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Flatbush Flashback

A Long Way to the Top

I’m going to kick back for a couple of days and celebrate a long holiday weekend by doing nothing that involves words. But before I vanish into a haze of food, family, and fireworks, I want to thank everybody who’s taken the time to read this blog, and I especially want to thank the people who’ve bought Beaver Street, who’ve written about it, and who’ve created videos and artwork to promote it. You know who you are.

Sometime after Nowhere Man was published, in 2000, I set out to write the best book that had ever been written about pornography—because nobody who’s worked in the industry has ever adequately or entertainingly explained the impact of porn on modern culture, politics, and society. This was my modest ambition and, obviously, it’s up to other people to judge whether or not I’ve succeeded.

Beaver Street has been out in the UK for a couple of months now, and it’s gotten a bit of media attention, thank you very much. But this is just the beginning, a dress rehearsal for the big show—its inevitable publication here, in America. And I, of course, intend to keep slogging away, doing everything I can to see that it reaches its intended audience.

To paraphrase Lucinda Williams: “It’s a long way to the top if you want to write a book.” Read More 
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The Marvel Comics Porno Connection

Stan Lee explains his partnership with Jack Kirby.

The intimate connection between porno mags, like Stag, and Marvel Comics is a subject I discuss at length in Beaver Street, in a chapter called “The Secret History.” A few days ago, The New York Times weighed in with an essay about the ongoing copyright battle between the heirs of Jack Kirby—who, along with Stan Lee, created many of the Marvel Superheroes, like Spider-Man—and the Marvel Corporation, now owned by Disney. Produced as a “works for hire,” these characters are now worth billions of dollars.

The Times article, “Marvel Superheroes and the Fathers of Invention,” by Brent Staples, is an interesting companion piece to Beaver Street, shedding even more light on how the company that gave rise to a both a comic book and pornographic empire has exploited its workers through three generations. Read More 
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The Pornography Explained

It’s not in my nature to complain about any publicity that I get for Beaver Street. As I’ve found out time and again, a vicious review can sell as many books as a good one. What’s important is that people are reading my books, and care enough to write something about them.

But in the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed a new phenomenon: A series of Beaver Street reviews has gone viral, and they’re all mash-ups of blurbs, press material, and previously published reviews, with an occasional dash of original thought thrown in for good measure. And they’re all written in a weird kind of subliterate English that sounds as if it were partially computer-translated, perhaps from Bengali.

In one review, titled “Beaver Street: The Pornography Explained,” the writer says, “The real actors behind the scene had to sweat for long hours to fetch something ever new so that the consumers could satisfy their ‘affluent’ needs.”

That’s the strangest metaphor for masturbation I’ve ever heard.

In a microblog titled “Beaver Street By Robert Rosen: Entertaining and Insightful,” the author refers to “X-male” and “Spider-Male.” (X-Men and Spider-Man, if you haven’t figured it out.)

I pictured a guy in India, who speaks English, but not well enough to express complex thoughts, and who doesn’t quite understand American pop culture, writing these reviews for 25 cents each.

Other people have pointed out that you don’t have to go to India to find writers willing to crank out articles for 25 cents, or less. You can find them here, in America, working on content farms, like Demand Media—21st-century digital sweatshops where, in some cases, writers are required to produce an “article” every 25 minutes over the course of a 70-hour workweek.

The purpose of these articles is to generate page views and advertising revenue by placing “high demand” search terms in their headlines. And they’ve changed the classic rules of publicity. No longer is it all good, even if they do spell your name right. In some cases, publicity is just bizarre. Though I suppose it is good that “Beaver Street” has been identified as a high-demand search term. Read More 
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Bizarre in America

The July issue of Bizarre magazine, with my Beaver Street interview, “The Porn Identity,” by Ben Myers, has come to America, or at least to New York City. I saw it yesterday at Universal News, on West 23rd Street, and also at Universal News on West 14th Street.

An outrageous British “alternative” mag that’s into fetishism, body modification, and the counterculture in general, Bizarre can be shocking even to the jaded. The July issue is a “porno special” with “36 pages of kink”—which includes my interview. Get it while it lasts. Read More 
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The Silence of the Beaver

It’s Sunday. Chill.
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Joy of Index 5: The Letter M

Taking one of our periodic looks into the diversity of Beaver Street subject matter, today we’ll explore one of my favorite letters of the alphabet, M, which in the book’s comprehensive index covers, among other things, the novelist who wrote The Naked and the Dead, my wife, a men’s adventure mag once edited by Bruce Jay Friedman, a French impressionist painter, a porn star who once worked for Senator Orrin Hatch, and a mass murderer who some people think is “a genius gone wrong.”

Mailer, Norman 138
Maiscott, Mary Lyn 205
Male 76
Manet, Édouard 173
Manners, Missy 142, 162
Manson, Charles 30, 118

If you’d like to know more about the letter M (or any other letter of the alphabet), you might consider reading Beaver Street: A History of Modern PornographyRead More 

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An Open Invitation to Martin Amis

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. Read More 
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The Rabbi, the Weiner, and the Porn Industry

I’d like to share with you two paragraphs from an essay published on The Huffington Post about Congressman Anthony Weiner, by Rabbi Irving Kula, titled “The Roasting of Weiner and the Public Good.” The rabbi makes the same point here about the porn industry that I make in Beaver Street. But it’s a point that can’t be made often enough.

“Tweeting sexually suggestive texts, including highly inappropriate images, to seven women was stupid, tasteless, and crude as well as narcissistic and sexually immature. But Weiner is a teeny issue that we have blown up to avoid confronting something deeply wrong in contemporary America. We pounced on Weiner for lying about his tweets, which he did out of a justified sense of embarrassment, all the while that we lie about the sexual eccentricities/pathologies of our own culture, which surely embarrass us. Weiner is the tip of the iceberg of our sexual issues. Estimates are that the porn industry in this country is a fourteen billion dollar industry that reaches into our finest corporations. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company pulls in more than 50 million dollars from adult programming. You will not read in it their annual reports but all the nation’s top cable operators, from Time Warner to Cablevision, distribute sexually explicit material to their subscribers. Same with satellite providers like EchoStar and DirecTV, which may make as much as five hundred million dollars off of the adult entertainment business. Then there are our big hotel chains: Hilton, Marriot, Hyatt, Sheraton and Holiday Inn, which all offer adult films on in-room pay-per-view television systems. And they are purchased by a whopping 50 percent of their guests, accounting for nearly 70 percent of their in-room profits.

“But wait there is more. According to a CBS News 60 Minutes report 89% of porn is created in the U.S. $2.84 billion in revenue was generated from U.S. Internet porn sites in 2006. $89/second is spent on porn. 72% of porn viewers are men and 260 new porn sites go online daily.” Read More 
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House of Secrets

I originally wrote about El Solano in my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. Lennon retreated to this Palm Beach oceanfront estate in February 1980, and it was here that he reconnected with his muse, ending a five-year musical silence. But Lennon was hardly the only person of interest who resided in this house. Larry Flynt spent time there, too, using El Solano for a series of Hustler shoots. Other former residents include Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Addison Mizner, the “controversial” architect who designed the house, and was the subject of Road Show, the Stephen Sondheim musical.

Now I’ve written a new piece about the curious history of El Solano, a “house of secrets,” as I call it, that was just published on a home design website called Life…Dzined. You can read it hereRead More 
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The Beaver Street Manual of Style

In Beaver Street, I discuss putting together a pornographic style sheet that covered “stylistic and syntactical issues not covered by the bible of publishing professionals, The Chicago Manual of Style.” One of the common mistakes I noted was the spelling of “anilingus.” Writers misspelled this word nearly one hundred percent of the time: “analingus.”

The other day Headpress sent me the July issue of Bizarre magazine, with my interview, by Ben Myers. Thumbing through the mag, I came upon a profile of Woody, a “deviant” tattoo artist. As you can see from the photo, Woody is unfamiliar with “The Beaver Street Manual of Style.” Which just goes to show, even “inking icons” need a good proofreader. Read More 
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21 Facts About Porn Star Missy Manners

Videotape box cover, Behind the Green Door: The Sequel.

1. Her real name is Elisa Florez.
2. She was born in Salt Lake City, in 1962.
3. Her mother was a fashion model.
4. She considered herself the “ugly duckling” in the family.
5. She believed her breasts were too large.
6. Her first job, at age 15, was a United States Senate page.
7. She later worked as a United States Senate intern.
8. She was a receptionist for Senator Orrin Hatch, anti-porn Republican of Utah.
9. She worked for the Republican National Committee and for President Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign.
10. She studied political science at Georgetown University.
11. She moved to San Francisco in 1985.
12. Her boyfriend was sex-photographer Dave Patrick.
13. She competed in the Miss Nude America pageant.
14. She competed in an amateur night dance contest at the O’Farrell Theater.
15. She met James and Artie Mitchell.
16. She became Artie Mitchell’s girlfriend.
17. Her life with Artie Mitchell included such activities as tennis, racquetball, riding bikes, and doing coke.
18. She auditioned for the leading role in Behind the Green Door: The Sequel, and was selected over 300 other actresses.
19. She testified before the Meese Commission on Pornography.
20. She made a non-pornographic safe-sex video, Missy’s Guide to Safe Sex.
21. Her father was George H. W. Bush’s Undersecretary of Education. Read More 

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My Father on Beaver Street

Beaver Street is dedicated to my father, Irwin Rosen, (1923-2005). He would have enjoyed the book. I explain why in the Prologue.

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The Business of Smut: Critique #5

John Holmes
Well written, well researched, and consistently interesting, “The Devil and John Holmes,” by freelance journalist Mike Sager, is the best of the five pieces about the smut biz recommended by Slate. I read this 12,500-word article when it ran in the June 15, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone. I enjoyed it then and it still holds up now. According to Sager’s Website, the story served as inspiration for the films Boogie Nights and Wonderland.

Thumbnail Critique
Plot: A detailed account of John Holmes’s involvement in the mass murder of a gang of LA drug dealers.
Mood: Hard-boiled crime story meets the history of pornography.
Highlight: John Holmes discovers he has an enormous penis.
Sample Quote: “In a career that would span twenty years, Holmes made 2,274 hardcore pornographic films, had sex with 14,000 women. At the height of his popularity, he earned $3,000 a day on films and almost as much turning tricks, servicing wealthy men and women on both coasts and in Europe. Since the late Sixties, Holmes had traded on his natural endowment. His penis, when erect, according to legend, measured between eleven and fifteen inches in length.”
Also See: “The Money Shot” by Susan Faludi Read More 
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The Business of Smut: Critique #4

Zak Smith is a serious writer and artist; one of his books is titled Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow. He’s also “alternative” porn star Zak Sabbath, and he has a great haircut, the importance of which should not be underestimated, especially in the writing biz.

“Barely Legal Whores Get Gang F***ed,” a 3,600-word excerpt from Smith’s book We Did Porn (2009), is an archly knowing, anti-erotic critique of Tyra Banks and an episode of her TV show, featuring porn star Sasha Grey (whom Smith calls Tasha Rey), a teenage prostitute, and a “fat whore.” Why Slate chose this as a great piece of writing about the smut biz isn’t clear. It’s only tangentially about the smut biz.

Thumbnail Critique
Thesis: Tyra Banks is a hypocrite.
Format: Highly opinionated shot-by-shot description of one episode of The Tyra Banks Show.
Mood: Ironic
Sample Quote: “Tasha talks about the ways she likes to have sex. She is still in the horrible driving shot, where she is looking not at the cameraman, who must be sitting in the well of the passenger seat, but straight out the windshield. It makes her look creepily detached from the very many deviant sex acts and perversions she’s describing.”
Also See: The Tyra Banks Show Read More 
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The Business of Smut: Critique #3

Next up in my critique of great “smut” writing recommended by Slate is a 10,000-word excerpt of a self-published book, They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They? (2009), by freelance journalist Susannah Breslin, who also blogs about being downsized for Forbes magazine.

A collection of interviews and reportage conducted on the sets of various X-rated videos, the piece is a classic example of the Andrea Dworkin School of Anti-Porn Writing. And it’s hard to say who might consider it “great” other than Senator Orrin Hatch, who will undoubtedly use Breslin’s book as evidence in his quest to persuade the Justice Department to launch a vigorous investigation of the porn industry.

I’ve no doubt that Breslin did an enormous amount of research and reporting. But to present her findings as “typical” strikes me as a gross distortion. The essential problem with the piece, I think, is that the author lacks any genuine sympathy for the people she’s writing about. Clearly she finds them interesting, but she never lets the reader forget that she’s not one of them, that she’s above it all, that pornographers are some other species, not quite human.

Yet, Breslin also displays far less ignorance than many others writers I’ve read who’ve done similar stories. And she explores a number of issues that I cover in Beaver Street, such as the predilection of conservative administrations, like Bush II, to declare war on porn, often with embarrassing results.

Thumbnail Critique
Thesis: Porn is bad. Porn is stupid. Porn is ugly. Porn is violent. Blame it on the recession and free Internet porn.
Mood: Grim and humorless.
Highlight: Breslin interviews Jim Powers and porn star Ryan Hunter as he directs her in Fuck Machine 5, a video in which the “costar” is an “animatronic phallus” rather than a human male.
Sample Quote: [A man interviews a porn star on camera] “So, what do you do for a living?”
“I work in porn.”
“Of course.”
“Absolute whore, right?”
“What kind of whore?”
“Dirty whore.”
“Piece of shit whore?”
“Piece of shit whore.”
Also See: “A Rough Trade” by Martin Amis Read More 
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The Business of Smut: Critique #2

Allow me to begin my critique of “Hard Core,” by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, which ran in the January 2011 issue of The Atlantic, by saying that the author, judging by the photo on her website, is an exotically attractive brunette. Though looks are, of course, irrelevant to a writer’s ability, when a writer, male or female, writes about their sex life, one can only wonder: What does he or she look like? Well, Ms. Vargas-Cooper is no Andrea Dworkin. She is an LA-based freelance writer and former union organizer. And her 4,000-word essay, which Slate included on their list of great “smut” writing, can best be described as a quasi-academic, post-feminist, semi-personal thought piece that quotes from the likes of Martin Amis, Susan Sontag, and Pauline Kael.

Thumbnail Critique
Thesis: The prevalence and instant availability of Internet porn has transformed sexuality.
Highlight: A one-night stand with a “polite,” “educated” man who can only get aroused if he has anal sex with the author.
Sample Quote: “You could be poking around for some no-frills Web clips of amateur couples doing it missionary style, but easily and rapidly you slide into footage of two women simultaneously working their crotches on opposing ends of a double-sided dildo, and then all of a sudden you’re at a teenage-fisting Web site.”
Also see: Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, by Gail Dines Read More 
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The Business of Smut: Critique #1

As a public service, I’ve taken it upon myself to read the “five great reads about the business of smut” recommended by Slate, and began with “Scenes from My Life in Porn,” a 10,000-word opus, by Evan Wright, that ran in the April 6, 2000 edition of LA Weekly. I started with Wright because his experiences seemed similar to my own in certain ways, and he did transform his life after his three-year stint in porn, publishing books and getting high-profile magazine assignments.

Thumbnail Critique
Plot: Total loser lands job at Larry Flynt Publications (LFP), writing “girl copy” and reviewing porn videos. He meets porn stars and directors.
Format: Anecdotal
Mood: Depressed and depressing
Highlight: Watching a gang bang video with its naked, HIV-positive star, Brooke Ashley.
Sample Quote: “Fortunately, LFP provided a safe, nurturing environment for disturbed individuals exorcising their personal demons through pornography writing.”
Sample of Wright’s Girl Copy: Dee is “now free of the psychiatrist’s drugs that once made her a complete zombie with no will of her own, nor any control over what she did with her body.”
Also See: Prisoner of X by Allan MacDonell Read More 
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Weiner 2: The Making of a Sleazeball, 2011

In this video, from Real Time, Bill Maher and Glee star Jane Lynch perform a dramatic reading of Congressman Anthony Weiner’s Facebook exchanges with Lisa Weiss, a Las Vegas blackjack dealer. The most shocking thing about Weiner’s sexting is the sheer banality of it, typifying the worst kind of hackneyed porn writing you’d find in the sleaziest adult magazines. If a writer had submitted this “dialogue” to me when I was an editor, I’d have rejected it for being unoriginal and clichéd.

I think the least we can expect from our elected representatives, especially a liberal Jew from New York who was once Jon Stewart’s roommate, is witty repartee. Read More 
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As you know by now…

…Sunday is The Beaver’s day of rest.
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Five Great Reads About the Business of Smut

At least that’s what they’re calling it on Slate, in a piece that somehow overlooks my own contribution to the genre, Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography. Of course, I don’t take such slights personally. I just added a comment, pointing out their oversight. (I urge you to do the same, assuming you regard Beaver Street as a great read.)

For the record, the five reads they selected are: The Devil and John Holmes, by Mike Sager, from Rolling Stone; They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?, by Susannah Breslin (self published, 2009); Scenes from My Life in Porn, by Evan Wright, from LA Weekly; Barely Legal Whores Get Gang F***ed, by Zac Smith (Rumpus, 2009); and Hard Core, by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, from Atlantic. Read More 
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The Teabagging of Orrin Hatch

All has been quiet on the Orrin Hatch porn-investigation front for the past few weeks. Perhaps the embattled Utah Senator, who thinks “pornography is a cancer on our society,” can blame Congressman Anthony Weiner for providing more pornographic distraction than any concerned citizen can handle.

The other day, however, The Daily Beast ran a piece that explains Hatch’s strategy, porn-wise. It seems the senator is a target of the Tea Party—they think he isn’t conservative enough, and want to replace him with somebody even more right wing. Clearly, Hatch’s call for the Justice Department to launch a vigorous porn investigation is his attempt to show the Tea Party that he can be as idiotic as any politician.

But is the Tea Party even aware of Hatch’s relationship with Elisa Florez, who became the porn star Missy Manners after working for Hatch? Not that I’d ever want to do anything to help the Tea Party, but really, Teabaggers, if you want to run a politician out of Utah, all you’ve got to do is point out his links to the porn industry. It’ll work every time. Read More 
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As the author of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, and the subject of an experiment in participatory journalism called “The $5 Blowjob” (which I describe in the book), I feel I should offer a few words of advice to Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.

Congressman, if you have an uncontrollable impulse to show pictures of your erect penis to strangers on the Internet, find another line of work. May I suggest pornography? You won’t even have to change your name. Read More 
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I Am Legend? Me?

As strange as it seems to be wearing the mantel of “Gonzo Filth Legend” (GFL) that Bizarre magazine has bestowed upon me, the appellation is, perhaps, an apt description of my id around the time I was 20, and editing Observation Post, an “alternative” student newspaper at the City College of New York. (I describe this experience in some detail in Beaver Street.) Back in those days, though I didn’t admit it to myself (at least in those words), I dare say I aspired to be a GFL. Now, 38 years later, according to Bizarre, I’ve done it.

The reaction of my homeboys has been predictable.

“Anything less than a ‘Gonzo Filth Legend’ would have been an insult!” writes Paul Slimak, whom I call “Henry Dorfman” in the book. (Paul now plays unreconstructed Nazi Erich von Pauli in the Beaver Street promotional videos.)

“Seems you should print up some cards with that as your title,” writes a Facebook friend I know from junior high school, who prefers to remain anonymous.

“I hope I’m able to introduce you in those terms to some of my friends,” writes an editor who works with my wife, and whose name, as a matter of prudence, I shall not mention.

Former editor of For Adults Only, Izzy Singer, however, has pointed out an inaccuracy in the article. “As I recall,” he writes, “I commissioned ‘The $5 Blowjob,’ not you.”

Yes, Izzy, you are correct. And that’s exactly what it says in Beaver Street. Read More 
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The Porn Identity

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. Read More 
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Bizarre, Indeed

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.) Read More 
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The Beaver…

…a “Gonzo Filth Legend,” has earned his day of rest.
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Joy of Index IV: The Letter K

A Prague Legend. Photo by IneedCoffee / CoffeeHero.
In yet another look into the diversity of subject matter found in Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, we explore the letter K, which covers, among other things, a grotesquely imaginative writer in Prague, a classic book of sex positions, two porno superstars, a former Hustler editor, and a racist organization known for cross burning.

Kafka, Franz 164
Kama Sutra 126
Kane, Sharon 63, 64

Krassner, Paul 29
Ku Klux Klan 144
Kupps, Kimberly 175 Read More 
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Gonzo Filth Legend

That’s what they’re calling me in the coming attractions for the July issue of Bizarre, a popular British “lad” magazine that covers such subjects as tattooing, piercing, fetishism, and according to Wikipedia, features “interviews with famous counterculture figures” and showcases “cult directors, musicians, and authors.”

This is not the appellation I might have chosen for myself (and certainly not one that would please my mother), but I am a practitioner of “gonzo” journalism, I have on occasion written “filth,” and it’s always nice to be called a “legend.” So, I’ll take it.

The issue, which goes on sale “in all good shops” in the UK on June 7, is dedicated to pornography—“The sexiest skin stars, the grubbiest grandmas and the filthiest flicks!” as Bizarre puts it in the coming attractions.

Ben Myers, the critically acclaimed author of Richard, a novel about Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers, interviewed me about Beaver Street. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that he asked me some of the most outrageous questions any journalist ever has. And I answered them gleefully.

In New York, you can find Bizarre at Universal News and most shops that carry foreign periodicals. Ask for it by name. And don’t let them sell you a copy of Harper’s Bazaar. Read More 
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My Personal Nazi


Let’s take a day off from Beaver Street to talk about conspiracy theories. I bring it up now because in the course of my correspondence with “Alan” (click here and here), I mentioned that after publishing Nowhere Man, a conspiracy theorist who calls himself “Salvador Astucia” began posting articles suggesting that I’m the CIA spymaster who gave the order to whack John Lennon. (Or something like that. It’s hard to make sense of his insanity.) I also sent Alan a link to a satirical piece about the top three Lennon-murder conspiracy theories, which includes the spymaster theory. Alan’s astonished and expletive-filled reaction prompted me to try to explain what it’s like to have a conspiracy “nut” accuse you of murder, which, oddly enough, has its upside.


This has been going on for years, and at first it was disturbing, especially when other writers picked up on it and reprinted his “theories.” You’d think that people who call themselves journalists would make an effort to get in contact with someone before they implicate him in a high-profile murder. But the only conspiracy theorist who’s asked to interview me is Astucia (means “clever” or “cunning” in Spanish), and that is the only interview I’ve ever refused to do. I don’t know if he really believes what he’s writing, or he knows it’s bullshit and he just says it to be provocative. But he’s also a Holocaust denier and tends to describe me as a “Jewish writer.” That’s why I call him My Personal Nazi. (Everybody should have one.) What I finally realized is that when Astucia gets active, and starts splattering stuff all over the Internet—it goes in cycles—it sells books. So, I don't totally hate him. And any time I find myself on a top-three list with Stephen King and J. D. Salinger, I only have My Personal Nazi to thank.

Bob Read More 

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Fear and Self-Loathing at Swank Publications 2

This is my response to the e-mail I posted yesterday.

Hey Alan, thanks for the feedback. Appreciate your perspective and the energy you put into writing it. Thank god you weren’t bored with Beaver Street. As a rule, I don’t argue with critics. Tried it too many times with Nowhere Man and found you can’t change people's minds. So, I stand by what I wrote. The book speaks for itself. I didn’t use Arnold Shapiro’s real name cause he’s not dead—dead on the inside doesn’t count—and he’s not a public figure or even a limited-purpose public figure. (I explained it in the author’s note.) This is the most negativity I’ve received from somebody who’s capable of genuine critical thought. But that’s encouraging, as I’m sure you know what Oscar Wilde said about when the critics disagree. (See the preface to Dorian Gray if you don’t.) I am going to share your critique with a few other Swank alumni cause I’m sure they’ll find it as interesting as I do.

Take care.

Bob Read More 
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