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Subject: Art Kunkin, Publisher of counterculture newspaper The LA Free Press


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Dead at 91
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Date Posted: Thursday, May 09, 12:01:59pm

https://www.avpress.com/news/newsline/counterculture-newspaper-publisher-dies/article_aed6348a-71fa-11e9-9c1c-9737ab4ed34f.html

Counterculture newspaper publisher dies

By NEIL GENZLINGER New York Times News Service


Art Kunkin, who captured the swirling discontent and creativity of the emerging counterculture in 1964 when he founded The Los Angeles Free Press, one of the first and most successful of the underground newspapers that appeared in those authority-defying times, died on April 30 in Joshua Tree, California. He was 91.

His daughter Anna Kunkin confirmed his death.

Kunkin’s eclectic life included time as a machinist; explorations of socialism, Sufism and alchemy; and running a meditation school. But he was best known for The Freep, as his newspaper came to be called, a publication fueled by sex advertisements and featuring articles on subjects like police oppression, the anti-war movement and rock ’n’ roll, that were not being well covered by the mainstream press.

“I felt that there was a new consciousness, a new culture that wasn’t being expressed and that was being suppressed,” Kunkin said in a 2007 video interview, explaining what he was trying to accomplish with the paper.

With the help of his wife at the time, Abby Rubinstein, and others, he began the paper on a shoestring. “The first issue was laid out on our dining room table,” Anna Kunkin recalled in a telephone interview.

By the end of the 1960s it had a robust circulation near 100,000. But Kunkin was beginning to encounter financial difficulties — partly as a result of his acquisition of a printing press, which became a financial burden, and partly as a result of his decision to publish, in August 1969, the names and addresses of 80 government narcotics agents.

“There Should Be No Secret Police,” the headline on that article read, but it led to lawsuits that crippled his operation.

By 1973 Kunkin had lost control of the paper and was out, though he returned as editor for a time under Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, who bought The Freep but shut it down in the late 1970s.

Though it flamed out, in its heyday the paper was groundbreaking and influential.

“Art Kunkin was a visionary publisher with (mostly) good judgment, and impeccable timing,” John McMillian, a history professor at Georgia State University and the author of “Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America” (2011), said by email. “When Kunkin started publishing The Freep in 1964, he sensed that a radical or countercultural movement was brewing in Los Angeles, but it lacked cohesion and direction. The Freep soon became a voice and forum for young bohemians — disaffected artists, writers and activists who had previously been disconnected from one another.”

In a 1996 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Kunkin explained what separated The Freep from papers like, well, The Los Angeles Times.

“What made the difference between the alternative press in the 1960s and the mass media,” he said, “was that the mass media looked on all events as isolated — errors that the system could correct. The sense of the 1960s alternative press was that these issues were all connected, that they indicated a certain sickness of the society. And this sickness has not decreased.”

Arthur Glick Kunkin was born on March 28, 1928, in New York to Irving and Bea Kunkin. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1945.

He was an organizer for the Socialist Workers Party and acquired some journalism experience working on The Militant, the party’s newspaper, as well as other leftist publications. In the 1950s, after service in the Army, he worked as a machinist for General Motors and Ford, where he found a discontent not often thought of in counterculture terms.

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