The Sporadic Beaver

Journey Through the Past

June 13, 2017

Tags: Robert Attanasio, Erotic Review, Observation Post, City College of New York, 1970s, art

All three parts of "The Provocateur," my series on artist and filmmaker Robert Attanasio, are now posted on Erotic Review.

In the 1970s, I worked with Attanasio on Observation Post, the radical student newspaper at the City College of New York. We published a lot of controversial material, much of it having to do with pornography and religion. Working on OP changed the course of our lives, but we drifted apart after graduation and eventually lost touch. I hadn’t heard from Attanasio in 30 years. Then, in February 2015, he contacted me and we reunited. By November he was dead—from cancer.

“The Provocateur,” adapted from a book I’m working on about the moment in the 1970s when the student left gave way to punk, is a retrospective of my relationship with Attanasio, and a journey through his art and film.

Click here to read Part I, Part II, and now Part III.

Attanasio appears at the beginning of this episode of The Madness of Art.

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Quote of the Day

April 5, 2014

Tags: Beaver Street, pornography, art

"If Surrealism leans towards the pornographic, then outright pornographers find kindred subversives in the Surrealists--as with long-time pornographer Robert Rosen who claimed to embrace the idea 'that pornography and transgressive art could be one and the same.'" --from an untitled paper on pornography and surrealism, submitted to the English and Film department at the University of Exeter, U.K., and posted anonymously online

Who Is Ruby Leggs?

May 1, 2013

Tags: Sonja Wagner, art, Ruby Leggs, Beaver Street, Chip Goodman, New York

Readers of Beaver Street should be familiar with Sonja Wagner, whom I described in the book as my "dyslexic, spliff-smoking freelance art director," and whom I gave some of the best lines, such as the one on pages 123-124, when she asks our esteemed publisher, Chip Goodman, "Is something wrong, Chip, dear? Didn't Bobby and I put enough incest into your filthy little book?"

If you haven't read Beaver Street, then you can read about some of Wagner's erotic artwork on this blog.

Last night, over a couple of shots of vodka in her studio, Wagner got into talking about Ruby Leggs, a character she created more than 30 years ago, and in that time has produced dozens of Ruby paintings, mostly documenting her curious New York City life. Now Wagner has decided that she wants to publish the complete Ruby Leggs story in a book.

So she asked me to answer the following question: Who is Ruby Leggs?

I’ll give it a shot.

At her most basic, Ruby is three pairs: a pair of full, scarlet lips mounted on a pair of long, shapely legs, who’s always wearing a pair of high heels. Though lacking a head, arms, and a torso, she still manages to radiate erotic heat. This, then, makes Ruby a fetishist’s delight, a woman reduced to two body parts and a fashion accessory. In the above painting, Ruby is arousing a subway car full of men who ogle her through the peepholes they’ve cut in their newspapers. But the title of the painting, “No One Ever Looks at Me Anymore,” shows that Ruby is also a naïf on the loose in the big city, a creature unaware of her erotic power.

And New York is full of women like that, which makes Ruby Leggs somehow real, a recognizable character, somebody you’d like to meet, sit down with at a cafe, and over a couple of drinks ask her about herself. Because you know, behind those perfect red lips and white teeth, Ruby Leggs has a tongue, and she can do a lot of things with it, including tell you herself who she is, if she’s so inclined.

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.

Thy Daily Sonja

July 26, 2011

Tags: Sonja Wagner, art, smut, Beaver Street, Falcon Foto

The past few days I’ve been posting the erotic paintings of Sonja Wagner, a character in Beaver Street and my art director when I was editing porn mags. I’ve used these images to explore the question: What is art and what is smut? The three previous paintings, “Reclining Girl,” “Single Girl in Motion,” and “Standing Girl,” are all, clearly, art, and for that reason I didn’t hesitate to post, uncensored, the entire image.

Today’s image is a detail from “Tropical Girl/Boy,” a startling 90" x 60" oil on canvas, based on a pictorial shot by Falcon Foto. Yes, this, too, is art. But I’m not posting the entire painting because it’s far filthier than any of her other erotic paintings—the “girl” is holding in her hand the semi-erect penis of the “boy.” Even if Sonja were as famous as Michelangelo and dead for 500 years, The New York Times wouldn’t post the entire image, and those are the unassailable standards we go by at The Daily Beaver, at least when it comes to art.

However, if you’re over 18 and you want to see “Tropical Girl/Boy” in all its naked glory, please click here.

Why? Because the art of Sonja Wagner is fun to look at. Do you need a better reason?

Reclining Girl

July 25, 2011

Tags: Sonja Wagner, art, smut, D-Cup, Beaver Street, John Lee-Graham, Danni Ashe

Between the massacre in Norway, the death of Amy Winehouse, the domestic terrorists posing as Republican Congressmen who are threatening to torpedo the US economy, and the 100-degree temperatures that baked New York City, all of which happened over one dreadful weekend, there’s a lot to recover from today. And one way to recover is to contemplate a work of erotic art.

To continue the ever-provocative Art vs. Smut debate, I’ll share another painting by Sonja Wagner, who was my art director on D-Cup and numerous other smut rags for 15 years.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog then you know that Wagner’s a character in Beaver Street, and the only “private citizen” who allowed me to use her real name in the book. And if you’ve read Beaver Street, then you know she has some of the best lines. (See pages 123-124, for example.)

The woman in “Reclining Girl”—based on a layout of a John Lee-Graham photo set that Wagner designed for D-Cup—is Danni Ashe. Ashe, whose career I discuss in detail in Beaver Street, was the first model to discover that it was possible to have a virtual career in cyberspace. She launched her website, “Danni’s Hard Drive,” in 1995. It made her a “dot-cum” millionaire and took her from the cover of D-Cup to the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

But is it art? Ms. Wagner, would you care to respond?

“One of the pornographer's stock images—the ‘single girl’—returns in this work, but turned to my own ends,” says Wagner. “Instead of a quick, crude, easily replicable photograph intended for physical release, I offer an intensively detailed painting that asks the viewer to look again and again: to take pleasure in line, design and color.”

I hope “Reclining Girl” brings you a moment of pleasure in these traumatic times.