The Sporadic Beaver

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.

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.

Port Noise Complaint

March 15, 2013

Tags: Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint, Kendra Holliday

I mentioned in yesterday's post, "Old School", how Portnoy's Complaint had blown my mind at "a tender age." As Philip Roth's 80th birthday is March 19, the tale of how this happened bears repeating. I originally told the story in my interview with Kendra Holliday of The Beautiful Kind, when she asked me about my influences as writer, and I said that Roth was among my "Holy Trinity" of influences. Here's the story:

As for Philip Roth, whom I also quote at the beginning of Beaver Street, no book has ever blown my mind the way that Portnoy's Complaint did when I read it at 16. My aunt had gotten the book through a book-of-the-month club. We were visiting her in New Jersey one day, and she's telling my parents about this disgusting book that she wants to get out of the house. I'm listening to the conversation, and I think she's saying "Port Noise Complaint," which sounds like a boring book about people complaining about foghorns and squawking seagulls. I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. Anyway, she gives the book to my parents, and a couple of days later I'm sitting at my desk, doing homework. I look up at the bookshelf, and the title catches my eye. Oh, PORTNOY'S Complaint. So I start reading it, and by the time I got to the chapter called "Whacking Off," I understood why everybody in the world was talking about it.

Loose Ends

May 23, 2012

Tags: Tiffany Granath, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, Book Soup, Kendra Holliday, Shameless Grounds, Nowhere Man, Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, Paolo Palmieri

If you're one of those people with Sirius-XM radio, perhaps you heard me yesterday on The Tiffany Granath Show. I know somebody was listening because my 20-minute chat with the enthusiastic host, who was excited to get her hands on the paperback edition of Beaver Street, resulted in a modest surge in sales. I'd also like to thank Tiffany for assiduously plugging the New York launch event on June 16, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, which is free and open to the public.

Though my Book Soup event seems like ancient history at this point, I haven’t written about it yet, and I’ve been meaning to say that I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made in reading the so-called “dirty part” from “The Accidental Porn Star” chapter, which I’ll be reprising at the New York event. My performance, I dare say, is beginning to feel like a cross between a Lenny Bruce stand-up routine and a recitation of a Shakespearian soliloquy. What stands out in my mind about the reading was a man who was browsing through some art books off to the side, paying no attention to me—until I began reading. Then he looked at me with a huge smile, mesmerized, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The Accidental Porn Star had connected with The Accidental Listener.

Just before I left for L.A., my old pal in St. Louis, Kendra Holliday, posted a video of her interview with me, conducted moments before the event at Shameless Grounds coffee house. It’s an interesting document of a very nervous writer, with a lot on his mind, about to embark on a U.S. promotional tour. I have mixed feeling about this video. Some of it, I think, is outrageous and hilarious. In other parts, however, my nervousness is obvious, and I find it difficult to watch as I struggle for words. But this is the book biz in the 21st century, where every writer, no matter how reluctant, is forced to become a performer.

Finally, here’s a link to a Google-translated review, posted yesterday, of the Italian edition of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, which has sold out its first printing. (Here’s the review in the original Italian.) The critic calls the book “daring,” “an unforgiving but truthful portrait,” a “must for… Beatles fans,” and praises the “excellent translation” of Paolo Palmieri. Made my day.

We Were Talking About Shameless Grounds

April 13, 2012

Tags: Shameless Grounds, St. Louis, Beaver Street, Kendra Holliday, Sonja Wagner

Last night, over a couple of shots of bourbon with former D-Cup art director Sonja Wager, who’s a "character" in Beaver Street; my brother, Jerry, who’s also my attorney; and his wife, Cindy, the subject of my St. Louis sojourn came up, and I started talking about the reading at Shameless Grounds.

“What’s Shameless Grounds?” my brother asked.

“It’s a sex-positive coffeehouse,” I said.

“What’s a sex-positive coffeehouse?”

“Uh, you know,” I said, realizing I couldn’t quite explain it, “they’re positive about sex.”

“What do you mean ‘they’re positive about sex’?”

“I guess it means anything goes, everything’s okay—you know… gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, asexual, straight… whatever you’re into. Everybody’s welcome.”

“They have a place like that in St. Louis?” said Cindy, who grew up in St. Louis.

“Surprised me, too,” I said. “A couple of days before the reading, we went there to check it out. It’s a really nice coffeehouse in an old factory building in an offbeat neighborhood. Spacious, comfortable, art on the walls, friendly staff, good coffee and food… and a free library filled with nothing but books and magazines about sex. There were two lesbians sitting at a table, knitting. And that seemed typical of the vibe—warm, mellow.”

“Really?” said Sonja.

“Yeah, it was a great place to read. Very enthusiastic crowd… and inquisitive, too. And very mixed—gay people, some people who worked in the porn industry, men, women, black, white… it was cool.”

For the record, Sex-Positive St. Louis, co-founded by Kendra Holliday, who organized the Shameless Grounds reading, describes itself as “a safe environment for sexuality questions or concerns, no matter your gender, race, age or orientation.” And that’s a good thing, no matter what city you’re in.

My Midwestern Odyssey

April 9, 2012

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

I've just returned to New York from ten days in St. Louis, where I launched Beaver Street in America. I did three readings in six days--more readings than I've done in the past five years. Thus begins the latest phase of a process that began in March 2011, when I went to London to launch the UK edition of the book. And if Beaver Street is anything like Nowhere Man, then these events are going to continue for the next dozen years or so, if not forever. I've got about a month to recover before the next scheduled reading, at Book Soup in L.A.

Sometimes I find it difficult to write when I can’t lock myself in a room, which is one reason I didn’t blog in St. Louis. But I do plan to sort out my thoughts, photos, and videos, over the next few days, and further explore my Midwestern odyssey.

But for now let me say that the atmosphere at each of the three readings was distinctly different. At the Shameless Grounds event, hosted by Sex Positive St. Louis co-founder Kendra Holliday, I read from what I’ve been calling “the filthy chapter.” “The Accidental Porn Star” is about my experiment in participatory journalism: posing for an X-rated photo shoot to gain insight into the mind of a porn stud. The Shameless crowd was enthusiastic, they laughed at all the right parts, and they were full of excellent questions about everything from the legal ramifications of the book to the Traci Lords affair. I’ve never had more fun at a reading.

The well-publicized event at Left Bank Books was more formal and restrained. It was also the first time I’d ever read in a bookstore, rather than at a bar or a publication party. Sarah, who introduced me and is, ironically, the children’s book buyer for Left Bank, told me something I’m beginning to hear quite a bit about Beaver Street—that the book’s depth, and my analysis of the political situation surrounding pornography, surprised her. It wasn’t what she was expecting.

In my presentation, I focused on Beaver Street’s literary heritage, reading from the prologue about my exposure to the “controversial” sex books that my father sold in his candy store many decades ago. Again the crowd was appreciative, and again there were a lot of good questions, many about the fact that the porn industry, like the music industry, is no longer a financially viable business for most people.

Apop Records, on Cherokee Street, is a book/record/clothing store that’s a short walk from where I was staying at my sister-in-law’s house. In the window, among various posters, are photos of the corpses of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald laid out on autopsy tables. This is a good indication of just how edgy Apop is; it’s rare to find a store like this, even in New York. Their selection of books and magazines can best be described as eclectic and counter cultural—volumes about the Black Panthers mingle with books about porn and the zines of Robin Bougie, publisher of Cinema Sewer.

I walked in one afternoon, and introduced myself to Tiffany Minx, who’s the co-owner along with Dustin Newman. Beaver Street was on the shelf that same day, and a reading was organized for Saturday night. I took the opportunity to reprise my Shameless Grounds performance. Because if you can’t read the dirty parts in a place like Apop, with a woman like Tiffany Minx in the audience, then what’s the point in reading at all?

Holliday in St. Louis

March 26, 2012

Tags: Kendra Holliday, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, St. Louis, Left Bank Books, Shameless Grounds

Matt Holliday, of the world champion Cardinals, is not the only Holliday in St. Louis, and in certain circles he's not even the most famous. Kendra Holliday, Sex Positive St. Louis Co-Founder, editor of The Beautiful Kind (TBK), and Hustler model, is giving the left fielder a run for the money, at least in the sexual underground, and up to a couple of months ago I didn't know that St. Louis had one--even though I've been a regular visitor to the city for over 20 years.

Kendra Holliday, who’s recently posted a series of rather provocative “birthday suit” pictures, is the reason I’m coming to St. Louis to launch Beaver Street next week. When we did our three-part Beaver Street interview for TBK—part three is now reposted on the Sex Positive St. Louis homepage—I knew that I’d found a kindred spirit, a woman who I like to describe as the Annie Sprinkle of the Midwest.

A launch event, April 3, at Shameless Grounds, hosted by Kendra, and focusing on Beaver Street’s pornographic aspects, was a natural. And when the legendary independent bookstore Left Bank Books invited me to do a reading the following night, in which I’ll explore the book’s literary qualities, there was no way I could stay away from the “twenty-seventh city,” as Jonathan Franzen calls it. (Twenty-seven is my lucky number.)

So, St. Louis, here I come. And I’d like to personally invite Matt Holiday to expand his horizons and come to both Beaver Street events. In St. Louis, the Hollidays should stick together, especially on Beaver Street day.

Why St. Louis?

March 14, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, St. Louis, Kendra Holliday, The Beautiful Kind, Left Bank Books, Shameless Grounds

"You live in New York," people in St. Louis have pointed out. "Why do you want to come here to launch your book?"

The short answer: I'll go anywhere in the world where people have expressed an interest in my work. I've traveled to Mexico City and Valparaiso, Chile, where I didn’t even speak the language, to present my John Lennon biography, Nowhere Man. Those journeys proved to be two of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. And I'm going to St. Louis because the city is offering me a unique opportunity to present both the pornographic and the literary sides of Beaver Street.

I made the decision months ago, after The Beautiful Kind editor, Kendra Holliday, interviewed me for her website. Kendra, who described my book as “a surreal, perverted mindfuck,” strikes me as the Annie Sprinkle of the Midwest—a creative, literate woman with the courage to put the darkest realms of her sexuality on public display both on her website and, recently, in Hustler magazine. The event she organized at the Shameless Grounds coffeehouse, on April 3, is the perfect venue to discuss some of the darker, X-rated aspects of Beaver Street, mainly a chapter I wouldn’t dare read publicly anyplace else. In “The Accidental Porn Star” I describe in graphic detail what it was like posing for a porn shoot, and the high social price I paid to conduct this “experiment in participatory journalism.”

Then, Left Bank Books, the foremost independent bookstore in St. Louis, invited me to do an event there on April 4. What better place to discuss the literary aspects of Beaver Street, a book that I describe as an investigative memoir? At Left Bank, I’ll read from the prologue and discuss a literary journey that began in my father’s candy store, in Brooklyn, where he sold numerous controversial books, like Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller, and Last Exit to Brooklyn, by Hubert Selby, that had made it to his “special rack” only after enduring protracted censorship battles.

So, my literary journey is now taking me to the turf of such people as Mark Twain and Jonathan Franzen. Boy, am I looking forward to the trip.

A Shameless Reading

March 12, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Shameless Grounds, Kendra Holliday, St. Louis

I've gone to enough readings at bookstores, cafes, and bars to say with authority that reading from one's book is not an easy thing to do well. For the most part, no matter how good the book is and no matter how famous the author is, most books, especially "literary" books, are not written to be read out loud to an audience. They're written to be read to yourself, preferably in solitude. Yet, virtually all authors are expected to give readings, and I'm no exception. I've shown up in my share of rowdy bars to read to a dozen heckling drunks from Nowhere Man, a book that I've often said was meant to be read under the covers, with a flashlight. I’ve also read well-rehearsed Nowhere Man passages over the radio and heard that people driving in cars had pulled over to the side of the road so they could listen without distraction.

Last night I began thinking about what, exactly, I’m going to read at Shameless Grounds, the “sex positive” St. Louis coffeehouse where, on Tuesday, April 3, at 7 pm, Kendra Holliday and I will be launching Beaver Street upon America. And I decided to read from a chapter that I would not consider reading out loud in any place other than Shameless Grounds. “The Accidental Porn Star” is about shame and pornography, and like all of Beaver Street, it’s written in a conversational tone that makes it ideal for a public reading.

So, I’m going to nurse and rehearse the passage I’ve selected, and when I show up at Shameless Grounds, I’ll be ready to read. Hope you guys are ready to listen. In the meantime, you can check out Beaver Street at the Shameless Grounds library.

Meet Me in St. Louis

February 29, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, St. Louis, Kendra Holliday, The Beautiful Kind, Shameless Grounds, Left Bank Books

My wife's family is from St. Louis, so I've spent a bit of time there in the past 20 years, enduring some brutally cold winters and scathingly hot summers. But I like the city, especially Soulard and Benton Park. I like the Mississippi River and the Gateway Arch. I like the Cardinals--the team and the bird. I've even considered living in St. Louis on those days when New York felt like too much. Well, in April, I'm going back for two big Beaver Street events.

The first one, hosted by Kendra Holliday, editor of The Beautiful Kind, takes place on Tuesday, April 3, at 7 pm, at Shameless Grounds, a “sex positive” coffee shop, where you can already find Beaver Street in their extensive lending library. There’ll be an informal talk, a Q&A, and I’ll be reading from Beaver Street.

Twenty-four hours later, on Wednesday, April 4, at 7 pm, I’ll be reading, signing, and answering questions at St. Louis’s foremost independent bookstore, Left Bank Books, where such luminaries as Salman Rushdie, David Sedaris, and Jimmy Carter have gone before me.

So, if you’re in the area, please drop by to one or both events. I always want to meet the people who’ve read my books. As for my in-laws, I expect you all to be there, no excuses. And bring all your crazy friends.

The Year of the American Beaver

January 11, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Bobby in Naziland, Kendra Holliday, Nowhere Man

If you've been paying attention, then you've probably noticed that I've spent the past week reorganizing this Website for the U.S. publication of Beaver Street as a trade paperback and e-book on March 23, 2012. Which is to say that the home page is now completely devoted to Beaver Street; there's a separate Beaver Street page with an excerpt from the book; there's a separate video page; and there's a separate page for my Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, which the Spanish newspaper iLeón recently chose as one of the 10 essential music bios of all time.

Also, as you may have noticed, I haven’t been blogging much lately, choosing instead to devote my time and energy to the book I’m currently working on, Bobby in Naziland. Well, between now and March 23, I’m going to slowly ease back into the daily blogging groove, posting once or twice a week for the time being. So, please check back regularly for updates.

For those of you visiting this site for the first time (perhaps seeking information on porn star Missy Manners) allow me to bring you up to date: Last year, Beaver Street was published in the U.K. to critical acclaim across cultural spectrum. (Check out the blurbs in the right-hand column and links to reviews on the home page.) On more than a half dozen occasions, it’s surged to the top of the heap of Amazon U.K. porn bios, where even on the worst day, it generally resides in the top 20, among the likes of Jenna Jameson, Ron Jeremy, and Annie Sprinkle.

This augurs well as I kick off The Year of the American Beaver, which will begin in St. Louis—yes, St. Louis!—with a launch party hosted by Kendra Holliday, whom you can see in the March 2012 issue of Hustler magazine. Then, we return to New York for a party on Beaver Street, in downtown Manhattan. Stay tuned for details, and I hope to see all of you there.

A River of Fire

November 4, 2011

Tags: Kendra Holliday, The Beautiful Kind, Beaver Street, pornography, Jimmy Swaggart

Kendra Holliday, editor of The Beautiful Kind, has titled the third part of my Beaver Street interview "Sex Is a River of Fire."

I don't believe that sex is a river of fire. Rather, I'm quoting one of the many things Pentecostal pastor Jimmy Swaggart said after being caught up in a prostitution scandal in 1988. And it's typical of what Americans say about sex as they spend billions of dollars per year on pornography and prostitution.

Why is America such a hypocritical country, especially when it comes to sex? That is the question I discuss in the final part of this interview.

The Kendra Holliday Interview, Part 2

November 2, 2011

Tags: Kendra Holliday, The Beautiful Kind, Beaver Street, child pornography, Traci Lords, Annie Sprinkle, Ron Jeremy

In part 2 of my Kendra Holliday interview, "How the U.S. Government Really Feels About Child Pornography," the editor of The Beautiful Kind interrogates me about Traci Lords, Annie Sprinkle, Ron Jeremy, and my literary influences.

I tell her everything I know.

Stay tuned for part 3 on Friday.

The Beautiful Kind of Reader

October 31, 2011

Tags: Kendra Holliday, The Beautiful Kind, Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography

In the course of my writing career I've done hundreds of promotional interviews. Most of them are a blur of canned questions asked by people who didn't read the book and in some cases probably didn't even read the press release. This is typical. Most writers will tell you the same thing. However, since I began promoting Beaver Street six months ago, I've been lucky. All of my inquisitors have been passionate about the book.

Kendra Holliday, whom I’ve been communicating with by e-mail and telephone, is the editor of The Beautiful Kind. She describes herself as “a 38 year old bisexual mother located in St. Louis,” and “a passionate sexplorer” of “kinks, fetishes, BDSM, swinging, and polyamory.”

Well, I can certainly vouch for her passion, at least when it comes to Beaver Street. She’s the kind of reader every writer hopes for.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that Kendra thought enough of Beaver Street to conduct an extensive interview. Here’s a link to Part 1, titled, “Does Nothing Shock You?”