
High Times: In the ’60s you published a piece in the Realist stating that Lyndon Johnson fucked the corpse of President Kennedy in the throat in order to change the bullet wound from an entry to an exit wound, to fool the Warren Commission. Do you think that writing about Johnson fucking Kennedy in the neck ruined your chances with Jackie O.?
Paul Krassner: Ruined my chances with Jackie? I think it enhanced my chances with her. But it really wouldn’t be gentlemanly to talk about my affair with Jackie.
High Times: Have you slept with any of the Kennedy children?
Paul Krassner: Just John-John. I was interested in Caroline, but she was only going out with Jann Wenner at the time.
High Times: What’s your history as a sex-magazine consumer?
Paul Krassner: I always rationalized buying them. I knew that if there was an interview in Playboy with Malcolm X, I might jerk off to the Playmate of the Month; but I’d also read the interview with Malcolm X, so it had more rationalization per square tit than any other magazine that month. Some of the most important political writing and intelligence exposes have been in men’s magazines. It’s a schizophrenic thing. There’s come to be an association in people’s minds between the latest CIA expose and somebody spreading her legs.
High Times: Assassination and pussy. I guess your LBJ story is the seminal metaphor for that phenomenon.
Paul Krassner: Well, I’ve just denied the rumor that on the plane bringing Larry Flynt from Atlanta to Columbus I fucked him in the stomach wound. My karma is coming back on me.
High Times: Do you think it’s a coincidence that the magazines that have pushed the limits of the First Amendment in terms of “obscenity” or sexual material are the same ones that tend to stretch it in a political sense with conspiracy stories, exposes, assassinology?
Paul Krassner: No, I think that they realized that it was a political act, just the way people who smoke grass learn that it’s a political act. They didn’t do it as a political act. They did it for pleasure. But they began to discover in the sadomasochistic culture that natural pleasure is a political act.
High Times: Do you think that the CIA is involved in the world of magazine publishing?
Paul Krassner: Do you mean still? It wouldn’t surprise me. I can’t think of any specifics offhand. Sometimes it’s indirect. If they want to get disinformation out. For instance Edward Jay Epstein’s story about Lee Harvey Oswald being a lone assassin after all, serialized in Reader’s Digest, the biggest selling magazine in the world. There are old FBI and CIA memos about contacts at the Reader’s Digest that were favorably disposed, so you can’t say that the magazine is directly involved: but it can become a conduit.
The CIA leaks material, and the reporters protect their sources: so the magazines are used. I’ve heard that Walter Cronkite did stuff for the CIA. It doesn’t matter. You know from the nature and lifestyle of some journalists that you don’t have to be an agent if the things you cherish give you the same value system as the CIA.
But intelligence means control to them, and control by any means necessary, so they’ve infiltrated the drug culture, Scientology, anything that they thought could be used for control or influence. I think magazines would fall into that category. There’s no question that there have been agency employees at many of the magazines. It’s conceivable that they could be run from the top, but I can’t think of any offhand.
High Times: Did you once support yourself by selling posters that said “Fuck Communism”?
Paul Krassner: I didn’t support myself, no. When I moved, John Putnam, who was art director of Mad, gave me a “Fuck Communism” poster—red, white and blue, with hammers and sickles and stars and stripes—as a housewarming gift. I wanted to share it with the readers of the Realist, but I couldn’t get it engraved. The engravers said that the FBI had warned them about using words like that or showing pubic hair; so finally I just had a poster made, and the money that came from the poster was used to send Bob Scheer to Southeast Asia and helped finance his writing of the booklet “How the U.S. Got Involved in the Vietname War.” And then he wrote a piece for the Realist on how they helped plan the war at Michigan State University. So it supported journalistic projects rather than me.
High Times: Did you ever fuck twins?
Paul Krassner: No, I haven’t. But I have fucked a mother and a daughter. On separate occasions. I think I’ve fucked sisters on separate occasions also. But never twins. Clones, yes, but not twins.
High Times: Amputees?
Paul Krassner: Let’s see? Uh… I guess not, no.
High Times: Midgets, dwarfs or hermaphrodites?
Paul Krassner: No. I guess I’ve led a sheltered life.
High Times: What do you think about pornography and children?
Paul Krassner: I think that the problem there again is not with the pornography, it’s with power. If you wanted to do this on a totally voluntary basis, that’s one thing; but if they’re forced into it by the power of their parents or whoever does it, that’s what I’m concerned about. I don’t mind erotic stimulation, I mind coercion.
High Times: What do you think about the incest taboo?
Paul Krassner: Again, if it were an educational thing, sensualistic, as opposed to a power relationship, I would be for it. It’s hard to know where to draw the line between affection and gratification. And I know people who have had incestuous relationships who don’t seem to be any the worse for it. They seem to have demystified it. So I don’t think it’s necessarily harmful. But there’s a difference between climbing into bed with your 8-year-old child and fooling around with your 19-year-old daughter.
I used to fool around with my sister. We didn’t go all the way, but it was educational, it was experimental, it was curiosity. And I don’t know if that’s technically incest, but I think any of these questions have to depend on the context, the attitude of the people involved. If there’s fear involved, then it’s unhealthy. But if there’s open satisfaction of curiosity, it’s educational.
High Times: What happened to the waterbed revolution?
Paul Krassner: I think it got filled with cream-of-mushroom soup.
High Times: Do they still have them in California?
Paul Krassner: They still have them, but you don’t hear that much about them. There were a lot of accidents in waterbeds, because a couple would be building up their own rhythm, and the waterbed had a rhythm of its own and caused a lot of surprise jabbing of organs into wrong orifices. You’ve got to be careful with a waterbed, it’s very competitive.
High Times: Do you think that orgies are something that will really increase, or are they just a fad?
Paul Krassner: I think both the orgy scene and the monogamous scene will increase. As sexuality becomes more and more open it goes into all those different areas. People do it for all kinds of reasons, like curiosity, boredom, sensuality, greed. Experimentation is increasing more and more, so that people feel free to try things, to see what their preference is, gay or straight, monogamy, polygamy, leather or silk, flesh or fetish. People are just experimenting to see where their own consciousness is, and sexuality is just a subdivision of that.
High Times: Is it true that you once asked Joe Pyne if he took off his wooden leg when he made love to his wife?
Paul Krassner: Yes, I did. I tried for a long time to get a transcript of that program. I finally got it in my CIA file. Joe Pyne asked me a question, a real dumb chauvinist question. And I said, well, Joe, if you’re going to ask me questions like that, then let me ask you if you take off your wooden leg when you make love with your wife. And he was rather stunned. It appeared on some stations but not on others.
High Times: What do you think about Jerry Brown and Linda Ronstadt?
Paul Krassner: I always imagine people together, you know, and what they’re like; so obviously they’re no exception. I’ve had fantasies about her but not him. But I’ve had fantasies about them together. I like it sociologically. I mean, this would have had to have been a hidden affair years ago. And that it can be open now is, I guess, a sign of progress.
High Times: What kind of fantasies do you have about them?
Paul Krassner: Oh, you know, he lets her try on his hair shirt. And then he tries on her bra as Mickey Mouse ears.
High Times: Do you have any fantasies like that about other people? Like Marilyn Monroe, Jack Kennedy, or…
Paul Krassner: Everybody. I always imagine what people are like in bed. Because there’s consistency. If you’re selfish in regular life, you’ll be selfish in bed. If you’re hysterical in regular life, you’ll be hysterical in bed. Sometimes there are surprises, but the consistency of personality is there, at least the ones I’ve been able to test. I guess it’s a personal mantra for me. I always imagine what people are like in bed, because no matter how much dignity or sophistication they try to have I always appreciate that animal level.
I like to imagine what Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters are like. Separately, together. Does Cronkite come and say, “That’s the way it was.” Does Barbara Walters keep her mouth closed when she moans, the way she does when she delivers the news? It’s just a personal morbid fascination.
High Times: Have you ever raped anyone or been raped?
Paul Krassner: I’ve never raped anybody. Although I now consider even persuasion a form of rape, in a way.
I must say that during those years between 18 and 26, when I was really obsessed with getting laid, I could almost see the yearning turn into a hostility, which is the basis of rape, and I had to fight to keep my sanity. It’s hard for women to realize that rapists are victims too. It’s no comfort, certainly. I guess the only thing to do is to kick him in the balls with compassion.
High Times: What do you think of fuck machines?
Paul Krassner: I think it’s sad and amusing at the same time. I mean especially now that they have a machine that says things to you. It’s like you don’t know whether to laugh or cry at a machine that says to a customer, “Ooh, do it to me, baby. Shove that thing in me. Moan moan.” On the other hand, it’s probably more real to them than they’re able to fantasize. It’s kind of tragic that there should be a need for that, but apparently there is. I once wrote a fable called “Tongue Fu”—he had a 15-inch tongue and was very popular with the ladies—but he takes this artificial vagina out to a movie and to dinner before he takes it home because he doesn’t want it to think he wants it just for his body.
High Times: What do you think the word “Hustler” means to Flynt?
Paul Krassner: He says he got it from Lenny Bruce. “We’re all hustlers. We’re each as honest as we can afford to be.”
High Times: What was Lenny Bruce into sexually?
Paul Krassner: Oh, he just liked to ball ladies. Sometimes he was so horny for somebody that he would convince himself he was in love with them and later convince them, because he really believed it at the time.
High Times: Do men’s magazines exist primarily as an aid to masturbation?
Paul Krassner: I don’t know whether it’s primarily or not. I think that a lot of them might sell if they took out the pictures, but they’re afraid to take the chance. But they might lose some readership, and there’s no way of knowing because none of the demographics say what percentage of the readers jerk off to the magazine, it only says how many stereos they own.
Editorial content might have begun as a subterfuge, but the magazines have become committed in the process to publishing important investigative reporting. I know that people who work in the White House were Xeroxing some of the Penthouse articles on the Trilateral Commission. They weren’t Xeroxing the pictures. So I’m sure there are a lot of people buying these magazines despite the pictures, or at least not because of them.
High Times: Is jerking off to the images in sex magazines becoming a more attractive prospect than becoming involved in sexual relationships with real people?
Paul Krassner: I remember when I realized that I was addicted to the jerk-off magazines because of a dream. I had been having an erotic dream about pictures of girls instead of human beings. It was a frightening realization. On the other hand they are a form of education and demystification. And to people who have no other outlet the fantasy helps make it closer—being with another human being—because at least you have an image to focus on. So in that sense it can be seen as a service.
Like, a lot of dope dealers see what they’re doing as a service. There are people who may be ugly or lonely or scared or isolated or have some kind of handicap who’d rather have the fantasy from a magazine than no contact at all. Like prisoners, jerking off to a picture dissipates the energy that might otherwise lead to going out and confronting somebody real and taking the risk of being rejected. A magazine never rejects you. That’s important. People have a right to choose not to risk being rejected.
Once someone complained to D.H. Lawrence that people would read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and then want to go out and get laid, and Lawrence said, “Bully for them!” Every time I have jerked off to an image of a pretty girl in a magazine it increased my yearning to be with a real one. It didn’t substitute for it, except that it relieved the sexual tension. You know, you can’t kiss a magazine. Although some skin mag has a life-size foldout this month with scratch ’n’ sniff strawberry-flavored lips, it’s a pretty absurd image—thousands of men opening this up on their carpet and scratching these lips and kissing them, maybe jerking off to it. In a funny way the greatness of America is involved in individual acts of passion like that.
High Times: When you are masturbating to a picture of a woman in a magazine, do you fantasize that you are fucking the woman or that you are the woman?
Paul Krassner: Usually what happens is that I’m so aware that it’s a picture that I finally throw the magazine away and close my eyes and imagine some real person I’ve met, and I imagine fucking, or giving head, or getting sucked off. You drag a little variety in with your fantasies.
High Times: But there’s also a theory that men are actually unconsciously fantasizing that they are the woman in the picture.
Paul Krassner: Well, you do that in a sense, even when you’re balling somebody. You identify with them. That’s what makes one a good lover.
High Times: Basically having sex with yourself is a homosexual act, so perhaps the primary although unrealized fantasy is being the model. Which may be why all the models are masturbating in the pictures now.
Paul Krassner: Well, what else can they do?
High Times: They used to just look longingly into the camera as if you were just about to step into bed.
Paul Krassner: That’s evolution. There’s something very erotic to me about women getting off on themselves. When I was a kid you thought sex was a favor women did for you. The biggest lesson to learn in life was that girls enjoy it too. So a picture of a woman turning herself on reinforces that sense of hope.
High Times: Thinking in more Reichian terms of generating or accumulating energy: Is masturbation generating energy or dispersing energy?
Paul Krassner: I think it’s one of the finest forms of meditation. You don’t have to memorize any words. Sometimes it’s the only time people do any deep breathing. That’s what it’s served for me. I only understood that in retrospect. I got through college by maintaining hard-ons during class as a kind of horny yoga.
That was also one of the reasons I was interested in the Charles Manson case. Manson admits that masturbation was a great force in his life, but the context of his masturbation was the paranoid, authoritarian, racist environment of prison. It’s like any tool, no pun intended. It can be used constructively or destructively. It can be psychologically harmful. I know a woman who bruised her clitoris with a vibrator. But people have become better lovers by learning to masturbate. You can learn to prolong orgasm while masturbating so you don’t worry about it when you’re fucking. It comes down to the old cliche of what the individual does with it, what their attitude is toward it. How you imprint on deprivation. Everybody gives their own style to it.
High Times: Do you think there is any magical, mass unconscious or astral effect on the models who are masturbation objects in sex magazines? Do you think they are changed by having millions of men getting off on a dream or fantasy that involves them?
Paul Krassner: I met an 18-year-old model at a party who had posed for a spread. She met Ron Kovic, the Vietnam veteran author who’s in a wheelchair. She didn’t know who he was and said, “How come you’re in a wheelchair?” Here’s this guy who has written Born on the Fourth of July, who’s told the story over and over, and he says, “Well, I had some problems in the Vietnam War.” And she says, “So what happened to your legs?” And he says, “I’m paralyzed.” And she says, “That’s a negative attitude!” That is ultimately, in a very convoluted form, what’s limiting about the jerking-off syndrome. You miss the quality. The sex is out of context. It could be an endearing quality, that she could be that naive, or that innocent, or that free, or that drunk, however you interpret the remark.
If I were fucking that 18-year-old blond model, I believe that somewhere in the pleasure that we were sharing would be a link with the quality in her that enabled her to say that. At the same time I believe that people have the right to deprive themselves of that kind of multi-dimensionality. And also there are people who don’t deprive themselves but are deprived by their life circumstances, and a one-dimensional magazine fantasy is better than no fantasy at all.
High Times: Have you ever met or slept with any women whom you’ve jerked off to in a magazine?
Paul Krassner: Yeah, a Playmate. She was nice, a sweet kisser.
High Times: Did you tell her about jerking off to her?
Paul Krassner: I didn’t do that until after I had fucked her. It made it much more real. It was interesting because it seemed as if she were surprised that I was giving her pleasure, as if it were her function to give and not receive. But of course she told me that the week before she’d been with Sinatra, and the week before that with Sammy Davis, Jr., so I guess she felt she was in a service occupation.
High Times: Weren’t you worried about catching some kind of exotic Las Vegas disease, venereal gambling fever?
Paul Krassner: You take risks in life. You oblige yourself to consequence. It was funny because it was in Hefner’s mansion and I felt that I had to sneak her into my room there, even though the atmosphere is so sexual. That was the Chicago mansion.
High Times: What’s the first reading material that turned you on?
Paul Krassner: The first pornography I ever jerked off to wasn’t even pornography. It was Studs Lonigan. A mild thing. It was just one little paragraph about him having an itch in his crotch. There was nothing available. And I still remember the sense of excitement that I had attached to magazines, nudist magazines…
I once covered a story at a nudist camp, and I began to get a little bit aroused. So I thought, “Think volleyball,” and I got out on the volleyball court. ’Cause hard-ons are kind of taboo at nudist camps. At one nudist camp they play the “Star Spangled Banner” when somebody gets a hard-on. As if it were unpatriotic to stand at attention. But volleyball worked. Outside it was okay. It felt inappropriate to get an erection in that environment. But then I went to the office, and I was waiting for the owner, to talk to him, and I was looking over some nudist magazines on his desk, and I began to get a hard-on. And that was a reminder of how silly it is.
The danger of it is Pavlovian. It’s a pattern. You buy the magazine, and in your consciousness it’s like you’re going out on a date with somebody. You know you’re going to jerk off. It’s a guaranteed score. But people have a right to limit their own horizons or to broaden them. They have as much right to limit their horizons as they have to broaden them. And only they know. I may think someone is limiting their horizons: they may think they’re broadening them. I’m jaded. The stuff that once got me excited just doesn’t do it anymore.
High Times: It’s been revealed that Son of Sam had a collection of sex magazines. How does that make you feel?
Paul Krassner: Once there was an airplane hijacking or something similar to something Rod Serling had once done on TV, and he said, “I am responsible to my audience, not for them.” I’d like to ask Son of Sam about it.
It’s not inconceivable that this material may have been planted there. But maybe he read it. Even CIA zombies get horny. I’ve read a book called Autoeroticism by Wilhelm Steckel, who made the point that masturbatory outlets prevented a lot of sex crimes because they were able to release it in fantasies rather than in real life. It’s the sexually repressed ones who end up raping. It’s an act of power. Sex is just a means of exercising it.
A lot of us who have pleasant associations with dope and sex and music have got to remember that a lot of guys went to Vietnam and first got turned on there in the context of killing and raping hookers. And they brought that war back home. Even if there was not a planned, specific conspiracy to loose these kind of domestic terrorists among the population to help spread fear so that more and more police-state laws and measures could be taken, that’s still the effect. One-third of the American prison population is Vietnam veterans. There’s a lot of hostility that has not yet been exorcised.
High Times: Why did you decide to pose nude for Hustler?
Paul Krassner: It was the photo department’s idea. I had no idea it was happening. They had mentioned it earlier in the day, but I thought it was a joke. It was kind of a liberating experience. I just surrendered to it. My daughter said she was going to burn the issue; and my ex-wife tried to be rational about it, but the best she could come up with was, “Well, it’s nobody’s business.” Some woman told me she was having fantasies over it. That was amusing but weird. I liked the idea of doing it as opposed to Hugh Hefner sitting around smoking a pipe. I had to break the news to my mother, who was concerned that I was getting too skinny: so I wrote her a letter and told her, “Now the whole world will know I’m thin.”
High Times: Why were you fired from I Hustler?
Paul Krassner: Well, Hustler’s associated with Larry Flvnt, and in the readers’ minds, they couldn’t relate to me. And I can understand that, in the sense that the Realist is associated with me. Our parting was totally friendly. Althea Flynt, Larry’s wife and associate publisher, was crying when she fired me, but I comforted her. It is good etiquette to comfort one’s employer when one has just been fired.
High Times: How did you change Hustler?
Paul Krassner: By getting writers like Theodore Sturgeon and Terry Southern—and nonfiction writers like Kate Coleman and Michael Rossman, both of whom came out of the Free Speech Movement. Of course I didn’t make these changes myself, there was a whole editorial staff doing it. We made the Shah of Iran the Asshole of the Month. We got information within the format of the magazine. We tried to make the connection, especially in my publisher’s statements, that the feminists who attacked Hustler as an easy target were playing into the hands of the FBI strategy, and I quoted FBI documents that we got through the Freedom of Information Act. And I posed nude, which gave the magazine a kind of humanizing effect, that the publisher was no different naked from the readers, and in fact I even admitted to having jerked off to girlie magazines. We did away with the distinction between the publisher and the reader.
High Times: What are your plans now?
Paul Krassner: Well, I’m working on a collection of investigative satire and a novel about a Lenny Bruce-type comedian, and on my unauthorized autobiography, which Playboy will publish excerpts from. It’s called The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race, because it describes a bicycle race in which the winner was the person who crossed the finish line last, and I won. Once you knew you were behind, you were ahead. I’m writing about the trial of Roman Polanski for Oui and about my five months at Hustler for New York magazine, and I’m going to Egypt with Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead to hear them play the pyramids.
I’m also going on trial with Rolling Stone—I wrote in Rolling Stone that a guy from Navy Intelligence was posing as a hippie artist at a meeting of the Manson family, and he’s suing for $450 million, which is Rolling Stone’s whole petty-cash account. Melvin Belli is the attorney for the plaintiff. And, as soon as I get a book advance, I can start subsidizing the Realist again.
High Times: So you don’t feel too bad about Hustler?
Paul Krassner: It was fun. It was an education. I don’t have any bitterness. They hired me so frivolously, they had a right to fire me frivolously. But the big thing is that now I’m able to go for a walk in the sun whenever I feel like it.
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