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?

Cold Case

July 13, 2015

Tags: Bill Bottiggi, Swank Publications, Beaver Street

Bill Bottiggi with porn star Colleen Brennan, circa 1985.
In Beaver Street I write about the unsolved murder of Bill Bottiggi, an editor who briefly worked at Swank Publications. At the time I wrote the book, nobody was certain why, exactly, Bottiggi had been killed. But there were a number of theories in circulation and I detailed one of them:

The probable motive for the murder, the police deduced, had to do with sex letters Bottiggi had solicited from hundreds of prisoners, most of whose names he’d gleaned from the Stag correspondence files. He’d promised these prisoners that he’d split with them whatever money he made selling their letters to an array of straight and gay porn mags that he contributed to regularly. But instead, Bottiggi kept all the money for himself—approximately $25,000. Apparently, one of these men, upon being paroled, tracked Bottiggi down to demand his payment—probably not more than a couple of hundred bucks—and when Bottiggi balked, proceeded to carve him up with a steak knife.

If this is, in fact, true will soon become known. Nearly a quarter century after committing the crime, the murderer has been caught. Though the information I have is vague and incomplete, this much I do know: The murderer was already in prison for an unrelated crime, and his DNA matched the DNA found on clothing he’d left at the scene of the murder.

As more information becomes available, I’ll post it here.

Mistress Pussycat

April 19, 2015

Tags: Mistress Pussycat, Joyce Snyder, Pam Katz, literature, Swank Publications, Headpress, Fifty Shades of Grey

If you read Beaver Street, then you probably took note of a character I called "Pam Katz," whom I've often written about on this blog. (I used pseudonyms for all the non-public figures in the book.) Now Pam Katz, who is really Joyce Snyder, has written her own book, Mistress Pussycat: Adventures With Submissive Men In The World of Femdom, which Headpress is publishing on September 7. You can preorder the book on Amazon. (The cover you see here will be the actual cover.) And you can get more information about it on her under-construction but still-worth-checking-out Website.

I worked with Joyce for 15 years at Swank Publications. She was one of the rare people at that company who was a total professional and always conducted herself with the utmost integrity. So when she asked me to review Mistress Pussycat, which you’ll be hearing a lot about here and elsewhere in the months to come, I was happy to do so. This is what I had to say:

Mistress Pussycat is a disturbingly honest, highly arousing, laugh-out-loud-funny memoir by cat-loving career pornographer Joyce Snyder. At age 60, after half a lifetime spent cranking out low-rent stroke books and X-rated films, she embarks on a madcap journey of erotic self-discovery and learns the true nature of her own sexuality—she’s a “femdom,” a woman who wants to enslave men. Her quest for the perfect, obediently worshipful male is an eye-opening tour through the demented demimonde of BDSM, a secret world barred to the “vanilla”—anybody not into BDSM—featuring “adult babies,” “pony parties,” “pain sluts,” “pay pigs,” human furniture, masochists begging to be publicly humiliated, dominatrices expert in the art of testicular torture, and men who want only to suffer forevermore as naked “slave beasts,” their penises caged in diabolical chastity devices. Snyder’s sharply drawn portraits of the more than a dozen torment-craving “subs” who audition for her ministrations are frighteningly real, well written, and well researched, and because she experienced or witnessed everything she so skillfully describes, it’s hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey. Reading Mistress Pussycat is a literary pussy-whipping… and you’ll learn a lot about cats, too.

Taking it Personally

July 1, 2014

Tags: Hustler, Back Issues, Larry Flynt, Michael Lee Nirenberg, Bill Nirenberg, Al Goldstein, Carl Ruderman, High Society, Screw, Swank Publications, Penthouse, Michael Musto, Gail Dines, Supreme Court, Beaver Street, pornography

I tend to write about movies that have a direct, personal connection either to my life or my books--see About Cherry, Magic Trip, and Chapter 27--and the latest such film to fall into this category is the generically titled Back Issues, a documentary about Hustler magazine. (Why not just call it Hustler?)

I enjoyed Back Issues in part because it adds an additional dimension to much of what I write about in Beaver Street. And Beaver Street, with its tales of High Society publisher Carl Ruderman trying to pattern his magazine after Hustler, only to end up as Hustler’s "Asshole of the Month," adds an additional dimension to Back Issues.

But the primary reason I’m writing about the film is because Bill Nirenberg, whom I used to work with at Swank Publications—the company at the center of Beaver Street—is at the center of Back Issues. Before landing at Swank, Bill was an art director at Hustler during its glory days, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and watching the film with two of my former colleagues filled me with the disorienting sense of being back at Swank and listening to Bill regale us with his Hustler and Larry Flynt stories. Bill’s demeanor, his tone, his vibe, as well as the stories themselves are exactly as I remember them.

Capturing somebody on film just as they are in life is not an easy thing to do. But the reason Bill comes across so realistically—in fact the reason this film exists at all—is because his son, Michael Lee Nirenberg, directed it. And because of the intimate connection between subject and filmmaker, Michael was able to gain access to all the key Hustler players, including the often-inaccessible Flynt, as well as former editors Paul Krassner and Allan MacDonell, whose memoir, Prisoner of X, covers the same time period as I do in Beaver Street.

Michael also managed to unearth a number of documents that illustrate some of the most notable moments in the history of a polarizing magazine whose impact on American popular culture was profound. The most outrageous document is an audiotape of Flynt ranting at the Supreme Court justices, in 1983, when they were considering a libel case that Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione’s girlfriend, Kathy Keeton, had brought against Hustler. The language Flynt uses, a series of gratuitously racist and sexist slurs, is so inflammatory it transcends the realm of mere obscenity and serves as a sublime demonstration of a man rendered paraplegic by an would-be assassin’s bullet, who now thinks he has nothing to lose, speaking the truth (as he sees it) to power.

Among the people Michael speaks to who didn’t actually work for Hustler but still offer valuable insights about the mag, its founder, and the porn biz are Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein, who is at death’s door and giving what would be his last interview; writer Michael Musto, who does an excellent job of explaining how the Internet destroyed the porn magazine business; and professional anti-porn activist Gail Dines, who, uncharacteristically, comes across as a sane person.

But it’s the segments where Michael interviews his father, who’s now retired from the porn biz, that give the film a homey, intimate feel, which is unusual (if not unheard of) for a documentary that covers this kind of gritty and often offensive material. This intimacy also helps to make Back Issues an essential document for anybody who wants to understand not only Hustler’s place in the history of modern porn, but how, in the late 20th century, pornography was able to supplant rock ’n’ roll as the premier symbol of American pop culture.

The Newt Gingrich of Sleaze: Part 4 in a Series

February 8, 2012

Tags: Pam Katz, Joyce Snyder, Swank Publications, Lou Perretta, age discrimination, sex discrimination, Beaver Street

A lot of people thought that last week's posting, "The Lou Perretta 20-Point Plan for Demoralizing Employees," was satire. They thought that no place of business in 21st Century America that employed highly skilled and educated professionals could possibly be that bad.

Well, the piece isn’t satire—it’s journalism written in a satirical manner.

It’s not as if Perretta did all 20 things to everybody at once. That would have violated both the eighth amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and the Geneva Conventions. And we weren’t technically prisoners of war. It only felt that way.

The 20-Point Plan is simply a catalog of Perretta’s abysmal behavior, either toward me or toward other employees, over a 20-year period.

I doubt Perretta was even conscious of what he was doing, or thought that the “strategies” he used to control his employees were anything out of the ordinary. When he bought Swank Publications, he essentially shanghaied from New York a group of sophisticated and experienced publishing professionals, and treated them as he was accustomed to treating the people who worked in his printing plant in Poughkeepsie.

Amazingly, until Joyce Snyder (“Pam Katz” in Beaver Street) filed her age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit, no employee or ex-employee had ever sued Perretta—for anything. Possibly, this was out of fear of losing their job and never being able to find another one; a lack of resources to pursue legal action against a wealthy businessman; or the knowledge that a lawsuit of any kind could drag on for years and they might not even win.

Perretta’s like the Newt Gingrich of sleaze—a classic schoolyard bully who nobody ever punched in the face. Then one day, Joyce Snyder, a little wisp of a woman, knocked him on his ass with a savage left hook to the jaw (metaphorically speaking). Snyder, sophisticated in the ways of the law—she’d considered going to law school at one point and had worked for private investigators—had the resources and the courage to go after Perretta. She also had nothing to lose. Snyder had devoted virtually her entire 31-year-career to pornography, and after Perretta fired her, she knew that at her age, with Perretta buying up every porn mag in existence, and with the economy in its tattered state, she’d never work again.

Perretta screamed so loud when he found out Snyder was suing him, I could hear his howls back in New York City. And that’s only a slight satirical exaggeration.

The Lou Perretta 20-Point Plan for Demoralizing Employees: Part 3 in a Series

February 1, 2012

Tags: Pam Katz, Joyce Snyder, Swank Publications, Lou Perretta, age discrimination, sex discrimination, Beaver Street

A Guide for Postmodern Office Management

Everybody knows a demoralized workforce is an easy-to-control workforce. Lou Perretta, pornographic publishing magnate who now owns every significant stroke book with the exception of Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, began instituting this plan in the early 1990s, when the economy was booming. With the onset of the recession, this plan has become insidiously effective--Perretta can now boast one of America's most demoralized workforces. The only monkey wrench in the works has come from former employee Joyce Snyder ("Pam Katz" in Beaver Street) who has sued Perretta for age and sex discrimination. So, a word of warning to any bosses who are considering instituting the Perretta Plan: Consult your attorney. Though effective in the short run, institution of this plan may cause severe financial and legal hardship and can lead to chronic heartburn and ridicule.

The Perretta Plan

1. Never give an employee a merit raise no matter how well they perform.
2. Never give an employee a raise even if you double or triple their workload.
3. Never praise an employee’s work. (If you do, they may ask for a raise.)
4. Loudly and publicly denigrate every employee’s work as often as possible, with a minimum of one time per year.
5. Nobody is indispensable. Fire the most talented and experienced employees.
6. If a downsized employee asks for severance for three decades of service, say, “Your 401(k) is your severance.”
7. Produce a product that’s of questionable legality and aesthetically vile—hardcore pornography, for example—that will so taint anyone associated with it, they’ll never work again after you fire them.
8. Scream at all remaining employees for the most trivial mistakes. The more trivial the mistake, the louder you should scream. Make it clear that you think everybody who works for you is a fucking idiot.
9. Refer to minority employees as “animals.” Dare them to sue.
10. Foster a climate of subtle religious bigotry. For example, if you see two or more Jewish employees standing together, say to them, in a jovial tone, “This place is starting to look like a yeshiva.” This will cause maximum discomfort with minimal legal exposure.
11. If business is bad, cut salaries by 25%. (Note: This means all employees. Do not cut salaries of only female employees. This is illegal. See Joyce Snyder.)
12. Cut lunch hour to a half hour.
13. Have the most incompetent employee act as office spy. Allow him to sleep at his desk.
14. Fill all executive positions with blood relatives only. Nepotism is the answer to any staffing question.
15. Under penalty of termination, forbid employees from doing any outside freelance work.
16. Give employees only inferior, dilapidated, lower-back antagonizing office furniture.
17. Confine highest-paid employees to offices without heat and air conditioning.
18. No need to hire cleaning people. Employees with advanced degrees should clean toilets, too.
19. The Friday after Thanksgiving is not a holiday. Take away a vacation day from any employee who does not come to work that day. Dock the pay of any employee who does not have a vacation day.
20. Special Bonus Strategy (For Advanced Users Only): Announce after Thanksgiving that the office will be open between Christmas and New Year’s. Announce on Christmas Eve that the office will be closed between Christmas and New Year’s; that employees will be charged five vacation days; and that employees without vacation days will be docked one week’s pay.

The End of History at Swank: Part 2 in a Series

January 25, 2012

Tags: Swank Publications, Lou Perretta, Joyce Snyder, Pam Katz, age discrimination, sex discrimination, Beaver Street

It's been almost 13 years since I was fired from Swank Publications, a turn of events that so delighted me, for the next five years I woke up every morning in a state of ecstasy--because I didn't have to go to New Jersey to crank out pornography under ever-increasing deadline pressure.

Swank’s publisher, Lou Perretta, known to some employees as “Satan in Suspenders,” wasn’t the most depraved pornographer I’d ever worked for. (That distinction belongs to the elegantly attired Carl Ruderman, who published High Society before selling it to Perretta last year.) But the atmosphere in Perretta’s offices, situated on the side of a highway in Paramus—Please Ram Us, as some of my former colleagues called it—was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in any job I’ve ever had, in or out of pornography.

Yes, Perretta’s Swank was a boring, depressing, purposefully demoralizing company staffed with people smothered by fear and hopelessness. It was so grim that I used to look forward to going to the dentist if it got me out of work an hour early. But this is how a lot of corporations are run today—business as usual, in other words. What sets Swank apart is that they pushed this modus operandi into the realm of the legally actionable, some of the details of which are documented in the age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit Joyce Snyder (I called her “Pam Katz” in Beaver Street) filed against Perretta.

I originally wrote about Perretta in the Beaver Street chapter titled “The End of History at Swank Inc.,” describing how a job I once enjoyed had been reduced to “assembly-line toil at its worst,” and “an exercise in postmodern sweatshop drudgery.”

But I didn’t go into more detail because Beaver Street is about the history of pornography, and as the chapter title indicates, that history ended in Paramus.

At Lou Perretta’s Swank Inc. pornography was almost beside the point.

Perretta was a printer who owned Great Eastern—since shuttered—a printing plant in Poughkeepsie that was once that city’s second largest employer next to IBM. He bought Swank and just about every other porn mag in existence as fodder to keep his presses running 24/7.

The story of Swank under Perretta ceases to be a story about pornography and becomes, instead, a tale of the ugliest face of soul-and-job-destroying modern day capitalism. And in light of Snyder’s age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit, it’s time to examine more closely what went on there.

In next week’s installment, I’ll further explore the toxic atmosphere of Swank Publications under Perretta—a toxicity that went far beyond the mere tyranny common to all porn publishing companies.

A Mutant Pornographic Genius: Part 1 in a Series

January 18, 2012

Tags: Pam Katz, Joyce Snyder, Swank Publications, Lou Perretta, age discrimination, sex discrimination, Beaver Street

"Pam Katz," an editor at Swank Publications whom I worked with for 16 years, is a "character" in Beaver Street. I describe her as a "mutant pornographic genius with a second sight for recognizing cover shots where nobody else saw them." She also wrote and produced four classic porn movies, Public Affairs and Raw Talent, parts I-III, and came up with the idea for X-Rated Cinema magazine. She was, in short, a great pornographer and a talented editor with a wicked sense of humor and a stringent code of business ethics.

I put “Pam Katz” in quotes because that’s not her real name. In Beaver Street, though all the “characters” are real, I use pseudonyms for all non-public figures. Well, Pam Katz is no longer a private citizen. Her real name is Joyce Snyder.

Last February, after 31 years on the job, Snyder was let go at Swank Publications. In response, she filed an age and sex discrimination suit against the publisher, Lou Perretta.

The legal documents are public record, available online.

In future postings, I’ll be commenting further on this lawsuit. I also plan to describe in even more detail than I did in Beaver Street the atmosphere of Swank Publications under Lou Perretta that led to the lawsuit.

Joyce A. Snyder v. Louis Perretta is significant not only on its own merits, but because with the exception of Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, Perretta has a virtual monopoly on the porn magazine business, which has become a festering symbol of the festering economy of post-industrial America, where talented, highly experienced people can no longer earn a living wage.

This is class warfare. Stay tuned for further dispatches from the front lines.