The Sporadic Beaver
March 30, 2012
March 29, 2012
Byron Nilsson is a writer whom I met online in the mid-1990s when I was searching for someone to write a column for D-Cup magazine about the “pornocopia” of free X-rated material that had suddenly become available in cyberspace. Byron, a skilled journalist, an erudite pervert, and a computer expert, was perfect. So, I hired him, and he became one of my most reliable and frequent contributors, staying with me till the end.
To celebrate the US release of Beaver Street yesterday, Byron posted a piece on his blog that’s a combination review, memoir, and cultural/historical/political critique. To his credit, he does not shy away from commenting on the fact that Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett has been accepting campaign contributions from my former boss, Porn King Louis Perretta.
In the essay, “Protecting Us from the Evil of Protecting Us from Evil,” Byron describes Beaver Street as an “entertaining... well written... hands-on, first-person romp through the business of smut in the last part of the 20th century.” He also credits me with knowing how to “make words dance,” and with “grinding out some of the most amusing girl copy” he’s ever seen.
You can read the entire essay here. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing all you guys in St. Louie.
March 28, 2012
Which raises a question that went unasked: When, exactly, did the publishing industry lose the ability to market books because they’re good, rather than because they were written by (or, more likely, ghostwritten for) young, pretty celebrities?
Today, of course, is the semi-official US publication day of Beaver Street—a good book, critically acclaimed in the UK, and written by an author who’s neither young, pretty, nor a celebrity in the Hollywood A-list sense of that word. (Though my name does appear in boldface in the current issue of Vanity Fair.) And I’d like very much to prove to whomever might be paying attention that my aesthetic and chronological shortcomings will not interfere with my ability to get out there and “move product,” if I may use such a term.
March 27, 2012
And yet, in the publishing industry, which is undergoing its most wrenching changes since the invention of the printing press, more emphasis is put on a writer’s ability to promote a book after its published than his ability to write the book. Which goes a long way towards explaining why so many lousy books are published.
Several years ago, before the age of social media, I attended a seminar on book promotion sponsored by the Authors Guild. A distinguished panel of PR people, book editors, and very successful writers shared their thoughts with an auditorium full of published authors, many of whom were accomplished in their own right. The head of PR at a major corporate publisher was the first person to speak, and the first thing she said was, “We turn down good books from people we think aren’t good-looking enough.”
You could feel the air go out of the room.
What astonished me was the simple naked truth of this statement. I’d suspected for some time that this, or something like it, was the case, but I’d never heard it expressed so baldly, by a person in a position of authority. And I’m sure a lot of my fellow authors felt exactly as I did: I don’t look like a movie star. I may as well hang it up now.
I thought about Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, one of the best-selling books of all time. Puzo, whom I discuss at length in Beaver Street, was, to put it bluntly, ugly, overweight, and hated going on TV. I wanted to ask this PR woman if she’d have passed on The Godfather because Puzo wasn’t good looking enough. But the answer was self-evident.
Later, a ghostwriter asked the panel a question about promoting ghostwritten books. “Baby,” came the answer from a famous advice columnist, “you’re too good looking to be a ghostwriter. You need to write your own book.”
What became clear by the end of this eye-opening evening was that there are three things publishers are looking for in an author:
1) Somebody who’s young, good looking, and comes across well on TV, i.e., a “celebrity.”
2) Somebody who has their own TV show, a syndicated newspaper column, or a website that gets several hundred thousand hits a day.
3) It helps to have written a book, but if the author has everything in numbers one and two, it’s not really necessary. That’s what ghostwriters are for.
I bring this up now because Beaver Street is being published in America this week, or so I’m told, and as I prepare to leave for St. Louis for the various launch events, the promotion angle is very much on my mind. I’m not young. I’m not beautiful. I’m not a trained performer. But I’ve written a good book, I’ve been doing this promotion thing for a dozen years, and I know, at the least, I give good interview. So, I’m just going to go out there and do the best I can.
March 26, 2012
Kendra Holliday, who’s recently posted a series of rather provocative “birthday suit” pictures, is the reason I’m coming to St. Louis to launch Beaver Street next week. When we did our three-part Beaver Street interview for TBK—part three is now reposted on the Sex Positive St. Louis homepage—I knew that I’d found a kindred spirit, a woman who I like to describe as the Annie Sprinkle of the Midwest.
A launch event, April 3, at Shameless Grounds, hosted by Kendra, and focusing on Beaver Street’s pornographic aspects, was a natural. And when the legendary independent bookstore Left Bank Books invited me to do a reading the following night, in which I’ll explore the book’s literary qualities, there was no way I could stay away from the “twenty-seventh city,” as Jonathan Franzen calls it. (Twenty-seven is my lucky number.)
So, St. Louis, here I come. And I’d like to personally invite Matt Holiday to expand his horizons and come to both Beaver Street events. In St. Louis, the Hollidays should stick together, especially on Beaver Street day.
March 23, 2012
Saint Louis photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.
As I write this, cartons of the US trade paperback edition of Beaver Street are headed for various warehouses and bookstores across America. The official pub date is March 28, and that should more or less conform to reality. At least one carton has already landed in St. Louis, where I'll be doing two launch events, at Shameless Grounds coffeehouse, on April 3, and Left Bank Books, on April 4. I've not yet seen the US edition of my book, but I have been rehearsing the passages I plan to read. It's under control
Also, as you may have noticed, I’ve been blogging a lot lately—because I’ve had a number of things I’ve wanted to say, and because it’s now the law of the publishing world that authors who have a book coming out must blog, tweet, and post on Facebook as much as possible—preferably every hour. They tell me this helps sell books, and maybe it does.
I will try to keep you up to date with one blog post, etc. every weekday. But I also plan to give myself weekends off for good behavior. I have other books to write, you see, like Bobby in Naziland, which I’ve been working on for some time, and I have only so much creative energy. We can talk about it when I get to St. Louis, where I’m very much looking forward to seeing you, whoever you are.
March 22, 2012
I never leave my mother’s house without carrying identification, especially if I’m going to walk a few blocks on the main road outside the village. Because Florida is one of those places where everybody drives everywhere, and to be seen walking on the main road is in itself considered “suspicious.” I always half-expect to be stopped and questioned by the police, which is probably just a carryover from my younger hippie days when I couldn’t drive around the block without the police pulling me over to check my license and registration. The Florida police, to their credit, have never harassed me.
But the shooting last month in Sanford, Florida, of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, by a neighborhood watch volunteer, who was not arrested after he told police that he felt threatened by Martin and shot him in self defense, reminded me of something that happened in Florida 36 years ago, and which might have had a very different ending had the Stand Your Ground laws existed then.
I was in Gainesville, a college town in the north central part of the state, doing research for an article on magic mushrooms. Gainesville is one of the few places in the continental United States where this psychedelic fungus grows naturally. It’s also home to a lot of people who’d fit the standard definition of “redneck.”
One night I was hanging out in a local bar when one of those rednecks—young, longhaired, and with a heavy-duty southern accent—struck up a conversation. Though he was obviously drunk, at first blush he seemed like a typical drunk, the kind you might meet in any bar. He asked what I was doing in town, and where I was from. I told him.
A beer or two later, he followed me out of the bar and started screaming at me, something to the effect of, “Who do you think you are coming to this town to write about us?” Then, as a bunch of people from the bar gathered around us, he hit me with his motorcycle helmet, a glancing blow off the side of my head. I was more astonished than anything. I hadn’t been in a fight since junior high school.
He kept swinging at me with the helmet and his fist, but he was too drunk to connect solidly, and I was mostly able to duck and block his wild attempts to beat me to a pulp for no rational reason. It went on for a good minute, until a couple of people from the crowd restrained him, and I got the hell out of there.
But when I think about this incident in light of the Martin shooting, it occurs to me that if something like this were to happen today, the guy might very well have shot me in “self defense.” Because he obviously felt “threatened.” And he might very well have gotten away with it. Cause it happens every day in Florida. Which is pretty much all I have to say about it.
March 21, 2012
It has been pointed out that I sound self-righteous in these postings, like Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist who often writes about child prostitution and human slavery. It has been pointed out that the Garrett-Perretta story is not a “mini-Watergate,” as I’ve described it, because there’s nothing illegal about a porn king donating money to a Tea Party politician. And it has been said that I’m a hypocrite because I once worked in pornography and that I took Perretta’s money for the nearly seven years that he employed me.
To respond to the last point first: Yes, I worked in porn for 16 years, and I endured because I needed a job, and porn paid a living wage. Like many of my colleagues, I saw it as a “survival job,” a way to pay the bills as I continued to pursue what I really wanted to do—write books. As I say in Beaver Street, much of what I did disgusted me, but I was able to carry on because I had a strong stomach. I don’t dislike porn; I dislike the kind of porn I was doing—schlocky, grind-it-out-as-fast-as-you-can, anti-erotic porn. If criticizing the people who grow wealthy by splattering this kind of stuff all over the planet while grudgingly paying me a living wage makes me a self-righteous hypocrite, then so be it. I’m a self-righteous hypocrite.
And, of course, it’s true that it’s not illegal to donate money to political candidates. What makes the Garrett-Perretta story scandalous on a mini-Watergate level is the mind-boggling hypocrisy of a candidate from a political party that wants to destroy the porn industry accepting contributions from one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America. Which begs a number of questions: Why is Perretta giving money to people who want to put him out of business? Because he likes the Republican platform of tax cuts for the rich and fuck everybody else? And what if the Vatican’s own anti-porn candidate, Rick Santorum, gets the nomination? Will Perretta give him money, too, just to help defeat the foreign-born, Muslim-socialist who currently occupies the White House?
I could go on indefinitely dissecting this kind of lunacy, but there’s no need to. Because the story of corrupt conservative Republicans who will stop at nothing in their efforts to destroy the porn industry is at the heart of Beaver Street.
I will say, however, in the course of my career, I’ve always written what I thought to be the truth without worrying if the people I was writing about would like what I had to say. That was the case with my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. That was the case with Beaver Street. And that will continue to be the case with this blog.
March 20, 2012
March 19, 2012
These anonymous porn mongers have five things in common: They’re all men. They were all born to wealth. They all used their wealth to create pornography empires. They all increased their wealth immensely by producing pornography on an industrial scale. And they all went to great lengths to publicly portray themselves as respectable businessmen, unconnected to XXX.
Having worked for three of these men, I’ve written about them at length in Beaver Street. They are Carl Ruderman, former publisher of High Society magazine and the father of “free” phone sex; the late Charles “Chip” Goodman, former president of Swank Publications; and Louis Perretta, who bought all the Swank titles from Goodman in 1993.
I bring this up now because, as the “real” media continue to investigate the story that I broke here last month about Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett (New Jersey, 5th district) accepting campaign contributions from Perretta, who is now one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America, they seem to be having some difficulty establishing that Perretta is, in fact, a pornographer. The Federal Election Commission documents that detail Perretta’s contributions to the Republican Party over a ten-year period list him as a self-employed business executive with the Great Eastern Color Lithographic Corporation, the now shuttered printing plant in Poughkeepsie, New York, where Perretta once printed his porn mags. And beyond this website, a Google search for any connection between Perretta and porn reveals little that’s verifiable. Perretta, in short, has done a commendable job of covering his X-rated tracks.
As we wait for some intrepid reporter to pull the trigger on this sordid political scandal of right-wing extremism and hardcore pornography, it would be instructive, I think, to further explore the phenomenon of pornography kings who go to great lengths to obscure the source of their wealth. And I will do so over the course of this month. So, stay tuned.
March 16, 2012
My posting yesterday about Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett's links to Louis Perretta, one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America, got me thinking about the Leonard Cohen classic "Everybody Knows." Like many of Cohen's songs, it's a surreal commentary on life, politics, and society. Cohen's grim message is that everybody already knows everything about everything and everybody, but it doesn’t make damn bit of difference. The dice are loaded. The fight's fixed. The war's over. The good guys lost. And there's nothing we can do about it.
In the case of Garrett, a man who’d like to put robber barons in charge of America and turn back the clock to the 19th century, I’d hope that Cohen, who has a reputation as a visionary poet, is wrong. Because despite a lack of attention in the mainstream media, everybody who cares about Scott Garret and his bid for reelection in New Jersey’s 5th district knows that he’s been accepting campaign contributions from Porn King Louis Perretta, and that for years Garrett’s eastern district office and Perretta’s porn operation were in close proximity on the second floor at 210 Route 4 East, in Paramus.
Who’s everybody? Oh, just the Democratic Party and the mainstream media. Which begs the question: If everybody knows about Garrett and Perretta, how long can this story remain an open secret, especially when you take into account that the Democrats seem to think Garrett is unbeatable and are having enormous problems finding a credible candidate to run against him?
As I said yesterday, chances are this story will break on a large scale before Election Day. But it’s hardly a sure thing. Neither the Democratic Party nor the media are known for having a backbone, and to break a story like this, even though it’s public record that Garrett accepted campaign contributions from Perretta, requires a certain amount of courage. Why? Because I am the source of this story and I am, more or less, an “unknown” who has worked in the pornography industry, which is how I know about Perretta, who’s gone to great lengths to obscure the fact that he controls a pornographic magazine, web, and video empire. (Read all about it in Beaver Street.)
So, how long can this story, or any story of magnitude, remain under wraps? Well, in the case of my previous book, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, everybody knew about it for 18 years before it finally found its way into print. And with any luck at all, in 18 years, Garrett will be little more than an embarrassing footnote to New Jersey’s political history.
In the meantime, all I can suggest is enjoy the video. And check out the Don Henley version, too. He’s a much better singer than Leonard Cohen.
March 15, 2012
On a day pregnant with literary and political significance, I'm going to revisit the story I ran here in February about Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett's links to Porn King Louis Perretta. As I've come to realize over the past month, Garrett, a Republican who represents New Jersey's 5th district, is a formidable and articulate opponent--a persuasive man who just happens to be on the wrong side of every issue and on the wrong side of history.
In the above video, Garrett is questioning Jeffrey Zients, director of the Office of Management and Budget, about Obama’s health care law. Like all Tea Party politicians, Garrett believes that the United States should remain the only industrialized nation in the world where health care is a privilege rather than a right, and that only the wealthy should be entitled to it. His line of questioning—Is the health care law not a new tax on the middle class?—has Zients on the defensive; you can see the fear in his eyes as Garrett moves in for the kill. If I were rich right-wing bastard, I’d vote for Garrett based on this performance alone.
How formidable is Garrett? Well, in the month since I posted the first piece about him, a series of Democrats, including Harry Carson, the former New York Giant, have announced that they were going to run against him, and then, for vague reasons, decided not to. Another potential opponent dropped out only three days ago.
A number of people have asked me why a sordid political scandal involving a right-wing extremist and one of America’s largest producers of hardcore pornography has gotten no attention beyond The Daily Beaver and the Erotic Review. Actually, the story has reached a wider audience. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is very much aware of it, and would love to see the scandal explode in the media. And the media, too, has this story on their radar screens. Why they haven’t run with it yet it is probably just matter of certain newspapers exercising excessive caution because of the wealthy, powerful people involved. In other words, The Tea Party Congressman and the Porn King is an open secret that can’t remain under wraps indefinitely. And though the Ides of March would be a poetic day for somebody to break the story, the mainstream media has little interest in poetry.
My prediction: Something will happen before Election Day. It has to.
March 14, 2012
The short answer: I'll go anywhere in the world where people have expressed an interest in my work. I've traveled to Mexico City and Valparaiso, Chile, where I didn’t even speak the language, to present my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man. Those journeys proved to be two of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. And I'm going to St. Louis because the city is offering me a unique opportunity to present both the pornographic and the literary sides of Beaver Street.
I made the decision months ago, after The Beautiful Kind editor, Kendra Holliday, interviewed me for her website. Kendra, who described my book as “a surreal, perverted mindfuck,” strikes me as the Annie Sprinkle of the Midwest—a creative, literate woman with the courage to put the darkest realms of her sexuality on public display both on her website and, recently, in Hustler magazine. The event she organized at the Shameless Grounds coffeehouse, on April 3, is the perfect venue to discuss some of the darker, X-rated aspects of Beaver Street, mainly a chapter I wouldn’t dare read publicly anyplace else. In “The Accidental Porn Star” I describe in graphic detail what it was like posing for a porn shoot, and the high social price I paid to conduct this “experiment in participatory journalism.”
Then, Left Bank Books, the foremost independent bookstore in St. Louis, invited me to do an event there on April 4. What better place to discuss the literary aspects of Beaver Street, a book that I describe as an investigative memoir? At Left Bank, I’ll read from the prologue and discuss a literary journey that began in my father’s candy store, in Brooklyn, where he sold numerous controversial books, like Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller, and Last Exit to Brooklyn, by Hubert Selby, that had made it to his “special rack” only after enduring protracted censorship battles.
So, my literary journey is now taking me to the turf of such people as Mark Twain and Jonathan Franzen. Boy, am I looking forward to the trip.
March 12, 2012
Last night I began thinking about what, exactly, I’m going to read at Shameless Grounds, the “sex positive” St. Louis coffeehouse where, on Tuesday, April 3, at 7 pm, Kendra Holliday and I will be launching Beaver Street upon America. And I decided to read from a chapter that I would not consider reading out loud in any place other than Shameless Grounds. “The Accidental Porn Star” is about shame and pornography, and like all of Beaver Street, it’s written in a conversational tone that makes it ideal for a public reading.
So, I’m going to nurse and rehearse the passage I’ve selected, and when I show up at Shameless Grounds, I’ll be ready to read. Hope you guys are ready to listen. In the meantime, you can check out Beaver Street at the Shameless Grounds library.
March 9, 2012
In particular, the posting on the left caught my attention. A Spanish-speaking blogger from Mexico, who goes by the name Little Child, copied the excerpt, in English, in her—I assume it’s a her—beautiful handwriting.
Little Child, whoever you are, muchas gracias por preocuparse por mi libro.
March 7, 2012
“Robert Rosen never knew or even met John Lennon,” somebody who calls themselves mclennon-forever wrote. “This quote is dubious.”
I’m going to respond to this comment because it’s so typical of the type of negativity I’ve been hearing about Nowhere Man since it was published in 2000.
First of all, the suggestion that it’s wrong to write a biography of somebody I never met is absurd on its face. Should contemporary biographers not write books about Mozart or George Washington, for example, because they never met them?
And the source of this “dubious” quote, I might add, is the late Neil Aspinall himself. In 1963, Aspinall was the Beatles’ road manager, and he was the one who procured the groupie for John. When I met Aspinall, in London, in September 1981, he was managing director of Apple. Fred Seaman, my writing partner at the time and Lennon’s former personal assistant, introduced me to him. The three of us went out to a pub near Apple, and over many pints of beer Aspinall told me the story.
The revelation of the source, of course, will not end the controversy engulfing Nowhere Man. But as always, I welcome the opportunity to answer any questions about the book. You know where to find me.
March 6, 2012
But there Beaver Street is, in the April Vanity Fair (Julia Roberts on the cover), on sale today in the US and UK. “Robert Rosen dives into Beaver Street (Headpress),” it says. And I suppose I do—dive into Beaver Street, that is.
So, look for Beaver Street on the Web or in a bookstore near you on March 28. In the meantime, virtual high-fives all around.
March 1, 2012
There’s no question that the Scott Garrett story drove the bulk of February’s traffic. I’d never heard of Garrett, an ultra-conservative Tea Party congressman representing New Jersey’s 5th district, until a couple of weeks ago. That was when I learned that porn magnate Lou Perretta, whom I’d once worked for, had been contributing to Republicans.
I’d known my former boss was a Republican since 1998, when he demanded I remove from a satiric feature titled “The Illustrated Starr Report” a reference to Kenneth Starr as a “deranged prosecutor.” (Perretta had no problem with the grotesque illustrations of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in flagrante delicto.)
But what caught my eye as I examined the easily accessible public documents detailing Perretta’s political contributions over a 10-year period was the name Scott Garrett, which popped up repeatedly.
Some basic research revealed that Garrett, who was elected by a comfortable margin, is anti-voting rights, anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-gay, anti-environment, and anti-science. That his office was on the same floor in the same office building as Perretta’s office, and that the politics of a Tea Party Republican and a Porn King seemed to mesh in so many ways, was the subject of my two postings about Garrett.
If the Garrett story should reach an audience beyond The Daily Beaver, that would, indeed, be a bonus—an example of one of journalism’s classic purposes: to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Because it’s frightening that a politician who you’d think would be more at home in the reddest, red-neck corner of Alabama could be elected to Congress in Bergen County. But considering my own experiences toiling for seven years on Perretta’s Bergen County porn plantation—which I’ve written about in Beaver Street—it’s not terribly surprising. In fact it’s just more proof that you don’t have to venture far from New York City to find Red America in all its ignorant, bigoted glory.