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Flatbush Flashback

The Literature of Porn

The following five-star review of Beaver Street, posted on Amazon a few days ago, was written by Neil A. Chesanow who, from 1972-1996, wrote about sex for the major women’s magazines, including, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Glamour, and Mademoiselle.

A Real Page Turner


Beaver Street is splendid: elegantly written; well researched; full of knowledge that only the author, who worked in porn, could have had; and funny. It’s not only a valuable addition to the literature on pornography (by “literature” I by no means mean to suggest quality; it’s by and large pretty dismal), but a model for how that literature could be written cum literature (no pun intended).

It’s fortunate that the author’s actual perspective just happens to be the perfect perspective to have for a book like this: ironic, bemused, amused, intrigued, titillated, but ultimately dispirited and disgusted. In short: everyman. And it works beautifully. It lets him use dirty words and say dirty things, and admit to doing some of those things, without ever causing us to lose sympathy with him as readers. That and his gentle, graceful writing style, plus the richness of factual detail and depth of insight that he offers, make for a wonderful book: a real page turner. Read More 

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Summer Hours

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That Was the Month that Was


The first video to surface from Bloomsday on Beaver Street: 31 seconds of the author greeting the crowd.

Before I switch to summer hours and cut back on my daily posting frenzy so I can concentrate more on the book I’m working on, Bobby in Naziland, and rethink exactly how I’m going to reboot my Beaver Street promotional campaign after the Amazon book-banning fiasco, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on the past month, which was exhausting, traumatic, and rewarding.

Yes, June did, indeed, mark the end of an absurd three-month battle with Amazon to make the paperback edition of Beaver Street available. The company added a “buy box” on June 5, and three weeks later they finally had the book in stock. By the end of the month, Beaver Street appeared to be selling at least a little. But there’s no getting around the fact that three months of lost Amazon sales was damaging. The question I now face is how to repair the damage, and I’m certainly open to suggestions.

The highpoint of the month, of course, was Bloomsday on Beaver Street, the New York launch event, on June 16, at the Killarney Rose. This celebration of banned books and literature that had been branded pornographic made for a great party, with surrealistic touches and an electric atmosphere. You can read about it here, here, here, here, and here.

For the time being, the above video is the only video I have from the event. It’s the first 30 seconds of my reading, as I introduce myself to the crowd, and then stop to adjust the microphone. What I was about to say before the video cut off is, “Beaver Street is what happens when a writer can’t decide it he wants to be a humorist, an investigative journalist, a novelist, or a memoirist.”

I will post more videos as they become available. Read More 
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My Father’s Special Rack

How ironic is it that Beaver Street opens on a riff about banned books and then was, itself, “banned” for a period of time by a monolithic corporation for reasons both mysterious and nonsensical? Oh, I’d say it’s ironic in that heavy-handed sort of way that if I were to tell such a story in a work of fiction, it would be considered unbelievable and too heavy-handed.

But that is, indeed, the case. In the first paragraph of Beaver Street, I talk about some of the books my father displayed on a “special rack” in the back of his Brooklyn candy store in the early 1960s. “They included,” I write, “My Secret Life, by Anonymous; My Life and Loves, by Frank Harris; The Autobiography of a Flea, also by the ever prolific Anonymous; Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller; and Last Exit to Brooklyn, by Hubert Selby.” Then, on page two, I say, “Though I was far too young to fully grasp what these books were about or to realize that many of them had made it to the rack only after having survived a protracted censorship battle, the pleasure they gave my father and his friends was unmistakable. It was clear to me even in 1961 that these books mattered—a lot—and that if I were going to write books, which I thought even then I’d like to do, then these were the kinds of books I wanted to someday write.”

It so happens that every one of the above titles was banned, at one time or another, in either the U.S. or the U.K. (As far as I remember, my father did not carry two of the most famous banned titles: Ulysses, by James Joyce—which I’ve been going on about here for weeks—and Lady Chatterly’s Lover, by D. H. Lawrence. These books were simply not the sort of literature that guys who hung around Brooklyn candy stores were interested in reading. Ulysses is impenetrable to the casual reader and Lady Chatterly’s Lover is closer to a romance novel than a work of pornography.)

Overlooking my despair at the sales I lost while the paperback edition of Beaver Street remained unavailable to the majority of the American reading public, I can now take some pride in the fact that I’ve achieved my childhood ambition—I’ve written a book that, had it been published in the early 1960s, would have earned a well-deserved slot in my father’s special rack.

And with those hard-won credentials, I will begin, come July, the Beaver Street reboot, and somehow find a way to promote a book that, for reasons known only to them, a corporation tried to kill. Read More 
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A Holiday that Celebrates a Handjob

The New York launch event for my book Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, which I called Bloomsday on Beaver Street, and which was held on June 16 at the Killarney Rose, on Beaver Street, was a celebration of numerous things. We celebrated banned books, like Ulysses, by James Joyce, and Beaver Street, that some people had branded “smut” and “filth” and that others, correctly, had recognized as literature. And we celebrated the 40th anniversaries of Deep Throat, the movie, and Watergate, the political scandal, both of which are connected to Beaver Street.

June 16, of course, is the day that Ulysses takes place—in Dublin, in 1904. It documents approximately 24 hours in the life of the book’s protagonist, Leopold Bloom, which is why the celebration is called Bloomsday. Traditionally, people read from Ulysses, as MC Supreme Byron Nilsson did, eloquently reciting the passage that got Ulysses banned in America for 13 years—Joyce’s description of Bloom masturbating.

There was, however, one thing that should have been explained but was not explained at Bloomsday on Beaver Street: Why, exactly, did Joyce set Ulysses on June 16, 1904?

The answer to that question can be found in the July 2 issue of The New Yorker, in an essay about Joyce titled “Silence, Exile, Punning,” by Louis Menand.

That was the day that Joyce had his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle. Menand explains what happened on that date: “They walked to Ringsend, on the south bank of the Liffey, where… she put her hand inside his trousers and masturbated him.”

Quoting from a letter Joyce sent to Barnacle several years later, Menand provides more detail: “It was not I who first touched you long ago down at Ringsend. It was you who slid your hand down down inside my trousers… and frigged me slowly until I came off through your fingers, all the time bending over me and gazing at me out of your quiet saintlike eyes.” Joyce later notes, in another letter, that on that night Barnacle “made me a man.”

So, Bloomsday, then is a literary holiday that celebrates a handjob. And Bloomsday on Beaver Street was such a success, I’m considering making it an annual event. You can rest assured that next year, the MC Supreme will take pains to explain the sticky origins of the celebration.

Ladies and gentlemen, mark your calendars. Read More 
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Amazon Lifts Beaver Street “Ban”

As of this morning, Amazon has in stock multiple copies of my investigative memoir, Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography. And there are, says the Amazon web page, more copies “on the way.” I think it’s safe to say that a ridiculous battle that began more than three months ago to make the paperback edition of Beaver Street available directly through Amazon, like any other book, is finally over.

Let me state again that, according to Amazon, Beaver Street was never a banned book, and that Amazon would never ban a book due to explicit sexual and volatile political content. The reason for its unavailability, an Amazon spokesman said, was a combination of bureaucratic snafus and computer glitches.

Whatever the reason for Beaver Street’s unavailability or “passive-aggressive banning” (as some in the media were calling it), I have expended an enormous amount of time and energy to achieve what should have been routine. But that’s the nature of the book business. Nothing is easy; nothing is routine; any kind of success is the exception to the rule. For every dollar I’ve earned writing books, it often feels as if I’ve expended a hundred dollars of time and energy. Going back to 1977, when I first sat down to write a book, I doubt I’ve earned minimum wage by the standards of a Third-World country.

No writer in his right mind would want to go to war with Amazon, and this battle to make Beaver Street available is, indeed, the last thing I wanted. But Amazon controls 75 percent of the online trade-paperback market, and if you want to reach potential readers, it’s virtually impossible to do it without them. So, I had no choice. Unlike, say, James Patterson and his band of elves, I don’t pop out a book every month. It took me seven years to write Beaver Street and two more years to find a publisher. My career was on the line, and I had nothing to lose. I was either going to find a way to get Amazon to sell the book. Or I was going to promote Beaver Street as the book Amazon banned.

Of course, nothing will make up for the sales I lost when Beaver Street was unavailable on Amazon and I was on the road and on the radio promoting it. All I can do is reboot, so to speak, and start promoting anew. I’ll take a day to celebrate the lifting of the “ban.” And I’ll hope that like my previous book, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, Beaver Street will endure in the marketplace, and people will still be talking about it ten years from now. Read More 
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Will It Ever End?

Twelve years ago, when my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, was published, Amazon was a company I loved. After having had the book rejected by every publisher in creation for 18 years, it was thrilling to watch Nowhere Man shoot up the sales rankings to heights that I’d never imagined possible. Not only was Amazon instrumental in turning the book into a bestseller in multiple countries and multiple languages, but anytime there was a problem with the book’s page, I was able to call my Amazon contact and she’d fix it immediately while I was holding on the phone. It all seemed miraculous.

I’m not going to go into any detail here about what’s going on with Amazon now. (If you’re interested, there’s an excellent article in the June 25 issue of The New Yorker that spells it all out; you can read the abstract here.) But if you’ve been following this blog, then you know that I’ve been having my problems with Amazon. It took three months before they gave the paperback edition of Beaver Street a buy box, meaning that it was impossible to order the book directly through Amazon. Though the company attributed the absence of a buy box to a variety of ongoing bureaucratic and computer problems, and told me that they’d never ban a book due to its content, most journalists and readers I spoke to about the book’s unavailability perceived the matter as a case of Amazon banning Beaver Street because of its explicit sexual and volatile political content.

It was only after I told Amazon’s PR department that the New York launch event, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, was turning into a public protest against the banning of Beaver Street that a buy box appeared on the Beaver Street page. But that wasn’t the end of it—the book still remained unavailable close to 100% of the time. Amazon would order one copy of Beaver Street. It would sell within a couple of hours. And it would again be out of stock for the next 9-11 days. This was the situation as Bloomsday on Beaver Street rolled around.

The Bloomsday MC Supreme, Byron Nilsson, is, among many things, a professional journalist, and he intimated on his blog, on March 28, the day the book was published, that there appeared to be something unusual happening with Beaver Street on Amazon. At the Bloomsday event, which was, indeed, a celebration of literature that some had branded as “smut” and “filth” (like James Joyce’s Ulysses and Beaver Street), Nilsson spoke eloquently about my Amazon problem, and described what was happening as “passive-aggressive book banning.”

So, where does this issue stand now, ten days after the event? Yesterday, Amazon appeared to have more than one copy of Beaver Street in stock. As of this morning, there’s one left. Will it ever end? Read More 
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The X-Rated Adventures of Bornhard Goetz

The author and Joyce Snyder in soft focus at the Killarney Rose. Photo © Bette Yee.
I’ve written frequently on this blog about Joyce Snyder, a former coworker at Swank Publications and a character in Beaver Street whom I describe as a “mutant pornographic genius.” I call her “Pam Katz” in the book for a variety of reasons, but since she filed an age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit against our former boss, porn king Louis Perretta, I now use her real name.

Snyder, as I explained in an earlier posting, is a close friend of the so-called “Subway Vigilante,” Bernhard Goetz, who was one of the performers at the Bloomsday on Beaver Street book launch party at the Killarney Rose on June 16.

Those of you who were there know that Goetz didn’t exactly perform as advertised. He was supposed to read a passage from Beaver Street about Snyder-Katz, but instead delivered an incoherent monologue about the book as Snyder called out to him from the audience, “Just read the book, Bernie!”

In describing Snyder’s relationship with Goetz, I mentioned that in an outrageous display of John Waters-style tastelessness, at which Snyder excels, she paid tribute to Goetz in one of her classic porn films, Raw Talent III. The Goetz character, played by Jerry Butler, masturbates on four black women who accost him on a subway train.

What I neglected to say is that this scene is a parody film within the film, titled The X-Rated Adventures of Bornhard Goetz, and was nominated for Best Sex Scene at the Adult Video News Awards in 1989.

Snyder mentioned that she feels some responsibility for Goetz’s behavior at the Killarney Rose. “A book party is like a lady’s wedding,” she wrote to me yesterday. “It is always well planned and it must go perfectly. Bernie just refuses to do as told and as agreed, [and] has to go his own way. I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe too much testosterone?”

As far as I’m concerned, Joyce, Bloomsday on Beaver Street could not have gone better. The energy in the room was so good, there was nothing Bernie could have done (short of shooting somebody) that would have ruined the evening. Indeed, his presence added a surrealistic touch and an extra jolt of electricity.

The only one with any regrets, I think, is the MC Supreme, Byron Nilsson, who thought of the perfect introduction for Goetz only after he introduced him. That introduction would have been, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, here’s a real blast from the past…” Read More 
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MC Supreme

Byron Nilsson takes a break from his Master of Ceremonies duties at the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street. Photo © Bette Yee.
Originally, I was going to be the MC for Bloomsday on Beaver Street. It was a job I didn’t especially relish and one I’d never done before. But like virtually everything else having to do with Beaver Street, it became a case of: If you want something done then you’ve got to do it yourself. So, I was game.

Then, Byron Nilsson, who was scheduled to read and sing a song at the event, asked me, “Who’s the MC?”

“You are,” I said.

Byron, a seasoned and multitalented stage performer, as well as a professional writer who was one of my primary contributors when I was editing porn magazines, accepted the job eagerly, thereby becoming a triple threat: MC, guest reader of both Beaver Street and Ulysses, and guest singer. He did it all flawlessly.

As MC, he moved the show along in an entertaining and professional manner, concisely explaining why we were celebrating Beaver Street on Bloomsday; judiciously noting the anniversaries of Deep Throat and Watergate and deftly pointing out their connection to Beaver Street; succinctly describing Amazon’s so-called “passive-aggressive banning” of Beaver Street; and doing an especially good job of telling the story of how, 92 years ago, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, led by Anthony Comstock, succeeded in having Ulysses banned in the U.S. for obscenity because of James Joyce’s description of Leopold Bloom masturbating, which is, perhaps, the most poetic description of the male orgasm in the English language.

With a polished and theatrical delivery, Byron read this notorious passage from Ulysses, and then followed it with an equally stunning reading from Chapter 11 of Beaver Street, “The D-Cup Aesthetic.”

And his a cappella rendition of an Irish song, “The Photographer,” full of double entendres, was a showstopper, as well. My sister-in-law, I noticed, practically fell off her seat laughing.

So please, give it up for Byron Nilsson, who from now on I shall call MC Supreme! Read More 
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Bobby on Beaver Street

The author in performance at the Killarney Rose on Bloomsday. Photo © Bette Yee.
Getting up in front of people and reading from my book is something I prefer not to do. I’m not a natural performer. The reason I became a writer is because I’m good at sitting alone in a room and writing. But the way things are in today’s book business, that’s not an option. Once a book is published, if you want people to buy it, then you’ve got to get out there and sell it. And one way to sell it is to organize events like Bloomsday on Beaver Street, as I did last Saturday, in New York, at the Killarney Rose.

If I’ve improved as a performer, it’s because I’ve done more readings in the past three months than I’ve done in the past 12 years, and I’ve come to look upon these events with excitement and anticipation rather than dread. I think I did a more than adequate job at the Killarney Rose, despite the fact that I slipped off the chair as I was attempting to balance the book on my thigh as I adjusted the microphone. I’ll blame that on Guinness. But I dare say that I recovered nicely.

Rather than critique my performance, which I’ll leave to others, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned recently about performing in general, and reading from Beaver Street in particular.

1. I read better when I’m sitting down then when I’m standing up. It’s more relaxing, it gives me less to think about, and it allows me to get lost in the book. The ideal setup, which I didn’t have at the Killarney Rose, is sitting behind a table on an elevated stage, with a microphone, good lighting, and a bottle of water within easy reach. After about ten minutes, my mouth tends to get mighty dry.

2. The so-called “dirty part,” from “The Accidental Porn Star,” about how I posed for an X-rated photo shoot as an experiment in participatory journalism, is something that I wouldn’t read in a lot of bookstores. But it was just the right passage for a New York crowd at the Killarney Rose. The excerpt is one of the comic highlights of Beaver Street, and what makes it work as a performance piece is the fact that it’s written in my natural speaking voice—a perfect rendition of the way I’d tell the story if I were sitting at a bar and talking to a good friend.

3. I found this bit of advice last week on the Internet, and it came as a revelation: Read the funny parts as if they’re not funny.

In previous readings I’d been putting emphasis on certain words and phrases to accentuate the fact that they were supposed to be laugh lines. I didn’t do this at the Killarney Rose, and it seems to have worked.

4. Like any performer, I feed off the energy of the crowd, and the energy Saturday night was electric. I felt the love. It was, simply, the best crowd I’ve ever read to. Read More 
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Bernie on Beaver Street

Bernhard Goetz stands before the microphone, contemplating a copy of Beaver Street. Photo © Robert Rosen.
In analyzing the events of Bloomsday on Beaver Street, it's best, I think, to begin with the elephant in the room--the room being the upstairs bar of the Killarney Rose and the elephant being Bernhard H. Goetz. I suppose it's possible that some people reading this or even some people who were at the event don’t know who Goetz is.

Allow me to recap: On December 22, 1984, a time when crime in New York City seemed to be spiraling out of control, Bernhard Goetz, a self-employed electronics engineer who lived in Greenwich Village and had recently been mugged, boarded a downtown No. 2 train at 14th Street. Four black teenagers accosted him, demanding money. Goetz pulled out an unlicensed .38-caliber revolver and shot them, wounding all of them and crippling one. As one of the teenagers was lying on the floor, Goetz is reported to have said, “You seem to be all right, here’s another,” and shot at him again, apparently missing. He then fled the train and went on the lam for eight days before turning himself into police in New Hampshire.

Some people saw Goetz as a folk hero, a real life Paul Kersey, the Charles Bronson character in Death Wish, while others, believing that the teenagers were panhandlers, not muggers, saw him as violently insane and racist. (Years later, one of the assailants would admit that they did intend to mug Goetz because he looked like “easy bait.”)

The media labeled Goetz “The Subway Vigilante.”

On June 16, 1987, Bloomsday, a jury acquitted Goetz of attempted murder and first-degree assault, but convicted him of third degree criminal possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to one year in jail, one year of psychiatric treatment, five years of probation, 200 hours community service, and fined $5,000.

The events transformed Goetz into an enduring celebrity, one who paparazzi still photograph when they spot him on the street. In 2001, he ran for mayor of New York.

And Goetz, it so happens, is a good friend of one of my former coworkers, Joyce Snyder, who plays a significant role in Beaver Street. (I call her “Pam Katz” in the book.) Snyder, a devotee of John Waters-style bad taste, has written and produced four classic porno films, Public Affairs, and Raw Talent I-III.

In Raw Talent III, she pays tribute to Goetz with a scene that’s, arguably, the epitome (or nadir) of bad taste. The Goetz character, played by Jerry Butler, is accosted on the subway by four black women. He takes out his penis and masturbates on them, and then says to one, “You look like you could use another,” and ejaculates again.

“Bernie wants to read,” Snyder told me before the event. “Is that okay?”

“Sounds insane,” I said. “Let’s do it.”

The plan was for Goetz to read a passage from Chapter 9, “Divas with Beavers,” where Snyder/Katz meets with the publisher, Chip Goodman, as they go over the mechanical boards for X-Rated Cinema magazine. It’s an edgy scene involving sexual harassment, photos of enormous penises, and incest. “Bernie,” Snyder told me, was going to practice the reading.

Well, if you were there, then you know that “Bernie” didn’t read from the book. He stood before the microphone, Beaver Street in hand, and launched into a disjointed monologue about how he didn’t want to read because it was about “office politics,” and he only wanted to talk about the book because, he said, “That’s what makes sense to me.”

“Just read the book, Bernie!” Snyder cried out.

Goetz ignored her, and rambled on for a few minutes before leaving the stage to a smattering of polite applause.

Goetz, however, believes he electrified the audience, and this may, at least in part, be true. I, for one, was stunned. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to press the button on my camera. Read More 
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A Night to Remember

Saturday night, Bloomsday, a whole lot of people came to the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street to celebrate the New York launch of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography. My family was there. My neighbors were there. My friends were there. People from my high school and junior high school, who I hadn't seen in more than 40 years, were there. Some of my former coworkers, notably Joyce Snyder ("Pam Katz" in Beaver Street) and Sonja Wagner, were there. A few members of the media were there. Gary “HooP” Hoopengardner and my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, provided live music, with a little help from our friends and neighbors. Byron Nilsson, a writer/actor/singer/pornographer, did an amazing job as MC. And, of course, I read from the book--the so-called "dirty part," that I've been reluctant to read in certain bookstores, but read without hesitation for Bloomsday on Beaver Street. And then, as you may have noticed, there was the surreal appearance of Bernhard Goetz--yes, that Bernhard Goetz--who had asked to read from Beaver Street, but instead refused to read from the book and--how shall I put this?--delivered a disjointed dissertation that seemed to have something to do with Beaver Street.

Many things were spoken of at the Killarney Rose on Bloomsday: literature, pornography, book banning, censorship, Amazon, Watergate. In future postings, I’ll write in greater detail about this night to remember. But for now, as I sort out my thoughts and await photographic evidence of some of the things I mentioned above, I simply want to thank everybody for coming to the best Bloomsday party in New York City and reminding me why I became a writer. Read More 
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Love and Cynicism at the BEA

Having worked in publishing as a writer and editor for my entire misspent career, any cynicism I feel towards the industry is well earned. And though I obviously have a love for writing and publishing that's kept me going for the past several decades, in these times of economic and technological turmoil that's turned publishing upside down and inside out, it's often the cynicism that wins out. Which is to say, as I wandered yesterday through the wonderland of Bookexpo America, which is now taking place at the Javits Center in New York, what I felt were mixed emotions. Two things happened that seemed to encapsulate my feelings.

The first was when I went to the booth of a small publisher I’d had some dealings with many years ago. I was curious about a book they’d published that had similar themes to Beaver Street. The author was supposed to be signing it, and I wanted a free copy. It so happened that as I approached the booth, the author was in the midst of an animated conversation with one of the publisher’s employees. She was telling the author that he was going to have to pay for the carton of books that he was going to sign and give away on the publisher’s behalf. The author—the sort of fellow who struck me as a “real writer”—not surprisingly objected to this, and if I’m not mistaken, flatly refused to do so, displaying commendable backbone. And I thought, good for him, and hoped that under similar extortionary circumstances, I’d have done the same thing.

The second incident was my visit to the Authors Guild booth, which happens to be the organization that hosts this website and provides me with health insurance. I wanted to drop off some invitations for Bloomsday on Beaver Street, and was hoping they’d let me have a little of their very valuable counter space. Well, they not only let me have some counter space, but the two guys who were manning the booth (whose names I sadly forget) reacted with such genuine and astonishing enthusiasm to the event and to Beaver Street itself—“Wow! This is great! Who wouldn’t love this book?”—that I gave them a free copy and assured them that if they came to the event there would indeed be porn stars present. I walked away feeling good. Read More 

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Top 10 Events of May 2012

Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn, hosts of the Sirius XM Playboy radio show You Porn.

It's been a helluva month. Allow me to share some of the highlights and lowlights:

10. A blogger in England puts my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, on his list of "Top 10 Books," among the works of such commercial powerhouses as Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, and C.J. Sanson. This has happened dozens of times before, and each time it does, it reminds me anew that 12 years after publication, Nowhere Man has achieved "cult classic" status.

9. A rave review of Nowhere Man: Gli ultimi giorni di John Lennon, in an Italian magazine, calls the book “daring,” “an unforgiving but truthful portrait,” and a “must for… Beatles fans.”

8. The Italian edition of Nowhere Man sells out its first printing, but Italy, like the publishing industry itself, is in such a state of economic and political chaos, nobody seems to know if there will be a second printing.

7. My wife and I spend a blissful week in Santa Barbara, at our friends’ house, “Casa de los patios,” as it’s called. We begin each day sipping coffee on one of five patios, gazing at the mountains in the distance. “Another goddamn beautiful day,” says the mistress of the house each morning, as she comes trotting onto the patio with her four dogs.

6. For the fourth consecutive month, this website hits a new high in traffic.

5. I read and sign Beaver Street at Book Soup, the legendary independent bookstore on Sunset Strip in L.A.

4. I’m interviewed about Beaver Street on The Tiffany Granath Show on Sirius XM Playboy radio.

3. After a year of hustling and promotion, the first printing of Beaver Street sells out in the U.K. There will be a second printing… sooner or later.

2. Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn interview me about Beaver Street on their Sirius XM Playboy radio show, You Porn. Christy shows me her extraordinary (and ageless) breasts. Paul Slimak (Henry Dorfman in Beaver Street) calls in as Erich von Pauli, the character he plays in the Beaver Street promotional videos, and has everybody in the studio cracking up as he threatens to launch his V-2 missiles. It’s one of the best hours of radio I’ve ever participated in.

1. Claiming at various times “technical problems,” that they don’t have the right to sell the book, or that the book is “unavailable,” Amazon effectively bans the print edition of Beaver Street in the U.S. and there appears to be nothing anybody can do about it. Read More 

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Why Bloomsday?

Funny thing, the unconscious. Somehow you know things, but you don't know how you know them, or even that you do know them. That's what happened when I was looking at the calendar, trying to select a day for the New York Beaver Street launch. I knew I was going to have it in on a Saturday in June and I knew I was going to have it at the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street.

June 16 jumped out at me.

Yes, I knew it was Bloomsday, named for Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of the James Joyce novel Ulysses, which takes place in Dublin on June 16, 1904. I was in Dublin once on Bloomsday, and participated in the daylong festivities, which included readings from the book. So, I figured: Bloomsday, Irish bar on Beaver Street, people will read from the book—perfect.

But I didn’t realize until yesterday how perfect it was. That’s when I remembered something I’d known all along: In 1920, a literary magazine published an excerpt from Ulysses that contained a description of Bloom masturbating. He’s at the beach, pleasuring himself as he watches a young girl, leaning back and revealing her “beautifully shaped legs.”

Joyce describes Bloom’s orgasm: “And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely! O so soft, sweet, soft!”

The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice considered this passage pornographic, took the matter to court, and succeeded in having Ulysses declared obscene and banned in the U.S. for 13 years.

Beaver Street has not actually been banned—though in the eyes of many attentive readers, Amazon’s failure to make the paperback edition available comes pretty close. And some critics have, indeed, branded the book “smut.” (Happily, most recognize it as literature.)

Bottom line: Celebrating the publication of a “dirty book” in an Irish bar on Beaver Street on Bloomsday is the way to go. And I hope to see you all there for Bloomsday on Beaver Street. It’s free and it could be fun. Read More 
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Amazon Case #34451451

Regular readers of this blog are aware that the paperback edition of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography has been unavailable directly through Amazon U.S. since its publication here last month. Though Amazon has made the Kindle edition available, and is allowing outside vendors to sell the paperback edition, they claim that they themselves do not have the right to sell the paperback edition in the U.S.

Since becoming aware of this problem, my publisher, Headpress, the distributor, SCB, and I have repeatedly told Amazon, by e-mail, by telephone, and by letter, that they do have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

Amazon continues to insist that they do not.

Yesterday, in fact, I received a phone call from a woman at Amazon Author Central. She told me that the reason Beaver Street does not have a “buy box,” as Amazon calls the button you click to buy the book directly from Amazon, is because Amazon does not have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

I told her that Amazon had received a letter from the distributor over a month ago confirming that they had full distribution rights for Beaver Street throughout North America. I read the letter to her.

The woman repeated that Amazon does not have the right to sell Beaver Street in the U.S.

The conversation went around in circles. I told her that dealing with Amazon was more frustrating than dealing with the IRS.

The woman gave me a case number: 34451451. She said that this number should be used in any future dealings with Amazon.

When I hung up the phone, I felt as if I’d just played out a scene in a Kafka novel—probably one that doesn’t have a buy button.

I know this much: When any corporation, large or small, is unable to solve simple problems quickly—and adding a buy button to Beaver Street is about as simple as it gets—it’s symptomatic of deep-seated systemic problems throughout the corporation.

I look forward to discussing case #34451451 with Amazon at the BEA next month. Read More 
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Live, from New York… and Occasionally L.A.

Sirius-XM radio host Tiffany Granath.

I've often said that the live radio interview is my preferred form of book promotion. I've done hundreds of such interviews since 2000, when my first book, Nowhere Man, was published. Usually, I'm sitting at home, in New York, talking on the telephone. When the chemistry's right and the host has actually read the book, the interview can be like free-form jazz--it can go anywhere.

My May 10 appearance on Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn’s Spice Radio show, You Porn, out of L.A., was memorable for many reasons. Christy, an author in her own right, had indeed read Beaver Street—the book was full of her notations in the margins. She was an excellent interviewer who knew how to make me feel comfortable, asked all the right questions, and let me answer them at length. She also had a good sense of pacing, knowing when to gently cut me off if I was going on too long. The show got off to a fine start when Christy showed me her astonishing breasts, and asked if I recognized them.

“Yes,” I said, “I remember them well… and they haven’t aged at all.” I then urged the show’s listeners to give her breasts a well-deserved round of applause.

It was towards the end of the show that a character from the book, “Henry Dorfman,” who in real life is professional actor Paul Slimak, called in as Erich von Pauli, the deranged Nazi character he plays in the Beaver Street promotional videos. Von Pauli had everybody in the studio cracking up, as he praised the book’s superior literary quality and threatened to launch his V-2 missiles if Amazon doesn’t get their act together and make the print edition available immediately.

The show went so well, and everybody had so much fun, the Spice Radio people have invited me back to appear today, at 3 PM (EST), on The Tiffany Granath Show, on Sirius-XM channel 102. A rotating panel of sex experts takes your calls on this “advice show,” as it’s described.

Well, I’m ready, and I’m looking forward to seeing you on the radio this afternoon. Read More 

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How To Sell Books

The author busts sod with a pickax in the Santa Barbara sun. Photo by Mary Lyn Maiscott.

I've returned from California jetlagged, upside down, and out of sync. My plan is to spend the next few days easing into New York reality and writing more about my Book Soup reading and my appearance on Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn's Sirius-XM radio show, which went so well, the Spice Radio people have invited me back to talk about Beaver Street on The Tiffany Granath Show tomorrow, at 3 PM (EST). But before I embark on a day of dental appointments, laundry, and dealing with insurance providers, I want to share with you the most important lesson I learned in L.A. about selling books: The book itself doesn't matter. What's important is how you look when you're selling it.

If you want to move product, the best thing to do is get out in the California sun, take off your shirt, and wield the biggest, most macho tool you can find. So that’s what I did. And yeah, I realize I need to work on my tan. But if I say so myself, this ain’t too bad for a middle-aged author who’s generally loathe to venture into the afternoon sun. I’ll let you know how it works. Read More 

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Going to California

I'm leaving for California tomorrow morning, and since I tend not to post, or do much writing of any kind, when I'm on the road, this will probably be the last Daily Beaver entry for a few weeks. So I'll take this opportunity to remind whoever's reading this blog of the upcoming events in L.A. and in New York when I get back, and the general state of Beaver Street since its U.S. publication last month.

Thursday, May 10, 1 P.M. (PST): I’ll be talking about Beaver Street on Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn’s Sirius XM radio show, You Porn, channel 103. It’s a live call-in show and you can reach us at 1(800) 774-2388.

Saturday, May 12, 4 P.M.: I’ll be reading from “The Accidental Porn Star” chapter and signing Beaver Street at Book Soup, L.A.’s coolest bookstore.

Saturday, June 16, 7 P.M.: Please join me for the New York launch party, Bloomsday on Beaver Street, at the upstairs bar of the Killarney Rose at 80 Beaver Street. There will be live music and readings, and the spirit of James Joyce will be present.

The State of the Beaver: Amongst a flurry of extraordinary reviews, which you can access from the home page, and a selection as a Vanity Fair “Hot Type” pick, Beaver Street continues to slowly find its way into independent bookstores such as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, Book Soup in L.A., Left Bank Books and Apop Records in St. Louis, and Shakespeare’s, St. Mark’s Books, and MacNally Jackson (this week) in New York. You can also get it a Barnes & Noble in both the paperback and Nook editions.

Sadly and frustratingly, the paperback edition remains unavailable through Amazon U.S. due to ongoing “technical problems.”

And that’s the Beaver Street story up to this point. See you in L.A.! Read More 

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The Ubiquitousness of Pornographic Imagery

The other day, this ad for MAC Cosmetics, which appears in the June issue of Vanity Fair, was brought to my attention. To say the least, the similarities between the MAC image and the image that appears on the cover of Beaver Street are striking. Which is not to say that the Mad Men who created this ad were studying the Beaver Street cover--though I suppose it's possible that it influenced them unconsciously. It merely illuminates a point that I make in the Beaver Street prologue--that pornographic imagery has become an "ubiquitous cyber-force" that has "penetrated virtually every niche of the mainstream media." I know that when I look at this ad, I can't decide if I want to buy a tube of red lipstick or have oral sex. Read More 
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Bloomsday on Beaver Street?

Yesterday, I floated the idea of having a Beaver Street launch party at the Killarney Rose, at 80 Beaver Street, in New York, sometime in June, probably on a Saturday night. A number of people responded enthusiastically to this suggestion, and wanted to know the exact date so they could plan their lives accordingly. Though I wasn't going to set a date until after I return from L.A., in late May, a glance at the June calendar gave me an idea: Bloomsday, June 16.

June 16, 1904, is the day that the James Joyce novel Ulysses takes place in Dublin. And for the past 57 years, this day has been celebrated in Dublin and elsewhere, generally with readings from Ulysses, as the events of the novel and its protagonist, Leopold Bloom, are relived.

What better day to celebrate Beaver Street in an Irish bar with readings from the book and live music?

So, let me float that date—Saturday night, June 16—and see how that works, especially for the musicians and the people who want to perform dramatic Beaver readings. I think James Joyce would approve. Read More 
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Two Pornographers Walk into a Bar on Beaver Street

For years I've been thinking that when Beaver Street is published in the U.S., I'm going to have the New York launch party at the Killarney Rose, at 80 Beaver Street. This old Irish bar is not far from the spot on Beaver and Broad where I looked up one day and saw the street sign that gave me the title of the book. Though I've poked my head into the Killarney Rose a couple of time to make sure it really exists and is not a figment of my imagination, I've never sat at the bar and had a drink.

Yesterday, my friend Byron Nilsson was in town. Byron’s a writer with an expertise in computers whom I met on the Internet in the mid-90s when I was editing a few dozen porn mags, and he became a regular contributor to such distinguished titles as D-Cup, Sex Acts, and Plump & Pink. We decided to walk down to Beaver Street and have drink at the Killarney Rose.

We went to the upstairs bar (there’s another bar downstairs), which seemed like a cozy private club because there was only one other person sitting there. The Australian bartender, Michelle, greeted us as warmly as I’ve ever been greeted upon walking into a New York City bar. As she drew a couple of pints, she asked us why we’d come to the Killarney Rose. I told her that I’d written a book called Beaver Street and thought this might be the perfect place to have the launch party—there’s a great back room that seems ideal for readings. Michelle immediately summoned the owner, John Moran, who was enthused by the idea of a Beaver Street launch party, especially after I told him, “I’m going to invite everybody I know in New York.”

Moran said that he'd give my guests a good price on food and drink and that musicians would be able to plug in their amps and provide live entertainment.

I said that perhaps I could even persuade Headpress to kick in a couple of quid so we could have an open bar, at least for the first guests to arrive. (Are you reading, David?)

By the time we’d finished our beers, the friendly barmaid, Michelle, the woman sitting at the bar, and the owner were all eager to get their hands on a copy of Beaver Street.

So, here’s where it stands: I’m leaving for L.A. next week for the Book Soup event, and will be back towards the end of May. I’m thinking that early-to-mid June is the time to launch Beaver Street on Beaver Street. I’ll read from the book—the “dirty part,” of course. Mary Lyn Maiscott and guitarist extraordinaire Gary Hoopengardner will provide the music. And Byron, who’s also an actor, has volunteered to read from the book as if performing a Shakespearian monologue. Hell, anybody who wants to read from Beaver Street is welcome to come up to the microphone and show their stuff.

Everybody’s invited and I look forward to seeing you on Beaver Street in June. Read More 
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The Year of Nuns and Streakers

As I peruse the digital archives of The Campus, the "straight" student newspaper at the City College of New York, I continue to find more coverage of my work on Observation Post (OP), the "avant garde" (as they describe it) newspaper at CCNY that I edited in 1974.

The lead story in this issue—“Buckley says kick out editors over ‘bigotry’”—from March 15, 1974, is about Senator James Buckley, arch-conservative of New York, and his reaction to a cartoon of a nun “using a cross as a sexual object” (as The New York Times delicately put it) that I’d run in OP. The students that he wanted to expel were the art editor who drew the cartoon as a response to his education at the hands of “sadistic nuns,” as he explained it, and me. Buckley called the cartoon “a vicious and incredibly offensive anti-religious drawing,” and demanded that the entire college press be censored because of it—in order to protect the civil rights of students who were offended by pornography.

I tell the complete story in Beaver Street in the chapter called “How I Became a Pornographer,” and you can read it hereRead More 
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The Burning of a Student Newspaper

When I was researching the "How I Became a Pornographer" chapter in Beaver Street several years ago, there wasn’t much available online about the City College of New York between 1971-1979. I found a couple of articles from The New York Times and not much else. But I was able to supplement these meager findings with information from my diaries and from old issues of Observation Post (OP), the student newspaper that I was writing about, which I had on file.

The chapter focuses on a pornographic cartoon published in OP in 1974, which the Times described as “a nun using a cross as a sexual object,” and a photo of an OP editor, dressed as a nun and using a cross as a sexual object—a tribute to the original cartoon—published in OP five years later. (You can read the chapter here.)

“How I Became a Pornographer” also discusses such things as OP’s “emerging punk sensibility” and a demand by a United States Senator to censor the college press because of the nun cartoon. These events both occurred in 1974, when I was editor of OP, and I had no trouble recreating them, as I was an eyewitness.

Since I wasn’t at City College for the publication of the 1979 photo, I couldn’t provide an eyewitness account of how a group of students burned OP to protest the publication of the photo. Still, I was able to rely on information in my diaries and some press accounts, and was able to recreate the events with a reasonably high degree of accuracy.

Then the other day I discovered an amazing digital archive that didn’t exist when I was writing the chapter, and which would have helped me enormously with my research: every issue of The Campus—OP’s competition at City College—published between 1907 and 1981.

The Campus often found itself in a position of having to cover OP every time OP made news by publishing something outrageous or pornographic. Looking back at their eyewitness coverage of the 1979 nun is fascinating. It also shows me that I got at least one detail wrong: I’d said that students had burned 10,000 OPs, which would have been the entire press run. According to The Campus only 4,000 were burned. (Another source puts the number at 8,000.) Whatever the exact number, it appears that there are at least 2,000 copies of this collector’s item floating around. And I will, of course, make this correction in any future editions of Beaver StreetRead More 
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Got Beaver?

That's what I asked the guy behind the counter when I walked into Shakespeare & Co., one of the local independent bookstores in my neighborhood.

He led me to a table in the back, where all the sex books were displayed. “Hot off the press,” he said, handing me a copy of Beaver Street.

“I don’t want to buy it,” I told him. “I want to sign it. And congratulations on being one of the few stores in the city to carry it.”

“I should have recognized you,” he answered, looking at photo on back cover.

“That’s a pretty good clue,” I said, laughing. “You’ve been studying it?”

“I’ve looked at it.”

“It belongs on the history table, not the sex table.”

“I can give it better display.”

I signed every book he had in stock.

“Congratulations,” he said, giving me a big thumbs up.

“Gives me something to blog about tomorrow.”

And so it has.

Now get thee to Shakespeare’s and buy thee a signed copy of Beaver Street while they last. Read More 
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The Patience of Gandhi? Really?

It's enough to make me wonder if a higher power has been reading "The Daily Beaver," and has decided to test if I really do, as I wrote the other day, have "the patience of Gandhi." Apparently, I do not. Apparently, under certain conditions, serenity eludes me, and I can be driven to fits of irrational screaming and cursing the very existence of a higher power.

Regular readers of this blog are aware of the problems I’ve been having with Amazon: One month after publication, the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street remains unavailable directly from Amazon U.S., though it is available virtually everywhere else. I’ve been working calmly and patiently with my publisher, the distributor, and Amazon to sort this out.

Then, about a week ago, my two-year-old computer, a Gateway PC, crashed and was pronounced dead. Since the cost of resurrection was more than the computer was worth, I remained calm and bought a new computer, the one I’m typing on now. But in the course of setting up this computer, I accidentally overwrote all the files from the Gateway that were backed up on the external hard drive. My first thought was that I’d just wiped out two years of work. That was when I lost it. You would not have wanted to be around me at that moment.

But I calmed down a few hours later, and realized that not everything was lost. Much of my work was also backed up on an assortment of CDs and thumb drives. And, theoretically, the Gateway hard drive is still working, so everything can be taken off there. In other words, I’m dealing with a major headache rather than a total catastrophe.

This morning I keep telling myself to concentrate on the positive: my reading at Book Soup, where Beaver Street remains a featured title of the week, and my interview with Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn on satellite radio, for example.

I’m doing that. I’m feeling OK. I’m a writer surviving in 21st-century America, and in this business, survival is success. Read More 
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The Christy & Ginger Show

Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn, radio stars.

 

A week ago I was unaware that Christy Canyon and Ginger Lynn co-hosted a talk show called You Porn (not to be confused with the You Porn video site) on Sirius and XM radio, channel 103, from 11 AM-2 PM (PST), Monday-Friday.

The show is part of the Spice Radio lineup, and on Thursday, May 10, at 1 PM (PST) I’m going to be Christy and Ginger’s guest. We will, of course, be talking about Beaver Street, which I’ll be reading from and signing at Book Soup on Saturday, May 12.

Best off all, it’s a live call-in show. So, if you want to talk to Christy, Ginger, and me, here’s the number: 1(800) 774-2388.

See you on the radio and at Book Soup. Read More 

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Another Reader Heard From

As I continue to wait with the patience of Gandhi for the Amazon technical team to make Beaver Street available in the U.S. directly from Amazon, I see that yet another five-star review has popped up. The critic, Scoobird "MR," from Long Beach, New York, is writing about the Kindle edition, which has been available for months. Since the review is short and to the point, I'll quote it in full.

“The book was a great read...very well-written and a page turner, too. While I am not a porn aficionado, I do love history. This is one, excellent history of a movement whose real background and players are not well known to most out of the industry. If you are looking for your next good read, this should be the book.”

Well, thank you, Scoobird. Glad you enjoyed it.

I will now return to my regularly scheduled session of sitting on the floor in the bogus position and chanting Om. Read More 
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Amazon, Oh Amazon

Yesterday I wrote about how, three weeks after publication, the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street is available pretty much everywhere, except directly from Amazon U.S., even though they have the book in stock. This is not a good situation. Writers and publishers need Amazon to reach the widest possible audience, and there’s no way around it. If a book is not available directly through Amazon in the crucial days after publication, it causes enormous problems.

Today, I asked somebody at Amazon what’s going on. They told me, essentially, that technical problems within their system are preventing the book from being made available, and that they’re working on it.

I continue to hope for resolution.

And I can tell you this much about Amazon: In 2000, when Nowhere Man was published, Amazon was instrumental in making the book a bestseller, and for that I’ll always be grateful. Yes, Amazon is a different company now, and it’s a different world out there. But for an author, there’s still nothing like the rush of looking at your book on Amazon and seeing that sales ranking shooting towards the toppermost of the poppermost. Read More 
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What Would Gandhi Do?

Learning to accept the fact that most things are beyond your control, and remaining serene and positive in the face of forces that appear to be conspiring daily to drive your career into a ditch are two of the most difficult aspects of being a professional writer.

I mention this today because I’m having an extremely difficult time accepting the fact that there’s nothing I can do about Amazon, and, apparently, there’s nothing anybody else can do about Amazon, either.

“Why,” a number of people have asked me, “is the trade paperback edition of Beaver Street not available directly from Amazon US when it is available from Amazon in every other country that has an Amazon?”

The short answer is: I don’t know.

Yes, I hope this problem will soon be resolved. And until it is, like Gandhi, I’m going to sit on the floor in the bogus position and chant Om. Read More 
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