The Sporadic Beaver

No Porn Please, We're British

July 24, 2013

Tags: CNBC, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Hunter S. Thompson, Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, Brittany Andrews, D-Cup

If I believed in astrology, I'd attribute the events of the past couple of days to the fact that, on July 23, the zodiac moved into Leo, the sign under which I was born. But since I don't believe in astrology I'll have to attribute these events to the fact that for more than two years I've been talking nonstop about Beaver Street to anybody who'll listen.

This morning, an article on CNBC about the U.K.'s Internet pornography ban, "No Porn Please, We're British," by Chris Morris, mentions Beaver Street. Morris asked me what I thought would happen now that anybody in England who wants to look at X-rated material on his computer will be asked by their ISP to verify his age and confirm that he wants to watch smut.

“Obviously people are not going to want to do that,” I said. “People just don’t want to come out in public and say ‘I want to look at porn.’ A lot of people who do look at porn are inhibited, shy people.”

And in response to Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement that online porn is “corroding childhood,” I added, “If kids want to look at pornography, they usually figure out how to do it.”

That’s the first time I’ve ever given a PM a piece of my mind.

Then, last night, at the 2A bar in the East Village—along with Eric Danville, author of The Complete Linda Lovelace; adult actress Brittany Andrews; Bobby Black, senior editor of High Times, and actor Jeffrey Emerson—I celebrated Hunter Thompson’s birthday (he was born July 18, under the sign of Cancer) by reading from “Mein Kar,” a Thompson parody about a Mercedes-Benz road test that I wrote for D-Cup magazine, and the opening pages of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which inspired the parody.

A huge thanks to everybody who came out to see us, and especially to Eric and Lainie Speiser, who put the event together!

My Last Hunter Thompson Parody

July 17, 2013

Tags: Hunter S. Thompson, John Lennon, Eric Danville, Lainie Speiser, Erich von Pauli, Brittany Andrews

Hunter S. Thompson did for journalism what the Beatles did for rock 'n' roll--he made everybody want to be a journalist, even John Lennon, who wanted to play Thompson in the movie after he read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

I read Fear and Loathing when I was 21, and I saw my future. "I can do this," I thought. I wanted someone to pay me to go places, take drugs, and write stories about it.

Since that day, I’ve read Fear and Loathing so many times, my copy of the book disintegrated.

I went through a phase in graduate school where everything I wrote came out sounding like Hunter Thompson. I was possessed by him, and one of my teachers literally performed an in-class exorcism—everybody started chanting, trying to purge Thompson’s spirit from my system. It didn’t work.

I think I finally got rid of him around 1990, when I wrote a parody review of a Mercedes-Benz for D-Cup magazine—I was editing a car magazine, too, and I was always getting cars to test drive. This was the last Thompson parody I ever wrote, and it was also the last time that Mercedes ever gave me a car.

On Tuesday, July 23, at 8 P.M., at a Hunter Thompson birthday celebration in the upstairs lounge of the 2A bar, at 25 Avenue A in New York, I’ll be reading this parody, “Mein Kar” (featuring renegade Nazi Erich von Pauli), along with the passage from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that inspired it.

Joining me will be senior High Times editor Bobby Black, adult film star Brittany Andrews, and actor/writer Jeffery Emerson.

Hope to see you there, especially if you couldn’t make it to the last Eric Danville, Robert Rosen, Lainie Speiser production, Bloomsday on Beaver Street. There is no cover charge.

This Is Cool

July 15, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Amazon, reviews, John Mozzer, Alan Adrian, Carl Ruderman, Traci Lords, Annie Sprinkle, Bill Bottiggi

John Mozzer was an information technology specialist who'd received security clearance from the National Security Agency. But in his secret life, one that he lived from 1978 to 1995, he was Alan Adrian, a pornographic actor who appeared in 67 XXX-rated movies, including such classics as A Taste of Money, Inside Little Oral Annie, Maid in Manhattan, Babylon Blue, Oriental Techniques in Pain and Pleasure, Centerfold Fever, and The Devil in Miss Jones II.

Now retired and living in L.A., Mozzer tends to an extensive archive of material related to the porn industry. He also knows many of the characters from Beaver Street, and he recently posted a review of the book on Amazon. I think the review serves as a perfect example of the kind of dialogue that I'd hoped Beaver Street would spark, and which I'd encourage people to continue.

This is what Mozzer had to say:


A Fascinating Read

My original reason for reading Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is that my world overlapped with author Robert Rosen’s world during the 1980s. I worked as an adult film actor (under the name Alan Adrian or Spike), a representative for magazine distributing and printing companies that profited by serving the porn industry, and a freelance writer and photographer for some of Rosen’s colleagues.

It’s a shame that names have to be changed in non-fiction books like Beaver Street. I was hoping to recognize the colleagues whose names were changed by Rosen. But that didn’t happen. I suspect this means it will be all the more difficult for future writers on this topic to figure out who’s who.

To my surprise, in Chapter 4, Rosen describes Carl Ruderman, the person with the money behind High Society, as very involved with its day-to-day operation. Furthermore, his anecdotes about working for High Society came across as very credible. I found myself feeling, “I’m sure these things really happened.” Nevertheless, I think caution is in order, because Rosen’s stint at High Society is a small fraction of the magazine’s life, and the situation may have changed over time. After finishing Chapter 4, I decided the extent to which Ruderman involved himself with the day-to-day operation of High Society, over the long run, remains an open question.

Years ago, I heard about the murder of editor Bill Bottiggi. But I never knew about the circumstances leading up to the murder, as Rosen describes it. I find Rosen’s account very disconcerting. After all these years, I have to reconsider placing Bottiggi in the “all good” and “nice guy” category in my head. Initially, I believed Rosen’s account. Later, I found myself not wanting to believe it, and longing for accounts by other people who knew Bottiggi.

Rosen presents strong arguments against society for allowing Traci Lords to get away with hoodwinking the porn industry. In fact, his arguments made me very, very pissed off at her.

Beaver Street was truly a book that I couldn’t put down. I learned tons of stuff that I didn’t know. You don’t need to have been involved with the porn industry, like myself, in order to enjoy the book. You don’t even have to be involved with researching the subject. Beaver Street is a fascinating book to read.

Summer Hours

July 8, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography

I'll be posting here sporadically over the course of the summer. So go enjoy yourselves, read a good book, and don’t forget to use sunscreen.

Let's Hear It for the Crowd

July 3, 2013

Tags: Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Killarney Rose, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Hoop, Eric Danville, Laralu Smith, Byron Nilsson, Lexi Love

This is how it looked from Lexi Love's seat as she watched (left to right) Byron Nilsson, Laralu Smith, and Joe Gioco perform a scene from Mr. Sensitivity.
Who is going to come to a book event on a Sunday night on Father's Day? That's the question we confronted as we planned Bloomsday on Beaver Street II. And though it had crossed my mind to celebrate Bloomsday on Saturday, June 15, the whole point of any Bloomsday celebration is to celebrate it on Bloomsday, June 16. So, we stuck with the real Bloomsday, and we put out the word. And yes, I was concerned that like so many literary events I've attended as a spectator (and one event that I've participated in as a reader), the crowd would be negligible or worse.

Well, people came--thank God or the devil or whatever higher (or lower) power is paying attention for that. And though it wasn't the overflow crowd that packed the Killarney Rose last year, on a Saturday night, we did okay by the standards of any literary event.

The people to whom I’m most grateful—and you know who you are—are the dozen or so repeat customers, our hardcore supporters, our friends, neighbors, and family who came to Bloomsday on Beaver Street last year, and have come to more of Mary Lyn Maiscott and HooP’s shows than I can keep track of. They are the ones who can be counted on to buy our books and music, and have worked with us behind the scenes to help us make our way in an impossible business. We are lucky to have them in our lives.

Interestingly, two of the people who came as spectators last year, Eric Danville and Laralu Smith, made the transition this year to performers, with Eric reading his vintage ’70s-era Linda Lovelace advertising flyers and Laralu reading a Molly Bloom passage from Ulysses and performing in a scene from Byron Nilsson’s play, Mr. Sensitivity. It bears repeating that this is one of the unique aspects of our Bloomsday celebration—the way that the line between performer and spectator has been virtually erased, making for an unusually intimate setting.

And it goes without saying (though I’ll say it anyway) that it was great to see all the new faces, too, and that everybody’s enthusiasm and feedback was more than appreciated. As far as I know, everybody had a good time, audience and performers alike. So, thanks for joining us, and we hope to see you again next year, when Bloomsday falls on a Monday, the day after Father’s Day, which I’m sure will free up everybody’s complicated schedule.

What About Me?

July 2, 2013

Tags: Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Bobby in Naziland, James Joyce, Ulysses

Robert Rosen prepares the audience for his reading from Bobby in Naziland. Photo © Cindy Rosen.
Having written about every Bloomsday on Beaver Street performer except for myself, it's probably time to say a few words about my own performance. Beyond noting that I know I've done better and I know I've done worse as a reader of my own work, I'm not going to get into a masochistic self-critique. But I will add that reading a piece of fiction as emotionally intimate as Bobby in Naziland was nerve-wracking--more nerve-wracking than reading from the so-called "dirty part" of Beaver Street, as I did at events last year.

It was, however, encouraging to hear laughter in the all the right places. And I took it as a positive sign when yesterday, one of my neighbors who came to the event stopped me in the street to say, as if she were surprised, "You really are a good writer."

In a lot of ways, Bloomsday on Beaver Street II was an experiment. It’s the first time I’ve ever organized an event with other readers, and it’s the first time I’ve ever worked directly with professional actors and a professional PR person. Which is to say that coordinating a show with 11 writers, actors, and musicians, all of whom are performing because they want to perform, is complicated and stressful, but ultimately rewarding. Again, I offer my humble thanks to everybody who participated.

It has also come to my attention that my aggressive promotion of the event surprised some people—especially those who know me, and regard me as a laid back kind of fellow. Having been on the receiving end of such promotions, I know how annoying this can be. But the promotion, too, was an experiment. I know that last year, despite the overflowing turnout, I didn’t promote the event aggressively enough. There were at least a half dozen people who told me that they would have come, but somehow got the date or the time wrong. I wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen again. Hence, the constant stream of reminders, on Facebook and elsewhere. Event promotion is still new territory for me, and I’m simply trying to get it right.

And I will try again next year, for Bloomsday on Beaver Street III, which will commemorate the 100th anniversary of when James Joyce began writing that damn book, which he called Ulysses.

Like the BEA with Food

July 1, 2013

Tags: Summer Fancy Foods Show, Byron Nilsson, BEA

The Summer Fancy Foods Show at the Javits Center, in New York, which I attended yesterday, guided by food writer and chef Byron Nilsson (who was last seen emceeing Bloomsday on Beaver Street), was very much like Bookexpo America, held in May at the Javits Center, except with food. And as we walked the miles of aisles, trying to pace ourselves as we sampled the cheese, chocolate, candy, cake, coffee, condiments, barbeque, bread, pizza, pasta, pate, juices, mezcal, ices, honey, olives, and extra virgin olive oil, I noted that unlike the products they were pushing at the BEA--books that, for the most part, I had no interest in reading--I wanted to try everything I saw at the SFFS.

With the exception of one Japanese sweet that I was tempted to spit out, everything else I put in my mouth ranged from utterly delicious (Ferrara’s cheesecake, for example) to surprisingly good (kale salad with Caesar dressing).

Though nobody would mistake me for a foodie, I have been buying food, and cooking it with some flair, for my entire adult life. I was, in fact, confident enough in my culinary skills to cook pasta primavera (a dish I’m now known for on two continents and three countries) for Italians, in Italy, and I will, for fun and educational purposes, serve as sous-chef for my sister-in-law, a semi-professional cook. So it’s not as if I was completely out of my element at the SFFS.

A few highlights of my sampling frenzy:

Mezcal Sin Piedad: Mexican cuisine was well represented, and I was happy to discover that mezcal was among the products available for tasting. Sin Piedad caught my eye because I know some Spanish, but couldn’t figure out what the name meant. “Mezcal without what?” I asked Mario Mendoza, the man who came up with the product, which should soon be available in the U.S., and will retail for $90-$100.

“Mercy,” he replied. “Mezcal Without Mercy.”

“Great name,” I said, knocking back my first shot.

It was good, it was smooth, and the flavor reminded me a little of… bacon. The second shot (my third of the day) put a nice glow on the afternoon.

Hot Sauce: Speaking of Mexican, there was a lot of hot sauce to check out. I learned that hot sauce can be so hot, it can literally give you a heart attack, and that it’s calibrated according to hotness. I took a sample bottle of El Yucatco, calibrated at a very hot 4,500-5,000, and was warned not to try it without cutting it with sour cream or mayonnaise. I will take that warning to heart.

Olive Oil: Since Trader Joe’s opened in my neighborhood, I’ve been unable to resist their price on extra virgin olive oil—$5.99 for a 33.8 fluid ounce bottle. It’s always tasted fine to me… until yesterday, after I sampled a wide variety of super-luxury extra virgin olive oils from Italy, Spain, Greece, and Chile, which retailed for, shall we say, considerably more that $5.99. But the flavor of these oils blew Trader Joe’s out of the water, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back.

Egypt: There was no food to sample in the Egyptian aisle. Their products were locked in glass cases, like jewelry. I stood there looking at a box of Fruit Loops, with Arabic writing, as if it were a Tiffany necklace.

Mousse: I was too busy eating this company’s delicious vegetable mousse, which they served in adorable mini ice cream cones, to write down their name. My bad.

Ferrara’s Bakery: I’ve been going to this Little Italy institution for decades, and when I saw their booth, offering free samples of cheesecake, chocolate cake, and canoli, I went completely nuts.

Honey: Honey is made by bees, and there are scores of different honeys to sample at the show. But make no mistake about it: the bees are being poisoned by pesticides and, according to the beekeepers, they continue to die off at alarming rates. One of them told me that this year there’s been a 30 percent drop in the bee population in his area, Florida. It is an ecological disaster.

Camus Coffee: What writer can resist a product called Camus Coffee? Certainly not me, and by the time I went to sample the stuff, I was more than ready for that existential caffeine buzz. Turns out the company is better known for their luxury cognacs, which were not available for sampling, and that the proprietors are not related to Albert Camus. “Camus,” I was told, “is like Smith in France.”

The show continues through July 2.