January 10th, 1936 to December 19th, 2013
January 10th, 1936 to December 19th, 2013
"Al Goldstein Dies at 77; Made Pornography Dirtier"
December 19th, 2013
The New York Times
Al Goldstein, the scabrous publisher whose Screw magazine pushed hard-core pornography into the cultural mainstream, died on Thursday at a nursing home in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. He was 77.
The cause was believed to be renal failure, his lawyer, Charles C. DeStefano, said.
Mr. Goldstein did not invent the dirty magazine, but he was the first to present it to a wide audience without the slightest pretense of classiness or subtlety. Sex as depicted in Screw was seldom pretty, romantic or even particularly sexy. It was, primarily, a business, with consumers and suppliers like any other.
The manifesto in Screw’s debut issue in 1968 was succinct. “We promise never to ink out a pubic hair or chalk out an organ,” it read. “We will apologize for nothing. We will uncover the entire world of sex. We will be the Consumer Reports of sex.”
Mr. Goldstein, who lived to shock and offend and was arrested more than a dozen times on obscenity charges, stuck around long enough for social mores and technology to overtake him. By the time his company went bankrupt in 2003, he was no longer a force in the $10-billion-a-year industry he pioneered. But for better or worse, his influence was undeniable.
“He clearly coarsened American sensibilities,” Alan M. Dershowitz, the civil liberties advocate and Mr. Goldstein’s sometime lawyer, said in 2004.
“Hefner did it with taste,” Mr. Dershowitz added, referring to Hugh Hefner, the founder and publisher of Playboy, which predated Screw by 15 years. “Goldstein’s contribution is to be utterly tasteless.”
Apart from Screw, Mr. Goldstein’s most notorious creation was Al Goldstein himself, a cartoonishly vituperative amalgam of borscht belt comic, free-range social critic and sex-obsessed loser who seemed to embody a moment in New York City’s cultural history: the sleaze and decay of Times Square in the 1960s and ‘70s.
A bundle of insatiable neuroses and appetites (he once weighed around 350 pounds), Mr. Goldstein used and abused the bully pulpit of his magazine and, later, his late-night public-access cable show, “Midnight Blue,” to curse his countless enemies, among them the Nixon administration, an Italian restaurant that omitted garlic from its spaghetti sauce, himself and, most troubling to his defenders, his own family.
“I’m infantile, compulsive, always acting out my fantasies,” he told Playboy in 1974. “There’s nothing I’ll inhibit myself from doing.”
Alvin Goldstein was born on Jan. 10, 1936, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one of two sons of Sam and Gertrude Goldstein. His father was a news photographer.
Mr. Goldstein spent much of his childhood stuttering, wetting the bed, getting beaten up by bullies and amassing the portfolio of grudges that would fuel his passions. A lifelong habitué of psychoanalysts’ couches, he blamed a meek father and an adulterous, insensitive mother for his complexes in his 2006 autobiography “I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life,” written with Josh Alan Friedman.
Before he found his calling, Mr. Goldstein served in the Army, captained the debate team at Pace College and briefly followed his father’s footsteps into photojournalism, shooting Jacqueline Kennedy on a 1962 state trip to Pakistan and spending several days in a Cuban prison for taking unauthorized photos of Fidel Castro’s brother, Raúl. He married miserably, sold insurance successfully by day and sought solace in pornographic movie houses and brothels by night.
After his marriage failed, Mr. Goldstein drifted. According to Gay Talese’s book “Thy Neighbor’s Wife,” Mr. Goldstein ran a dime-pitch concession at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair; sold rugs, encyclopedias and his own blood; drove a cab; and landed a job as an industrial spy, infiltrating a labor union. That experience so appalled him that he wrote an exposé about it for The New York Free Press, a radical weekly.
The article did not make the splash Mr. Goldstein was hoping for, but he became friends with one of The Press’s editors, Jim Buckley, and persuaded him that there was money to be made covering the growing commercial sex scene, which the establishment press mentioned only to vilify.
Investing $175 apiece, the two men published the first issue of Screw in November 1968: a 12-page Baedeker to the underworld featuring blue-movie reviews, nude photos, a guide to dirty bookstores and a field test by Mr. Goldstein of an artificial vagina.
Although they had difficulty finding a willing distributor for a tabloid whose first cover featured a photograph of a bikini-clad brunette stroking a large kosher salami, Screw’s circulation soon reached 100,000 — or so Mr. Goldstein claimed (it was never audited) — and the magazine stepped up its ambitions.
As quasi-legal, discreetly misnamed “massage parlors” multiplied across the city in the early 1970s, Mr. Goldstein assigned himself to visit and rate each one. He claimed that his early, enthusiastic review of the movie “Deep Throat” helped turn it into hard-core pornography’s first bona fide mainstream hit.
An issue in the 1970s with frontally nude photos of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sold more than a half-million copies, Mr. Goldstein said — a fraction of the seven million Playboy sold in those days, but enough to raise Mr. Goldstein’s profile considerably.
With renown came obscenity arrests and lawsuits, which Mr. Goldstein in turn milked for maximum publicity. (He also wrote numerous scathing editorials accusing his accusers of hypocrisy, often accompanied by crude photo collages showing them engaged in humiliating sex acts.) Mr. Goldstein, claiming First Amendment protection, beat most of the charges, occasionally paying nominal fines.
In 1973, though, a United States Supreme Court decision made it easier to prosecute pornographers. Before then, one legal test for obscenity was whether a publication was “utterly without redeeming social value.” The 1973 decision broadened the definition to include material that lacked “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value,” and it empowered communities to set local standards for whether such material was obscene.
This led federal prosecutors to direct some postmasters in Kansas to order copies of Screw. Upon delivery, Mr. Goldstein was charged with 12 obscenity and conspiracy counts and faced up to 60 years in prison.
His lawyers argued that the anticensorship diatribes in Screw made the magazine sufficiently political, though Mr. Goldstein himself ridiculed this defense, insisting that a reader’s erection “is its own redeeming value.” After three years and two trials his conviction in the first was overturned, and the second ended in a hung jury. Mr. Goldstein’s company, Milky Way Productions, paid a $30,000 fine in return for the dropping of personal charges against him and Mr. Buckley.
Mr. Goldstein also won a copyright suit filed by the Pillsbury Company after Screw depicted its signature doughboy in flagrante, and an invasion-of-privacy suit filed by an actress in a cracker commercial that Mr. Goldstein repurposed for “Midnight Blue.”
Screw made Mr. Goldstein rich enough to afford a townhouse down the block from Bill Cosby on the Upper West Side. But as time went on and hard-core pornography became widely available, the magazine seemed less and less radical, and he began losing interest.
“There is a pattern to American life that what is avant-garde becomes commonplace,” Mr. Goldstein said in 1981. “The mass market eventually assimilates that which is innovative or revolutionary.”
Mr. Goldstein began a dozen other magazines, with titles like Death, Smut, Cigar and Mobster Times, all of which failed. He bought a mansion in Pompano Beach, Fla., where he made an abortive run for county sheriff in 1992.
Gradually, Mr. Goldstein’s empire declined. The Village Voice and other newspapers, many of them free, siphoned off the ads for escort services that were Screw’s mainstay. Mr. Goldstein failed to stake out strong positions in the booming sectors of video and Internet pornography.
Meanwhile, his vendettas came to seem more petty and personal. He was convicted in 2002 of harassing a former secretary in the pages of Screw, though that conviction, too, was overturned. After his son, Jordan, disinvited him to his graduation from Harvard Law School, Mr. Goldstein published doctored photos showing Jordan having sex with various men and with his own mother, Mr. Goldstein’s third ex-wife, Gena.
Mr. Goldstein eventually married five times. His survivors include his son. Mr. Goldstein was long estranged from his fifth wife, Christine.
In quick succession starting in 2003, Mr. Goldstein lost his company, his Florida mansion and a series of subsistence jobs in New York, including one as a greeter at the Second Avenue Deli. In 2004, while living in a homeless shelter, he was arrested and charged with stealing books from a Barnes & Noble store.
His long decline found him bouncing from his in-laws’ floor in Queens to Veterans Affairs hospitals to a cramped apartment on Staten Island paid for by his friend, the magician Penn Jillette, to the Brooklyn nursing home where he spent most of his final years.
There were some late bright spots, though. He was briefly a star catering salesman for a Manhattan bagel store. He blogged for Booble, a website devoted to the pornography business.
And at age 69, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the Adult Video News Awards for his age-defying role in “Al Goldstein & Ron Jeremy Are Screwed.”
“Only in America,” Mr. Goldstein said.
"Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein dies aged 77"
Publisher who helped break down legal barriers against pornography dies in Brooklyn after long illness
December 19th, 2013
Al Goldstein, the bird-flipping publisher of Screw magazine who helped break down legal barriers against pornography and raged against politicians, organised religion and anything that even suggested good taste, died Thursday, according to a friend. He was 77.
Goldstein died at a Brooklyn hospice after a long illness, said the friend, attorney Charles C DeStefano.
Of all the would-be successors to Hugh Hefner's sexual throne, no one was as out there as Goldstein. Whether taking potshots at sacred cows in the magazine's pages, or placing an 11-foot-tall sculpture of an extended middle finger outside his Florida home, his angry humour, garish attire, numerous divorces and X-rated mind made him an infamous national figure.
"To be angry is to be alive. I'm an angry Jew. I love it. Anger is better than love. I think it is more pure," he said in an interview in 2001. "There's so much to be angry about, because people are ripped off, the election went to the wrong person, the good guys usually lose and society sucks."
To back that anger, Goldstein put his wallet where his mouth was, spending millions of dollars on First Amendment lawsuits, hundreds of thousands running unsuccessfully for sheriff in Florida, and millions more in numerous divorce settlements.
DeStefano remembers Goldstein as an "intellectual who cared about the world and geopolitics." But after a lavish lifestyle, Goldstein fell on difficult times, landing in a homeless shelter and a veterans hospital.
"Up until a month ago he still had that spark," said DeStefano. "In fact, he gave me the middle finger. As he did it, he smiled at me. I knew he was still Al Goldstein inside this shell of a body. I kissed him and held his hand. Many of his friends were like his sons. He had tremendous respect for friendships."
When he co-founded Screw in 1968, the American legal system was embroiled in a battle over what constitutes obscenity. Goldstein never envisioned himself as a champion of free speech, but fought for what he said were his own prurient interests.
"Screw grew from a combination of many factors, chief of which was my own dissatisfaction with the sex literature of 1968 and my yearning for a publication that reflected my sexual appetites," he wrote in the 1971 Screw anthology.
But Goldstein also felt that the cultural and religious establishment had convinced his generation that sex was dirty and turned them into "a lot of embarrassed people who bought nudie magazines on the sly."
The porn magazine's scathing, scatological editorials railed against religious leaders and the government for justifying war while imprisoning erotic magazine publishers. Screw sold 140,000 copies a week at its height.
"I may be making a lot of money, but I really believe I'm doing some good by demythologizing a lot about sexuality," he told Playboy in 1974.
But the law was never far away. During the magazine's first three years, Goldstein was arrested 19 times on obscenity charges. Spending millions to defend himself, he ultimately scored a major victory in 1974 when a federal judge threw out an obscenity case brought against him.
After that the willingness of the government to prosecute such cases waned, ending a period that saw books such as DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer banned and kept erotic publications under the counter.
But the victory left Goldstein feeling flat.
"I really need the attention of being arrested, because that means I'm still bugging the establishment, that I'm still gadfly to the state," he told Playboy. "Acceptance of me and Screw would be the kiss of death."
And it may have been the magazine's undoing, as it was soon eclipsed by more explicit publications, like Larry Flynt's Hustler magazine. Goldstein soon found other outlets, and in 1974 launched a sex-oriented cable porn show, Midnight Blue, which ran for nearly 30 years.
As the poignancy of Screw faded, Goldstein became depressed and angrier.
In 2002, he was sentenced after a wild trial to 60 days in jail for harassing a former secretary with threatening phone calls and editorials. The conviction was later overturned when an appeals court ruled prosecutors had used overly inflammatory language at trial. A year later Goldstein pleaded guilty to harassing one of his four ex-wives with obscene phone messages.
In late 2003, the magazine folded and Goldstein filed for bankruptcy protection. On the upside, he lost 150 pounds following stomach stapling surgery the same year and married his fifth wife, a woman 40 years his junior. Things fell so far, though, that in 2004 he told the New York Times he was forced, at times, to sleep in a car and live in a Florida homeless shelter.
"Anyone who wishes ill on me should feel vindicated because my life has turned into a total horror," he told the Times. He is survived by his wife, Christine, and a son, Jordan.
Al Goldstein [Wikipedia]
Bob Guccione [Wikipedia]
Larry Flynt [Wikipedia]
Bob Guccione's "Omni"
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