The Sporadic Beaver

Gloria Leonard: 1940-2014

February 4, 2014

Tags: Gloria Leonard, Carl Ruderman, High Society, phone sex, Hustler, Larry Flynt, Beaver Street

Gloria Leonard
The news is all over Twitter and Facebook, but has yet to penetrate the mainstream media: Gloria Leonard, a popular adult film actress of the 1970s, and the former figurehead publisher of High Society magazine, passed away last night, in Hawaii, after suffering a massive stroke. She was 73.

Leonard, whom I'd met on numerous occasions when I worked at High Society in the 1980s, was a skillful public relations professional who was instrumental in selling "free phone sex"--the first fusion of erotica and computers--to America. As I say in Beaver Street, she presented High Society to the media as "visionary corporation" run by "a media-savvy porn star/publisher who was now making millions of dollars with phone sex, an explosive new business that hadn't existed two months earlier." And the media bought into it with a vengeance.

Leonard made tens of millions of dollars for the real publisher, Carl Ruderman, who, terrified of being publicly identified as a pornographer, “hid behind her skirt,” as Hustler publisher Larry Flynt put it.

Leonard, however, was no fan of Beaver Street, and vehemently objected to her portrayal in the book as a “figurehead” publisher. She threatened to sue me unless I told the story the way she wanted it told. It was a forceful PR gambit that, unfortunately for Leonard, failed. I didn’t change a word and she didn’t sue. Still, it saddened me to find myself in an adversarial relationship with somebody I’d once admired.

Leonard has many fans and admirers in the adult entertainment business, and I’ve no doubt that they’re feeling her loss deeply. To them, and to her family, I extend my condolences.

30 Years Ago Today

April 11, 2013

Tags: Beaver Street, High Society, phone sex, pornography

Monday, April 11, 1983, 9:30 a.m.: I showed up for work in a suit, unaware that I was stepping into ground zero of a new age of pornographic wealth and joining a revolution that was changing the face of commercial erotica--as well as society itself. I did not grasp the profound, and far-reaching, implications of phone sex. All I knew was that I'd feigned enthusiasm during the interview and now I had a job, which I was determined to keep because my economic survival depended upon it. Having studied an issue of High Society over the weekend, I understood that the job was going to require a strong stomach, not to mention a few minor adjustments in my moral code. But I thought it was a small price to pay for a steady paycheck.

This is the first paragraph of Beaver Street's "High Society" chapter. The most shocking thing about it is the date. Thirty years have passed since I walked through the door of that magazine to begin my first permanent, full-time job, and embark on a career in pornography that would continue into 1999. Also, 30 years have passed since the dawn of the Age of Modern Pornography--"free phone sex" being the first fusion of erotica and computers.

These two anniversaries bring to mind the time I was 14 years old, and first heard that lyric on Sgt. Pepper. “Twenty years ago” sounded like an eternity in 1967. In 2013, 30 years feels as if it could have been, oh, I don’t know, 2010, maybe.

I really don’t have much more to say about this anniversary or High Society magazine. In fact, everything I have to say about High Society, I already said in Beaver Street. So, I’m going to celebrate by doing what I always do—working on another book. If you feel the need to celebrate, the best way to do that would be to read one of my books and join me in psychic communion. I’ll feel your energy. I always do.

The Indictment of Carl Ruderman

September 27, 2011

Tags: Carl Ruderman, High Society, Gloria Leonard, phone sex, pornography, Beaver Street

Much of the time I spent writing Beaver Street was devoted to research. It took me about a year to unearth all the information I needed for the Traci Lords chapter alone. Though time consuming, the problem wasn't finding material. Between Lords and the Meese Commission, there was too much material, and the challenge was to sift through it all, figure out what was important, and then integrate it into my narrative.

Carl Ruderman, the anonymous publisher of High Society magazine, posed an entirely different problem. The “Invisible Man of Smut,” as Al Goldstein called him, hid behind figurehead publisher Gloria Leonard and went to great lengths to keep his name out of the media, at least in connection with anything having to do with porn. In fact, as I said in Beaver Street, “an internet or library search for any connection between pornography and Carl Ruderman produces little that’s concrete or substantiated.”

Well, that’s changed since the book was published. In the past year, much that connects Carl Ruderman to pornography has been popping up on the internet. One example that I wrote about a few months ago was an article in the New York Observer that bore the headline, “Porn’s ‘Invisible Man’ Prices His Condos at $13.5 M.”

Yesterday, I found something even juicer: the Justice Department’s 1987 appeal of the dismissal of an indictment against Ruderman for “various federal obscenity crimes in connection with the operation of a ‘dial it’ telephone service whereby persons could call a New York City telephone number and listen to a sexually suggestive, pre-recorded message.”

You can read the entire document by clicking here.

I’ve posted this link for my own reference and as a service to any future researchers who want to cast more light on a man who revolutionized the porn industry but has, for the most part, managed to escape being credited (or indicted) for what he did.

The Lifestyle of a Rich Pornographer

July 19, 2011

Tags: Beaver Street, Carl Ruderman, High Society, phone sex, Gloria Leonard, Larry Flynt, Hustler, Al Goldstein, real estate, pornography, Lou Perretta, The New York Observer

In Beaver Street, I write at length about Carl Ruderman, the publisher of High Society magazine, who, in 1983, launched the age of modern pornography by giving the world “free phone sex,” the first fusion of erotica and computers.

Ruderman was schizophrenic in the sense that he didn’t permit the word “pornography” to be used in the office—“adult entertainment” was the acceptable term—and he wanted to be both anonymous and as famous as Hugh Hefner. “I want High Society to be a household name,” he’d often say at staff meetings. Ruderman’s name didn’t appear in the High Society masthead—he hid behind figurehead publisher Gloria Leonard, the porn star.

With the exception of Larry Flynt crowning Ruderman Hustler’s “Asshole of the Month” in November 1983, very little about him ever appeared in the press. Al Goldstein called Ruderman the “Invisible Man” of porn.

However, I recently noticed that The New York Observer ran a piece about Ruderman in the real estate section of their September 8, 2009 issue. It said he was selling his “full-floor, 5,550-square-foot, 13-room, eight-bedroom” condo at the Bristol Plaza on East 65th Street in Manhattan for $13.25 million. The story quotes an architect, Frank Visconti, who’d done work for one of Ruderman’s neighbors, as saying that the former porn publisher is “a very nice man.” Referring to the bust of Ruderman, labeled “The Founder,” that once graced the High Society reception area (High Society is now owned by Lou Perretta), Visconti says, “You don’t see statues with glasses.”

Most surprising is the photograph of Ruderman that appears with the article. The ex-pornographer, smiling and tanned, now dyes his silver hair black. Photographs of Ruderman are so rare that Larry Flynt offered $500 for one to run in Hustler. But nobody who had a photo was willing to accept his offer.