The Sporadic Beaver

The (8-Day) Week in Review

October 31, 2013

Tags: Linda Ronstadt, Vanity Fair, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Lou Reed, Velvet Underground, Beaver Street, Amazon

I was hoping to post on The Sporadic Beaver at least once a week, but it seems eight days have slipped by since my last transmission. That's because things have been happening. I will review some of the highlights.

· Mary Lyn Maiscott's well-received Linda Ronstadt interview was posted Monday on the Vanity Fair website. She was worried that "Linda," as we now call her in the Maiscott-Rosen household, talked too much about singing--something she can no longer do because of Parkinson's disease.

“That’s like interviewing Picasso and saying that he talked too much about painting,” I told her.

The reason I think the interview went so well is that Linda, in the course of promoting her new memoir, Simple Dreams, has probably spoken to hundreds of interviewers, the majority of whom did not read the book and asked her the same canned questions over and over. Not only did Mary Lyn read the book, but she, too, is a singer, and when I listened to the recording of the interview, I got the sense that I was listening not to a journalist interrogate a rock star, but rather to two singers having a heart-to-heart conversation.

· I don’t remember what provoked me to listen, from beginning to end, to The Velvet Underground & Nico last week. But for some reason, I did. So, when I heard the news Sunday that Lou Reed had died, it was both eerie and shocking. (He was, after all, a fellow New Yorker and a Brooklyn native who was born at the same hospital I was born—Beth-El, now Brookdale.) Stranger still was what I found out about Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker as I was Googling various Velvet Underground things while listening to the album: Tucker, a member of one of the coolest rock bands ever, is now a Tea Party supporter! You can read all about her politics in this interview that ran in the St. Louis Riverfront Times. (And I will, at some point today, listen to Lou Reed’s eerily appropriate “Halloween Parade,” which happens to pass by my house.)

· Since its U.S. publication 18 months ago, Beaver Street sales can at best be described as a steady drip… drip… drip… But this week, for reasons unknown, that drip turned into a mild flurry, sending the book to its highest point on Amazon, and keeping it there for six days. In no way can this compare to the explosive sales that, from 2000-2003, propelled Nowhere Man onto bestseller lists in five countries. But it is a hopeful sign, and in the ravaged economy of 2013, that’s about all you can ask for.

Glossy

February 19, 2013

Tags: Adult Video News, Swank, Vanity Fair

You think Vanity Fair is a glossy magazine? Well it is. But when it comes to glossy--and I mean a smooth, sensual, oversized, light-reflecting cover, printed on coated, heavy-stock paper--Vanity Fair ain't got nothin' on Adult Video News. The printed edition of AVN is a work of art.

I hadn't seen a printed copy of AVN in over a decade, since I left the adult entertainment industry. So when the February issue, with a review of Beaver Street, arrived in the mail, its postmodern incarnation came as a shock--not because of the disorienting contrast between the quality of the package and the X-rated material inside, but because the mag had evolved from a standard trade publication, very much like Billboard, to a veritable coffee-table book. (And I now have it on display on my coffee table, right next to Vanity Fair.)

Of the hundreds of adult titles that I worked on over the course of my career, none of them came close to the production values of the current AVN. In fact, on magazines like Swank and High Society, the idea was to make it look super-sleazy by using the cheapest paper and the cheapest printing. It was a science: How cheap and sleazy could you go and still have people buy the magazine?

What AVN appears to be saying with its decidedly upscale production values is that despite the recession and the financial ravages wrought by the Internet, the adult industry is still alive and well, and is heading even closer to mainstream acceptance. And the $11.95 cover price is a clear sign that people in X have money.

Biggest surprise of all: There were my old friends from Swank, who are now in the video business, too, at #94 on the hot 200 chart with Anal Babes Gone Wild 3. I’m sure it’s a classy production.

Happy Anniversaries

January 25, 2013

Tags: Edwin Meese, Meese Commission, Traci Lords, Beaver Street, History of Modern Pornography, Nowhere Man, Vanity Fair

Anniversaries are useful things when it comes to promoting books, and many books are published to coincide with particular anniversaries--because there's always an upsurge in media attention, especially when those anniversaries have round numbers. November of this year, for example, is (shockingly) the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Beginning in the fall, you can look for a flurry of expensively produced volumes about John Kennedy, and don't expect to be able to pick up a newspaper or magazine--assuming you still physically pick up printed matter--without reading some kind of article about the latest book, TV show, or commemoration.

I've been conscious of the importance of anniversaries since Nowhere Man was published right before the 20th anniversary of John Lennon's murder. There's no question that the media attention surrounding that event was instrumental in putting the book on best-seller lists. Ever since, I've been seeking out anniversaries anywhere I can find them.

There are plenty of Beaver Street anniversaries to celebrate, though for the most part the media tend to overlook them—even though they are events of genuine historical significance. 2011, for example, was the 25th anniversary of the Meese Commission on Pornography and the Traci Lords scandal. I don’t recall hearing anything about either one of those events. In fact, Edwin Meese, arguably the most corrupt attorney general in the history of the United States, has managed to squirm back into the news, his corruption unmentioned as he mouths off about ways to impeach Obama. And this month, January 2013, is the 30th anniversary of free phone-sex, the first fusion of erotica and computers, and the beginning of the Age of Modern Pornography. Please clue me in if you’re aware of any commemorations. And while you’re at it, please join me in spirit on April 11 to celebrate the day, 30 years ago, that I began working in XXX. (Yikes!)

Amid all these anniversaries, there’s one personal anniversary that somehow escaped my attention: On January 12, 2011, Beaver Street was mentioned in the media for the first time, in the February UK edition of Vanity Fair, the one with Justin Bieber on the cover. This is significant because here it is, two years down the road, and Beaver Street continues to garner media attention. How rare is it that people are still talking about a book two years after publication? Trust me, it’s rare. And it is cause for celebration. You are cordially invited to join me in spirit as I toast to my ongoing promotional campaign.

How We Spent Our Summer Vacation

October 12, 2012

Tags: Maine, Jonesport, Mary Lyn Maiscott, Vanity Fair

With the weekend upon us, allow me to take a break from my ongoing promotional frenzy and bring your attention to a short photo-essay about our summer vacation by my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, posted today on the Vanity Fair website. We spent a blissful week with my brother's family in a rented house on the ocean in Jonesport, Maine, gorging ourselves on lobster (two dollars per pound!) and anything that could be made with blueberries. The above photo, courtesy of my sister-in-law, Cindy Rosen, was taken from the deck at sunset. (I believe I was sipping a martini at that very moment.)

If you go to the site, you can also see how 31 other VF staffers spent their summer vacations.

And Furthermore…

March 28, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Vanity Fair

If I may elaborate on yesterday's blog post, about the PR person from a major publishing house who told a roomful of authors, "We turn down good books from people we think aren't good-looking enough": Part of what bothered me, and everybody else who was there that night, was the arrogance and self-satisfaction with which this woman made that statement. She said it in a tone that communicated, "That's the way it is. That's the way it should be. There's nothing wrong with it. And even if there were, there's nothing you can do about it."

Which raises a question that went unasked: When, exactly, did the publishing industry lose the ability to market books because they’re good, rather than because they were written by (or, more likely, ghostwritten for) young, pretty celebrities?

Today, of course, is the semi-official US publication day of Beaver Street—a good book, critically acclaimed in the UK, and written by an author who’s neither young, pretty, nor a celebrity in the Hollywood A-list sense of that word. (Though my name does appear in boldface in the current issue of Vanity Fair.) And I’d like very much to prove to whomever might be paying attention that my aesthetic and chronological shortcomings will not interfere with my ability to get out there and “move product,” if I may use such a term.

There We Are in Vanity Fair

March 6, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Vanity Fair, Hot Type, Headpress

When you're trying to get a little attention for your book and find yourself in a street fight with authors who have actual publicity budgets and are backed by powerful corporate publishers, any victory is a major victory. Which is why when a book like Beaver Street, published by Headpress, a small London-based indie, finds itself in the much sought-after real estate of the “Hot Type” section of Vanity Fair, it’s cause for celebration.

But there Beaver Street is, in the April Vanity Fair (Julia Roberts on the cover), on sale today in the US and UK. “Robert Rosen dives into Beaver Street (Headpress),” it says. And I suppose I do—dive into Beaver Street, that is.

So, look for Beaver Street on the Web or in a bookstore near you on March 28. In the meantime, virtual high-fives all around.

That Was the Month that Was

March 1, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, Hot Type, Vanity Fair, Scott Garrett, Tea Party, Congress, Lou Perretta, New Jersey, politics

Any month that I find out that Beaver Street will be mentioned in the Hot Type section of Vanity Fair (on sale March 6), that I'm invited to do three Beaver Street events in two cities, that I unearth a sordid political scandal, and that my website reached a new high in traffic qualifies as a good month, especially when that month has only 29 days.

There’s no question that the Scott Garrett story drove the bulk of February’s traffic. I’d never heard of Garrett, an ultra-conservative Tea Party congressman representing New Jersey’s 5th district, until a couple of weeks ago. That was when I learned that porn magnate Lou Perretta, whom I’d once worked for, had been contributing to Republicans.

I’d known my former boss was a Republican since 1998, when he demanded I remove from a satiric feature titled “The Illustrated Starr Report” a reference to Kenneth Starr as a “deranged prosecutor.” (Perretta had no problem with the grotesque illustrations of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in flagrante delicto.)

But what caught my eye as I examined the easily accessible public documents detailing Perretta’s political contributions over a 10-year period was the name Scott Garrett, which popped up repeatedly.

Some basic research revealed that Garrett, who was elected by a comfortable margin, is anti-voting rights, anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-gay, anti-environment, and anti-science. That his office was on the same floor in the same office building as Perretta’s office, and that the politics of a Tea Party Republican and a Porn King seemed to mesh in so many ways, was the subject of my two postings about Garrett.

If the Garrett story should reach an audience beyond The Daily Beaver, that would, indeed, be a bonus—an example of one of journalism’s classic purposes: to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Because it’s frightening that a politician who you’d think would be more at home in the reddest, red-neck corner of Alabama could be elected to Congress in Bergen County. But considering my own experiences toiling for seven years on Perretta’s Bergen County porn plantation—which I’ve written about in Beaver Street—it’s not terribly surprising. In fact it’s just more proof that you don’t have to venture far from New York City to find Red America in all its ignorant, bigoted glory.

Beaver 2.0

February 27, 2012

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Vanity Fair, Headpress, Kindle, Nook, Book Soup

A year ago tomorrow, I flew to London to begin promoting the UK edition of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, a process that I hoped might go on for a decade or two, if not forever. The book was published in England in April 2011, and if you look at the right-hand column, you can see some of what the critics had to say about it. Yes, words like "Enormously entertaining," "Entertaining, insightful, and hot," and "Shocking, evocative, and entertaining," did, indeed, help to sell a couple of books, thank you very much.

Now, here it is a year later, and I’m sitting in New York, awaiting the publication of the US edition of Beaver Street on March 28. The new cover (right), features one significant change: It says “Vanity Fair Hot Type Pick,” and Beaver Street will be in the “Hot Type” section of the April issue. But there are other changes, too. The critical response to the book made the editors at Headpress realize that Beaver Street is more a work of literature than journalism, and therefore, to give the book a more “literary” feel, the photo section has been removed. (If you want to see the photo section, e-mail me and I’ll send you a PDF. Or hurry up and buy a copy of the UK edition while they last.)

Then, of course, Beaver Street will be available on Kindle, Nook, and all the other formats that e-books come in. So, if you prefer reading books on your tablet or telephone, hey, be my guest. (The cover, incidentally, looks beautiful on the Kindle Fire and color Nook.)

And finally, I’m going to be doing Beaver Street events pretty much any place they’ll let me. There’s already a reading scheduled for Book Soup in LA on May 12, and I’ll be announcing more readings in other cities in the next couple of days. So, if you’ve been waiting to get your hands on a copy of Beaver Street, the wait’s almost over. And if you’d like to meet me, please come to one of my events. Because I’d like to meet you, too. I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about.

The Body-Punishing Sex of Gail Dines

September 16, 2011

Tags: Gail Dines, Pornland, Andrea Dworkin, Ron Jeremy, Vanity Fair, Porn Report

Gail Dines, anti-porn gadfly.
At first glance, Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, appears to be a more rational version of the late Andrea Dworkin, who believed that watching porn led to rape, and that sexual intercourse was the equivalent of rape.

But I've found that after watching Dines debate Ron Jeremy; watching a few of her lectures on YouTube (in one she calls Vanity Fair magazine "pornography"); and reading a couple of her articles, my sympathy for her point of view is rapidly diminishing, even though I tend to agree with some of what she says. (Yes, some pornography is abusive and disgusting.) It simply grows tiresome to listen to a woman whose favorite phrase, repeated ad nauseum, is "body-punishing sex."

An article by Dines, “Time to Start Telling the Truth About the Porn Industry,” posted on the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Website, offers a concise summary of her views. In the piece, Dines takes on the authors of the Australian Porn Report, whom, she says, want to “sanitize porn as a bit of harmless fun” and “seem willfully detached from the realities of how porn functions as a global industry and as a storytelling device.”

In other words, these Australian “academics, public intellectuals, and plain old pornographers” disagree with Dines’s suggestion that, according to her research, the most popular porn sites display a “mind-numbing repetition” of “gagging, slapping, verbal abuse, hair-pulling, pounding anal sex, women smeared in semen, sore anuses and vaginas, distended mouths, and exhausted, depleted, and shell-shocked women.”

Or, to put it simply, “body-punishing sex.”

A Dirty Book with Universal Appeal?

September 8, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, H-Net, Vanity Fair, Village Voice, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Bizarre, Amazon

As I prepare for Beaver Street's inevitable US publication sometime in 2012, it has come to my attention that the book has achieved an unusual cultural hat trick, so to speak.

The highbrow critics (H-Net) like Beaver Street.

The middlebrow critics (Vanity Fair, The Village Voice, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) like Beaver Street.

The lowbrow critics (Bizarre) like Beaver Street.

And if you add the sex critics (Erotic Review) and the chorus of professional, semi-professional, and amateur critics on Amazon US and UK who have weighed in with unanimous five-star reviews… well, one might be tempted to argue that Beaver Street is a dirty book with universal appeal.

But one would be best advised to hold his or her tongue until Traci Lords, the right-wing media, and others with delicate sensibilities render their opinions.

An Open Invitation to Martin Amis

June 24, 2011

Tags: Ben Myers, Bizarre, The $5 Blowjob, Beaver Street, Martin Amis, pornography, anal, London Fields, James Wolcott, Vanity Fair, Thomas Wolfe

In my interview with Ben Myers that ran in the July issue of Bizarre, I explained that I served as the male model in a shoot called “The $5 Blowjob”—I describe the experience in Beaver Street—because no real writer had ever gotten in front of the camera and reported on what it was like to be a porn “star.” As I mentioned to Myers, one of the writers who failed to take advantage of this kind of opportunity is Martin Amis, when he wrote a piece about the porn industry in California, “XXX Marks the Spot,” for Tina Brown’s short-lived Talk magazine. (Another version of the article ran in The Guardian.)

Amis’s article, a classic example of an outsider writing about an industry he doesn’t understand or have any real feeling for, lacked genuine insight. His big “scoop”: “Anal is hot.”

Though he blew it on the porno piece, I still admire Martin Amis’s writing. In fact, I used a quote about modern literature’s treatment of masturbation from his novel London Fields at the beginning of Beaver Street.

James Wolcott recently mentioned “XXX Marks the Spot” in his Vanity Fair blog—he called it “a quite vivid article about visiting a hardcore porn set.” It was part of a posting noting that Amis is moving to Brooklyn and had written to him asking if he knew “any cool places to hang out” there. Wolcott, a resident of the Upper West Side, couldn’t help him.

Having escaped from Brooklyn 36 years ago, when Brooklyn was still a place to escape from, I don’t think I could help Amis either. However, once he settles into his new digs, I would like to chat with him about pornography, literature, and Brooklyn.

I’m right across the bridge in Manhattan, practically walking distance from Cobble Hill—assuming Mr. Amis likes to walk. Or, if he prefers, I can cross the bridge. Den, maybe, we can grab a coupla ’dogs at Natan’s. Dat, t’me, is duh ting t’do in Brooklyn, as Thomas Wolfe might have said.

Bizarre, Indeed

June 6, 2011

Tags: Headpress, Beaver Street, Bizarre, Ben Myers, Vanity Fair, literature, Erotic Review

Headpress has posted the Beaver Street layout from the July issue of Bizarre, the popular British lad mag, which goes on sale tomorrow in the UK. It’s an amazing piece, written by Ben Myers. And it makes me wonder if I’m the first writer in the history of Western Literature whose work has been endorsed by both Bizarre and Vanity Fair. (Not to mention the Erotic Review.)

We interrupt this correspondence to bring you a special seal of approval…

May 26, 2011

Tags: Erotic Review, Beaver Street, Vanity Fair, Village Voice, Michael Musto, David Comfort, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Jamie Maclean, pornography

Yesterday I noticed that the Erotic Review, the “posh” and literate British magazine that had already given Beaver Street an outstanding review had also slapped on their “Hot Pick” seal of approval. I guess this is kind of like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval… but different. In any case, this seemed like a good time to reflect upon a few of the encouraging signs that have shown themselves to Beaver Street over the past few months.

1. Beaver Street was a “Hot Type” selection in Vanity Fair UK, which is a pretty classy seal of approval, too.

2. Village Voice columnist Michael Musto called Beaver Street “Entertaining, insightful, and hot.” And he was amused by one of the promo videos, too.

3. David Comfort, writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, called Beaver Street “riveting” and said that I’d invented a new genre, “a confessional for-adults-only romantic comedy with a rare, thoughtful twist.”

4. Jamie Maclean, editor of the Erotic Review, said, “Beaver Street captures the aroma of pornography, bottles it, and gives it so much class you could put it up there with Dior or Chanel.”

Tomorrow we shall return to our regularly scheduled correspondence.

Beaver Street in Vanity Fair

January 12, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, A History of Modern Pornography, Vanity Fair, Hot Type, Headpress

Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, scheduled to be published next month by Headpress, is mentioned in "Hot Type" in the February issue of Vanity Fair UK.