The Sporadic Beaver

We Will Fight Them on the Web

November 5, 2014

Tags: censorship, Beaver Street, Headpress, CNBC, Steve Colby, John Lee-Graham, Margaret Thatcher

I've had my issues with censorship in the past, though never with the U.K. England has always been a good place for me professionally--both in pornography and literature. It was British photographers, like Donald Milne, Steve Colby, and John Lee-Graham, who provided me with the material that transformed D-Cup into a cash cow (so to speak), thus igniting my career as an editor of "adult" magazines. And it was the BBC and British publications, like the Times of London, Uncut, and Mojo, that embraced Nowhere Man as serious literature and were instrumental in sending the book rocketing up best-seller lists. And it was Headpress, the London-based indie, that took on Beaver Street (where you can read about Milne, Colby, and Lee-Graham) after every publisher in the U.S. had deemed the book unworthy of publication.

So I was surprised last year when England became a new front in an ongoing Beaver Street censorship battle. The problem wasn’t with the book itself, but rather with this Website.

CNBC adult-entertainment-industry reporter Chris Morris explains what happened in his piece “No Porn Please, We’re British.”

The article describes how British Prime Minister David Cameron had announced that the four largest Internet service providers in the U.K. were, by the end of 2013, going to begin blocking all porn sites. If a costumer wanted to look at smut, then he’d have to request that the filters be disabled.

“Obviously people are not going to want to do that,” I told Morris. “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.”

In response to Cameron’s statement that access to online porn is “corroding childhood,” I told Morris that kids have always found a way to circumvent rules meant for their protection and if they “want to look at pornography, they usually figure out how to do it."

When the porno filters were turned on, towards the end of 2013, the impact on this Website was immediate: traffic from the U.K. dropped off by 80 percent.

Even though this is not a porn site, and sites in the U.K. with far more explicit material were not being blocked, I thought there was nothing I could do about it. So I ignored what was happening and quietly hoped that the Brits would come to their senses.

Then, two weeks ago, I received several messages from readers in the U.K. telling me that they were unable to connect with this site. Something had changed and I decided to investigate.

Using the Website Blocked, I was able to determine that five major U.K. ISPs were blocking me. Blocked also provided contact information for the appropriate administrators of these ISPs, and I wrote to them.

“Robertrosennyc.com is a site dedicated to literature, publishing, and current affairs,” I said, “and you are improperly blocking me.”

Unlike their U.S. corporate counterparts—such as a certain mega-conglomerate that made the print edition of Beaver Street unavailable and initially stonewalled all attempts to communicate with them—these major U.K. corporations were responsive.

“Are there any words etc. on the Website which may be deemed sensitive to a young audience, Robert?” one of them inquired.

“No,” I replied. (Though I was tempted to say, “Yeah, Margaret Thatcher.”)

They were also reasonable. Within a week, every site but one—Talk Talk Kidsafe (yeah, I get it)—had removed their block.

England, I forgive you.

Deconstructing Sonja

August 9, 2011

Tags: Sonja Wagner, art, smut, Beaver Street, Steve Colby, John Lee-Graham, Falcon Foto, D-Cup

They're rioting in England! The economy's melting down! Everything's out of control! So let's talk about art again.

The other week I wrote about the erotic paintings of my former art director Sonja Wagner, a character in Beaver Street who goes by her real name and has some of the best lines in the book. Her paintings, I suggested, served as useful illustrations of the ongoing debate about what is art and what is smut. And I said that even her most overtly pornographic images, ones that I wouldn’t risk showing on this website, are still, clearly, art—because of the skill and imagination with which they were created, and their emotional impact.

I’ve also come to realize that Sonja’s paintings, based on her D-Cup layouts, are a parallel narrative to Beaver Street, though to appreciate this you had to be there, either when the photos were shot or when Sonja and I put together the layouts.

Her paintings remind me of the photographers who shot them—Steve Colby, John Lee- Graham, and Falcon Foto—of being in London or California and directing the shoots, of interviewing the models, or of simply standing in Sonja’s cubicle and watching her place the photos down on boards, and slice them with her X-acto knife to achieve a perfect fit. All of which I wrote about in Beaver Street.

And it amazes me that these layouts, created decades ago to be nothing more than disposable trash and masturbation fodder, have been transformed as if by magic into enduring works of art.

Art vs. Smut

July 22, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, The New York Times, Lucian Freud, smut, Sonja Wagner, Steve Colby, D-Cup

In these schizophrenic times, as ever more deranged Internet pornography reaches an increasingly wider mainstream audience, people who lead “respectable” lives live in mortal terror that somebody may find out that they enjoyed reading a “dirty” book, such as Beaver Street. In an atmosphere this repressive, it’s hard to know what’s considered “appropriate” to post on this website, hosted by the Authors Guild.

A partial answer to this question appeared in The New York Times today, in an obituary of the artist Lucian Freud. The so-called “Gray Lady,” which once refused to print the title Beaver Street in an article about the porn industry, ran a photograph of one of Freud’s paintings that showed breasts and pubic hair.

With that lofty standard in mind, I’ve chosen to share another uncensored image of a painting created by Sonja Wagner, a character in Beaver Street. (I ran one of her milder erotic images yesterday.)

The painting, “Single Girl in Motion,” is based on a layout of a Steve Colby photo set that Wagner designed for D-Cup magazine, which she art directed for decades. (A detail of this image appears in the Beaver Street photo section.)

Some people may call it smut. I call it art.

Update: The Naked and the Dead

July 21, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Izzy Singer, Carl Ruderman, Sonja Wagner, Pamela Katz, Steve Colby, Neville Player, Lou Perretta, High Society, X-Rated Cinema, Paul Raymond

In fiction, when an author brings a character to life, that character is said to take on a life of his own. In nonfiction, the characters are alive (except when they’re dead) and they do have lives of their own. Such is the case with Beaver Street, which is populated with real people who continue to lead vital and interesting lives outside the confines of the book’s covers.

Towards the end of Beaver Street there’s a section called “On the Naked and the Dead,” in which I give updates on some of the main characters. I’ve continued to do so on this blog, in the past week mentioning that Izzy Singer recently published a short story on Kindle, and that Carl Ruderman has divested himself of all his pornographic holdings and can no longer be called a pornographer.

Here are a few other updates of note:

Happily retired from the porn biz, Sonja Wagner continues to create her art, erotic and otherwise.

Former X-Rated Cinema editor Pamela Katz was fired from Swank publications after 30 years on the job and is now suing the company for age and sex discrimination.

Steve Colby, a photographer who helped launch the British Porno Invasion of 1987, is one of London’s last remaining “glamour” photographers, though now shoots almost exclusively in Prague.

Neville Player, whose name I didn’t use in the book but described as the "porno genius" who took over D-Cup magazine, has written a memoir (title TBA) about his long career working for British publishing legend Paul Raymond and his short career working for Lou Perretta.

Having recently acquired High Society, Lou Perretta now owns virtually every porn magazine of significance, with the exception of Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, and has made Paramus, New Jersey ground zero for what remains of the dying men’s mag industry.

The Porn Identity

June 7, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Ben Myers, Bizarre, Steve Colby, Razzle, Nowhere Man

The instant feedback I’ve gotten on the article about Beaver Street, by Ben Myers, that’s in the July issue of Bizarre magazine has been encouraging.

One reader in London, who works with photographer Steve Colby and helped me organize shoots for the various magazines I edited back in the day, said that the layout reminds her of her favorite mag, Razzle, from the 1970s. The piece set off a flood of nostalgia: “I remember Steve having to do themed five-girl shoots for Razzle—five girls in a plastic paddling pool filled with baked beans or custard, that kind of stuff. Fun, except the studio was whiffy for weeks afterwards! Did some good themed stuff for you, too, if you remember—the two-girl Egyptian shaved set! Or the girl on the swing, in front of a romantically painted backdrop, who shaved her head! Wow! Imagine getting away with that these days...”

And a reader in Chile (where I’d gone in 2005 to promote Nowhere Man) writes: “As I read that article I cannot stop laughing or being surprised. Taking mescaline in S&M clubs... fake boobs exploding in the middle of a scene… Excellent stories, what can I say? It doesn’t even seem real... Ben Myers deserves an award, because it’s an excellent article, fun and freaky, in a way that you want to eat that book of yours.”

Thank you, dear readers. And keep those cards and letters coming in.