Fran Lebowitz described Donald Trump as a poor person's idea of a rich person. But Trump is hardly the only rich person who comes across as vulgar, bigoted, and megalomaniacal. There's an entire subspecies of extremely wealthy men, some perhaps wealthier than Trump, who admire his lifestyle and all he stands for. In an effort to be like Trump, they do their best to emulate him.
I worked for two such people—both of whom happened to be porn-magazine publishers (and both of whom went to extraordinary lengths to hide the fact that pornography was their primary source of wealth).
Carl Ruderman owned the company that published High Society. Lou Perretta owned the company that published Swank. I wrote about them both in Beaver Street—long before Trump had become a threat to the country and the planet. Though Beaver Street looks at 20th century history, politics, and culture through a pornographic lens, I made no effort to draw a comparison between these two prominent sleazemeisters and the man who will soon have the power to start a nuclear war. Between 2004 and 2009, when I was writing Beaver Street, Trump, to me, was an easily ignored ignoramus whose self-aggrandizing horseshit was generally confined to the pages of certain gossip rags. I didn’t even know he had short fingers.
But now that reality has shifted so radically, I thought it might be instructive to look at the similarities between my former overseers and America’s about-to-be-installed overseer.
Born Rich: Ruderman, Perretta, and Trump, though all born on third base, suffer from the belief that they hit a triple and got to where they are due to their own innate superiority. Trump, however, does admit that he was helped along by a “small loan” of $1 million from his father.
Thy Father’s Business: Ruderman took over Drake, his father’s lucrative publishing company that specialized in how-to and home improvement books. Perretta took over Great Eastern, his father’s printing plant, once the largest employer in Poughkeepsie after IBM. Trump, of course, took over his father’s real estate empire.
The Porn Connection: It seems that men of a certain ilk who inherited their wealth find the pornographic milieu irresistible. Though Trump did not literally go into the porn biz, as the two Mini-Trumps did, it should be noted that the first-lady-to-be, Melania Trump, has posed in a pornographic lesbian pictorial and Trump himself has appeared in a Playboy Video Centerfold.
Transformers: Ruderman and Perretta apparently chose the porn biz because it’s illegal to print money. Between High Society magazine, “free” phone sex, and “Celebrity Skin,” Ruderman turned Drake into a bigger cash cow than it was under his father—free phone sex alone (he made two cents every time somebody called the number) generated $70,000 in profits per week at its 1983 peak. Like Trump, Ruderman published a luxury lifestyle magazine, Elite Traveler. Perretta, who never seemed to grasp the difference between being a printer and being a publisher, enhanced his fortune by buying up virtually every porn mag in existence, using them as fodder to keep his presses running 24 hours a day, and turning a profit on a 15 percent sale of any press run when his competitors needed to sell 30 percent to do so. In between bankruptcies, Trump transformed his inheritance into a branding empire, notably Trump University, an overt scam for which he recently agreed to pay a $25 million fine to settle fraud allegations by former students.
All in the Family: Ruderman didn’t believe in nepotism, though perhaps he should have. He hired and fired with impunity, to the extent that anybody who survived at High Society for more than a year was considered an old-timer. Perretta, like Trump, believed that loyalty is far more important than competence, and filled all key positions with relatives (preferably blood relatives) whenever possible. Trump’s offspring Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka are all executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization and have played key roles on his transition team. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in violation of nepotism laws, has been named as a senior White House advisor.
Greed Is Good: Ruderman, Perretta, and Trump are all driven by the desire to enrich themselves and their families at all costs while lording it over everybody else, especially their employees.
Bully Boys: Ruderman was a quiet bully who rarely raised his voice but took pleasure in humiliating his employees. At staff meetings he’d call on anybody, from a top editor to the mailroom boy, and ask, “What have you done this week to make my magazine a household name?” If the employee didn’t have a satisfactory answer, Ruderman would say, “Do you want to be standing on the breadline?” Perretta was a classic screamer who routinely berated his employees for the most trivial mistakes. The more trivial the mistake, the louder he screamed. Trump’s Twitter feed, a litany of insults and intimidations, serves as a perfect illustration of two of his most pronounced character traits: pathological bullying and a reflexive need to destroy anybody who criticizes him.
Some of My Best Jews Are Accountants: Ruderman acted as if women were pieces of meat fit only for display in pornographic magazines, but he was smart enough to not express any overt racial or religious bigotry in front of his employees. Perretta, however, couldn’t help himself. On one occasion he said to an African-American art director, “Shrink that photo, like your ancestors shrunk heads!” On another occasion he referred to his African-American employees as “animals.” On a third, he told three Jewish employees, all of whom were sporting facial hair, “This place is starting to look like a Yeshiva.” He was eventually sued for age and sex discrimination. Trump’s vile remarks about minorities and the opposite sex are so ugly, my inner 20-year-old punk-self wrote a song about it, “Don Vicious,” which includes the lines, “You hate Muslims/You hate Jews/Women, black skin/Brown skin too.”
Imagine More Possessions: Ruderman, who was chauffeured around in a Rolls Royce that once belonged to Queen Elizabeth and lived in mortal fear that he’d be barred from the most exclusive country clubs if they found out he was a pornographer, was the most nakedly obvious Trump-lifestyle emulator. When Trump bought a helicopter, Ruderman bought one, too. Though lower-key than Ruderman and Trump, Perretta owned a yacht and a Mercedes and strove to insure that grandchildren yet unborn would also ride in their own Mercedes cars. Trump’s private-jet-gold-plated-spare-no-expense luxury lifestyle is as famous as his bigotry, his lying, and his compulsion to humiliate.
The Beauty, the Splendor, the Wonder: The once silver-haired Ruderman now dyes his coif an unnatural shade of jet-black rather than choosing Trump’s unnatural regal gold. Perretta, meanwhile, sports a hairdo of all-natural gray.
Make America Hate Again: Ruderman has despised Larry Flynt ever since he made him Hustler’s “Asshole of the Month” and did not support Flynt’s run for president. But he kept his other political views under wraps, at least in front of his employees. This was undoubtedly a good decision. Perretta, like Trump, is a staunch supporter of right-wing causes and has donated money to his former New Jersey Tea Party Congressman Scott Garrett, one of the most radical members of the House of Representatives. A “birther” who was finally defeated in November after 14 years in office, Garrett was anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-minority, anti-voting rights, anti-environment, and anti-poor—positions that meshed perfectly with Perretta’s own political views.
American Sociopaths: I think Trump and the Mini-Trumps would all agree that empathy is an emotion for losers and women only.
Lock Them Up: In the late 90s, as free Internet porn became ubiquitous and sales of High Society were headed for oblivion, control of the company was given over to an organized crime family who tried to turn things around with a credit card scam that defrauded consumers of approximately $730 million dollars. Prosecutors soon caught on and charged the “X-Rated Mobsters,” as they were called in the tabloids, with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, extortion, and money laundering. Though Ruderman, claiming he was a “silent partner,” escaped prosecution, some of his Mafia colleagues went to prison, and the company, in a judgment reminiscent of what happened to Trump University, was fined $30 million. Ruderman then sold the smoldering ruins of High Society to Perretta. Ultimately, though, both the High Society and Swank pornographic empires went belly-up amidst collapsing sales and criminal and civil legal actions. As for Trump, so rabid is his disdain for the Constitution and so myriad are his conflicts of interest, impeachment seems inevitable. Uncorroborated as they may be, recent claims that the Russians have videos of Trump “employing a number of prostitutes to perform ‘golden showers’” (among many other bits of damning and salacious information) indicate that blackmail resulting in treasonous acts is a distinct possibility. Perhaps Trump will be indefinitely detained in Guantanamo Bay while awaiting trial. Like all sociopaths large and small, Trump believes that the law does not apply to him. This may very well be his ultimate downfall.
I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. Read More
Far From Flatbush
Fran Lebowitz described Donald Trump as a poor person's idea of a rich person. But Trump is hardly the only rich person who comes across as vulgar, bigoted, and megalomaniacal. There's an entire subspecies of extremely wealthy men, some perhaps wealthier than Trump, who admire his lifestyle and all he stands for. In an effort to be like Trump, they do their best to emulate him.
When Chelsea G. Summers wrote to me last week, asking how and when "football porn" became a thing, my first thought was, WTF is football porn?
My second thought was, Wait a minute, I know what football porn is: It's the biggest cliché in pornography (see Debbie Does Dallas). How many times when I was editing adult magazines did I run pictorials involving football players and cheerleaders?
Which reminded me of my first exposure to football porn. In the 1960s, when the Green Bay Packers ruled the football world, I came across a Playboy with a “Little Annie Fanny” cartoon strip. In that strip, the “Greenback Busters” gang-rape Annie on the 50-yard line, before a cheering, sellout crowd. (This was considered funny a half-century ago.)
I got lost in a football reverie, remembering how I covered the football team for my high school newspaper, and wanted to be a professional sportswriter. Then it took a darker turn, to locker-room hazing, sexual assault. Why, all of sudden, was there a rash of stories about this… and stories like the one out of Steubenville, Ohio, hometown of underage porn star Traci Lords and the scene of a notorious rape involving high school football players? And why was there a rash of stories about college football stars who raped and got away with it… because they were football stars and the schools made a lot of money from them?
What is it about football? Plenty, I suppose, but that’s a question that’s going to take more than a blog post to answer.
I finally told Chelsea G. Summers that there has been football porn as long as there has been football, which began in 1869, in New Jersey, where, perhaps not so coincidentally, adult magazines, under the benighted reign of Lou Perretta, went to die.
You can read Chelsea’s article, “Deep Inside the World of Football Porn,” in Vocativ.
And you can watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. I hear it’s on TV.
'72 (Sept. 29, 2011)
My report from Zuccotti Park (which I call "Liberty Square") in the early days of Occupy Wall Street, on Rosh Hashanah, the first day of Jewish New Year, 5772.
The Writer as Performer (March 27, 2012)
What does it take to get a book published in America these days? Good looks, primarily.
The Lou Perretta 20-Point Plan for Demoralizing Employees: A Guide for Postmodern Office Management (Feb. 1, 2012)
How bad was it to work in a Paramus porno factory? This satirical guide explains.
What’s the Matter with Jersey? (March 21, 2012)
I was subjected to a surprising amount of criticism for writing about my former boss Lou Perretta, the abysmal working conditions at his company, and his campaign contributions to Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett. This is my response.
Blog’s in Your Court, Ms. Breslin (Oct. 19, 2011)
A spirited online debate about blogging, criticism, and books about pornography.
Tomorrow, Volume II Read More
10. New York Calling to the Riot Zone (Aug. 11, 2011)
A meditation on the London riots from the comfort of my New York living room.
9. The Tea Party Congressman and the Porn King (Feb. 14, 2012)
An investigative report detailing Swank publisher Lou Perretta’s campaign contributions to ultra-conservative congressman Scott Garrett.
8. Fat Sex (Sept. 28, 2011)
An essay on some of the problems I had editing magazines like Plump & Pink and Buf.
7. The Unfinished Life of John Lennon (Jan. 3, 2011)
A piece I wrote for the Mexican newsweekly Proceso, on the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, in its original English.
6. Memoirs of a Pornographer (May 13, 2011)
Editor Jamie Maclean’s rave review of Beaver Street for the British sex journal Erotic Review.
Tomorrow, Volume II Read More
One of the odd things about the Beaver Street promotional campaign, which has been ongoing for two years, is that despite the coverage the book has garnered all over the cultural spectrum, in such places as Vanity Fair, Bizarre magazine, an academic site called H-Net, The Village Voice, Erotic Review, and Little Shoppe of Horrors (to name but a few), there hasn't been one review in any of the men's magazines that I write about in Beaver Street.
I suppose the primary reason for this lack of coverage is that Lou Perretta, who now owns two of the titles at the heart of the book, Swank and High Society, as well as every other porn mag except for Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, is upset that I've blogged about the abysmal working conditions at his company and his campaign contributions to Scott Garrett, the Tea Party icon who represents New Jersey’s 5th congressional district. Perretta, apparently, has forbidden his merry staff, under penalty of termination, to so much as mention Beaver Street in or out of the office.
And I suppose that Playboy and Penthouse are not especially interested in books of any kind, and that Hustler doesn’t write about books unless Larry Flynt wrote them—though I’d think that Flynt would have gotten a kick out of my stories about his former rival, ex-High Society publisher Carl Ruderman.
Well, I’m pleased to report that a magazine read by everybody who’s anybody in adult entertainment has published a brilliant Beaver Street review in their February issue, which features a cover story about the “30 must-read books on the history of X.”
Adult Video News (AVN) has been called “the Billboard magazine of the porn industry.” It’s the mag that the mainstream media turn to when they need reliable information about smut. The review, “Walk on the Wild Side,” written by AVN editor Sharan Street, calls Beaver Street “brutally honest,” “compelling,” and says that it’s “a fascinating exploration of the common ground shared by [comic books] and pornographic magazines.” Street (Sharan, not Beaver) also does an excellent job of pulling out just the right quotes to give the reader a good sense of the book’s overall flavor.
I’d urge you all to read AVN’s review of Beaver Street. It made my day. Read More
What made this story even more interesting is that Garrett, who’s up for reelection, seems unbeatable. The Democrats couldn’t even find a credible candidate to run against him. Instead, they settled for a sacrificial lamb, Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen, whose campaign has raised little more than $5,000 to face off against Garrett’s $2-million war chest. Should both Garrett and Mitt Romney win in November, there’s a strong possibility Garrett will replace vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as chairman of the House Budget Committee.
I made every effort to bring the story of Garrett’s porn connection to the attention of the mainstream media. The only newspaper that expressed any interest was The Record of Bergen County. One of their reporters interviewed me and did additional research and investigation. In the course of the interview, the reporter told me that the Democratic Party was urging The Record to run the story. This was six months ago, and the story never ran.
The Record, most likely, was unable to prove to the satisfaction of their attorneys that Louis Perretta is, in fact, a pornographer. Outside of this blog and my book Beaver Street, there was nothing on the public record that tied Perretta to porn. He’d covered his X-rated tracks extremely well, and had succeeded in portraying himself as a respectable business executive.
That changed over the Labor Day weekend. The New York Post, in a column unrelated to Garrett, identified Perretta as a hardcore pornographer. The piece, “Popstar!’s porn kin/Source: Teen magazine has hard-core ties,” by Keith Kelly, said that Popstar!, “a popular magazine for teen girls… was bought by a New Jersey publisher alleged to have ties to the hard-core adult magazine empire headed by Louis and Stephen Perretta. The Perrettas, through their Paramus-based Magna Publishing, own a host of X-rated magazines with titles including Swank, Playgirl, Lesbian Licks, Cherry Pop, Just 18, Celebrity Skin and Fox—which is billed as ‘home of the world’s dirtiest porn stars.’”
Yes, Kelly does use the word “alleged.” But still, this is the first mention in the mainstream media of the Perretta family’s ties to pornography. Can The Record or the Democratic Party do anything with this information? Could this possibly be Scott Garrett’s October surprise? One can only hope. Read More
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
It has been pointed out that I sound self-righteous in these postings, like Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist who often writes about child prostitution and human slavery. It has been pointed out that the Garrett-Perretta story is not a “mini-Watergate,” as I’ve described it, because there’s nothing illegal about a porn king donating money to a Tea Party politician. And it has been said that I’m a hypocrite because I once worked in pornography and that I took Perretta’s money for the nearly seven years that he employed me.
To respond to the last point first: Yes, I worked in porn for 16 years, and I endured because I needed a job, and porn paid a living wage. Like many of my colleagues, I saw it as a “survival job,” a way to pay the bills as I continued to pursue what I really wanted to do—write books. As I say in Beaver Street, much of what I did disgusted me, but I was able to carry on because I had a strong stomach. I don’t dislike porn; I dislike the kind of porn I was doing—schlocky, grind-it-out-as-fast-as-you-can, anti-erotic porn. If criticizing the people who grow wealthy by splattering this kind of stuff all over the planet while grudgingly paying me a living wage makes me a self-righteous hypocrite, then so be it. I’m a self-righteous hypocrite.
And, of course, it’s true that it’s not illegal to donate money to political candidates. What makes the Garrett-Perretta story scandalous on a mini-Watergate level is the mind-boggling hypocrisy of a candidate from a political party that wants to destroy the porn industry accepting contributions from one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America. Which begs a number of questions: Why is Perretta giving money to people who want to put him out of business? Because he likes the Republican platform of tax cuts for the rich and fuck everybody else? And what if the Vatican’s own anti-porn candidate, Rick Santorum, gets the nomination? Will Perretta give him money, too, just to help defeat the foreign-born, Muslim-socialist who currently occupies the White House?
I could go on indefinitely dissecting this kind of lunacy, but there’s no need to. Because the story of corrupt conservative Republicans who will stop at nothing in their efforts to destroy the porn industry is at the heart of Beaver Street.
I will say, however, in the course of my career, I’ve always written what I thought to be the truth without worrying if the people I was writing about would like what I had to say. That was the case with my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. That was the case with Beaver Street. And that will continue to be the case with this blog. Read More
These anonymous porn mongers have five things in common: They’re all men. They were all born to wealth. They all used their wealth to create pornography empires. They all increased their wealth immensely by producing pornography on an industrial scale. And they all went to great lengths to publicly portray themselves as respectable businessmen, unconnected to XXX.
Having worked for three of these men, I’ve written about them at length in Beaver Street. They are Carl Ruderman, former publisher of High Society magazine and the father of “free” phone sex; the late Charles “Chip” Goodman, former president of Swank Publications; and Louis Perretta, who bought all the Swank titles from Goodman in 1993.
I bring this up now because, as the “real” media continue to investigate the story that I broke here last month about Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett (New Jersey, 5th district) accepting campaign contributions from Perretta, who is now one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America, they seem to be having some difficulty establishing that Perretta is, in fact, a pornographer. The Federal Election Commission documents that detail Perretta’s contributions to the Republican Party over a ten-year period list him as a self-employed business executive with the Great Eastern Color Lithographic Corporation, the now shuttered printing plant in Poughkeepsie, New York, where Perretta once printed his porn mags. And beyond this website, a Google search for any connection between Perretta and porn reveals little that’s verifiable. Perretta, in short, has done a commendable job of covering his X-rated tracks.
As we wait for some intrepid reporter to pull the trigger on this sordid political scandal of right-wing extremism and hardcore pornography, it would be instructive, I think, to further explore the phenomenon of pornography kings who go to great lengths to obscure the source of their wealth. And I will do so over the course of this month. So, stay tuned. Read More
My posting yesterday about Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett's links to Louis Perretta, one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America, got me thinking about the Leonard Cohen classic "Everybody Knows." Like many of Cohen's songs, it's a surreal commentary on life, politics, and society. Cohen's grim message is that everybody already knows everything about everything and everybody, but it doesn’t make damn bit of difference. The dice are loaded. The fight's fixed. The war's over. The good guys lost. And there's nothing we can do about it.
In the case of Garrett, a man who’d like to put robber barons in charge of America and turn back the clock to the 19th century, I’d hope that Cohen, who has a reputation as a visionary poet, is wrong. Because despite a lack of attention in the mainstream media, everybody who cares about Scott Garret and his bid for reelection in New Jersey’s 5th district knows that he’s been accepting campaign contributions from Porn King Louis Perretta, and that for years Garrett’s eastern district office and Perretta’s porn operation were in close proximity on the second floor at 210 Route 4 East, in Paramus.
Who’s everybody? Oh, just the Democratic Party and the mainstream media. Which begs the question: If everybody knows about Garrett and Perretta, how long can this story remain an open secret, especially when you take into account that the Democrats seem to think Garrett is unbeatable and are having enormous problems finding a credible candidate to run against him?
As I said yesterday, chances are this story will break on a large scale before Election Day. But it’s hardly a sure thing. Neither the Democratic Party nor the media are known for having a backbone, and to break a story like this, even though it’s public record that Garrett accepted campaign contributions from Perretta, requires a certain amount of courage. Why? Because I am the source of this story and I am, more or less, an “unknown” who has worked in the pornography industry, which is how I know about Perretta, who’s gone to great lengths to obscure the fact that he controls a pornographic magazine, web, and video empire. (Read all about it in Beaver Street.)
So, how long can this story, or any story of magnitude, remain under wraps? Well, in the case of my previous book, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, everybody knew about it for 18 years before it finally found its way into print. And with any luck at all, in 18 years, Garrett will be little more than an embarrassing footnote to New Jersey’s political history.
In the meantime, all I can suggest is enjoy the video. And check out the Don Henley version, too. He’s a much better singer than Leonard Cohen. Read More
On a day pregnant with literary and political significance, I'm going to revisit the story I ran here in February about Tea Party congressman Scott Garrett's links to Porn King Louis Perretta. As I've come to realize over the past month, Garrett, a Republican who represents New Jersey's 5th district, is a formidable and articulate opponent--a persuasive man who just happens to be on the wrong side of every issue and on the wrong side of history.
In the above video, Garrett is questioning Jeffrey Zients, director of the Office of Management and Budget, about Obama’s health care law. Like all Tea Party politicians, Garrett believes that the United States should remain the only industrialized nation in the world where health care is a privilege rather than a right, and that only the wealthy should be entitled to it. His line of questioning—Is the health care law not a new tax on the middle class?—has Zients on the defensive; you can see the fear in his eyes as Garrett moves in for the kill. If I were rich right-wing bastard, I’d vote for Garrett based on this performance alone.
How formidable is Garrett? Well, in the month since I posted the first piece about him, a series of Democrats, including Harry Carson, the former New York Giant, have announced that they were going to run against him, and then, for vague reasons, decided not to. Another potential opponent dropped out only three days ago.
A number of people have asked me why a sordid political scandal involving a right-wing extremist and one of America’s largest producers of hardcore pornography has gotten no attention beyond The Daily Beaver and the Erotic Review. Actually, the story has reached a wider audience. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is very much aware of it, and would love to see the scandal explode in the media. And the media, too, has this story on their radar screens. Why they haven’t run with it yet it is probably just matter of certain newspapers exercising excessive caution because of the wealthy, powerful people involved. In other words, The Tea Party Congressman and the Porn King is an open secret that can’t remain under wraps indefinitely. And though the Ides of March would be a poetic day for somebody to break the story, the mainstream media has little interest in poetry.
My prediction: Something will happen before Election Day. It has to. Read More
There’s no question that the Scott Garrett story drove the bulk of February’s traffic. I’d never heard of Garrett, an ultra-conservative Tea Party congressman representing New Jersey’s 5th district, until a couple of weeks ago. That was when I learned that porn magnate Lou Perretta, whom I’d once worked for, had been contributing to Republicans.
I’d known my former boss was a Republican since 1998, when he demanded I remove from a satiric feature titled “The Illustrated Starr Report” a reference to Kenneth Starr as a “deranged prosecutor.” (Perretta had no problem with the grotesque illustrations of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in flagrante delicto.)
But what caught my eye as I examined the easily accessible public documents detailing Perretta’s political contributions over a 10-year period was the name Scott Garrett, which popped up repeatedly.
Some basic research revealed that Garrett, who was elected by a comfortable margin, is anti-voting rights, anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-gay, anti-environment, and anti-science. That his office was on the same floor in the same office building as Perretta’s office, and that the politics of a Tea Party Republican and a Porn King seemed to mesh in so many ways, was the subject of my two postings about Garrett.
If the Garrett story should reach an audience beyond The Daily Beaver, that would, indeed, be a bonus—an example of one of journalism’s classic purposes: to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Because it’s frightening that a politician who you’d think would be more at home in the reddest, red-neck corner of Alabama could be elected to Congress in Bergen County. But considering my own experiences toiling for seven years on Perretta’s Bergen County porn plantation—which I’ve written about in Beaver Street—it’s not terribly surprising. In fact it’s just more proof that you don’t have to venture far from New York City to find Red America in all its ignorant, bigoted glory. Read More
The former staffer, Sonja Wagner, 74—a graphic artist who, like many of her colleagues, saw pornography as a “survival job”—was for 16 years a freelance art director on scores of Perretta’s X-rated titles before he stopped giving her work in 2009. She said that it was common knowledge among Perretta’s employees that female members of Garrett’s staff had complained about Perretta’s company, apparently to building manager Vornado Reality Trust, which maintains offices in the building on the second, fourth, and fifth floors. According to Wagner, Garrett’s staff did not want to share the second-floor bathroom with pornographers, and soon after raising the complaint they began using the bathroom on the fifth floor to avoid them.
The staff complaint illuminates one of the darker corners of Garrett’s political philosophy—one that seems to mesh with Perretta’s. Garrett, a Tea Party icon and a “birther” who, citing states’ rights, was one of only 33 representatives to vote against the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006. The act prohibits voting discrimination based on race, and 390 house members voted to renew it.
A 2010 survey by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality indicated that Tea Party supporters have a 25 percent higher probability of being racially resentful than those who do not support the Tea Party.
Garrett’s staff apparently harbors a reflexive segregating impulse reminiscent of the pre-1965 Jim Crow laws enforced in all southern states of the former Confederacy. These laws demanded racial segregation in public facilities, notably “white only” and “colored only” bathrooms. In this peculiar 21st century case, Garrett’s staff wanted “separate but equal” facilities for pornographers and Republicans.
Ironically, Perretta’s company also produces a line of magazines marketed to an African American audience, including Hype Hair, Today’s Black Woman, Black Men, and Word Up. Yet Perretta has referred to his minority employees as “animals,” and in one instance said to an African American art director, “Shrink that photo—like your ancestors shrunk heads.”
Among the hardcore magazines and websites that Perretta controls are Club, Gallery, High Society, Swank, Gent, Genesis, Fox, Velvet, Just 18, and Cheri.
“It’s against house ethics for me to comment about Garrett’s campaign,” said Ben Veghte, who works in Garrett’s Washington office.
The office of Scott Garrett for Congress has so far not returned calls and so has neither confirmed nor denied that Garrett was aware that his staff had complained about Perretta’s company, one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America.
Vornado Realty Trust, as a policy, does not comment on tenants, and so has neither confirmed nor denied that members of Garrett’s staff had formally complained to them about having to share a bathroom with employees of a company that produced hardcore pornography. Read More
Garrett, a Tea Party icon and a “birther” who is up for reelection this year, is known for his extreme right-wing positions. He received a perfect 100 rating from the American Conservative Union and a 0 rating from the Sierra Club.
Citing “states’ rights,” Garrett has opposed the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, an extension of unemployment benefits during the recession, a woman’s right to choose an abortion in cases of rape and incest, and emergency aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Perretta, of Saddle River, NJ, publishes such hardcore pornographic titles as Club, Gallery, High Society, Swank, Gent, Genesis, Fox, Velvet, Just 18, and Cheri. Though most of these magazines were “softcore” when he began acquiring them in the early 1990s, he switched them all to a “hardcore” format in 1999, and is now one the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America. (In the world of pornography, “hardcore” refers to images that show vaginal, oral, or anal penetration.)
Perretta also produces a line of hardcore DVDs and controls the X-rated websites associated with his magazines.
Perretta, either directly or through members of his immediate family, donated over $10,000 to Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee (RNC) since 2000, soon after switching to the hardcore format. But his contributions to Garrett stand out both because of the proximity of their offices and because their politics seem to merge so seamlessly.
Perretta, who has referred to minority employees as “animals,” once told an African American art director to “Shrink that photo—like your ancestors shrunk heads.” In the past decade, he has systematically fired his most senior editors (this reporter was one of them) and art directors, most of whom began working for him in 1993, when he acquired all the titles belonging to Swank Publications. He has also closed down Great Eastern, his printing plant in Poughkeepsie, New York, eliminating dozens of jobs and outsourcing them to a printer in Canada in order to enhance profits and to avoid problems associated with exporting hardcore pornography from the US into Canada.
Perretta is currently being sued for age-and-sex discrimination by former employee Joyce Snyder, while Garrett was given the worst rating of any NJ congressman by the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation.
Garrett’s other right-wing positions include opposing a ban on assault weapons; opposing child safety locks on handguns; supporting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; opposing restrictions on price gouging by oil companies; supporting oil drilling off the NJ shore; supporting the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools; and opposing stem cell research. He has also voted against numerous animal protection laws, including a ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption.
Perretta is listed in FEC records as a “self-employed business executive” with the Great Eastern Lithographic Corporation.
Both Garrett’s office and the RNC’s have so far not returned calls, and so have neither confirmed nor denied that they were aware that Perretta is one of the largest producers of hardcore pornography in America. Read More
Well, the piece isn’t satire—it’s journalism written in a satirical manner.
It’s not as if Perretta did all 20 things to everybody at once. That would have violated both the eighth amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and the Geneva Conventions. And we weren’t technically prisoners of war. It only felt that way.
The 20-Point Plan is simply a catalog of Perretta’s abysmal behavior, either toward me or toward other employees, over a 20-year period.
I doubt Perretta was even conscious of what he was doing, or thought that the “strategies” he used to control his employees were anything out of the ordinary. When he bought Swank Publications, he essentially shanghaied from New York a group of sophisticated and experienced publishing professionals, and treated them as he was accustomed to treating the people who worked in his printing plant in Poughkeepsie.
Amazingly, until Joyce Snyder (“Pam Katz” in Beaver Street) filed her age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit, no employee or ex-employee had ever sued Perretta—for anything. Possibly, this was out of fear of losing their job and never being able to find another one; a lack of resources to pursue legal action against a wealthy businessman; or the knowledge that a lawsuit of any kind could drag on for years and they might not even win.
Perretta’s like the Newt Gingrich of sleaze—a classic schoolyard bully who nobody ever punched in the face. Then one day, Joyce Snyder, a little wisp of a woman, knocked him on his ass with a savage left hook to the jaw (metaphorically speaking). Snyder, sophisticated in the ways of the law—she’d considered going to law school at one point and had worked for private investigators—had the resources and the courage to go after Perretta. She also had nothing to lose. Snyder had devoted virtually her entire 31-year-career to pornography, and after Perretta fired her, she knew that at her age, with Perretta buying up every porn mag in existence, and with the economy in its tattered state, she’d never work again.
Perretta screamed so loud when he found out Snyder was suing him, I could hear his howls back in New York City. And that’s only a slight satirical exaggeration. Read More
Everybody knows a demoralized workforce is an easy-to-control workforce. Lou Perretta, pornographic publishing magnate who now owns every significant stroke book with the exception of Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, began instituting this plan in the early 1990s, when the economy was booming. With the onset of the recession, this plan has become insidiously effective--Perretta can now boast one of America's most demoralized workforces. The only monkey wrench in the works has come from former employee Joyce Snyder ("Pam Katz" in Beaver Street) who has sued Perretta for age and sex discrimination. So, a word of warning to any bosses who are considering instituting the Perretta Plan: Consult your attorney. Though effective in the short run, institution of this plan may cause severe financial and legal hardship and can lead to chronic heartburn and ridicule.
The Perretta Plan
1. Never give an employee a merit raise no matter how well they perform.
2. Never give an employee a raise even if you double or triple their workload.
3. Never praise an employee’s work. (If you do, they may ask for a raise.)
4. Loudly and publicly denigrate every employee’s work as often as possible, with a minimum of one time per year.
5. Nobody is indispensable. Fire the most talented and experienced employees.
6. If a downsized employee asks for severance for three decades of service, say, “Your 401(k) is your severance.”
7. Produce a product that’s of questionable legality and aesthetically vile—hardcore pornography, for example—that will so taint anyone associated with it, they’ll never work again after you fire them.
8. Scream at all remaining employees for the most trivial mistakes. The more trivial the mistake, the louder you should scream. Make it clear that you think everybody who works for you is a fucking idiot.
9. Refer to minority employees as “animals.” Dare them to sue.
10. Foster a climate of subtle religious bigotry. For example, if you see two or more Jewish employees standing together, say to them, in a jovial tone, “This place is starting to look like a yeshiva.” This will cause maximum discomfort with minimal legal exposure.
11. If business is bad, cut salaries by 25%. (Note: This means all employees. Do not cut salaries of only female employees. This is illegal. See Joyce Snyder.)
12. Cut lunch hour to a half hour.
13. Have the most incompetent employee act as office spy. Allow him to sleep at his desk.
14. Fill all executive positions with blood relatives only. Nepotism is the answer to any staffing question.
15. Under penalty of termination, forbid employees from doing any outside freelance work.
16. Give employees only inferior, dilapidated, lower-back antagonizing office furniture.
17. Confine highest-paid employees to offices without heat and air conditioning.
18. No need to hire cleaning people. Employees with advanced degrees should clean toilets, too.
19. The Friday after Thanksgiving is not a holiday. Take away a vacation day from any employee who does not come to work that day. Dock the pay of any employee who does not have a vacation day.
20. Special Bonus Strategy (For Advanced Users Only): Announce after Thanksgiving that the office will be open between Christmas and New Year’s. Announce on Christmas Eve that the office will be closed between Christmas and New Year’s; that employees will be charged five vacation days; and that employees without vacation days will be docked one week’s pay. Read More
Swank’s publisher, Lou Perretta, known to some employees as “Satan in Suspenders,” wasn’t the most depraved pornographer I’d ever worked for. (That distinction belongs to the elegantly attired Carl Ruderman, who published High Society before selling it to Perretta last year.) But the atmosphere in Perretta’s offices, situated on the side of a highway in Paramus—Please Ram Us, as some of my former colleagues called it—was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in any job I’ve ever had, in or out of pornography.
Yes, Perretta’s Swank was a boring, depressing, purposefully demoralizing company staffed with people smothered by fear and hopelessness. It was so grim that I used to look forward to going to the dentist if it got me out of work an hour early. But this is how a lot of corporations are run today—business as usual, in other words. What sets Swank apart is that they pushed this modus operandi into the realm of the legally actionable, some of the details of which are documented in the age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit Joyce Snyder (I called her “Pam Katz” in Beaver Street) filed against Perretta.
I originally wrote about Perretta in the Beaver Street chapter titled “The End of History at Swank Inc.,” describing how a job I once enjoyed had been reduced to “assembly-line toil at its worst,” and “an exercise in postmodern sweatshop drudgery.”
But I didn’t go into more detail because Beaver Street is about the history of pornography, and as the chapter title indicates, that history ended in Paramus.
At Lou Perretta’s Swank Inc. pornography was almost beside the point.
Perretta was a printer who owned Great Eastern—since shuttered—a printing plant in Poughkeepsie that was once that city’s second largest employer next to IBM. He bought Swank and just about every other porn mag in existence as fodder to keep his presses running 24/7.
The story of Swank under Perretta ceases to be a story about pornography and becomes, instead, a tale of the ugliest face of soul-and-job-destroying modern day capitalism. And in light of Snyder’s age-and-sex-discrimination lawsuit, it’s time to examine more closely what went on there.
In next week’s installment, I’ll further explore the toxic atmosphere of Swank Publications under Perretta—a toxicity that went far beyond the mere tyranny common to all porn publishing companies. Read More
I put “Pam Katz” in quotes because that’s not her real name. In Beaver Street, though all the “characters” are real, I use pseudonyms for all non-public figures. Well, Pam Katz is no longer a private citizen. Her real name is Joyce Snyder.
Last February, after 31 years on the job, Snyder was let go at Swank Publications. In response, she filed an age and sex discrimination suit against the publisher, Lou Perretta.
The legal documents are public record, available online.
In future postings, I’ll be commenting further on this lawsuit. I also plan to describe in even more detail than I did in Beaver Street the atmosphere of Swank Publications under Lou Perretta that led to the lawsuit.
Joyce A. Snyder v. Louis Perretta is significant not only on its own merits, but because with the exception of Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, Perretta has a virtual monopoly on the porn magazine business, which has become a festering symbol of the festering economy of post-industrial America, where talented, highly experienced people can no longer earn a living wage.
This is class warfare. Stay tuned for further dispatches from the front lines. Read More
In fiction, when an author brings a character to life, that character is said to take on a life of his own. In nonfiction, the characters are alive (except when they’re dead) and they do have lives of their own. Such is the case with Beaver Street, which is populated with real people who continue to lead vital and interesting lives outside the confines of the book’s covers.
Towards the end of Beaver Street there’s a section called “On the Naked and the Dead,” in which I give updates on some of the main characters. I’ve continued to do so on this blog, in the past week mentioning that Izzy Singer recently published a short story on Kindle, and that Carl Ruderman has divested himself of all his pornographic holdings and can no longer be called a pornographer.
Here are a few other updates of note:
Happily retired from the porn biz, Sonja Wagner continues to create her art, erotic and otherwise.
Former X-Rated Cinema editor Pamela Katz was fired from Swank publications after 30 years on the job and is now suing the company for age and sex discrimination.
Steve Colby, a photographer who helped launch the British Porno Invasion of 1987, is one of London’s last remaining “glamour” photographers, though now shoots almost exclusively in Prague.
Neville Player, whose name I didn’t use in the book but described as the "porno genius" who took over D-Cup magazine, has written a memoir (title TBA) about his long career working for British publishing legend Paul Raymond and his short career working for Lou Perretta.
Having recently acquired High Society, Lou Perretta now owns virtually every porn magazine of significance, with the exception of Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler, and has made Paramus, New Jersey ground zero for what remains of the dying men’s mag industry. Read More
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. Read More
Clearly you’ve been away from the biz too long. The dapper Ruderman sold his print and electronic empire to Lou Perretta just the other week. The biz is collapsing. Everybody’s hurting. Everybody’s getting fired. The only mags of note Perretta doesn’t own are Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler. It’s too hard to make money on the Web, at least the kind of money that was being made in the glory days of print. No, the stuff on the Internet isn't a “charity gesture;” it’s exhibitionism. Every exhibitionist who has a video camera and an Internet connection is giving it away. The question nobody can answer is: How do you make $$$ when the competition is giving it away? Isn’t that what I said in the interview? The cable and satellite companies are the only ones making real money in porn now.
As always, appreciate your perspective.
To be continued someday… Read More