Swank’s publisher, Lou Perretta, known to some employees as “Satan in Suspenders,” wasn’t the most depraved pornographer I’d ever worked for. (That distinction belongs to the elegantly attired Carl Ruderman, who published High Society before selling it to Perretta last year.) But the atmosphere in Perretta’s offices, situated on the side of a highway in Paramus—Please Ram Us, as some of my former colleagues called it—was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in any job I’ve ever had, in or out of pornography.
Yes, Perretta’s Swank was a boring, depressing, purposefully demoralizing company staffed with people smothered by fear and hopelessness. It was so grim that I used to look forward to going to the dentist if it got me out of work an hour early. But this is how a lot of corporations are run today—business as usual, in other words. What sets Swank apart is that they pushed this modus operandi into the realm of the legally actionable, some of the details of which are documented in the age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit Joyce Snyder (I called her “Pam Katz” in Beaver Street) filed against Perretta.
I originally wrote about Perretta in the Beaver Street chapter titled “The End of History at Swank Inc.,” describing how a job I once enjoyed had been reduced to “assembly-line toil at its worst,” and “an exercise in postmodern sweatshop drudgery.”
But I didn’t go into more detail because Beaver Street is about the history of pornography, and as the chapter title indicates, that history ended in Paramus.
At Lou Perretta’s Swank Inc. pornography was almost beside the point.
Perretta was a printer who owned Great Eastern—since shuttered—a printing plant in Poughkeepsie that was once that city’s second largest employer next to IBM. He bought Swank and just about every other porn mag in existence as fodder to keep his presses running 24/7.
The story of Swank under Perretta ceases to be a story about pornography and becomes, instead, a tale of the ugliest face of soul-and-job-destroying modern day capitalism. And in light of Snyder’s age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit, it’s time to examine more closely what went on there.
In next week’s installment, I’ll further explore the toxic atmosphere of Swank Publications under Perretta—a toxicity that went far beyond the mere tyranny common to all porn publishing companies.