Mayer Vishner, a longtime anti-war activist, editor, and close associate of Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, died in his Greenwich Village apartment at the age of 64 last week — an apparent suicide, according to friends and colleagues.
Paul Krassner, 81, a founder of the Yippies and editor of The Realist, said yesterday that he spoke to Vishner around 2 a.m. Thursday, after he had returned from Texas to leave his cat with a friend.
Vishner was described by colleagues as a lifelong bachelor who was committed to the liberation movements of the ’60s and ’70s, espousing sex, drugs, rock and revolution. He was a former managing editor of L.A. Weekly and edited a 1971 book, When the Mode of the Music Changes: An Anthology of Rock n’ Roll Lyrics.
In the ’90s, he was an assistant manager at the St. Mark’s Bookshop. “Mayer was a character,” said the store’s co-owner, Bob Contant. “He was a New York type that’s hard to describe — you have to experience it. He could have an abrasive personality and people could take him the wrong way — a characteristic of New York that’s disappeared because we’ve become so politically correct and sanitized.”
Vishner grew up in the Bronx, where he attended agricultural high school, according to Susan Cakars, whose late husband Maris was Vishner’s editor at Win, a magazine of the War Resisters League. He tended to a community garden and was active in that movement, according to musician, writer, and Yippie co-founder Ed Sanders, who recalled Vishner as a pacifist who was “against all war.”
Other colleagues recalled him as a man who struggled with depression, drug abuse and alcoholism.”Mayer was a stalwart of the War Resisters League and the New York hippies/Yippies and pacifists,” said David McReynolds, the retired field secretary of WRL in a statement from his East Village apartment. “He was also a troubled soul who lived a deeply depressed life and depended on vodka to keep the demons at bay.”
Bedford+Bowery learned of the passing via Facebook, when Dylan garbologist AJ Weberman posted a photo of Vishner with Hoffman and fellow yippie Tom Forcade, the founder of High Times (both of whom also committed suicide). In a message to B+B, Weberman claimed that Vishner planned his death “long in advance and informed senior counterculture people of his intentions.” He added that he had spoken to Johanna Lawrenson, Abbie Hoffman’s widow, and she had told him that Vishner had attempted suicide before.
Aron Kay, the “Yippie pieman,” saw Vishner at anti-war protests, at the anniversary of Abbie Hoffman’s death in 1998, and at the Democratic Convention in 1996, where they called for human rights and the legalization of marijuana. He described his comrade as a trooper. “He never went into any cult,” said Kay. “He never dropped his values.”