The Sporadic Beaver

Vote, Just Vote...

October 22, 2018

Tags: Donald Trump, politics, Mary Lyn Maiscott



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Una tarde con Robert Rosen en Madrid

October 12, 2018

Tags: Nowhere Man, Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, diarios, Café Comercial, Madrid



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Encuentro Con El Autor

September 26, 2018

Tags: Nowhere Man, Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, diarios, Café Comercial, Madrid

Sábado 3 de noviembre,
a las 18.00 pm
en el Café Comercial de Madrid—1a planta
(Glorieta de Bilbao 7)
Apertura 17:30 pm
Entrada Gratuita


Robert Rosen, autor del best-seller Nowhere Man sobre los diarios secretos de John Lennon, ofrecerá una charla acerca de su libro el Sábado 3 noviembre, a las 18.00 pm en el Café Comercial de Madrid, en lo que será la primera visita del autor neoyorkino a nuestro país.

En mayo de 1981, los diarios de John Lennon, que cubrían los años 1975-1980, llegaron de forma inesperada a manos de Rosen con la misión de ser transcritos para una biografía.

Más información: eventorobertrosen@gmail.com.

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Finally...

August 28, 2018

Tags: Bobby in Naziland, Headpress

Church Avenue near East 17th Street in Flatbush, in the early 1960s: the main drag of Bobby in Naziland.
I received word recently that Headpress, the publisher of my previous book, Beaver Street, will publish Bobby in Naziland sometime next year--as nonfiction.

There will be a lot more news to come. For now, here’s a synopsis:

From the final days of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in the mid-1950s, to the arrival of the Beatles, in 1964, Bobby in Naziland takes you on an unsentimental journey through one Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood. Though only a 20-minute and 15-cent subway ride from the gleaming towers of Manhattan across the East River, Flatbush—or Flapbush, as native Flatbushians called it—was a provincial, working-class place, frozen in time, where concentration camp survivors and army vets who’d fought the Nazis lived side by side and World War II lingered like a mass hallucination (along with the ghost of the Dodgers). It was a place hell-bent on vengeance, seething with hatred, and suffering from an epidemic of what was not yet called post-traumatic stress disorder.

Voice-driven and darkly comic, this slice of autobiography focuses on the interplay of the personal and historical, and is narrated by “Bobby,” an adult who channels thoughts and emotions from his childhood: “I was 97 days old when a one-footed Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Edward Teller, the real Dr. Strangelove, more commonly known as ‘the father of the H-bomb,’ introduced Planet Earth to this brand-new way to exterminate the human race.”

Grappling to understand and come to terms with the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation and the historical weight of the Holocaust, the young Bobby obsessively draws mushroom clouds and broods about Nazi atrocities as he watches his family and neighbors celebrate the capture, trial, and execution of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Along the way, he provides a child’s-eye view of the mid-20th-century American experience, often as it plays out in his father’s candy store. Among the subjects he explores are goyim, Jews, money, sex, class, racism, the Rosenbergs, the space race, UFOs, Eva Perón, President Kennedy, the Three Stooges, the New York Yankees, literature, language, and memory itself.

The story moves towards a climactic moment of self-discovery through self-mutilation, a misguided act brought about by emotional abuse, the physical violence so prevalent in the neighborhood, and the latent yet inescapable pain of the Holocaust survivors and World War II vets who surround Bobby.

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Shelter, Drugs, and Blowjobs

July 21, 2018

Tags: Gene Gregorits, writing, literature, Florida

“Don’t publish it,” my editor, who also happens to be my wife, said to me after reading the previous draft of this review. “It sounds mean-spirited. It makes you look bad.”

I told her that I’d written the review in the same spirit—mean—as Gene Gregorits showed in Bigger Than Life at the Edge of the City. “It’s a vile book,” I said. “Totally fucked up. But it’s somehow compelling in its nauseating way. I read every word.”

“Why do you want to make some guy in prison mad at you?”

“He’s not going to get mad. He’s going to love the review. He’s always bitching about how critics never read his books. He’ll be thrilled to get a reaction. That’s the whole point of the book... to get a reaction.”

“But nobody knows who Gregorits is. They’re going to think you’re the one who’s fucked up.”

If you don’t know who Gene Gregorits is, a bit of background is in order. Gregorits is an anti-commercial, quasi-avant-garde writer who, despite holding mainstream publishing in contempt, longs for commercial success. In a scene in Bigger, which Gregorits calls a novel but is actually nonfiction (or close to it), he tells one of his patrons, “I don’t have the backing of a major publisher and the fucking audience I want.”

Due to his inability to find a publisher, Gregorits formed a company, Monastrell, to bring out his own books, and he has gone to extreme lengths to draw attention to those books. Once, he had somebody videotape him as he cut off part of his ear and ate it. In the course of this self-destructive crusade, Gregorits has made himself a martyr to bland commercialism.

A few years ago, after he had sex with an underage girl, the state of Florida sentenced him to 15 years in what amounts to a slave-labor camp. He’s lucky they didn’t lobotomize him.

Bigger was written in that slave-labor camp.

I’ve never met Gregorits. I know him through social media and his books. We have a few mutual acquaintances.

In the interest of salvaging what I can from the previous mean-spirited draft, I present below, as objectively as I can, a number of critical points about Bigger:

· In his typical self-defeating manner, Gregorits insults his readers, calling them “power-tripped, pussy-whipped pretty boys.”

· He describes Bigger as “post cultural” and “meta cultural.” These are meaningless terms, presumably intended to obscure the fact that he’s writing about real people and using their real names.

· I contacted one of the main “characters,” the patron who bankrolled his previous book, to see if she’d care to comment on her portrayal in this one. Gregorits describes her by name as “fat, homely, and talentless,” and “disheveled, obese, bucktoothed.” “No comment,” is what she had to say, and who can blame her? These descriptions, chosen at random among a multitude of similar phrases, should serve as a warning to anybody else who might consider giving Gregorits money, shelter, food, drugs, and/or blowjobs.

· Gregorits makes it clear just how treacherous he is. One character tells him, “Half of New York is still screaming for your blood.” Another says, “You screwed over everybody south of 14th Street.”

· Bigger is an often well-written and at times poetic catalogue of Gregorits’s hatreds. It’s almost as if he can’t write about something unless he hates it, and he hates everything, with the exceptions of good wine and beer, cats, a couple of punk bands, and the rare human being—like a sharply dressed “gentleman” who’s dying of cancer and “a super-hip mid-30s Jewess.” (Gregorits is obviously aware that Jewess is a loaded word—a Nazi word—that says nothing about the character and everything about his need for gratuitous provocation.)

· Bigger is a meandering, Henry Miller–Hunter Thompson-esque account of the life of Gene Gregorits, a homeless, filthy, foul-smelling crack junkie with rotting toenails—who might be HIV-positive but doesn’t seem to care—surviving on the Florida Gulf Coast. After a hurricane and an episode of sloshing around in raw sewage, he moves to the New York–New Jersey area at Christmastime 2012, and, staying with his patron, “equal parts Tammy Faye Bakker, Holly Woodlawn, and Gena Rowlands,” he switches to booze and coke, is interviewed by Vice.com—the interview reproduced word-for-word as a chapter, just in case anybody mistakes the book for fiction—and then gives a reading at a bar on the Lower East Side.

· Prison can be a good thing for a serious writer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Gregorits is already working on a book about his life of slave labor in Florida’s Apalachee Correctional Institute. He might remind himself, as he sits in his cell, scribbling with a ballpoint, what death row and a last-second reprieve while standing before a firing squad did for Dostoevsky—and his career.

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John, el último día de Lennon

June 19, 2018

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, Chile


Este es el musical chileno inspirado por Nowhere Man. Puede leer sobre ello aquí.

This is the Chilean musical inspired by Nowhere Man. You can read about it here.

Te invito a unirte a mí en Facebook o a seguirme en Twitter.

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Cold Case II: Police Seek Information on Gay Man's 1991 Murder

May 26, 2018

Tags: Bill Bottiggi, Swank Publications, Gay City News, Beaver Street

In Beaver Street and on this blog, I've written about the 1991 murder of Bill Bottiggi, a former co-worker at Swank Publications. Three years ago I said that the suspect was in custody and "his DNA matched the DNA found on clothing he'd left at the scene of the murder." This proved not to be true and the suspect was released.

But the cold case squad continued to do their work, and the other day the headline, “Police Seek Information on Gay Man’s 1991 Murder,” appeared in Gay City News. The story is about the life and death of Bottiggi. You can read it here.

The police are asking anybody with information about the crime to call 800-577-TIPS. There’s a $2,500 reward if that information leads to the suspect’s arrest and conviction.

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It Takes a President

April 11, 2018

Tags: reviews, politics, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Viagra, pornography, footnotes, Beaver Street, Richard Nixon, Donald Trump, Lyndon Johnson

In 1998, at the height of Clinton impeachment mania, I, as editor of Sex Acts magazine, commissioned a cartoonist to illustrate “choice” parts of the Starr Report, independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s record of his run-amok investigation of a White House enmeshed in scandal—financial, political, and sexual. The report, now best remembered for its explicit descriptions of the multiple erotic encounters between a 49-year-old sitting president and his 22-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky, was published unexpurgated in The New York Times, marking the first time the Gray Lady had allowed “fuck” and “blowjob” to stain her pages.

One Sex Acts cartoon illustrates a tryst that, according to the Starr Report, took place in the White House study on December 31, 1995. It shows Bill Clinton, pants around his knees, displaying a curving erection of porn-star proportions that appears to be Viagra-enhanced—though Viagra wouldn’t be available to the general public for three more years. It’s an image that encapsulates much of what The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido (Twelve), by Vanity Fair editor David Friend, is about.

That’s presumably why the words “Naughty Nineties,” as they appear on the cover of this 632-page epic, are shaped like a curving, fully engorged, seven-and-three-eighths-inch phallus—though the effect is subliminal. I’d been reading the book for a month before I noticed it. I now assume that phallus is meant to represent Clinton’s penis, which is really a stand-in for every Boomer phallus that ever grew erect in the nineties.

If Bill Clinton and his penis are the star of this leave-no-stone-unturned analysis of the decade in which libidinous Baby Boomers took over America, Viagra is the co-star, and the complex, dramatic, and at times touching tale of how it was discovered, tested, named, and marketed, and then became one of the best-selling prescription pharmaceuticals ever—thus bringing erections and their dysfunction into our living rooms—may be the most fascinating part of The Naughty Nineties. (See “The Hardener’s Tale” and “Homo Erectus.”)

Hillary Clinton, weaponized gossip, and the Internet are among the major supporting players, with the latter two bearing responsibility for the “tabloidification” of an era in which “we learn not only that Prince Charles is having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, but are treated to a recording of Charles stating that he wants to be her tampon.”

It’s also a decade in which expansive silicone breasts and the $10-to-14-billion-a-year pornography industry emerged from the shadows to penetrate every segment of mainstream media and society.

My book Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is among the multitude of texts that Friend, whom I work with at Vanity Fair, consulted in the course of his research, and The Naughty Nineties elaborates on some of the material I touched on. In discussing Lyndon Johnson’s porn-investigation commission, for example, I describe the president as “a corrupt Texas Democrat with a big dong,” before moving on to Richard Nixon’s war on porn. But how is it known that Johnson had a big dick? Friend explains: “He was known to flabbergast acquaintances by whipping out his Texas longhorn of a pecker.”

This kind of breezy, vernacular-laced prose makes The Naughty Nineties an entertaining alternative to the slew of turgidly written textbooks dominating undergraduate reading lists for any number of history, sociology, political science, gender studies, and communications courses, such as U.C.L.A.’s “Pornography and Evolution.”

The scene in “Chez Fleiss” of Friend’s journey through the Mojave Desert to visit “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss contains another good example: “To get here, I have driven an hour along the parched perimeter of Death Valley without spying a human soul. And then, like some portent out of Castaneda, I see a vision. A titty bar.”

Yet Friend’s intent is never less than serious, and his research sets a scholarly standard for comprehensiveness, no matter how raw the subject matter. In “Botox, Booties, and Bods,” he explores rap culture’s fetishization of the female buttocks, cataloguing, in three jam-packed paragraphs, Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliot’s “crooning about the merits of a fuller moon”; Experience Unlimited’s “Da Butt,” a.k.a. “(Doin’) the Butt”; 2 Live Crew’s “Face Down, Ass Up”; Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Bonita Appelbum”; Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre’s coining the word “bootylicious”; Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker”; DJ Jubilee’s inventing the term “twerk”; Juvenile’s “Back That Azz/Thang Up”; Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty”; and Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Ubiquitous and fulsome footnotes, which could comprise a volume unto themselves, enrich this meticulous detail. (The mother of all footnotes, on pages 467–68—perhaps the longest annotation I’ve personally encountered—analyzes why the institution of marriage is “on the rocks.”)

Friend is at home, as well, with the erotic. In “The Glory of O” he brings to life a masturbation workshop: “Ken, ever stroking, tells the audience, ‘Her clit just grabbed on to my finger.’ Her legs shake and flutter. ‘The clitoris is a spinning top,’ he says, ‘now spinning by itself.’”

In retrospect, it’s easy to see how the nineties set the stage for the ascent of Donald Trump and a presidency in which politics, pornography, gossip, and reality TV are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable. And Friend, rising to the occasion, ends with “The Trumpen Show.” But is Trump the terrible tyrant of a passing moment—the Tawdry, Tempestuous Teens, when the Times turns to titan of adult cinema Ron Jeremy for insight on POTUS paramour Stormy Daniels, the biggest XXX superstar since Deep Throat’s Linda Lovelace? (It takes a president.) Or has he brought us to the edge of an Enervating Endtimes, leaving us longing for the days when the most horrific thing you’d read in your daily newspaper was Ken Starr’s depiction of Oval Office anilingus?

We’ll just have to wait for the return of the Roaring Twenties for an answer. They’ll be upon us soon enough.

—Robert Rosen

Mi entrevista con El Submarí Groc/My Interview With The Yellow Submarine

April 9, 2018

Tags: Nowhere Man, Los últimos días de John Lennon, Fred Seman, diaries, María Martín, El Submarí Groc

En mayo de 1981 el asistente personal de John Lennon, Fred Seaman, me dio los diarios que Lennon había estado escribiendo, entre enero de 1975 y el 8 de diciembre de 1980, el día en que fue asesinado. Esos diarios, explicó Seaman, eran la clave del proyecto, que Lennon le había pedido llevara a cabo en evento de su muerte. Seaman iba a escribir la historia verdadera de los últimos años de Lennon, y quería que yo lo ayudara a hacerlo.

Yo acepté ese encargo sabiendo, que podría ejecutarlo en un espíritu que fuera verdadero para John. La historia de los diarios es la historia que cuento en Nowhere Man: Los últimos días de John Lennon.

Desde ese día de 37 años atrás en que Seaman me dio los diarios, mucho se ha escrito sobre lo que hice con éstos. Pero una simple verdad se ha perdido en las resmas de la cobertura de los medios: yo traté esos diarios con amor y respeto, y los usé para crear un retrato de John Lennon como un ser humano tri-dimensional.

En la entrevista de María Martín a mí, en el último número de la revista beatleriana española El Submarí Groc, y en el video de abajo, en inglés con subtítulos en español, ella pone en claro esa simple verdad, diciendo en el titular que “Robert Rosen… nos acerca la belleza de un John Lennon humano.”

Ha sido como un arribo tras largo tiempo.

Para pedir una copia de El Submarí Groc, escribe a elsubmarigroc@hotmail.com.

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My Interview With The Yellow Submarine

In May 1981, John Lennon's personal assistant Fred Seaman gave me the diaries that Lennon had been writing in between January 1975 and December 8, 1980, the day he was murdered. These journals, Seaman explained, were the key to the project Lennon had asked him to carry out in the event of his death. Seaman was to write the true story of Lennon's final years and he wanted me to help him do it.

I accepted this assignment knowing that I could execute it in a spirit that was true to John. The story of the diaries is the story I tell in Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.

Since the day 37 years ago that Seaman gave me the diaries, much has been written about what I did with them. But a simple truth has gotten lost in the reams of media coverage: I treated those diaries with love and respect, and used them to create a portrait of John Lennon as a three-dimensional human being.

In María Martín’s interview with me in the latest issue of the Spanish Beatles magazine El Submarí Groc (The Yellow Submarine)—and in the above video, in English with Spanish subtitles—she makes that simple truth clear, saying in the headline that “Robert Rosen… brings us the beauty of a human John Lennon” (“nos acerca la belleza de un John Lennon humano”).

It’s been a long time coming.

To order a copy of El Submarí Groc, write to elsubmarigroc@hotmail.com.

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Yes, I Read My Reviews

March 7, 2018

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Headpress, David Kerekes, Vintage Erotic Forum, reviews

On a site called "Vintage Erotica Forums" (VEF), somebody asked, "What book(s) are you reading currently?" A correspondent, "Pinkpapercut," posted the review, below, which I've lightly edited for clarity. The two books preceding Beaver Street in the forum are The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, by Edgar Allan Poe and The First Socialist Schism, Bakunin vs Marx in the International Working Man's Association, by Wolfgang Eckhardt. Silas Marner, by George Elliott, follows.

Back in the 1990s I regularly used to read Headpress, the self-described "Journal of Sex, Religion and Death," which was published in my home city, Manchester.

Headpress [journal and Headpress books] moved online and to London well over a decade ago, and I lost track of them and the man who was the engine behind Headpress, David Kerekes.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to check out whether they are still around. They are, and they’re still publishing material that fits best under the heading of Sex, Religion and Death, and one of their books, Robert Rosen’s Beaver Street, caught my particular interest.

I don’t want to spoil the book by giving Rosen’s story away so I’ll just say that after being cheated by a well-known person as an aspiring writer in early 80s New York, just to keep some money coming in, Rosen applied for a job with a publisher through a classified ad and ended up working for and eventually editing porn magazines for the publisher of some well-known skin mags.

The book is promoted on its cover as “a history of modern pornography,” which it isn’t. But what it is is a fascinating tour around the personalities of the U.S. porn scene in the 80s and 90s; an insight into the practices of the publishers and video makers and the contempt in which very many of them held their customers; the influence of porn publishing on mainstream publishing including forgotten connections between porn and the origins of Marvel Comics; and the story of the decline of the porn magazines in the face of the rise of the Web.

Given that every member of VEF is here because they have an interest in some aspect of porn or—amongst the VEF VIPs—have worked in porn, there’s something in Beaver Street to interest every one of us.

Beaver Street isn’t a deep or deeply analytical book but it is an easy, informative and entertaining read from a porn insider.

Very much recommended.

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