Items worth saving from the first 20 issues of
The Passing of The
one of the best satirical writers of our time, has published
the 146th and last issue of The Realist. I became
a subscriber in 1958 and have a yellowed file of copies from
Number 1 through the Spring 2001 issue, a collection that records
a small portion of the absurdity that runs through social and
political developments in our society.
His magazine never accepted advertising
so that he was free to provide what he called "communication
without compromise." Many of his satires were regarded as
offensive by some readers and observers, most notably "The
Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book," a send-up
that perfectly caught the style of William Manchester's interpretation
of the JFK assassination. It belongs up there next to the modest
proposals of Jonathan Swift.
Krassner coined the term "Yippie"
to describe himself and some members of the peace movement during
the Vietnam War protests, challenged many taboos with his interview
of an abortion practitioner in the barbaric days before Roe vs.
Wade, penned a brilliant "obituary" of Lenny Bruce
before Bruce died, demanded a blood test when People magazine
called him "the father of the underground press," and
authored the bogus college commencement address attributed to
Kurt Vonnegut that raced through the Internet a few years ago.
In 1991 I sent Krassner the first issue
State Review, and
he promptly became one of my greatly appreciated 600 charter
subscribers. That, by coincidence, was the same
number that The Realist began with. He went on
to achieve a circulation of 100,000 in the halcyon year of 1967,
when he reached a peak as a countercultural icon, and was between
5,000 and 7,000 toward the end.
the 10 years of the pre-Internet TSR, I reprinted several of
Krassner's gems, including his classic tale in TSR14 (Winter-Spring
1996), page 12:
When Apollo Mission astronaut Neil Armstrong
first walked on the moon, he not only said "One small step
for man, one giant step for mankind," but also, just before
re-entering the landing craft, he uttered, enigmatically, "Good
luck, Mr. Gorsky." At NASA they thought it referred to a
rival Soviet cosmonaut, but there was no Gorsky in either the
Russian or American space program. For 26 years Armstrong never
answered questions about that remark, but finallyon July
5, 1995 in Tampa Bay, Floridahe gave in. Gorsky had died and so Armstrong felt
it would not be inappropriate to respond. When he was a young
boy, playing baseball in the back yard, his brother hit a fly
ball that landed in front of a neighbor's bedroom windowthe Gorskys.
As Armstrong was retrieving the ball, he heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting:
"Oral sex? You want oral sex? You'll get oral sex when the
kid next door walks on the moon!"
funny, instructive and controversial, The Realist
served a useful purpose for more than 40 years. Along the way
there was some "collateral damage," offending people
without a sense of irony, a sense of whimsy or, indeed, a sense
From Issue #1
ITEM: The front page of the New York Times, October
11, 1988, has a photograph of George Bush with a Pinocchio nose.
Attendance at the annual conventions
of the Associated Press Managing Editors: in 1985761; in
1990388; in 1991188.
Baltimore Sun reports that the Japanese now use
a socially acceptable verb for vomitingBushusuru:
to do a Bush.
A record 61 journalists in 18
countries were killed last year. Not included: American investigative
reporters who died under suspicious circumstances.
Nan Robertson calls her new book
The Girls in the Balcony because that's where female
journalists used to stand at National Press Club luncheons while
male colleagues dined below.
Memo to National Public Radio:
Using a Time magazine man to report the "news"
in Haiti is like using Pat Buchanan to tell the latest
on Arab-Israeli relations.
Memo to Dan Rather: Please inform
your correspondents that "reliable intelligence sources"
is an oxymoron.
look for stories next to the classified ads. That's where editors
put the really important stuff they don't want to kill but just
want to bury alive.
Ivins suggest in Mother Jones that "populist
billionaire" is the best new political oxymoron since "Reagan's
Mario Cuomo on "Larry King
Live": "Dan Quayle is the cabin boy on the Titanic."
On "Northern Exposure"
(CBS):"Give them what they want. That's the role of
journalism.""No, that's the role of professional
Garrison Keillor discloses the
motto of the New York Times: "The world is
not chaotic; it is run by reasonable people and we know them."
Compensation for Gannett CEO John
J. Curley in 1991 was more than $2 millionenough for almost
a hundred starting reporters at understaffed Gannett papers.
Garry Trudeau reports that at the 1988 Republican Convention
Jeb Bush came up to him and said he had only two words
for him: "Walk softly."
Courtesy of "Harper's Index":
Ratio of federal dollars spent in 1991 on S&L and bank bailouts
to federal dollars spent on welfare: 6 to 1.
The Overseas Press Club reports
that from 1982 through 1991, 341 journalists were killed, 131
disappeared or were kidnapped, and 1,938 were arrested.
Freedom House reports that a record
82 journalists were killed worldwide in 1991, 53 in retaliation
for their work.
Bush, back in Houston, reportedly visited a retirement home and
asked a woman if she knew who he was. "No," she replied,
"but if you check at the front desk, I'm sure they'll be
able to help you."
James Carville, on why so many
Clinton campaign staffers are in the White House: "It's
like how many blacks you played on the basketball team in Louisiana
20 years ago. The rule was three at home, four on the road and
five when you're behind."
Former Secretary of State George
Shultz on the CIA: "They were very good at estimating the
number of tanks and missiles and things of that kind. They misread
situation after situation in political and economic terms."
Montana's Vital Records and Statistics
Bureau reports that of 11,498 births in 1991, more than one of
every four children was born to an unwed mother.
Contributor's joke: Is the Hoover
vacuum cleaner named after J. Edgar Hoover? They both sucked
up a lot of dirt, they both made a lot of noise and they both
spent most of their lives in the closet.
Nixon, after being given a standing ovation by members of the
American Society of Newspaper Editors, told a newsman that he
thought the editors were "still a bunch of shits."
From a reader: "A publisher
is a comfortable personuntil now usually malewho
expects his employees, to whom he pays a pittance in comparison
to his own compensation, to worship at the altar of the Almighty
Dollar as intensely as he."
Eric Naiburg, lawyer for Amy Fisher
(who shot her lover's wife), in a speech to journalists: "The
truth is between me and my client. If I give you deliberate misinformation
on behalf of a client and you print it, that's your problem."
Reuven Frank, former president
of NBC News: "The news business is no longer the news business.
Now it's just a business like any other. So they look for people
who will attract audiences instead of people who know what they're
doing or have some sense, or for that matter have a sense of
Richard V. Allen, President Reagan's
first national security adviser, answering a reporter's implication
that he is a sleazeball: "I am not Meese, Deaver, Nofziger,
McFarlane or Poindexter."
The problem remains: How do we
get rid of the poisons that surround us? A reader reports that
NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) has become BANANA (Build Absolutely
Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody).
Lynn Samuels: "America is the only country with lone, deranged
gunmen. In every other country, leaders are killed by organized
coups working with orchestrated plans. America is the only country
where political leaders are killed by lone gunmen with psychiatric
Robin Greenspan: "If a man
wants a woman to have sex with him, he's got to ask her out,
wine her, dine her, drug her up. . . . But if a woman wants a
man to have sex with her, she just has to ask for a promotion."
The Mobile Press Register
refused to run an advertisement submitted by an Alabama priest
depicting a gun pointed at an abortion doctor, with the caption:
John McLaughlin, notorious leader
of the McLaughlin Group on TV, explaining why so many people
kowtow to him: "They're all whores. Every one of them. They're
all whores, and so am I. But I've got the TV show."
Roth: "The American writer has his hands full in trying
to understand, describe, and then make credible much of the American
reality. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents, and
the culture tosses up figures almost daily that are the envy
of any novelist."
Then Attorney General Edwin Meese
explaining to the American Bar Association why the Miranda decision
enabling those arrested to be advised of their rights was no
longer necessary: "If a person is innocent of a crime, then
he is not a suspect."
Oliver North, candidate for the
United States Senate, on his three felony convictions (and the
quality of the electorate in Virginia): "Most people don't
give a rat's patootie."
Cox News Service: "Golf course
developers and environmentalists are at opposite ends of the
field of play. What developers regard as a pleasure to the senses,
some environmentalists see as a place where land has been scarred,
streams polluted and wildlife retarded, all for a perfect lie."
nine of the talk-radio broadcasters who have announced their
candidacy for Congress this year profess right-wing views.
latest cyberspace breakthrough comes from Monica Johnstone, assistant
professor of writing and media at Loyola College: "Recently
I noticed that if you hold your ear to your A drive port you
can hear the ocean."
Dean Jannette Dates of the Howard
University journalism school: "Media gatekeepers are white
males. Their views often are based on white male supremacy, allowing
few alternative views to get by them."
Steve Fuller, former Clemson quarterback,
trying to decide between law school and the National Football
League: "You either have to finesse 12 people who weren't
smart enough to get out of jury duty, or 11 who weren't smart
enough to play offense."
Letter in the American Journalism
Review contending the movie "The Paper" was
considerably overrated by reviewers: "Journalists are virtually
the only people who find themselves fascinating."
A special report from Our Woman
In The Nation's Capital says that "the Information Superhighway
is beginning to look more and more like a toll road."
Dan Quayle: "If I choose
to run, I have no doubt that I'll win." Margery Hunter Brown:
"He's been out on the golf course too long."
Critic Susan Douglas: "Of all the vacuous platitudes to
spill forth from punditland, few are more hollow than the solemn
announcement that a particular event is a 'wake-up call for America.'
As soon as the pundits feel they have done their duty by mouthing
this cliche, they hit the snooze alarm and go back to their dreamland
where white men in suits, safely sequestered in posh and well-guarded
office buildings, are the ones who most deserve our attention."
Writer Susan Faludi: "I tend
to operate on the assumption that every self-respecting woman
is a feminist. It's just a matter of peeling away the layers
of denial and self-protection, and all of the reasons why women
back off and try to disavow their own best interests."
Headline in the Crystal Lake (Illinois)
Northwest Herald on an exhibit of the Enola Gay,
the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima:
Atomic Bombers Criticize Enola Homosexual Exhibit.
United States Senator Paul Simon:
"When I was a young reporter, the great vice of many journalists
was whiskey. Today, it's cynicism."
Actor John Larroquette: "Everybody
should be involved in something for the benefit of your neighbors
and mankind. Most of us spend our days so busy in the rat race
that we forget there are rats who can't run."
After folk singer Arlo Guthrie
purchased the church made famous in "Alice's Restaurant,"
he announced plans to hold a seminar on holistic healing. When
the town fathers balked, he registered his property as a religious
institution, putting it beyond some of Great Barrington's bylaws.
A town selectman complained that Guthrie had "found a loophole
in the law." When the Berkshire Eagle asked
Arlo for his response, he replied: "The First Amendment
is not a loophole."
D. Stark in the Los Angeles Times: "The jugglers
have entered the cathedral. . . . 'Crossfire' and 'The McLaughlin
Group' are to James Reston and Edward R. Murrow what pro wrestling
is to sports."
New York Times Publisher
Arthur Sulzberger Jr., saying he was prepared to deliver his
paper by CD-ROM, the Internet or whatever was required: "Hell,
if someone would be kind enough to invent the technology, I'll
be pleased to beam it directly into your cortex. We'll have the
City Edition, the Late City Edition and Mind-Meld Edition."
The Washington Spectator
reports that the concentration of wealth in Americathe
top 1 percent holding 40 percent of it while the bottom 20 percent
earn barely 6 percent of all after-tax incomeis being perpetuated,
even aggravated, by Congress.
A.J. Liebling once observed: "If
you are smart enough you can kick yourself in the seat of the
pants, grab yourself by the back of the collar, and throw yourself
out on the sidewalk. This is an axiom that I hope will be taught
to future students of journalism as Liebling's Law."
According to Tony Randall, Noah
Webster is alleged to have said on his deathbed: "I am going
to, or I am about to, die; either one is correct."
in the Daily Vidette of Illinois State University:
"It was incorrectly reported last Friday that today is T-shirt
Appreciation Day. In fact, it is actually Teacher Appreciation
Former British spy David Cornwell
(John Le Carré) takes blame for romanticizing the espionage
game: "Where I kick myself is where I think I actually contributed
to the myth of the intelligence services as being very good."
Dan Rather, stung by media shots
that his prank on the David Letterman show was unseemly: "I
didn't blow up a pickup truck like 'Dateline NBC.' I didn't stand
in front of a picture of the Capitol and make it look like I
was really there like correspondent Cokie Roberts on 'ABC World
News Tonight.' I just had a little fun."
Columnist Pete Hamill: "Consider
this: We live in a country that has never made a movie about
Leonardo da Vinci and has produced three about Joey Buttafuoco."
Allen Neuharth of Gannett infamy,
president of the Freedom Forum foundation, has repaid $20,000
he took from the Forum for a secret buy of 2,000 copies of his
autobiography, Confessions of an S.O.B., in hopes
of boosting it onto the best-seller list.
publisher of Al Franken's hilarious Rush Limbaugh Is a
Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations sent a book to Limbaugh
with a letter that said, "Dear Rush, Al thinks it would
help sales if you mentioned the book on your show."
Proctor & Gamble got FDA approval
to market the no-fat Olestra although the admitted side effects
range from various kinds of "gastrointestinal distress"
to other problems, including the following: "anal leakage."
When the weekly Missoula
Independent ran a poll, with no prizes, on what readers
deemed were the people, places and ideas that represented the
"Best of Missoula," 457 lengthy ballots were sent in.
At the same time, the Great Falls Tribune, which
offered a prize of five shares of Gannett stock (approximate
paper value of $270) for "picking the stock that will turn
the biggest profit by Thanksgiving," received 74 entries.
Our Man in Reno reports a bumper
sticker seen in the nation's capital: Thurmond and Helms in 1996:
Don't waste 200 years of experience.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld: "Ever
notice that no matter what happens in one day, it exactly fits
in the newspaper?"
The Washington Post
reports that the Department of Defense is testing two anti-vomit
drugs intended to allow soldiers, for a short time after a nuclear
attack, to continue to perform their military mission before
they ultimately die of nuclear radiation.
Two reporters on the Grand Junction
Daily Sentinel subjected the Denver International
Airport to an act of investigative journalism when they staged
a race to downtown Denver. High Country News reports
that one drove the 240 miles while the other flew over the mountains
and took public transportation into town. The automobile driver
got there an hour before the person who flew, and at a cost of
$70 compared to $177.50 for the plane fare.
sent by the American Association of Retired Persons with a membership
pitch was received by the Smithsonian Institution's Visitor Center,
addressed to Enola Gay.
Button seen in Helena: The Complete
Lack of Evidence is the Surest Sign that the Conspiracy is Working.
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colorado),
when asked how her congressional colleagues treat women on Capitol
Hill, responded that "a lot of men still don't know that
harass isn't two words."
A consultant listed the six major
food groups for hard-core convenience store customers: sugar,
fat, salt, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.
Senator Bob Dole in a speech in
April: "If something happened along the route and you had
to leave your children with Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, I think
you'd probably leave them with Bob Dole." A Washington
Post survey a week later found that 52 percent of the
respondents picked Clinton as guardian, to 27 percent who chose
James Brady, affectionately known to reporters as "Bear,"
slowly walked with his wife Sarah to the podium at the Democratic
National Convention in August, the reporters in the press gallery
tossed objectivity aside and gave him a standing ovation. The
former White House press secretary, still partially paralyzed
from the shots fired by John Hinckley in the attempted assassination
of President Reagan on the afternoon of March 30, 1981, had once
been saluted at a Republican National Convention, but he switched
allegiance to the Democrats because of Republican opposition
to the legislation that bears his name.
Cleveland outfielder Albert Belle
was fined $50,000 for an obscene gesture against TV personality
Hannah Storm, which he explained away by saying, "I thought
she was Lesley Visser." And Mike Tyson, who had claimed
he read Tolstoy while in prison, admitted he reads mostly comic
books. "I'm not as deep as you may think," he added.
The Washington Post
reported that the Atlanta Journal and Constitution
committed more manpower and newsprint to a single event than
any newspaper in the history of the world. A full-time staff
of 320 journalists pumped out 96 pages of material every day
on the Olympic Games.
Rick Pollay, advertising professor
at the University of British Columbia: "Tobacco is the only
consumer product that, when used as directed, causes death."
Dean Joan Konner observes that
the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism "raised
about $30 million for the School in the past four years, and
with all that, none of it, not one penny, has come from or for
television or radio. That makes some kind of statement about
the industry's interest in supporting journalism education."
Nader: "Have you ever wondered about the absence from the
national evening news of interviews with wise older people with
a lifetime of experience like George Kennan or ex-Senator Mike
Mansfield or John Kenneth Galbraith? In their place are selected
those fast-talking slicksters in their middle age from some Think
Tank or Consulting Institute. I asked some TV producers why.
Their answer: They talk too slowly and look too old, 'to be honest
The Newspaper Association of America
reports that a decade ago there were 142 cities with two or more
dailies and that now there are only 60. To make matters worse,
most of those papers are controlled by a single owner or jointly
operated under a profit-splitting agreement. Only eight cities
have dailies under separate ownership: New York, Boston, Washington,
Chicago, Denver, Trenton, Wilkes-Barre and Green Bay.
Rush Limbaugh comes to the defense
of men who violate women: "What was once considered an important
part of finding a mate is being mischaracterized as a rape."
The most informative paragraph
in the news January 23 was contained in an indirect quote by
a friend of singer Anita O'Day, who was in intensive care at
a Hollywood hospital: "O'Day developed pneumonia and blood
poisoning after she was hospitalized Dec. 18 for treatment of
a broken arm, he said."
From Our Man in San Francisco:
"I must admit I got some perverse joy out of wondering how
Nike CEO Phil Knight felt when he saw his sacred swoosh adorning
the feet of those 39 cult people who killed themselves in California."
editorial page editor of the San Francisco Examiner spiked
a column that complained of exploitation of workers by Nike and
other "hypergreedy" corporations because it might hurt
plans for the paper's upcoming Nike-sponsored "Bay to Breakers"
race. When questioned, the editor denied that the column had
been killed. The Examiner, he explained, "had
chosen not to run it."
Correction in the Fresno
Bee: "An item in Thursday's paper about the Massachusetts
budget crisis made reference to new taxes that will help put
Massachusetts 'back in the African American.' The item should
have said 'back in the black.'"
Nomination for The Most Puzzling
Journalistic Question of the Year With an Answer We Don't Want
to Think About goes to editor Lewis H. Lapham in Harper's
(August, 1997): "If the editors of the Globe can pay an
airline stewardess $75,000 to pose with Frank Gifford for the
video camera in the Regency Hotel, what will they bid for the
sight of a fireman in bed with Barbara Walters?"
Kirn notes that President Clinton has two basic passions: one
alleged and one long proved. The second, proven passionan
example of which is smoking pot but not inhaling and therefore
not smoking potis for cunning linguistics.
A small item in Newsweek:
The warmest year ever recorded was 1997. Nine of the warmest
years on record have occurred within the past 11 years.
From Sam Smith's Great American
Political Repair Manual: "We don't need to uncover
the secret of who killed JFK to recognize a more generic fact:
Our politics has been repeatedly interrupted and distorted by
assassins, the mob, rogue intelligence agents, out-of-control
spy agencies, drug rings, illegal financial manipulation, illegal
influence peddlers, covert government operations, and the corrupting
clout of big money. Why should we spend so much money debating
Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman
in Take the Rich Off Welfare report that the federal
government spends about $130 billion a year on welfare for the
poor, but it spends at least $448 billion on welfare for the
rich. Cut that by 26 percent and we've wiped out the federal
deficit and balanced the budget.
Mark Willes, CEO of the Times-Mirror
Corporation, a.k.a. "The Cereal Killer," responding
to those who insist on the traditional wall between the newsroom
and the advertising department: "And every time they point
if out, I get out a bazooka and tell them if they don't take
it down, I'm going to blow it up."
man in San Francisco writes that almost everyone knows about
the holy man who says to the hot dog vendor: "Make me one
with everything." But then the holy man pays for the hot
dog with a $20 bill. "Thanks," says the vendor. "Where's
my change?" asks the holy man. "Change," replies
the vendor, "comes from within."
Extra!, the magazine
of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, reports that a pamphlet
called "How Parents Can Help Children Live Marijuana Free,"
written by Utah criminologist Gerald Smithwith a preface
by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)listed warning signs that your kids
might be inhaling. Among the danger signals: "excessive
preoccupation with social causes, race relations, environmental
Dave Barry says the motto of the
American Society of Newspaper Editors is "Proudly Maintaining
the (Motto Continued on Page A-34)."
Journalist Pete Hamill, author
of News is a Verb, addressing 1,100 cheering investigative
editors and reporters at their annual meeting in New Orleans
last year: "I've never in my life met a publisher who would
make a pimple on the ass of a good reporter. The fact is that
publishers don't know anything about readers. The disjunction
between the people who put out newspapers and the people who
read them is a problem we all face, but publishers think they
can learn about readers by hiring semi-sociologists to give them
focus groups. Whenever a publisher opens his mouth and begins
a phrase, 'Our readers,' you can leave the room."
Our man in Venice (California)
reports the following from singer Mariah Carey: "Whenever
I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world,
I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that
but not with all those flies and death and stuff."