Lanny Friedlander, Founder of Reason Magazine, RIP

I'm very sorry to report sad news: Lanny Friedlander, the man who founded Reason magazine as a student at Boston University in 1968 has died at the age of 63.

He passed away on March 19 and will be buried on Monday. His barebones obituary is online at the site for the Blake Funeral Home, where there's also a guest book visitors can sign:

Born in Boston on December 7, 1947, son of Herbert Friedlander of FL and the late Edith (Wolf) Friedlander.

He served his country in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and was stationed aboard the USS Forrestal. He was the original founder of Reason Magazine which is still being published, and today has over 60,000 subscribers.

In addition to his father, survivors include his stepmother, Eunice Friedlander of FL; his brother, Daniel Friedlander of Silver Spring, MD; two uncles, Sherman Wolf of Amherst, NH and Myron Wolf of Newton, MA; and a cousin, Frances Pastan of Silver Spring, MD.

His Graveside Service will be held on Monday at 11:15 a.m. at the Massachusetts National Cemetery at Bourne, MA.

All of us at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that grew out of the magazine and publishes this website, extend our condolences to his family and friends.

Our debt and gratitude to Lanny can never be repaid in full but we hope that our efforts at moving the world towards peace and prosperity honor his memory.

Lanny's death naturally puts us at Reason in a reflective mood. The strangest part of it is that, though we're all his heirs and beneficiaries, nobody currently working at the magazine ever met him. It's been that way for a long time. As Virginia Postrel, editor in chief of Reason from 1989 until 2000, told me via email, not only had she never met him, but during her time at the mag, folks didn't even know what had happened to him.

Jesus, how did he so quickly become a ghost at the very mag he'd started? It wasn't due to some sort of Balzacian heist or gothic double-cross that's just as common at magazine startups as it is at Web 2.0 ventures. Though to be honest, there is a bit of Jane Eyre to it. When I began working at Reason in late 1993, I remember asking around a bit about this Friedlander guy who'd gotten the ball rolling, whose name was all over the early issues, right there, at the top of the masthead even. Stories bubbled up that, lacking money and a business sense but possessing great design chops, Lanny had sold the mag to a trio of early contributors (Bob Poole, the first president of the nonprofit Reason Foundation that publishes this website and remains our top transportation guru; Manny Klausner, who sits on our board of trustees; and Tibor Machan, a philospher at Chapman University and a syndicated columnist). He moved to New York and worked with design legend Massimo Vignelli. (Read Poole's memories of Lanny here.)

Then began a long downward spiral familiar to anybody who reads histories of magazines, especially those started in late '60s and early '70s: mental problems, substance problems, health problems, money problems. The old-timers at the foundation and others in the pioneer days of what has become the libertarian movement told me that contact became sporadic and then stopped altogether. We libertarians are pretty lousy at the self-gratifying and self-aggrandizing myth-making that seems to come more naturally to righties and lefties. In the absence of an official mythology, I started thinking of Lanny as libertarianism's answer to Syd Barrett, the mad genius founder of Pink Floyd who got something great started and then couldn't or wouldn't live in the world he did so much to create. Shine on, you crazy anti-draft, anti-tax diamond, wish you were here.

When we opened our D.C. offices a few years ago, I hunted around for a picture of Lanny to put on the walls - libertarians aren't much for shrines to fearless leaders, but come on! - and nobody in the organization could find one. The only one of him I've ever seen was a blurry black-and-white snapshot that had captured him sometime in the late '60s or early '70s, wearing period chunky glasses, wind flapping around what looked to be a combover in the making. We had used it in a video for our 35th anniversary, but even it had disappeared. (And by it, I mean the photo and the video we made!) Without knowing where he was living (or even if he was living), we saved a seat for Lanny at our 35th anniversary bash in L.A. and I prayed that he would show up unexpectedly, like a member of the Lost Battalion finally wandering back home, dust-covered, battle-scarred, and beaten to hell. But finally honored.

He didn't show, of course and alas. It was like he had disappeared, vanished into the ether like a mirage across a huge, hot, shimmering desert. Had he ever really existed in the first place?

Yes, and his legacy hasn't disappeared, whether in terms of magazine design or the world of ideas.

One of his earliest admirers was Louis Rossetto, the co-founder of Wired, the magazine that not only redefined what magazines should look, feel, and even smell like back in the '90s but reshaped our dreams of what the future could be. Louis was a student at Columbia when he first encountered Reason and Lanny. Not long after that meeting, Louis and his compadre Stan Lehr would write one of the great magazine articles of all time: "The New Right Credo - Libertarianism," published in January 10, 1971 edition of The New York Times, of all places. Here's how it ends:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Eitan Chatav||

    Nice piece Nick. I'm shedding a tear for someone I didn't even know about now.

  • ||

    What Eitan just said.

  • Dello||

    +1 more.

  • Joshua||

    I cried.

  • ||

    Very thoughtful and sensitive piece -- he must have been pleased about the legacy of his creation.

  • DNS||

    To witness a short-termer writing about "the prospects of immortality in the foreseeable future" is heartbreaking enough. But there is a universe of pain and fear and hope and pride encoded in that postscript that is simply too vast and boundless to process.

    Well done, Nick Gillespie. Well done.

  • cmace||

    Rip. Never heard of him before.

  • sevo||

    Doherty's "Radicals for Capitalism" helps with Libertarian 'ancient history'.

  • ||

    I am kind of upset that he wasn't posting here in the comments for the past 4 to 5 years.

    That would have been great.

  • ||

    How do you know he wasn't?

  • Kolohe||

    His note to Bailey seems to follow the lead of Sugarfree by including non-functional hyperlinks.

    (RIP dinosaur libertarian sailor guy)

  • ||

    Great job, Nick.

  • ||

    Please tell me that "Even More Choice: The Best of Reason" is coming out for the 45th or 50th anniversary and that this piece is included.

    It's just perfect.

  • ||

    What a beautiful piece, Nick. Thanks.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What an awesome postscript on that Bailey note. And Gillespie offers here a nice postscript to Friedlander's story.

    P.S. I comment sporadically and vapidly at Reason Hit and Run.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    What an awesome postscript on that Bailey note.

    It is by far the best I have ever seen.

  • ||

    When Gillespie passes on - hopefully a long, long time from now - I hope someone writes a thoughtful obit like the one above, and not like the classless piece o' crap Gillespe wrote when Elizabeth Taylor died. I guess it feels kind of different when someone from within your circle goes away for good.

  • ||

    ...Or perhaps it's when someone actually contributed more to society than a few decent films and a lifetime of vapid celebrity.

  • Rather||

    Don't be an idiot. Taylor embraced people with AIDS when other celebrities were ducking for cover

  • Rectal||

    For which she will always be remembered on Rectal's blog. *shudder*

  • ||

    Don't worry, rectal. No one will remember you. In fact, who are you? Heller, who is this "rectal"?

  • ||

    Damned if I know.

  • Openworld||

    Very sad news. I recall weekends working for Lanny while I was a high school kid helpingdo pasteups for the first offset-printed issues of Reason. Lanny was an exceptionally learned and insightful guy, who launched Reason while a night school journalism student at Boston University out of earnings as a day-tinme truck driver. He lived in a modest room in the Allston/Brighton neighborhood, packed with troves of material on the early libertarian/objectivist movement. With laminated Reason press passes that he hand-made (his said editor, mine "publisher"), we got back stage to see Ayn Rand after one of her Ford Hall speeches. After high school, I continued during my Harvard college years working for Reason part time as a contributing editor and seeing Lanny from time to time. At Lanny's suggestion, I connected with Bob Poole, who had organized the purchase of the magzine. Bob was kind enough to take me on as Reason's managing editor and cofounder of a fledging privatization think tank in Santa Barbara following graduation. Through conversations with Lanny in the early 1970s, I also became aware of a range of libertarian "new country" initiatives (Mike Oliver and Werner Stiefel's efforts especially). This was another life changing experience for me, prompting my choice to make a career of spreading free economic zones. One remark that Lanny made in the early 1970s, just after our interview with an early voucher advocate, Christopher Jencks, has resonated through the years. It was about whether disinterested people or interested people were more likely to merit trust. Lanny said that he had no fear of consent-based, peer relationships among interested parties. It was power wielded by 'disinterested' parties that he most feared. His courage in founding Reason and skill in steering it through the formative years changed my life and countless others. Lanny, heartfelt thanks for freeing minds and helping to make the world safer for free people.

    Best,

    Mark Frazier
    Reason publisher (1969-70)
    President, Openworld
    @openworld (twitter

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Respect.

  • ||

    I also hear he loved thin crust and despised that rubbish from Chicago called deep-dish "pizza."

    In all seriousness, this is among the best writing I've seen in quite a while. Bravo, Nick. Bravo.

  • Max||

    Boo-fucking hoo.

  • ||

    Stay classy, Edward.

  • Dick Bait Epi||

    Stay classy, Edward.

    Pot/Kettle

  • sevo||

    "Boo-fucking hoo."

    Tart grapes and all that.
    I'm sure when they plug you in the ground, one or two people will be there to piss on your grave.

  • sasob||

    Why wait til then?

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    I'm sure we'll all be happy to attend his funeral - provided they serve free beer and let people piss in the casket.

    There might even be a buck to be made raffling off tickets to the event.

  • ||

    This was too much fun yesterday, so...

    There once was a writer named Lanny...

  • sevo||

    "There once was a writer named Lanny..."

    Who started a 'zine, anti-nanny.....

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    He had his fun, it's had a good run...

  • ||

    Now he's foor for the worms like Miss Aynie.

  • ||

    Too soon?

  • ||

    Food. dammit

  • Jeffersonian||

    RIP, Lenny, you'll never really be gone as long as Reason is here. Thanks for getting us started.

  • ||

    Reason has truly become the flagship of libertarianism on the internet and in print. that is a very admirable thing to be, and mr. friedlander's was behind it's very inception. that is something to respect.

  • Rock Action ||

    My condolences to those who knew him.

    That was a thoughtful obit, especially catching the postscript in his note, which also made me do a double take.

    On a happier note, I love the design of the covers above, especially the "(commercialism)" cover. Maybe I'll call it reason without capitalizing the "r" from now on.

  • ||

    For me the worlds true heroes are normally people that most others have not heard of before. I include him in that category.

  • Brett Ruiz||

    R.I.P. Lanny

  • BlueBook||

    I wonder if he was a survivor of the Forrestal explosion/fire incident?

    Anyway, good piece, and fare well, you mysterious libertarian wizard.

  • sasob||

    No, the fire aboard the USS Forrestal occured in July of 1967. If Lanny joined up after 1970, that would have been a number of years before his time. There was also an explosion and fire on the USS Enterprise not long after that, in 1969, almost a year before I served aboard her.

  • Gene Berkman||

    I met Lanny Friedlander at a Libertarian Conference in New York City in 1971, when he still had reason. I ended up visiting with him in his apartment and he showed me the latest issue.

    His approach to graphic design then was very minimalist - large blocks of white space with very small illustrations. Reason itself was about 20 pages, plus a cover; he counted the cover & inside front as pages, so the mag went from page 3 to page 22. But it was by far the most professional libertarian publication at the time, except for The Individualist, published by Society for Individual Liberty.

    Thanks to Robert Poole, Manny Klausner, Tibor Machan and the other 3 partners, Reason has long outlasted The Individualist. They grew the seed that Lanny Friedlander planted...

    Thanks Lanny for being a pioneer. You live on in our memories of you, and in the magazine you founded.

  • Almanian||

    You are not only with the magicians now, you were one of them all along.

    "PS, I started Reason Magazine in 1968."

    I was six then. See you in the next life, Mr.Friedlander - thanks for what you got started. And all the best to Mr. Friedlander's friends and family.

    Also, thanks Nick - this was an awesome tribute to Mr. F.

  • ||

    Fantastic obit from Gillespie, many thanks. Nice for a relatively young whippersnapper like myself to learn about people like Lanny, whom I'd never even heard of until just now.

    He's got no choice but to rest in peace at this point, but luckily there are more people than ever stirring up trouble in his memory, whether we know it or not. Thanks again Nick.

  • Banjos||

    Great piece Nick. RIP Lanny, thank you for Reason.

  • Rather||

    I love his postscript. Very sweet and modest too. I recognize the style, and wonder if he was one of the commenters here.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    The graphic style reminds me of the food items in Repo Man.

  • RandomAmericanHighSchooler||

    Great article, and I really enjoyed the linked "New Right Credo". I was wondering if any of the Reasonites here had any suggestions of good reading material to directly counter the common arguments made against libertarianism by the left. Articles, books, websites, etc. to provide as much intellectual ammo as possible to deal with the leftists that have overtaken my hometown of San Francisco and rule without challenge. Any help much appreciated!

  • sasob||

    You might try over here. Lots of good reading and some links.

  • DVDSoft||

    Nice sharing. thanks.

  • sevo||

    RandomAmericanHighSchooler|3.26.11 @ 10:44PM

    Reading? I'd suggest "Knowledge and Decisions", Sowell.
    And: http://www.lpsf.org/
    But as an SF resident, none of that will make you popular; Newsom is seen as 'centrist'. And Nevius is seen as 'right wing'.

  • RandomAmericanHighSchooler||

    Thanks sevo. I'm definitely not winning any popularity contests with the "open-minded" leftists out here who are some of the most intellectually closed individuals you could meet.

  • sevo||

    "who are some of the most intellectually closed individuals you could meet."

    I have met them; I live here. You're right.

  • LOL||

    One less thug

  • sevo||

    "One less thug"
    One more lefty lie.

  • ||

    What a kind, thoughtful article, Mr. Gillespie.

    And thanks to Lanny Friedlander for all the fine years of Reason. You started something excellent.

  • A Serious Man||

    Hmm, Friedlander doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page. Do you think making one would be a good way to ensure people know about him?

  • Almanian||

    Good idea. Certainly couldn't hurt.

  • ||

  • sasob||

    There isn't any reason for it, but the guy in that yearbook photo looks familiar as hell.

  • Openworld||

    Yes, that high school pix is Lanny Friedlander. When I met him in 1969, the hair was a good deal longer. Do you know the year of his high school graduation? I believe he went straight into the navy after that, and then enrolled upon his discharge as a journalism student at Boston University.

  • ||

  • Nash||

    Left an entry at the guestbook.

  • ||

    Who? Never heard of him.

    www.privacy-online.it.tc

  • Ralph Swanson||

    Mr. Friedlander was with us and I expect a memorial will be published in due course at our site. Thanks.

  • Ralph Swanson||

  • Colin||

    I love how he underlined "Boston Herald" in last note.

    Once an editor, always an editor.

  • Dick Cheney Jr.||

    My condolences to his family and friends.

    It is still ironic that the founder of libertarian magazine, spent his last day in government sponsored facility.

  • Marc||

    Do you know the year of his high school graduation? I believe he went straight into the navy after that, and then enrolled upon his discharge as a journalism student at Boston University.

  • Lion of Liberty||

    "...there is a universe of pain and fear and hope and pride encoded in that postscript that is simply too vast and boundless to process." I was drowning in that universe when I read this. Reason mag has changed my life, this was so touching. Thank you Nick for the article.

  • ||

    This is what is wrong with this country today. There was a man, he had a brain. He did not want to fight in a war. But his country called him and he served. He only knew how to tell the truth. He didn't triangulate. He did not hide like Chicken Little, and then act and talk like a Hawk, sending others to certain death. A smart, brave, creator. Of course he was marginalized and forgotten in this putrid pit we call the USA.

  • ||

    I have been Lanny's fiduciary for 10 years. The first time I met Lanny was when I assited Lanny in getting out of a VA hospital psych ward. A month later, Lanny appeared in my office and asked me to be his representative payee. Lanny and I developed a 10 year friendship. I knew Lanny was very intelligent. Lanny appeared to be disheveled and did not dress himself very well. He told me that he once started a magazine. I did not think it was a delussion: I thought maybe, that he dabled in a street paper during the 60s, similiar to the Boston Phoenix, which survives today. Approximately two years ago, I was contacted by a private detective, who was working for Reason magazine. He told me that Lanny was the founder of Reason and wanted to know if I knew him. I passed on Lanny's address to Reason, and Lanny was in touch with Reason for the last two years. I am proud of my own accomplishments. I graduated from U-Mass, I was commissioned an officer in the Army, and I was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. However, whenever I pass on, my accomplishments will dwarf Lanny's, who was dealt a poor hand by our creator. One in one thousand people suffer from schizophrenia. Dispite his poor hand, Lanny created
    Reason and will be remembered for a long time.

    George H Muphy, Millbury, MA

  • ||

    I have been Lanny's fiduciary for 10 years. The first time I met Lanny was when I assited Lanny in getting out of a VA hospital psych ward. A month later, Lanny appeared in my office and asked me to be his representative payee. Lanny and I developed a 10 year friendship. I knew Lanny was very intelligent. Lanny appeared to be disheveled and did not dress himself very well. He told me that he once started a magazine. I did not think it was a delussion: I thought maybe, that he dabled in a street paper during the 60s, similiar to the Boston Phoenix, which survives today. Approximately two years ago, I was contacted by a private detective, who was working for Reason magazine. He told me that Lanny was the founder of Reason and wanted to know if I knew him. I passed on Lanny's address to Reason, and Lanny was in touch with Reason for the last two years. I am proud of my own accomplishments. I graduated from U-Mass, I was commissioned an officer in the Army, and I was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. However, whenever I pass on, my accomplishments will dwarf Lanny's, who was dealt a poor hand by our creator. One in one thousand people suffer from schizophrenia. Dispite his poor hand, Lanny created
    Reason and will be remembered for a long time.

    George H Muphy, Millbury, MA

  • ||

    Nick, thank you for the beautiful tribute. And thank you, George, for sharing how you knew Lanny. What an inspiring and painful life.

    Rest in peace, Lanny.

  • ||

    Touching account of a true visionary. Bring back the old logo and sell the early magazine covers as posters. (Or reissue them as a tributary tote bag) Good politics and good design rarely meet, but when they do the effect is extraordinary.

  • kelly||

    the old logo and sell the early magazine covers as posters. (Or reissue them as a tributary tote bag) Good politics and good design rarely meet, but when they do the effect is extraordinary.

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