The Sporadic Beaver

Notes from Underground

April 30, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, High Society, Gene Gregorits, Carl Ruderman, pornography, New York, Necropolis Now, Ron Jeremy

On pages 37-38 of Beaver Street, I tell the story of the first time a porn magazine assigned me to go to the set of a XXX movie and write an article about it. High Society, where I was working as an editor, was the magazine that sent me. Adventure Studios, in Corona, Queens, was the location. The film--it was an actual film, not a video--was Succulence, starring Kelly Nichols, Rhonda Jo Petty, Little Oral Annie, and (of course) Ron Jeremy.

It was October 10, 1983. I know this because as I was interviewing porn stars in the Sewer Club, as the green room was called, Cardinal Cooke's funeral was being broadcast live on the TV playing there, and a quick Internet search just provided me with the date.

The article I wrote, “The Making of a Fuck Flick,” was published, uncredited, in the June 1984 issue of High Society, five months after the publisher, Carl Ruderman, fired me for calling HS a “porno mag” in the New York Post. (According to Ruderman, the only acceptable term for what we produced at his smut factory was “adult entertainment.”)

“The Making of a Fuck Flick” is an incredibly sleazy article where I describe such things as the mechanics of filming a “dogfuck,” and quote porn stars saying things like, “To sit with a camera up your twat all day—this is not normal.”

So, when Gene Gregorits, author of Dog Days, told me he was looking for “an essay, a story, an article, or an interview regarding the lowest of the low in NYC between 1975 and 1995” for the book he’s now putting together, Necropolis Now: New York Scum Culture, I sent him “The Making of a Fuck Flick.” “This seems to fit your criteria,” I said, and Gregorits agreed.

If all goes according to plan, the book should be out before the end of the year.

Look for it.

Reading Out Loud

April 29, 2013

Tags: Bobby in Naziland, Beaver Street, Brooklyn, Bloomsday

I began working seriously on the novel I now call Bobby in Naziland in May 2008. I had little idea of what, exactly, I was writing. All I knew was that it was time to begin another book, and there was something about the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush, in the mid-20th century, that was worth exploring.

I'd touched on it in the opening pages of Beaver Street, the book I'd recently finished writing (though had not yet sold), describing the goings-on in my father's candy store, on Church Avenue, in 1961. Also, I'd just finished reading The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem, a novel that takes place in an adjacent Brooklyn neighborhood, about ten years later. It gave me ideas.

So, I began the agonizing process of figuring out what my new book was going to be, and I saw it evolve from hundreds of pages of notes, fragments, anecdotes, and ideas, to a possible memoir, to the novel that it finally became, and that I think I’m now in the process of fine-tuning.

Over the past five years, I’ve shown what I’m working on to nobody, not even to my wife, the Mistress of Syntax, who’s also my editor. Because I read the book out loud as I’m working on it (I need to hear in my ear what it sounds like), and have spoken about it to people who’ve asked, my editor had some idea of the wide-ranging subject matter. But she’d never overheard more than a sentence or two at any one time, because I tend to work only when I’m alone.

With the second annual Bloomsday on Beaver Street looming, on June 16, I knew it was time to pick the selection I’m going to read that night, and to finally read it out loud to my editor. That’s what I did this weekend; I read to her the opening pages of chapter one, “The Goyim and the Jews.” I’m pleased to report that she laughed twice, and said, when I finished reading, “It’s good, but I thought it was going to be more solemn.”

Bobby in Naziland is not a solemn book. And if you think the Mistress of Syntax goes easy on me because I happen to be married to her, you’re sadly mistaken. Quite the opposite, actually. Her editing process is uncompromising, her demands for factual accuracy unrelenting, and the proof is in the quality of my previous two books. The Mistress of Syntax is not a title the wife wears lightly. Her “It’s good” is a five-star rave.

To say that Mary Lyn’s reaction filled me with a sense of profound relief would be a gross understatement. But if the pages passed muster with her, it gives me enough confidence to go forward and read Bobby in Naziland (along with a selction from Beaver Street) to a larger audience on Bloomsday.

I hope you’ll be there to listen.

The Rialto Report

April 26, 2013

Tags: The Rialto Report, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Annie Sprinkle, New York, podcast, Kendra Holliday

Having written a book about the history of pornography, set mostly in New York City between 1974-1987, I take an abiding interest in all things having to do with the history of porn in New York. Recently, I've discovered a site called The Rialto Report, run by a man with a British accent who calls himself Ashley West and occasionally Benson Hurst, and who shares my abiding interest in the Golden Age of New York's adult industry.

Named for the now-closed Rialto Theatre on 42nd Street, the site has posted a series of podcast interviews with porn people from New York's past. Last night I listened to the interview with Carter Stevens, an actor, director, and producer, probably best known for a film called Lickity-Split. Though I didn't write about him in Beaver Street, he's one of those pornographers whose name you heard time and again if you worked in X; he was everywhere in the 70s and 80s.

The interview is over an hour, and Stevens, with his tough-guy voice, goes into great detail about New York in the days of Plato’s Retreat, Bernard’s, Jamie Gillis, Bobby Astor, Sharon Mitchell, and his ex-wife, Baby Doe.

As I write this, I’m listening to the provocative interview with Annie Sprinkle—she talks about rape and feminism. Sprinkle was a unique (to say the least) New York character whom I worked with when I was managing editor of Stag in the 1980s, and whom I did write about in Beaver Street. (I discuss Annie and some of her freaky predilections in this video clip from my interview with Kendra Holliday.)

Also interviewed on The Rialto Report are porn stars Jennifer Welles, George Payne, and Jeffrey Hurst, filmmaker John Amero, and photographer Barbara Nitke.

This is a rapidly expanding site, and a great resource well worth checking out.

There Will Be Porn Stars

April 25, 2013

Tags: Bloomsday, Beaver Street, Eric Danville, Linda Lovelace, Deep Throat, Lainie Speiser, Bobby in Naziland, James Joyce, Nora Barnacle, Ulysses

As this cruelest month winds down, I find myself thinking seriously about what, exactly, is going to happen, on June 16, at the second annual Bloomsday on Beaver Street event, at the Killarney Rose, in downtown Manhattan. Last year was easy. My book had recently been published in the U.S., and Bloomsday was a book launch party celebrating not only Beaver Street, but other literary works, like James Joyce's Ulysses, that had once been branded pornographic and banned.

This year, I'm expanding the theme to include other authors whose works lend themselves to what is actually being celebrated on June 16, the day that Ulysses takes place. On that day, in 1904, Joyce had his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, and to put it in the most explicit terms, she gave him an epic handjob.

This much is definite:

Eric Danville will be reading from his book The Complete Linda Lovelace, which he’s now revising, and will re-release in September to coincide with the release of Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried as the deep-throat artist. I suspect that Danville will read, among other things, a zombie story he’s working on titled “Dead Throat.”

Lainie Speiser, author of many books about sex, will read from her latest work, Confessions of the Hundred Hottest Porn Stars.

There will be porn stars present. Musicians will perform. Byron Nilsson will MC, read, and sing.

I will again be reading from Beaver Street, this time a historical (rather than a personal) passage. And I will also, for the first time in public, read from my novel-in-progress, Bobby in Naziland, for which I offer no apologies to James Joyce for the subtitle, “A Portrait of the Author as a Young Jew.” He would have understood.

Mark your calendars now, and stayed tuned for more news about additional performers.

The Distance We've Traveled

April 24, 2013

Tags: Richie Havens, Woodstock



Because I rarely know what I'm going to write till the morning I write it, these blog posts can be less than perfect. And sometimes, as was the case yesterday, I can write something without fully understanding what I've written.

The idea for a post about Richie Havens came to me in the shower yesterday morning. I knew that the story of seeing him perform at a corporate Christmas party was interesting, and that it said something, possibly profound, about money and Manhattan in the late 20th century. So I banged it out, gave it the generic title of "A Richie Havens Story," which seemed fine at the time, and posted it.

But it wasn’t until later that afternoon that a Facebook exchange brought the story into complete focus. “It must have been a surreal kind of shock to witness the hero of Woodstock playing to that crowd,” said Skip Slavik, a regular reader.

“Yes, exactly,” I replied. “It was like, ‘Man, things have sure come a long way from Woodstock.’”

The correct title for the piece popped into my head several hours after that, as I was walking on Broadway, on my way to the liquor store to buy some wine for dinner. I knew that “Far from Woodstock” was the correct title because it came with a melody. Except I didn’t know a song called “Far from Woodstock.” I then realized that the melody I was hearing in my head was “Miles from Nowhere,” an old Cat Stevens song that contains the lyric, “Lord my body has been a good friend/But I won’t need it when I reach the end.”

That’s when I fully understood what I’d written: Richie Havens was dead, and my story about seeing him perform at that party was a tale of men in suits who wanted to own a piece of musical history, if only for 20 minutes. But primarily it was about the distance we’ve all traveled, spiritually and otherwise, since Havens sang “Freedom” at Woodstock.

I went home. I changed the title and the last line. And I felt that, poetically, everything had fallen into place, if only for an evening.

Far from Woodstock

April 23, 2013

Tags: Richie Havens, Woodstock

Richie Havens, 1941-2013.
If you went to rock concerts in the 1970s and '80s, especially if you lived in New York, then Richie Havens was a musician you had to have seen at least once. I saw him more times than I can remember--at those two-dollar Schaefer concerts they used to have in Central Park, at City College, and at any number of free concerts all over the city.

But when Havens died yesterday, at 72, from a heart attack, at his home in Jersey City, it brought to mind the time that I saw him perform, in the early '90s, when a photographer invited me to a Christmas party at a photo agency where she worked, and the entertainment was none other than Richie Havens.

The image that stays with me is Havens, a freak with a long scraggly beard, wearing a dashiki, standing on a platform in the corner, and playing to a corporate crowd of about 50 people in dark business attire, suits who were looking on not with the pleasure that comes from listening to live music, but with what struck me as pride of ownership—the emotion you feel when you can do something because you have enough money to do it.

Obviously, this was a company that wanted to look “hip,” and hiring Havens was a way to do that within budget. But you could tell that Havens didn’t want to be there, playing to these people. You could sense an undertone of resentment as he performed without joy, looking like a freelance worker doing no more than what his contract specified: play for 20 minutes, and play “Freedom.”

It was a sacrilege, I thought, and to me that Christmas party became a symbol of the day I knew for sure that, to the exclusion of all else, Manhattan had become a place about money, far from Woodstock.

I Don't Wanna Face It

April 22, 2013

Tags: Huffington Post, writing

Face this: Anybody who begins a blog post, essay, or op-ed piece with "Let's face it" is a hack. Frankly, you have to look no further than the celebrity-infested Huffington Post, a money-making site where people blog for exposure rather than money. Honestly, I don't want to pick on Huff Po, as I agree with their politics for the most part. But, to tell you the truth, the quality of their writing is so dreary, I often can't read beyond the first three words of any given post before I'm overcome by boredom. But let's face it, a search of Huff Po for the phrase "let's face it" delivers 81,500 results. Speaking candidly, that's probably the number of new blog posts that appear on Huff Po on any given day.

In my opinion, the reason bad writing is epidemic on Huff Po is because celebrities, movie stars, and "beautiful people" of all stripes believe they are compelling writers because when they speak, the well-scrubbed masses gather around them and hang on their every word. But don't kid yourself: Publishing transcripts of what amounts to cocktail-party blather is a recipe for ridicule.

Truthfully, it was a post by Marlo Thomas (107 million Huff Po results) about the Boston bombings that I started reading the other day that provoked this post. I’m not going to lie, it began, “I love the New York Yankees, but I’ll be honest with you…”

I’ll be honest with you, Marlo: I think you’re a fine lady, but your blog posts really suck.

Half & Half

April 19, 2013

Tags: cut-up technique, Beaver Street, Antony Hitchin, William Burroughs

The reaction to Antony Hitchin's poems, drawn from Beaver Street, using the cut-up technique William Burroughs popularized, has been so positive, I'm going to end the blogweek with one more.

"Meat Doll Misanthrope," like "Discharge," which I posted yesterday, is what Burroughs described as a "Third Mind" collaboration. Hitchen combined his own words with words cut from Beaver Street. But unlike "Discharge," which was mostly Beaver Street, "Meat Doll Misanthrope" is about half Beaver Street, half Hitchin.

And if you really want to know which half is which, you’ll just have to read the book.

Meat Doll Misanthrope

misanthrope pixel memoir
dinosaur Christ proxy body
mimicking skin
dialectical face mouth peers
through fuck fingers
the sound of god splitting
open ----------------------------------------------
flaming silhouettes
candy store messiah
mouth-fuck fetishes
the remnants of your space dead television flesh
your channel wired webwork tissue reek of wet pubics

Third Mind

April 18, 2013

Tags: cut-up technique, Beaver Street, Antony Hitchin, William Burroughs

I said yesterday in my posting about "Bukkake Thatcher," one of the poems Antony Hitchen had sliced from the heart of Beaver Street using the cut-up technique popularized by William Burroughs, that he'd "compressed into a few sentences the emotions expressed in a large swath of the book." But I think it would be more accurate to explain the technique this way: Hitchin has pulled from Beaver Street the most provocative words and phrases, and by arranging them in a new way, he's captured the emotional tone of the entire book.

The title of the poem below, "Discharge," is cut from a legal document quoted in the Traci Lords chapter. Other words are taken from chapters titled "High Society" and "I Found My Job in The New York Times." Hitchen also includes some of his own words not found in the book, like "muzzle," "filter," "autonomy," and "flush," making this what he'd call a "Third Mind" collaboration, which is the title of a cut-up work by Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

Here, then, for your reading pleasure, I give you the latest and freshest filet of Beaver:

Discharge

DIY abortion vacuum / video boxes sizzling jailbait celebrity skin/ subscription hooker etiquette women masturbating mutilated bodies/ nymphomaniacs spread pussies – muzzle sloppy
she fills a paper cup of deep-pile pussy discharge
AIDs tuberculosis trickle-down
economics/ bubonic rejection glare of subway slug/
drifting overhead chrome /beyond sleep filter fringes – spurting flush autonomy nothing death

Day of the Locust

April 17, 2013

Tags: cut-up technique, Beaver Street, Antony Hitchin, Margaret Thatcher

The ignorance of the American media never ceases to dazzle, and it was on full display last week when Margaret Thatcher died. As soon as the news broke, the commentators on the cable show I was watching began describing Thatcher as a great prime minister loved by all, a veritable saint like her good friend Ronald Reagan.

This didn't exactly jive with what I remembered about the reign of the so-called Iron Lady. In her own country, she was at best divisive and at worst despised. There were riots in Liverpool, an unnecessary war in the Falklands, and an ongoing economic catastrophe that led to massive unemployment.

It’s this last point that I discuss in Beaver Street. Just as Ronald Reagan’s policies gave the world “free” phone sex, which transformed the porn industry from an underground phenomenon to a mainstream financial behemoth, Thatcher’s policies were instrumental in making D-Cup magazine a success.

It was soon after I began editing the magazine, in 1986, that, as I say in Beaver Street, I started making regular trips to London with fists full of cash to “persuade the nubile spawn of Margaret Thatcher’s economically ravaged England to reveal their fleshly charms.”

I explain how British photographers were placing ads in newspapers “inviting young women to come to London to audition as topless ‘Page 3’ girls,” and how Thatcher’s economic initiatives had driven “unemployed and underemployed students, nurses, housewives, and secretaries” to descend “locust-like upon the city because they believed that flashing their boobs in ‘respectable’ family newspapers was the first step on the road to becoming a big movie star or a famous lingerie model.”

On one trip, in late 1987, soon after the stock market crash, I witnessed hundreds of young women line up in a London warehouse that had been converted to a makeshift photography studio. One after another, they took off all or some of their clothes, as a photographer snapped test shots. And within weeks, thanks to Lady Thatcher, dozens of these women, having been told that they weren’t quite right for Page 3, had decided that “rather than go back to the night shift in a Liverpool fish-and-chips joint,” they’d make the leap to hardcore porn videos.

It’s this scenario that inspired “Bukkake Thatcher,” the latest poem Antony Hitchin has drawn from Beaver Street. (I’m running it today to commemorate Thatcher’s funeral, and I’ve kept the British spellings in her honor.) Using the cut-up technique, Hitchin has compressed into a few sentences the emotions expressed in a large swath of the book. And if you don’t know what bukkake means, go ask somebody who does.

Bukkake Thatcher

Penthouse Enron brain pictorial pulp lust bad writing on the wall for economically ravaged post-industrial America. Proficiently kink or fetish the young porn nymphos veritable antithesis.

Soulless ungloved stardom – cummer cyberspace mouse-click contraband epidemic of a vibrator cabal – whose picture appeared virus legislators syndicated war on drugs.

Weapon – she was FBI cold – a moneymaker sting exploitation violating possession. Nonstop traumatic gonzo bukkake ethical violations – anilingus handheld through Margaret Thatcher’s erections – Pentecostal Watergate conspirators’ congress fibre-optic aureoles of will.

Forevermore hairball – cherry pop Iran-contra – gold standard regurgitated anal sex two-headed monster naked in a bathtub representing French and Swedish markets. Cro-Magnon church savage mass-mailing academic paedophile backbone measured to Traci Lords Nixon search.

Warrant zealots anti-porn bible on TV – black on milk cartons hole of substance abuse grotesque – erotic – strictly mechanical – a vestigial camera insertion testimony to sleazy nubile spawn of fuck-and-suck-athon. Alzheimer's mouth shut manufacturing synchronicity god CIA Meese report.

Pure Filth

April 16, 2013

Tags: cut-up technique, Beaver Street, Antony Hitchin

If you haven't read Beaver Street, the cut-up poem below, "Phoenix Pussy," by Antony Hitchin (he could have just as easily called it "Dallas Cunnilingus"), may seem like nothing more than pure filth, mindless graffiti splattered across a wall, a chaotic assortment of dirty and emotionally charged words and images that doesn't seem to say anything but is somehow disturbing.

However, if you've read Beaver Street (or if you wrote it) "Phoenix Pussy" is like a hallucinogenic summary of key parts of the book. The poem runs through my head like a psychedelic movie: Beaver Street on acid.

To deconstruct (or perhaps reconstruct): Taken out of context, the phrase “Jesus jacked off,” may seem to the uninitiated like gratuitous blasphemy. But if you’ve read the book, then you know that the words are “cut” from a scene on page 120, in which I’m working with another editor to put together a style sheet for our “grossly underpaid” freelance porn writers. The complete sentence is, “People are permitted to cry ‘Oh, Jesus!’ in the midst of orgasm, but gratuitous blasphemy, like ‘Jesus jacked off behind the tree,’ is unacceptable, even in U.S.-only sections.”

So, without further ado, I give you “Phoenix Pussy,” the second poem in our continuing series of poems cut from Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography.

Phoenix Pussy

Cum towering bestiality and hardcore movies
divas deep anilingus
oh her partners biblical dozen double suckers with insertion behemoth!
Jesus jacked off rubbing up beavers – twat fist-fucking nymphos carved on chronic criminal wave –hookers scrapbooks hysteria militant intercourse
freaky he-she’s phoenix pussy playing reverse-cowgirl-style mindless ten-inch cocks five dollar swastika holding the
fuck-sluts enterprise statue bare-breasted erection
ungodly Dallas cunnilingus free torture mamas excretion gushing
absenteeism piss-drinking key justice fellatio nymphomaniacs

Filet of Beaver (Street)

April 15, 2013

Tags: cut-up technique, Beaver Street, William Burroughs, Antony Hitchin

Antony Hitchin, a British writer, is the author of Messages To Central Control. The book is an example of the "cut-up" technique, pioneered by the Dadaists in the 1920s and popularized by William Burroughs in the 1950s and '60s. One way to perform the technique is to take a complete text, cut it into pieces with one word or a few words on each piece, and then rearrange the pieces into a new text.

Hitchin recently wrote to me to say that he was "experimenting with cutting up Beaver Street in various ways" and calling the project "Split Beaver." He wanted to know if I was okay with this. I told him I was delighted, and that he should feel free to fillet my Beaver as he saw fit.

This morning he sent me the first results of his experiment. “Interestingly,” he wrote, “I was talking to [Edward S. Robinson], author of the academic text Shift-Linguals, who’s something of an authority on cut-up and postmodern literature in general, and he believes this is a first, to his knowledge—no other authors have officially sanctioned (or embraced) a literary ‘remix’ of their work.”

To which I say: It’s cool! It’s hip-hop! And in the future, I will take my Beaver raw, or “tartare,” as they call it in the finest restaurants.

Below, I give you the first “poem” cut completely from Beaver Street. Allow me to put the first word, which you’ll find on page 75, in context. (The rest you can find on your own.) “It must have been quite a shock for young Jason, who’d never publicly acknowledged the seamier side of his heritage, to see his esteemed grandfather described in the Times as a skinflint and a sadist.”

Split Beaver

Skinflint load sucks black cock – mafia micrometer pentagon enema sphincter frenzy. Entry castoffs two group suck and incest. Pseudonyms quim triangle buxom rendered syntax!

All resistance of her bodies writhing in a jack off with Jill sadist flotsam manner of human. Lunch meat anal pussy refugees – a home-decorating big-budget blizzard commingling gash vision. Lesbian sleazeball fornication – the fortunate pilgrim clippings – he lubed sperm-drenched Mary of a lost lingering presence. Stream of warm anal sent Gestapo officers with speculum fitness lit-clit scratch-and-sniff.

My airbrushed ferocious four-legged cock with teeth teasing underage girl – chief circular daisy jerk-off with ayatollah daughter. In her greased ports – hypochondriac gaping slit shot and sprinkle of machines – Mormon homicidal sperm parts of the Koran – waiting fuck virgins

Hardcore criminal penalties dirty slithering up her bridal health and homophobia gang rape puckered anus.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Google

April 12, 2013

Tags: Google, Scott Turow, Missy Manners, Orrin Hatch, book piracy

Earlier this week I wrote about Authors Guild president Scott Turow's New York Times essay, "The Slow Death of the American Author." In the piece, Turow explained how Google was profiting from rogue Websites that offer pirated e-books for free, and how the company was using its financial muscle to run roughshod over the meaning and spirit of copyright.

Well, I'd like to end the week by reporting some good Google news, as personal and insignificant as it might be. For approximately six months, Google had stopped searching this blog, and my referral traffic, especially for popular posts about porn star Missy Manners and her relationship with anti-porn Senator Orrin Hatch, of Utah, came to a complete halt. I blamed the problem on Google. But the fault, dear readers, was in the code--my code--and this was finally brought to my attention by a sharp-eyed young man who lives on Beaver Street in Santa Rosa, California.

The problem is now solved. If you search for “Missy Manners” “Orrin Hatch”, my posts have returned to their rightful #1 place in the Google search results. And if you search for anything else I’ve written about here over the past few years, chances are excellent that you’ll find that, too.

I’ll take my good news where I can get it.

30 Years Ago Today

April 11, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, High Society, phone sex, pornography

Monday, April 11, 1983, 9:30 a.m.: I showed up for work in a suit, unaware that I was stepping into ground zero of a new age of pornographic wealth and joining a revolution that was changing the face of commercial erotica--as well as society itself. I did not grasp the profound, and far-reaching, implications of phone sex. All I knew was that I'd feigned enthusiasm during the interview and now I had a job, which I was determined to keep because my economic survival depended upon it. Having studied an issue of High Society over the weekend, I understood that the job was going to require a strong stomach, not to mention a few minor adjustments in my moral code. But I thought it was a small price to pay for a steady paycheck.

This is the first paragraph of Beaver Street's "High Society" chapter. The most shocking thing about it is the date. Thirty years have passed since I walked through the door of that magazine to begin my first permanent, full-time job, and embark on a career in pornography that would continue into 1999. Also, 30 years have passed since the dawn of the Age of Modern Pornography--"free phone sex" being the first fusion of erotica and computers.

These two anniversaries bring to mind the time I was 14 years old, and first heard that lyric on Sgt. Pepper. “Twenty years ago” sounded like an eternity in 1967. In 2013, 30 years feels as if it could have been, oh, I don’t know, 2010, maybe.

I really don’t have much more to say about this anniversary or High Society magazine. In fact, everything I have to say about High Society, I already said in Beaver Street. So, I’m going to celebrate by doing what I always do—working on another book. If you feel the need to celebrate, the best way to do that would be to read one of my books and join me in psychic communion. I’ll feel your energy. I always do.

Read It and Weep

April 10, 2013

Tags: book piracy, Google, Amazon, writing, Scott Turow

I've written frequently on this blog about the difficulties of surviving as a writer in 21st century America, and I've complained long and loud about mega-conglomerates, like Google and Amazon, who've made survival that much more difficult. But nothing I've written comes close to the indictment that Scott Turow, author of numerous best-selling books and president of The Authors Guild, published in The New York Times the other day.

Turow covers a lot of ground in "The Slow Death of the American Author," and I’m not going to discuss all of it here. But I'd like to bring your attention to a couple of points he makes, which shed even more light on similar things I've written about.

One of his main points is how Google, which does business under the slogan “Don’t be evil,” as well as Yahoo and Bing, are, without fear of legal consequence, profiting by directing people to “rogue sites… with paid ads decorating the margins,” that offer pirated e-books for free. “If I stood on a corner telling people who asked where they could buy stolen goods and collected a small fee for it,” Turow writes, “I’d be on my way to jail.”

He then turns to Amazon, which, since 2000, has been selling used print books side-by-side with new books, without sharing the profits on the used books with publishers or authors. Now, Turow says, the company has a patent to sell “used” e-books. Except, unlike print books, which show wear and tear, there’s no difference between a used e-book and a new e-book. “Why,” he asks, “would anyone ever buy a new book again?” Amazon “would literally own the resale market and would shift enormous profits to itself from publishers as well as authors, who would lose the already meager share of the proceeds they receive on the sale of new e-books.”

Turow ends with a vision of the dystopian future of book publishing in the U.S., based on what he saw on a recent visit to Russia, where, he says, “There is only a handful of publishers left,” e-books have been “savaged by instantaneous piracy that goes almost completely unpoliced,” and “in the country of Tolstoy and Chekhov, few Russians… can name a contemporary Russian author whose work regularly affects the national conversation.”

I’d urge everybody with an interest in the fate of books and the people who write them to read Turow’s complete essay.

The Future of Reading

April 9, 2013

Tags: Amazon, e-books, e-readers, Kindle, censorship

Jason Merkoski, a former employee of Amazon, was the leader of the team that built the first Kindle. Today he released an e-book, Burning the Page: The eBook Revolution and the Future of Reading.

Though I've not yet read the book, my sense of it, based on an interview with Merkoski in The New York Times, is that Amazon doesn't come off especially well. In response to a question about how people might react if they knew what was going on inside companies like Amazon, he said that Amazon, as well as Google and Apple, "have entire buildings filled with lawyers" whose job is "to keep people like me from even answering this question." He suggested, as well, that if the "veil of secrecy" that surrounds these corporations were lifted, people might boycott them.

Merkoski also mentioned that when it comes to censorship, a problem that I was dealing with last year, he does not trust the executives at any e-book retailer. Most of them, he said, “would rather pull e-books from the store, effectively censoring them, if that would avoid bad press.”

I’ve no doubt that this is all true. But I do question one point that Merkoski makes. “In 20 years,” he said, “the space of one generation, print books will be as rare as vinyl LPs.”

I’m not saying this won’t happen. I am saying that if it doesn’t happen, it’s because there are too many people, like me, who think reading on a screen is far less pleasurable than reading a printed book. Reading on a screen eliminates the sensuality and the connection you feel with a printed book. It’s more difficult to get lost in an e-book than it is in a printed book. Based on what I’ve heard and seen, I think there’s already an intense resistance to e-books among certain readers of all ages.

This was not the case when CDs began replacing vinyl LPs in the mid-1980s. Yes, there was some resistance to them among aficionados, but most people, myself included, couldn’t wait to get their hands on CDs, even if they already had the record in vinyl. That’s because people believed that CDs provided a better listening experience (and they took up less room).

Nobody, I’d argue, would suggest that e-books provide a better reading experience than printed books. Their advantages, as far as I can see, are that they take up less space, they’re cheaper, and they’re searchable. And that’s not enough to drive printed books into near extinction. Unless, of course, it is. Because when it comes to the book business, nobody knows what’s going to happen 20 minutes from now, much less 20 years.

Happy Anniversary, St. Louis!

April 8, 2013

Tags: St. Louis, Left Bank Books, Shameless Grounds, Apop Records, Kendra Holliday

Though I'm usually proficient at celebrating anniversaries on this blog, one of them slipped by me last week. One year ago, I began the Beaver Street U.S. promotional campaign with three raucous events in St. Louis: at Shameless Grounds coffee house on April 3, at Left Bank Books on April 4, and at Apop records on April 7.

It wasn't until afterwards that I found out that more books were sold that week in St. Louis than in any other city since then--despite the fact that Beaver Street was unavailable on Amazon at the time. The reason this happened is because the events were well publicized and the good people of St. Louis responded enthusiastically.

Kendra Holliday did an amazing job of promoting the Shameless Grounds reading on her Website, and with Sex+ St. Louis, as well as doing a very provocative interview. Left Bank Books managed to have the event featured as a pick of the week in the Riverfront Times. And the Apop reading, which wasn’t even scheduled, came about spontaneously when I walked into the store and introduced myself to the owner, Tiffany Minx. I told her about Beaver Street, she bought a bunch of copies that I had with me, and she then set up an event for the following day. Such things, I said to Tiffany, do not happen in New York.

So, happy anniversary, St. Louis. I miss you. Yes, I’ve always enjoyed visiting my wife’s family there, but the week of March 31-April 7, 2012, changed my entire concept of your fair city.

Erich von Pauli: Superstar

April 5, 2013

Tags: Paul Slimak, Erich von Pauli, Henry Dorfman, Beaver Street, For Adults Only, Michael Musto, Village Voice, Agnes Herrmann, Bloomsday

Actually, his name is Paul Slimak, but in Beaver Street I call him Henry Dorfman. He's my officemate, the managing editor of For Adults Only magazine, and an actor who, as I say in the book, "was suddenly getting one high-profile gig after another, invariably being cast as a pervert, a lowlife, or a Nazi." In his capsule bio for the Ensemble Theatre of Cleveland, where, beginning April 19, he'll be playing James "Jimmy Tomorrow" Cameron in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, it says that he's also skilled in playing "weirdos, psychos, slimeballs, and scumbags."

As regular visitors to this Website know, Slimak, in the guise of his own comic creation, Erich von Pauli, a degenerate fugitive from the Third Reich, has made a series of promotional videos for Beaver Street, one of which Michael Musto wrote about in The Village Voice.

I’m pleased to report that Slimak’s acting talents will now be on display nationwide, beginning today, when the thriller Tomorrow You’re Gone, starring Michelle Monaghan, Willem Dafoe, and Stephen Dorff, opens in theatres and will be available On Demand. An exclusive clip of Slimak playing a slimeball opposite Dorff is available here.

In other news, negotiations are underway to bring Slimak and his wife, Agnes Herrmann, who plays Diana Clerkenwell in the von Pauli videos, to New York for Bloomsday on Beaver Street. Stay tuned for more details.

U.S. Beaver: In Stock! U.K. Beaver: Sold Out!

April 4, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, Amazon

A bit of news for my American readers who've been waiting patiently for the better part of a month to order a copy of Beaver Street from Amazon: The book is back in stock, and it should remain so for some time. I have it on good authority that, after much cajoling, the Internet monolith has ordered a substantial quantity.

As for my U.K. readers, who have made Beaver Street a permanent fixture on Amazon's list of bestselling pornography biographies, which includes such heavy hitters as Jenna Jameson: The book is sold out (again) but should be back in stock in 7-10 days. Thank you for your patience. Your business is important to us.

And for those of you who are still wondering why you should read a book like Beaver Street, allow me to share with you the accolade that Headpress passed on to me the other day, from Clive Davies, author of Spinegrinder: The Movies Most Critics Won’t Write About, which will be released in July: “I just finished reading Beaver Street. What a great book! One of the most illuminating things [Headpress has] ever put out, I think. Has there been any talk of making a documentary based on it, I wonder? I can just imagine it as a loose, anecdotal, fun movie, maybe animated in the vein of The Kid Stays in the Picture or American: The Bill Hicks Story.”

Good idea, Clive. Anybody got a little seed money?

The Dirty Dozen

April 3, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, pornography, Edwin Meese, Meese Commission, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Eric Holder, Morality in Media, Traci Lords, Gail Dines, Missy Manners, Orrin Hatch

The War on Pornography is an ongoing effort, dating back to the dawn of recorded history, to cleanse the world of smut. It's an unwinnable war waged by radical religious groups and radical political groups of both the right and left wings. It's a subject I explore in Beaver Street, writing at length about the Meese Commission and their use of underage porn star Traci Lords as a pawn in a sting operation designed to bring down the porno industry in America. And it's a subject I've written about extensively on this blog, detailing porn star Missy Manners' relationship with anti-porn Senator Orrin Hatch, of Utah, and more recently deconstructing anti-porn activist Gail Dines and her efforts to have actors who perform in S&M videos charged with war crimes.

The War on Pornography is a crusade marinated in hypocrisy, corruption, and absurdity that never stops providing me with material, and the other day it provided a little more: Morality in Media (MIM), an interfaith religious group dedicated to the elimination of pornography and obscenity in American life, is best known for their "Dirty Dozen" list, which contains the names of individuals, corporations, and government agencies who, in MIM's estimation, are the "12 top enablers of our country's pornography pandemic." Among those names are such entities as Comcast, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Hilton Hotels, and the Department of Defense--because the Pentagon allows porn mags to be sold at commissaries.

MIM has just selected a new #1, the dirtiest of the Dirty Dozen: Attorney General Eric Holder. Why? Because Holder, they say, “refuses to enforce existing federal obscenity laws against hardcore adult pornography” and “has initiated zero new obscenity cases” since he’s been in office.

One of the points I make in Beaver Street is that “the biggest crooks cry ban pornography the loudest.” The examples I cite—Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, Charles Keating, and Alberto Gonzales—either had to resign their offices in disgrace to avoid criminal prosecution or, in the case of Keating, went to prison after being convicted of multiple felonies.

Which makes me think that, unlike, say, Attorney General Edwin Meese, who, in the midst of fighting his War on Porn, was busy committing crimes ranging from influence peddling to suborning perjury, Eric Holder might actually be a paragon of moral rectitude. Which, I think, is what most Americans would want their attorney general to be.

I can only congratulate Eric Holder for being #1.

The Rise of the Pussyboy

April 2, 2013

Tags: pussyboy, literature

The quintessential pussyboy?
I can't swear to it, but I think the first time I heard the expression "pussyboy" was about two years ago, in St. Louis, a city that's closer to the cutting edge than one might imagine. I was drinking with my brother in (common) law, Jim, at his kitchen table, and he called somebody, probably George W. Bush, a "pussyboy." I didn't give it much thought at the time, because that's the way Jim talks, and the meaning of the word seemed both obvious and metaphorical. I thought it was a more derogatory way to describe somebody who was born on third base and acted as if he'd hit a triple, or simply a pricky guy from a privileged upbringing. Or maybe a gutless person, or a less derogatory word for the all too commonly used "faggot."

Well, according the Urban Dictionary, the primary, secondary, and tertiary meanings of pussyboy are definitely not metaphorical. And not even the quaternary definition--"A person who doesn't like to do anything fun and just stays home and plays video games"--comes close to approximating what I thought the word meant.

I bring this up now because pussyboy is suddenly all over the place, probably indicating a proliferation of pussyboys in America. And though I can’t find my definition online, when people use the word, they do seem to be talking about pricky guys from privileged upbringings. Or gutless people.

For example, about a month ago, I was hanging out at the Jane Street Tavern, when the guy sitting next to me at the bar, a self-described hard-ass southern boy, said to me, “Everybody I meet from Brooklyn is a pussyboy from Iowa.”

And here’s a literary example from a novel I just finished reading, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain, which is full of the expression, rendered as two words: “Becomes engaged to a guy three years her senior who’s getting his MBA, kind of a tight-ass pussy boy and far too impressed with himself.” Then, on the next page he writes, “He drives to Fort Worth, locates the pussy-boy Saab outside the pussy-boy condo.”

Finally, in yesterday’s post, I quoted Gene Gregorits: “I had a Princeton pussyboy acting as an ‘agent’ last winter.”

I’ve yet to use the word conversationally, but if I do, I’d like to use it correctly. So, I await my pussyboy enlightenment.

A Writer Who Doesn't Give a Fuck

April 1, 2013

Tags: Gene Gregorits, writing, book promotion, literature, pussyboy

I've been meaning to write something about Gene Gregorits since I read his book Dog Days a couple of months ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a slice-of-life novel that goes nowhere in particular, except from Baltimore to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as the alcoholic, cat-loving narrator takes you down a well-trod path of self-destruction, with the energy of Gregorits's prose driving the narrative forward, despite the lack of anything resembling a conventional plot. This is a book written by a man who's spent a lot of time locked in a room, cranking out millions of words in the course of developing an original voice.

That Gregorits self-published Dog Days under his Monastrell Books imprint, and has turned himself inside out trying to promote it, tells you all you need to know about the state of mainstream publishing these days: If you're going to write something genuinely original and not easily categorized, you’re wasting your time. The publishing industry does not want to know you.

I don’t know if Gregorits made an effort to sell this book to a mainstream publisher, but if he did, what they told him were variations on, “We really enjoyed reading Dog Days but we don’t know how to publish it, so we’re going to pass.” Which means, in the eyes of the publishing world, no matter how good a writer Gregorits is, he’s not a major celebrity with his own TV show, and it’s going to be difficult to promote a book like Dog Days without such a “platform.”

So, Gregorits brought out Dog Days himself, got some publicity on Vice.com, and sold a few books. This infused him with hope. He thought that an interview on a high-profile Website might lead somewhere. But these days, nothing in the writing biz seems to lead anywhere, except oblivion, and anything that doesn’t lead to oblivion is the exception that proves the rule.

Gregorits, who was embittered to begin with—bitterness is what fuels his writing—became even more embittered. He became something rare in the literary firmament: a writer who doesn’t give a fuck what anybody in the biz thinks of him, who doesn’t care whom he pisses off or what bridges he burns.

This is refreshing.

I’ll leave you with a recent post from Gregorits’s Facebook page that neatly sums up the view from underground, written by a man who has allowed himself to feel too much:

Trying to put a press kit together. I had a Princeton pussyboy acting as an “agent” last winter, but he never did a fucking thing so I told him to go fuck his mother. One of the most important things he promised to take care of was a decent looking press kit, and here I am trying to cobble together various reviews, interviews, etc., to show around to an industry that I don’t give a damn about. All time wasted. I’d rather be telemarketing: there’s an end to that dirty business, and a point.

I don’t want to be part of the feeding frenzy. I’m fucking good at what I do. Period. Fuck this PR bullshit. I could simply hack off a piece of my head, or an arm or a leg or something, take off a finger... quick, spiritually transforming, primal.

Or I could sit here mouse-clicking, jacking myself off all day like a baboon... endless, spiritually debilitating, superficial.


There you have it: The 21st century book biz in a nutshell.