The Sporadic Beaver

Throwback Thursday

September 10, 2015

Tags: Swank Publications, Chip Goodman, Joyce Snyder, Mistress Pussycat, Beaver Street

Joyce Snyder, whose book, Mistress Pussycat, will be published imminently, was looking for some photos for her own Website when she uncovered these shots from a 1986 Swank Publications Christmas party at the home of our publisher, Chip Goodman. That's me in the yellow sweater. Two other people in this photo are pseudonymous "characters" in Beaver Street. (Hint: the face of one of them is obscured.)

I’ll send a PDF of the photo section that appeared in the first U.K. edition of Beaver Street to anybody who can identify those characters by their real names or pseudonyms. (Former employees of Swank Publications are not eligible to participate. The decision of the judges is final.)

Over in Facebook Land this is Throwback Thursday. So why not on the Sporadic Beaver, too?

Who Is Ruby Leggs?

May 1, 2013

Tags: Sonja Wagner, art, Ruby Leggs, Beaver Street, Chip Goodman, New York

Readers of Beaver Street should be familiar with Sonja Wagner, whom I described in the book as my "dyslexic, spliff-smoking freelance art director," and whom I gave some of the best lines, such as the one on pages 123-124, when she asks our esteemed publisher, Chip Goodman, "Is something wrong, Chip, dear? Didn't Bobby and I put enough incest into your filthy little book?"

If you haven't read Beaver Street, then you can read about some of Wagner's erotic artwork on this blog.

Last night, over a couple of shots of vodka in her studio, Wagner got into talking about Ruby Leggs, a character she created more than 30 years ago, and in that time has produced dozens of Ruby paintings, mostly documenting her curious New York City life. Now Wagner has decided that she wants to publish the complete Ruby Leggs story in a book.

So she asked me to answer the following question: Who is Ruby Leggs?

I’ll give it a shot.

At her most basic, Ruby is three pairs: a pair of full, scarlet lips mounted on a pair of long, shapely legs, who’s always wearing a pair of high heels. Though lacking a head, arms, and a torso, she still manages to radiate erotic heat. This, then, makes Ruby a fetishist’s delight, a woman reduced to two body parts and a fashion accessory. In the above painting, Ruby is arousing a subway car full of men who ogle her through the peepholes they’ve cut in their newspapers. But the title of the painting, “No One Ever Looks at Me Anymore,” shows that Ruby is also a naïf on the loose in the big city, a creature unaware of her erotic power.

And New York is full of women like that, which makes Ruby Leggs somehow real, a recognizable character, somebody you’d like to meet, sit down with at a cafe, and over a couple of drinks ask her about herself. Because you know, behind those perfect red lips and white teeth, Ruby Leggs has a tongue, and she can do a lot of things with it, including tell you herself who she is, if she’s so inclined.

The Anonymous Kings of Pornography

March 19, 2012

Tags: Carl Ruderman, Chip Goodman, Lou Perretta, Scott Garrett, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, politics

Not all porno kings are like Larry Flynt, Al Goldstein, Hugh Hefner, and Bob Guccione--famous, self-made men, American icons who reveled in their sleaze, took pride in their product, and spared nothing in their quest to produce the best possible erotica and/or filth. There's another class of porno king, as rich as any of the above men, but virtually unknown as pornographers outside the "adult entertainment" industry.

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.

Great Moments in Porn Writing

August 4, 2011

Tags: Nicholson Baker, The Fermata, Beaver Street, High Society, Swank, D-Cup, Bizarre, Ben Myers, Canadian censorship, Chip Goodman

"Is there any piece of porn writing you're most proud of?" Ben Myers asked when he interviewed me about Beaver Street for Bizarre magazine. Due to space limitations, my answer wasn't published. Here it is now:

High Society and Swank Publications hired a lot of good writers to crank out mindless, disposable filth. But good writing was actively discouraged. At HS the editor occasionally threatened to do an issue with no words at all, just to prove how unnecessary writers were. At Swank, Chip Goodman, the publisher, explicitly told me not to write the kind of articles that would make people want to keep the magazines. He wanted his readers to throw out each issue and buy the new one.

But every year, as a matter of professional pride, I made it a point to write and publish at least one good story. An essay I wrote for D-Cup about The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker, comes to mind. It’s a novel about a man who has the power to stop time, and he uses this power to undress women in public places and occasionally masturbate. In the course of writing the piece, I ran into all kinds of problems with Canadian censorship—undressing women when they don’t know they’re being undressed is considered rape and degradation in Canada, even if the context is satiric literature.

What started out as a straightforward review evolved into an essay on the absurdity of Canadian censorship regulations. The illustration that I commissioned for the story was a picture of Baker sitting on a subway train with an enormous erection, jerking off while looking at a naked, large-breasted woman.

A few weeks later I went to see him give a reading at Barnes & Noble and I brought the mag with me. He’s signing everybody’s copy of The Fermata, and when it’s my turn I drop the picture of him jerking off on the table. He does a double take and breaks up laughing. But he signs it, gives me his address, and asks me to send him a copy.

Note: House of Holes: A Book of Raunch, Nicholson Baker’s latest pornographic opus, will be published on August 9.

Fear and Self-Loathing at Swank Publications

May 31, 2011

Tags: Swank, Beaver Street, Chip Goodman, Carl Ruderman, Bill Bottiggi, Arnold Shapiro, pornography

A former co-worker at Swank Publications sent me this e-mail after reading Beaver Street. Both complimentary and scathing, it serves as a reminder of what happens when you write books about real people. I’ve changed his name as well as the names of any non-public figures and still-living former colleagues that he mentions. All names in the letter correspond to the names I used in the book. The redacted names do not appear in the book.

OK, Bob, finished the Beaver. It’s obvious the work you put in, research, continuity, editing, organizing. You juxtapose the subjective and objective in interesting ways. As an insider, you still surprised me with new info and reminded me quite tactilely what we saw, felt, and dealt with. I can only imagine readers who weren’t there being pulled in and getting a good idea of it. The evolution of the biz does indeed mirror and contradict society simultaneously. All that is very effective and reads well without lecturing.

The pacing is good all along but feels like it jumps at the end. You go from lots of detail and everyday experiences to and overview in the last couple chapters. Was this your decision or a result of editing?

Your disdain for the biz, employers, and self-loathing is palpable. Not sure who you’re blaming. Them for over-paying you, your dad for exposing and inspiring you to pursue fringe publishing, yourself for not doing something else despite the money. (You don’t make it sound like it was easy money—being disgusted, nauseated, adjusting and adapting to each and every thing thrown at you. And you appear to never say no...)

A couple other things I question: How do you know Chip [Goodman]’s moods were solely influenced by the amount of coke he did? That he had a Napoleonic complex is clear but do you know if he was ever diagnosed as bi-polar, had family issues, painful teeth or any of a million other things that cause mood swings? Yeah, we know he did coke but there is nothing on record about rehab, ODs or the like. I think you take a broad stroke there merely to smear someone you despised and depict with great judgment. Same for [Carl] Ruderman but to a much less scathing degree. And it seems you spared “Arnold Shapiro” all but being a kiss-ass yes-man. Plus I thought you said you used his real name. Why not out him? He was perhaps the bigger douche in the big scheme of things because of his duplicitous and hypocritical relationship with and against Chip. You mention his flip-flopping to please the boss but not his loathing for him behind his back, all the while dancing to the bank and doing his investing on the phone while we toiled and made him more and more money. You also point out the money thrown at you for pick-up books but don’t mention how he would pay outside people double what he gave full-time employees. Outsiders wouldn’t know that, just saying.

And lastly, the thing I like least is your treatment of Bill Bottiggi. Why out his scam? And imply the connection to his murder? Totally not necessary and I might ad, not cool. Seems a crappy way to treat a troubled guy. Not to mention he was a very sweet soul despite his problems. If there was something he did to make your life difficult in some way, fucked you over, ripped you off or dissed you in any way other than trying to get you high and hitting on you, albeit in an awkward indirect way, if that’s what he was even really doing, I could see dragging him through the dirt. But he was simply a misfit, a generally innocuous misfit who was a victim of murder. A murder that you off-handedly say was never solved. [Murder theory redacted.] That plausible and grim theory is every bit a shitty story to tell, and thankfully left out, but if you don’t know one way or the other. why suggest anything? It seems you had something against him or just couldn’t resist including a juicy tidbit and the chance to include a salacious tale of sex, drugs, and murder. Which is it? You couldn't get the picture of his carved-up corpse out of your mind? Really? Well, me neither. I mourn for him and still raise a Bloody Mary in remembrance each Thanksgiving morning. I hope you rest easy knowing you’ve scandalized him in such an exploitive way. Yet you fail to mention genuine scum like [name of non-public figure redacted] (the coke-head art director of Swank), [name of non-public figure redacted], that other creep editor Chip brought in from Puritan. These were true pornographers in every deviant definition of the word, who were more over-paid than you to raise the bar of distaste.

So summing up, nice research, some nice writing, a peek into a time gone by but overall rather self-aggrandizing. I’m not too surprised but none-the-less disappointed you had to go down that road. Good luck with the sales anyway. I do admire your dedication and success. —Alan

Tomorrow, my response…