Friday, March 8, 1968


Battle of Four-Letter Words

Avatar is one of several irreverent, fuzzily written hippie newspapers that have sprung up in the U.S. It contains no more erotica than the rest; even its chief contributor, Mel Lyman, who claims to be God, is nothing out of the ordinary. Avatar differs only in that it is published in the Boston area, where such publications are traditionally frowned on. Soon after it first appeared last spring, city fathers grew restive. Cambridge City Councillor Alfred E. Vellucci set the tone by calling it the "filthiest junk I have ever laid eyes on." News dealers heard a warning in this, and some stopped selling it.

That was no obstacle to Avatar. It promptly rounded up scores of sympathetic youngsters to hawk the paper on street corners. One by one, police picked them up. But as arrests mounted, so did four-letter words in Avatar, reaching a culmination of a sort in a centerfold consisting of four familiar obscenities in yellow, 2½-in. type. Last month, Avatar staged a mass sell-in at Harvard Square. Police arrested 23 salesmen on the spot. Last week a Cambridge district court convicted 17 of selling obscene material and imposed fines ranging from $100 to $300. It was the biggest court defeat handed Avatar to date. But the editors have no intention of toning the paper down now that city authorities have helped it make such a name for itself.

Mel Lyman