The Sporadic Beaver

Bloomsday on Beaver Street Video Clips

July 25, 2012

Tags: Bloomsday, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Byron Nilsson, Killarney Rose

Intro

Until the official Bloomsday on Beaver Street video is available, these clips, shot by Bette Yee on her iPhone, will serve as a record of what happened at the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street, in New York City, on the extraordinary night of June 16, 2012, at the launch party for my investigative memoir Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography.

The MC (or “MC Supreme,” as I’ve come to call him) is Byron Nilsson. The videos above and below are in chronological order. If you were there, chances are you’re in one of these videos.

Byron Nilsson Reads from Beaver Street


Introduction of the Author


Robert Rosen Greets the Crowd


Robert Rosen Reads from Beaver Street

“The Best Behind-the-Scenes Expose Since Hell’s Angels”

July 20, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, pornography, Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Neil A. Chesanow

After reading Neil A. Chesanow’s Beaver Street review, Skip Slavic, a reader in Ohio, posted the following “comment” on Facebook. One can only hope that others agree.

Thanks to Mr. Chesanow’s fine review, this is a good place to say a few words: Beaver Street is indeed “splendid: elegantly written; well researched”—a completely enjoyable book. It does for the porn industry what Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels did for biker gangs, and that’s meant as a high compliment: the best personal, behind-the-scenes expose I’ve read since Hell’s Angels. The parts of the book that dealt with the comings (pardon the pun) and goings of the day-to-day travails of a working pornographer remind me very favorably of Henry Miller’s portrayal of life at the “Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company” [in Tropic of Capricorn]—the kind of giddy despair that comes through is disturbing… and brilliant. The discussion centering on the Lockhart Commission, Ed Meese, and Traci Lords should be required reading for anyone concerned about the lengths to which government will go to interfere in the personal lives of its citizens. In a nutshell, a really fine book, a remarkable story and an essential piece of history as well.

The Literature of Porn, Part 2

July 19, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Neil A. Chesanow, pornography

Yesterday I published a review of Beaver Street by Neil A. Chesanow that he’d posted on Amazon. I’d gotten in contact with Chesanow after reading the review, and the e-mail below is his response to some of my questions about his background and his expertise in writing about sex. It offers a good deal of insight into sex journalism, magazine publishing, and book publishing.

Hi Bob,

Since it’s late, I’ll save my excursion into the literature of porn for a future email. But I thought I might provide some perspective.

I wrote for the major women’s magazines from 1972 to 1996. My very first article, for Cosmo, was on sexual surrogates. I interviewed one on West End Avenue. I thought she had the hots for me. Sexual surrogates, by definition, are highly sexual irrespective of partners, but she wasn’t really my type and even though I was a tyro journalist, I felt it would be a gross violation of professional ethics to have sex with an interviewee.

But I have always been interested in writing about sex because it’s so difficult to write about. (That you made it seem so effortless is a big part of the brilliance of your book. It’s easy to take for granted, but writing about sex “in an acceptable way” is no mean feat.)

To flesh out my journalistic assignments, I started to contribute personal essays in, oh, the mid-1980s. I’m a self-abnegating person. The women’s magazines found that a man who could write about masculine issues of intense interest to women in a self-abnegating way was, I don’t know, aphrodisiacal, and I inadvertently found myself cast as a “man who could write for women.” It was a new thing, and for about two years, I owned it.

In that capacity, I wrote about a multitude of subjects, but most especially sex. If a man has sexual fantasies involving other women during sex, is it cheating? Do married men masturbate? (When Ellen Levine, whom you mentioned in a footnote in your book, who was then the editor of Redbook, suggested this to me, I just looked at her. I couldn’t believe she was serious. It turned out to be one of my best-read articles).

But I’ve always found sex to be the most fascinating area of journalistic inquiry because so much of it is unspeakable, when journalism is about telling all. And this is the perfect time to be writing about sex. Online pornography has driven a stake into the heart of normality as a concept and it was a stake that needed driving. Sex surveys on our sexual habits conducted by the University of Chicago and other august institutions are about as accurate as a tip from a racetrack tout.

I could not help but notice that you were published by a British publisher. That a book of this quality wasn’t published by an American publisher is a scandal. Maybe you’ll get a reverse sale—you deserve one—but still! And that’s because there are a half-dozen middle-class suburban matrons who do all the sex book buying in this country, and if they find something offensive, which they regularly do, bang: no one will publish you here.

In 1992, I sold Redbook (via articles editor Diane Salvatore, an up-and-coming lesbian novelist, with Ellen Levine’s blessing) an article on sexual swingers. I said I would take an objective anthropological approach and they agreed. On their dime, I visited swing clubs in Florida and California, attended parties (fully clothed, but with no notepad permitted), and did a great many interviews.

I came away with a lot of good stuff that I hadn’t seen before and haven’t seen since. A majority of male swingers experience erectile dysfunction for up to a year (after which they either get over it or drop out of the lifestyle) because of their inhibitions about performing in public.

A majority of women, upwards of 90 percent, most of whom have never had a lesbian encounter before, regularly if not primarily engage in girl-girl sex.

The whole idea of swinging is to recognize that people a) have a need for a stable relationship with a significant other; and b) have pansexual desires despite this commitment, and to enable the latter without destroying the former. Most of the time it doesn’t work. But once in a while it does work. Because I said that in the article, and refused to retract it, I was fired, after working for the magazine for 10 years.

So I wrote the research up in a book proposal. I do a very nice book proposal. In fact, this was the only book proposal of mine that found no buyer. It was the six suburban dowagers who control everything. AIDS was efflorescing. They found the subject repugnant and, given the current epidemiological climate, irresponsible.

That left me with your alternative: sell it in Britain (or Germany) and hope for a reverse sale. I considered it. But the advance I was offered was less than I made writing a single magazine article, and there was much expensive research left to be done, all, apparently, out of pocket. It wasn’t financially feasible. So I passed and continued on with my life.

Due to the lateness of the hour, I’ll respond to your literature inquiry at another time. However, while I’ve read some porn star biographies, I mainly read scholarly investigations, and those tend to be thin in metanoic insight. That’s why your book is so valuable: it humanizes the enterprise. Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, this is something human beings do for the delectation of other human beings, and the financial scale of the enterprise strongly suggests that if we are to come up with an accurate definition of sexual normality (not normalcy—that term was introduced by Calvin Coolidge and never exceeded its political context), the quaint Victorian meaning of that must be entirely scrapped. Kinsey said, “If it feels good, it’s normal.” That seems to be about the size of it.

We’ll talk books in a future email.

Neil Chesanow

The Literature of Porn

July 18, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Neil A. Chesanow, Amazon

The following five-star review of Beaver Street, posted on Amazon a few days ago, was written by Neil A. Chesanow who, from 1972-1996, wrote about sex for the major women’s magazines, including, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Glamour, and Mademoiselle.

A Real Page Turner

Beaver Street is splendid: elegantly written; well researched; full of knowledge that only the author, who worked in porn, could have had; and funny. It’s not only a valuable addition to the literature on pornography (by “literature” I by no means mean to suggest quality; it’s by and large pretty dismal), but a model for how that literature could be written cum literature (no pun intended).

It’s fortunate that the author’s actual perspective just happens to be the perfect perspective to have for a book like this: ironic, bemused, amused, intrigued, titillated, but ultimately dispirited and disgusted. In short: everyman. And it works beautifully. It lets him use dirty words and say dirty things, and admit to doing some of those things, without ever causing us to lose sympathy with him as readers. That and his gentle, graceful writing style, plus the richness of factual detail and depth of insight that he offers, make for a wonderful book: a real page turner.

That Was the Month that Was

July 2, 2012

Tags: Bloomsday, Beaver Street, banned books, Amazon


The first video to surface from Bloomsday on Beaver Street: 31 seconds of the author greeting the crowd.

Before I switch to summer hours and cut back on my daily posting frenzy so I can concentrate more on the book I’m working on, Bobby in Naziland, and rethink exactly how I’m going to reboot my Beaver Street promotional campaign after the Amazon book-banning fiasco, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on the past month, which was exhausting, traumatic, and rewarding.

Yes, June did, indeed, mark the end of an absurd three-month battle with Amazon to make the paperback edition of Beaver Street available. The company added a “buy box” on June 5, and three weeks later they finally had the book in stock. By the end of the month, Beaver Street appeared to be selling at least a little. But there’s no getting around the fact that three months of lost Amazon sales was damaging. The question I now face is how to repair the damage, and I’m certainly open to suggestions.

The highpoint of the month, of course, was Bloomsday on Beaver Street, the New York launch event, on June 16, at the Killarney Rose. This celebration of banned books and literature that had been branded pornographic made for a great party, with surrealistic touches and an electric atmosphere. You can read about it here, here, here, here, and here.

For the time being, the above video is the only video I have from the event. It’s the first 30 seconds of my reading, as I introduce myself to the crowd, and then stop to adjust the microphone. What I was about to say before the video cut off is, “Beaver Street is what happens when a writer can’t decide it he wants to be a humorist, an investigative journalist, a novelist, or a memoirist.”

I will post more videos as they become available.