The Sporadic Beaver

Pinellas Prison Blues (and Oranges)

April 13, 2015

Tags: Gene Gregorits, writing, literature, Florida, Stand Your Ground, Rick Scott

Gene Gergorits is not Nelson Mandela, and even his staunchest supporters say that it's "pretty much impossible to spin in any positive way" the charge against him--unlawful sexual activity with a minor--under which he's currently being held in Florida's Pinellas County jail, awaiting trial.

Florida, the land of Stand Your Ground, a law most rational people recognize as legalizing murder, is a state that boasts the fourth-highest number of executions in the United States. It’s also a state run by a climate-change-denying governor, Rick Scott, who, in his previous gig as chief executive of Columbia/HCA, a healthcare mega-giant, oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in history. The company (though not Scott himself), admitted to 14 felonies and was fined $1.7 billion, the largest such fine ever levied in the U.S.

So, let’s call Florida what it is: a vengeful, bloodthirsty state run by a chief executive who’s lucky that he’s not doing hard time in a Federal penitentiary, and a state where such notions as the “rule of law,” “justice,” and even “science” mean what those in power want them to mean.

In short, when you’re talking about the Sunshine State, it would be unwise to make any assumptions about the guilt or innocence of those who occupy a prison cell and those who occupy the executive mansion. Or, if you must make an assumption, stick to a safe one: The occupant of the executive mansion has more money than the occupant of the prison cell—because it’s been well-established that Florida is at the forefront of the American ideal of justice for the rich. Therefore, I would not dismiss the theory currently circulating among those paying attention to The State of Florida vs. Gene Gregorits that prosecutors railroaded Gene as an “undesirable,” somebody not welcome in their God-fearing fiefdom, parts of which will soon be underwater. (Visit Miami Beach while you still can.)

Gene chose Florida as a place to live in bohemian semi-poverty because he likes the beach, he detests cold weather, and the cost of living is significantly cheaper than, say, in L.A. But lack of money is only one contributing cause of Gene’s current nightmare. Anybody who followed his pre-incarceration Facebook feed, a litany of impotent rage, threats of self-mutilation, and reports about his ailing cat, Sam, would have seen the obvious: These were the desperate words of a man headed for an insane asylum, prison, and/or early death.

Desperation, of course, is endemic to writing. Ernest Hemingway and Hunter Thompson blew their brains out—and they’d achieved a level of commercial and critical success that’s probably no longer attainable. That’s what the book business can do to people, especially to writers like Gene who are not “brand names,” who dare to cultivate a distinctive voice, and who refuse to write plot-driven genre fiction or nonfiction that defies easy pigeonholing in a commercial category.

Gene, having aggressively rejected all the conventions of mainstream publishing, instead took a uniquely American path: He formed his own imprint, Monastrell, exclusively for his own books. And though Monastrell has put out 18 books and Gene has met with some success, including an interview on Vice.com that briefly sent Dog Days: Volume One rocketing up the Amazon charts, this venture has simply not generated enough cash for Gene to buy himself some Florida Justice.

So, he sits in his Pinellas County prison cell, doing what he can to hang on to what remains of his sanity—he writes books, and Monastrell, currently being run by his supporters, publishes them. Since he’s been in jail, he’s written Stretch Marks, a full-length memoir. This, in itself, is an extraordinary achievement. The Orange Woman: Volume I ($6.99) is a 27-page excerpt from Stretch Marks.

In The Orange Woman, Gene flashes back and forth between the early 1980s and the recent past. But he primarily focuses on the “vicious” winter of 1983, when he was a “sexually perverse child of seven” living in financial and cultural poverty, in rural Pennsylvania, with his emotionally unstable mother, Kathleen, who works a low-paying job at an IBM plant, and his sketchily described younger brother, Matt.

The orange woman is Naomi Fairbanks, so-called because of an artificial tanning product that has turned her skin “the somber orange of baked carrots.” She’s an inbred local “creature,” living in a trailer park, whom Kathleen hires to provide childcare—it’s all she can afford.

Naomi’s dialogue is rendered phonetically—Yer warnt serm cawfee?—and this is among the multitude of vividly conjured sounds, sights, tastes, smells, and sensations of a distant time and place that gives the reader a clear sense of the fucked-up situation Gene escaped from, and explains to some degree why he now finds himself in a Pinellas County prison cell.

The Orange Woman is an hors d’oeuvre that leaves the reader hungry for the full meal, and I can only hope that no matter what happens, Gene continues writing and publishing. For his is a voice that is, indeed, worth preserving.

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.

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.