The Sporadic Beaver

The Mike Nichols Reference in Beaver Street

November 20, 2014

Tags: Mike Nichols, Beaver Street, Buck Henry, Catch-22, Henry Miller, Screw, Hellfire, Al Goldstein, Mel Brooks, S&M

Mike Nichols, circa 1970, the year he directed Catch-22.
Mike Nichols, best known as the director of such films as The Graduate, Catch-22, and Carnal Knowledge, died yesterday, at 83. Below, I give you the scene from Beaver Street, set in New York City's Hellfire Club during a Screw magazine Halloween party, in 1985, that references Nichols.

I wandered into a back room and saw Buck Henry, the frequent Saturday Night Live guest host, standing by himself and observing with clinical detachment a bleached-blond dominatrix walloping a naked man with a riding crop.

“Come here often?” I asked Henry.

“I’m Buck,” he said, shaking my hand in a firm, businesslike manner. “Yeah, I’ve been to Hellfire once before. But I was expecting a classier crowd tonight—since Al invited me.” He gestured towards the man writhing on the floor. “Is this the kind of stuff that usually goes on here?”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said. “I’ve only been here once before myself, and very briefly at that. But I hear in the old days before AIDS, you could walk in any night and find a half-dozen piss drinking orgies—stuff like that. I can’t believe people are dying now for a little fun they had ten years ago.”

“The statute of limitation for these things should be five years,” Henry said, just as the dominatrix whacked her slave’s penis with a wicked shot that made us both wince.

“Absolutely,” I agreed, unable to take my eyes off the S&M show. “But you’ve got to admit, this is something you don’t see every day. It’s like a scene from Tropic of Cancer.

He nodded and said, “I met Henry Miller once at a Hollywood party. He was there with Mike Nichols. All he wanted to talk about was The Graduate. All I wanted to talk about was Quiet Days in Clichy.

I knew that Henry had written the screenplay for The Graduate, which Nichols had directed, as well as creating with Mel Brooks the classic sitcom Get Smart. “What are you doing now?” I asked. “Writing for Screw?”

“I’m waiting for my mother to die first,” he said.

“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 Smell of Beaver in the Morning

May 16, 2011

Tags: Jamie Maclean, Beaver Street, Erotic Review, Henry Miller, pornography, Hellfire

I’d like to say a few more things about Jamie Maclean’s review of Beaver Street in the Erotic Review. For one thing, I love the way he tied together the critique with references to odor in my book—my description of the fetid smell of the Hellfire club, the Henry Miller quote I used at the beginning, and his description of the way the book “captures the aroma of pornography.” I remember coming upon the Miller quote—“Sex is not romantic, particularly when it is commercialized, but it does create an aroma, pungent and nostalgic”—and knowing immediately that it belonged in Beaver Street, though I hadn’t connected it with the Hellfire scene. It was unconscious, as these things often are.

I can already see the term papers: “Odor Imagery in Beaver Street.” Which raises the question: Can odor be an image? I’m not sure. It doesn’t necessarily create a picture in my brain. But it does create a smell.

I also think I should take Maclean’s advice: Bottle the aroma and sell it like perfume. I’ve got a great advertising slogan: Beaver Street, for that unmistakable stench of pornography.

Mother’s Day Beaver

May 8, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Henry Miller

No, I’ve not yet given my mother a copy of Beaver Street, though I intend to give her one when she’s in town later this month. She is, after all, referenced in the book, though she doesn’t know that yet. (I don’t think she reads this blog.) And she is aware that her name is in the acknowledgements. “Do you want your name in the acknowledgements?” I asked her as I was compiling the list.

She said yes.

“Are you sure? You know it’s a dirty book.”

She said yes.

“You realize it’s going to be like being Henry Miller’s mother.” It was the best example I could think of on the spur of the moment.

“I’d like to be Henry Miller’s mother,” she said.

Well, happy Mother’s Day, mom. Hope you still like being Robert Rosen's mother.