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Flatbush Flashback

Hey, Man, You Really Gotta Read Beaver Street



The other day I posted my review of The Great Porno Debate between Ron Jeremy (Porno good!) and Gail Dines (Porno bad!).

Now I've came across this video review of Dines's book Pornland, by writer and musician Jordan Owen.

Owens is articulate, and Dines really gets under his skin. His commentary is provocative. Read More 
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Beaver Street: Well researched, Smartly Written, Surprisingly Funny

Beaver Street's first brush with notoriety occurred nine years ago, when The New York Times ran an article partially inspired by an embryonic Beaver Street manuscript. "A Demimonde in Twilight" profiled a number of literate porn writers surviving in New York City in the declining days of magazine publishing. Two of those writers, "Izzy Singer" and "Maria Bellanari," are major characters in Beaver Street. (They went by different names in the article.) The story also discussed the connection between magazines like Stag and Swank, writers like Mario Puzo and Bruce Jay Friedman, and Marvel Comics, a "secret history" that I explore at length in Beaver Street.

It was written by Matthew Flamm, a journalist who’s been instrumental in bringing attention to my work. In 1999, Flamm was the first one to write about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man. His item in Entertainment Weekly sparked a conflagration of media coverage that put Nowhere Man on best-seller lists in five countries.

Flamm has at last read the published version of Beaver Street, and has posted his distinctly New York-flavored review on Amazon. I will quote it in its entirety below:

Robert Rosen’s Beaver Street is both an absorbing memoir of a writer's struggle to make a living and a brief history of pornography as it grew from a mom and pop business into the industrial giant it is today. But this well researched, smartly written, surprisingly funny book is also a one of a kind tour through a fast-disappearing underbelly of American popular culture. Rosen, a pre-gentrification New Yorker, fell into porn when it still held a certain countercultural allure. His cast of characters includes hapless, aspiring artists, shrewd businessmen (and businesswomen), all-out neurotics, sexual desperados, and conniving egomaniacs. Kind of a cross section of a broken down IRT local train circa 1980. Beaver Street shows us an alternative Grub Street, one that many of us never knew existed. Read More 
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The Great Porno Debate: Ron Jeremy vs. Gail Dines

The most frightening thing about last night's debate between Ron Jeremy and Gail Dines, on The Joy Behar Show, is that the porn star who's appeared in nearly two thousand XXX-rated movies, and the anti-porn author of Pornland both sounded more sane than any of the Republican presidential candidates did in their debate last week.

I hardly agree with everything Gail Dines says. She has, for example, classified Vanity Fair magazine as pornography. But she clearly does a lot of research—she said on the show that she gets her information from Adult Video News—and unlike, say, the late Andrea Dworkin, she traffics in facts and presents them in a non-hysterical way.

The heart of Dines’s “porn is bad” argument is that the bulk of smut you find on the Internet is “body-punishing cruel sex, women being gagged by penises, women being penetrated by four men,” and that watching this kind of thing affects how men relate to women.

Jeremy, of course, disagrees. Citing a study in Scientific American magazine, he said that porn is not harmful and that “fifty percent of all porn is produced and directed by women.”

Dines said that the porn women produce is even “more violent.”

The debate, an abbreviated version of which you can watch by clicking on the above photo, was civilized. Though there was one amusingly petulant moment, which doesn’t appear in the edited video. Jeremy kept referring to Dines as “this lady.”

“I am not ‘this lady,’” said Dines, interrupting. “I am Gail Dines!”

Bottom line: If Jeremy or Dines were to run for president (Dines can’t because she was born in England), I’d vote for either one of them before I’d vote for Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry. Read More 
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The Lifestyle of a Rich Pornographer

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 

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The Real Life of a Beaver Street Character

 

There’s a lot of talk in the writing biz about Amazon’s Kindle, not all of it good. But one thing is undeniable: Kindle has given authors the ability to publish their work at no cost, distribute it globally, and collect royalties on it—without the need of a traditional publisher. In short, it’s changed the rules of the game, and like it or not, e-books, Kindle or otherwise, are the industry’s future.

With that in mind, I downloaded the free Kindle app for PC, invested $2.99, and read a short story titled “Learning to Be Cruel.” Why? Because “Irv O. Neil,” the author of this deranged bit of semi-autobiographical fiction about a middle-aged freelance writer who’s sexually humiliated by a gorgeous young Chinese woman, is “Izzy Singer,” one of the main characters in Beaver Street. It’s his first venture into the realm of Kindle.

In the years that I toiled in pornography, I published a lot of Irv/Izzy’s work in magazines such as D-Cup. But I’ve never read a story of his like this one—due to censorship regulations, I wasn’t allowed to publish stories about humiliation and degradation.

“Learning to be Cruel” shocked me, probably because I got the sense that Irv/Izzy is writing from the heart, and may personally enjoy having sexy young women treat him in a manner similar to what he graphically and realistically describes in the story. (I shall not enumerate the details here.)

Though not my “cup of sleaze,” as Irv/Izzy might say, this skillfully rendered tale has given me additional insight into a character in my own book, showing me a dimension of his personality that even after 27 years, I never fully grasped.

“Learning to Be Cruel” is not only a good companion piece to Beaver Street; it’s the brave work of a man who has mastered the short story form. Or perhaps I should say, a man who’s been enslaved by it. Read More 

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Pretty Classy Display for a Sleazeball Filth Rag

Took this pic yesterday, at Universal News on West 23rd Street in Manhattan—before they threw me out for taking pictures of their magazines.

There was the July issue of Bizarre, with my Beaver Street interview, “The Porn Identity,” by Ben Myers, prominently displayed with a bunch of pricey fashion mags, like Numero and Von Gutenberg, as well as Loaded, Esquire, and Paper. Pretty classy company for a “Porn Special” featuring “Britain’s Grubbiest Grandma.”

With a price tag of $10.50 US, you’d think Bizarre was offering hardcore sleaze, which they’re not. (Actually, what they’re offering is far more shocking.)

Get ’em while they last! Read More 
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Michele Bachmann: Ban Pornography Now

Michele Bachmann, anti-porn congresswoman from Minnesota.
One of the major points I make in Beaver Street is that the biggest crooks cry “Ban Pornography!” the loudest. As examples, I cite the four greatest anti-porn warriors of the 20th century: Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Edwin Meese, and Charles Keating. All of them tried to rid America of the “cancer” of pornography, and in each case their war on porn proved to be little more than an effort to distract the nation from their own illegal activities, which included income tax evasion, bribery, and suborning perjury. Three of these guardians of morality resigned their offices in disgrace rather than face impeachment or criminal prosecution. Keating was convicted of 73 counts of fraud and racketeering and sentenced to 12½ years in prison.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who seems determined to join this distinguished group. In an effort to save his political career, Hatch has demanded, along with 41 other senators, that the Justice Department investigate and prosecute pornographers more vigorously. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “The porno investigation is the last refuge of the doomed politician.”

Last week, Republican presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann stepped into the XXX fray, signing a pledge to fight against “all forms of pornography.” The pledge also suggests that African-Americans were in some ways better off under slavery, and that homosexuality can be cured.

It’s probably not necessary for me to say that Michele Bachmann’s ignorance and bigotry rivals that of Sarah Palin. All I can do is wonder what crimes she’s committed that will lead to her inevitable disgrace. Read More 
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Orrin Hatch: Tax The Poor


America’s Anti-Porn Senator at work.

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah—whose former aide Elisa Florez became the porn actress Missy Manners, star of Behind the Green Door: The Sequel—is taking some time off from his crusade against pornography to go after poor people.

According to Talking Points Memo, Hatch told the Senate yesterday that the poor need to pay more taxes and “share some of the responsibility” for shrinking the national debt.

According to The Huffington Post, Hatch also voted against beginning debate on a resolution to have the Senate declare that millionaires and billionaires should share the pain of debt reduction.

I think that Hatch should stick to what he does best: railing against pornography. Having employed Ms. Florez, at least that’s something, unlike poverty, that he’s personally experienced. Read More 
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The Marvel Comics Porno Connection


Stan Lee explains his partnership with Jack Kirby.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my interview with Ben Myers that ran in the July issue of Bizarre, I explained that I served as the male model in a shoot called “The $5 Blowjob”—I describe the experience in Beaver Street—because no real writer had ever gotten in front of the camera and reported on what it was like to be a porn “star.” As I mentioned to Myers, one of the writers who failed to take advantage of this kind of opportunity is Martin Amis, when he wrote a piece about the porn industry in California, “XXX Marks the Spot,” for Tina Brown’s short-lived Talk magazine. (Another version of the article ran in The Guardian.)

Amis’s article, a classic example of an outsider writing about an industry he doesn’t understand or have any real feeling for, lacked genuine insight. His big “scoop”: “Anal is hot.”

Though he blew it on the porno piece, I still admire Martin Amis’s writing. In fact, I used a quote about modern literature’s treatment of masturbation from his novel London Fields at the beginning of Beaver Street.

James Wolcott recently mentioned “XXX Marks the Spot” in his Vanity Fair blog—he called it “a quite vivid article about visiting a hardcore porn set.” It was part of a posting noting that Amis is moving to Brooklyn and had written to him asking if he knew “any cool places to hang out” there. Wolcott, a resident of the Upper West Side, couldn’t help him.

Having escaped from Brooklyn 36 years ago, when Brooklyn was still a place to escape from, I don’t think I could help Amis either. However, once he settles into his new digs, I would like to chat with him about pornography, literature, and Brooklyn.

I’m right across the bridge in Manhattan, practically walking distance from Cobble Hill—assuming Mr. Amis likes to walk. Or, if he prefers, I can cross the bridge. Den, maybe, we can grab a coupla ’dogs at Natan’s. Dat, t’me, is duh ting t’do in Brooklyn, as Thomas Wolfe might have said. Read More 
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The Rabbi, the Weiner, and the Porn Industry

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

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

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

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

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

But is the Tea Party even aware of Hatch’s relationship with Elisa Florez, who became the porn star Missy Manners after working for Hatch? Not that I’d ever want to do anything to help the Tea Party, but really, Teabaggers, if you want to run a politician out of Utah, all you’ve got to do is point out his links to the porn industry. It’ll work every time. Read More 
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Gonzo Filth Legend

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

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

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

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

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

A former co-worker at Swank Publications sent me this e-mail after reading Beaver Street. Both complimentary and scathing, it serves as a reminder of what happens when you write books about real people. I’ve changed his name as well as the names of any non-public figures and still-living former colleagues that he mentions. All names in the letter correspond to the names I used in the book. The redacted names do not appear in the book.

OK, Bob, finished the Beaver. It’s obvious the work you put in, research, continuity, editing, organizing. You juxtapose the subjective and objective in interesting ways. As an insider, you still surprised me with new info and reminded me quite tactilely what we saw, felt, and dealt with. I can only imagine readers who weren’t there being pulled in and getting a good idea of it. The evolution of the biz does indeed mirror and contradict society simultaneously. All that is very effective and reads well without lecturing.

The pacing is good all along but feels like it jumps at the end. You go from lots of detail and everyday experiences to and overview in the last couple chapters. Was this your decision or a result of editing?

Your disdain for the biz, employers, and self-loathing is palpable. Not sure who you’re blaming. Them for over-paying you, your dad for exposing and inspiring you to pursue fringe publishing, yourself for not doing something else despite the money. (You don’t make it sound like it was easy money—being disgusted, nauseated, adjusting and adapting to each and every thing thrown at you. And you appear to never say no...)

A couple other things I question: How do you know Chip [Goodman]’s moods were solely influenced by the amount of coke he did? That he had a Napoleonic complex is clear but do you know if he was ever diagnosed as bi-polar, had family issues, painful teeth or any of a million other things that cause mood swings? Yeah, we know he did coke but there is nothing on record about rehab, ODs or the like. I think you take a broad stroke there merely to smear someone you despised and depict with great judgment. Same for [Carl] Ruderman but to a much less scathing degree. And it seems you spared “Arnold Shapiro” all but being a kiss-ass yes-man. Plus I thought you said you used his real name. Why not out him? He was perhaps the bigger douche in the big scheme of things because of his duplicitous and hypocritical relationship with and against Chip. You mention his flip-flopping to please the boss but not his loathing for him behind his back, all the while dancing to the bank and doing his investing on the phone while we toiled and made him more and more money. You also point out the money thrown at you for pick-up books but don’t mention how he would pay outside people double what he gave full-time employees. Outsiders wouldn’t know that, just saying.

And lastly, the thing I like least is your treatment of Bill Bottiggi. Why out his scam? And imply the connection to his murder? Totally not necessary and I might ad, not cool. Seems a crappy way to treat a troubled guy. Not to mention he was a very sweet soul despite his problems. If there was something he did to make your life difficult in some way, fucked you over, ripped you off or dissed you in any way other than trying to get you high and hitting on you, albeit in an awkward indirect way, if that’s what he was even really doing, I could see dragging him through the dirt. But he was simply a misfit, a generally innocuous misfit who was a victim of murder. A murder that you off-handedly say was never solved. [Murder theory redacted.] That plausible and grim theory is every bit a shitty story to tell, and thankfully left out, but if you don’t know one way or the other. why suggest anything? It seems you had something against him or just couldn’t resist including a juicy tidbit and the chance to include a salacious tale of sex, drugs, and murder. Which is it? You couldn't get the picture of his carved-up corpse out of your mind? Really? Well, me neither. I mourn for him and still raise a Bloody Mary in remembrance each Thanksgiving morning. I hope you rest easy knowing you’ve scandalized him in such an exploitive way. Yet you fail to mention genuine scum like [name of non-public figure redacted] (the coke-head art director of Swank), [name of non-public figure redacted], that other creep editor Chip brought in from Puritan. These were true pornographers in every deviant definition of the word, who were more over-paid than you to raise the bar of distaste.

So summing up, nice research, some nice writing, a peek into a time gone by but overall rather self-aggrandizing. I’m not too surprised but none-the-less disappointed you had to go down that road. Good luck with the sales anyway. I do admire your dedication and success. —Alan

Tomorrow, my response… Read More 

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The Beaver Correspondence 7



This is the professor’s response to my five-part video interview with Kate Copstick and Jamie Maclean of the Erotic Review.

Howdy Bob,

Interesting stuff. Thanks for the link.

I think you’re becoming a bit of a gloom and doomer. You’ve witnessed a migration of media for porn over the last 40 years or so, from paper and film to audio and video and now almost entirely to the Web. I don’t think it’s death by a long shot, only evolution. There must be considerable money in the industry still, as it answers a basic human need. It’s just become more invisible, even than the dapper Ruderman, hidden in an invisible electronic empire. There’s loads of the stuff (har har) on the Internet—it’s not a charity gesture, right? There will undoubtedly be another media that will replace the Web at some point, probably developed by a future Kevin Goodman.

The quality issue is another point. I think that plot is important—at least a trace of it—to make the material effective. The pizza delivery boy, gardener, maid, the chance meeting, all adds spice to the moment which would be otherwise generic and hollow. I have not extensively surveyed the material but suspect that story—and to an extent acting—are still important. Yeah, the self-glorifying awards ceremonies and visibility are gone, but that’s more the result of a puritanization of society from the libertine 70s. I mean, was there that much acting and directing talent back then? Part of this attitude might be driven by your take on Pamela Katz’s recent dismissal, but I am uncertain about the correlation—she was doomed as a print dinosaur and to be honest I didn’t see it as genius as much as persistence.

But, hey, l’chaim, Bob. Good to see you're getting positive mo.

Jack

To be continued… Read More 
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We interrupt this correspondence to bring you a special seal of approval…

Yesterday I noticed that the Erotic Review, the “posh” and literate British magazine that had already given Beaver Street an outstanding review had also slapped on their “Hot Pick” seal of approval. I guess this is kind of like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval… but different. In any case, this seemed like a good time to reflect upon a few of the encouraging signs that have shown themselves to Beaver Street over the past few months.

1. Beaver Street was a “Hot Type” selection in Vanity Fair UK, which is a pretty classy seal of approval, too.

2. Village Voice columnist Michael Musto called Beaver Street “Entertaining, insightful, and hot.” And he was amused by one of the promo videos, too.

3. David Comfort, writing for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, called Beaver Street “riveting” and said that I’d invented a new genre, “a confessional for-adults-only romantic comedy with a rare, thoughtful twist.”

4. Jamie Maclean, editor of the Erotic Review, said, “Beaver Street captures the aroma of pornography, bottles it, and gives it so much class you could put it up there with Dior or Chanel.”

Tomorrow we shall return to our regularly scheduled correspondence. Read More 
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The Beaver Correspondence 5

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

Jack,

Thorny? Me? As I recall, you once did compare me to Lou Grant. But that was a long time ago.

I’m finding this exchange so entertaining that I’m considering publishing the whole thing on my blog, or most of it anyway. Will obviously have to edit carefully to hide your identity. Just want to make sure you don’t have a problem with that.

I’d say that with the exception of the later work of Annie Sprinkle there are no porn stars who consider their work art.

Bob

To be continued… Read More 
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The Beaver Correspondence 4

This is the response to the e-mail I posted two days ago.

Bob,

I was strangely nostalgic when reading your thorny responses. I suppose I was throwing out some rhetorical questions. But still the same, you are far better qualified to meditate on some of the inherent issues here—i.e., the need to escape from reality (oddly characteristic of all of Martin Goodman’s publications)—than Martin Amis. You’ve earned the right to discuss some of these “big” issues by virtue of your history. You take the trouble (like John Heindenry did in What Wild Ecstasy) to trace histories of the industry that have not been brought forward elsewhere, and can guess their significance as well as or better than anyone else. This wasn’t necessity, just a road that might have been followed.

I guess what appears interesting about the “creators” is not the editors, but performers. Is porn Art to them?

My imperfect knowledge of your history led me to hypothesize about those I thought to be anonymized characters but who were real folks. Bill Bottiggi, for instance, seemed like a composite but upon reflection I recalled him from office lore.

In any case, an insightful and detailed adventure through the shadowy world of the porn industry, replete with lively anecdotes. Good luck with it.

Jack

To be continued… Read More 
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The Beaver Correspondence 2

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

Hey Bob,

Thanks for the galleys. For some reason, I put aside the book I was reviewing, [title redacted], and got through your book rather rapidly onscreen.

All in all, a nice package. I would have preferred to see more broad history (no pun intended) and cultural hypothesis about porn—what motivates the consumers as well as the performers/creators—but that is either too obvious or too deep, I guess. You’re perched on a seat few share and in a real sense have authority to opine about porn as phenomenon; I woulda liked to have seen more. The blend of personal experience and general history overall works well, though, one buoying up the other.

Part of the game with those associated with your travails is playing who’s who, of course, and I was most surprised by the High Society stuff, which I’d forgotten. In any case, the portraits of both that operation and Swank Publications were pretty spot on. I understand the need to mix personas for privacy’s sake in a memoir, but I got lost with a couple of the characters. Not that that didn’t make them interesting in their own right; I was continually impressed with your ability to bring characters to life through detail, idiosyncrasies. By the way, I didn’t spot any doppelgangers—did I miss anything?

One factual point: recently researching the life of an author who wrote science fiction, CM Kornbluth, I came across mention of Martin Goodman’s 50s operations including first edition paperbacks of some sci fi classics (or near classics). It was the same profit setup as porn—crank out 200 manuscript pages per month for $x, publisher slaps on a lusty cover, repeat. I don’t have the book on hand anymore that references this (I borrowed it on interlibrary loan, being a poor academic), but it’s the only bio on CMK that exists. In any case, I thought this expanded the Martin story in a useful way—in his desire for profit and ability to sort talent, it’s almost as if he stumbled on these cultural pressure points (pleasure points?) and fostered entertainment industries (sci fi, porn, comics) that would loom large 50 years later. Maybe worth adding if you can.

I think you’ll understand why it’s best for me to refrain from public comment on this project, despite my enthusiasm. Thanks for the look-see and good luck.

Jack

To be continued… Read More 
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The Beaver Correspondence

The following is the first e-mail I sent to a former editor who worked with me at Swank publications and also worked at High Society. He now holds a prestigious position in academia. That’s why I’ve given him a pseudonym and in future e-mails will disguise any details that could be used to identify him. I’m running this correspondence to contrast my perspective with the academic perspective and to give a sense of what an author goes through as he prepares to publish a book and searches for anybody who might be willing to give him a useful blurb.

Hi Jack,

As promised, attached are the (very) uncorrected (and long awaited) Beaver Street galleys minus the real cover and pictures. I’ve been sending this to a limited number of people, mainly a few “characters” in the book, and a few friends and journalists who I know are interested. Printed galleys with pix and cover are still a few weeks away. But I am interested in any feedback, possibly to use as promo copy.

Thanks.

Bob

Click here to read Jack’s response. Read More 
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Out from Behind the Paywall

The Erotic Review has liberated Jamie Maclean's Beaver Street review and made it available for all to read. Pretty good blurb, too, plugging it on their home page: "Rosen's hilarious and autobiographical account of the 1980s NY Pornmeisters, their tumescence and, for some, their detumescence. It's filthy work if you can get it…" Read More 
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The Smell of Beaver in the Morning

I’d like to say a few more things about Jamie Maclean’s review of Beaver Street in the Erotic Review. For one thing, I love the way he tied together the critique with references to odor in my book—my description of the fetid smell of the Hellfire club, the Henry Miller quote I used at the beginning, and his description of the way the book “captures the aroma of pornography.” I remember coming upon the Miller quote—“Sex is not romantic, particularly when it is commercialized, but it does create an aroma, pungent and nostalgic”—and knowing immediately that it belonged in Beaver Street, though I hadn’t connected it with the Hellfire scene. It was unconscious, as these things often are.

I can already see the term papers: “Odor Imagery in Beaver Street.” Which raises the question: Can odor be an image? I’m not sure. It doesn’t necessarily create a picture in my brain. But it does create a smell.

I also think I should take Maclean’s advice: Bottle the aroma and sell it like perfume. I’ve got a great advertising slogan: Beaver Street, for that unmistakable stench of pornography. Read More 
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On David Foster Wallace and Footnotes

David Foster Wallace. Photo by bjohnson.

The late David Foster Wallace was no stranger to the porn industry. Writing as Willem R. deGroot and Matt Rundlet for the September 1998 issue of Premiere, Wallace’s satiric takedown of the Adult Video News awards, “Neither Adult nor Entertainment,” was laced, as was most of his work, with hilarious footnotes. Wallace pushed the use of annotation to the limits of comic absurdity in a way I’d never seen, and by so doing, he paved the way for me to do the same thing in Beaver Street.

My footnotes, I think, add a new dimension to the book. As an example, I'll quote from the footnote on page 156, which describes the people on fringes of the adult industry who magazine editors could no longer work with in the aftermath of the Traci Lords scandal:

“These ‘marginal’ photographers and models were the people who made porno interesting, gave it what passed for a soul, and delivered the true grit and unvarnished reality of American sexuality—like the plumbers from St. Louis who sent in sleazy Polaroids of their naked girlfriends splayed pink on rusting lawn chairs in junk-strewn backyards; the garbage men from Detroit who submitted strangely erotic images of tattooed dancers with oversized clits posing on grungy toilets; and the postal workers from Pittsburgh who shot exhibitionist housewives shaving their pudenda for cheap thrills and a taste of ‘trailer-park celebrity.’” Read More 

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World’s Greatest Anti-Porn Star

Last month I found an enthusiastic Beaver Street thread in an online forum called AVMANIACS . So, I registered for the forum and told its members that I was available to discuss the book. A good portion of discussion, thus far, has focused on Traci Lords, whose story is at the heart of Beaver Street.

Interestingly, a number of posters appear to be about the same age as Lords, who was born in 1968, and many of their questions have to do with how Lords was able to acquire fraudulent ID. One poster said, for example, “I was a teenager in the same era as Traci Lords (and I think I’m a little smarter than your average porn actress), and you should have seen MY pathetic attempts to procure a fake ID. I find it hard to believe a fifteen year old ON HER OWN c. 1984 could get a fake birth certificate, a fake US passport, etc.”

First of all, Traci Lords was not your average porn actress. As I say in Beaver Street, she was the world’s greatest anti-porn star. And this poster has not taken into consideration her level of desperation. Lords didn’t want phony ID to buy beer. She needed the ID to survive. (I wonder if the poster made a serious effort to acquire a phony birth certificate, as Lords did.) As the porn industry found out too late: Never underestimate the capabilities of a ruthless and ambitious 15-year-old woman. Read More 

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Would You Buy a Used War on Porn from this Man?

When Richard Nixon was running for reelection we asked, "Would you buy a used war from this man?" We were talking about Vietnam. But when Watergate blew up in his face he also declared war on porn. As Orrin Hatch attempts to save his doomed career by declaring war on porn, we're asking a variation on the classic Nixonian question. Read More 
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A Dirty Book About Politics

Beaver Street is a dirty book that’s as much about politics and economics as it is about pornography, and much of what I wrote continues to be relevant to the latest breaking news. Senator Orrin Hatch’s call for the vigorous prosecution of pornographers is, of course, one example. Osama bin Laden is another. Though the book doesn’t mention him by name, it does reference his deeds in an effort to illuminate the government’s hypocritical and insane response to the “pornographic menace” at a time of genuine national crisis.

In the chapter titled “So You Want to Talk About Traci Lords?” I describe 2002 as “a fearful, repressive moment in American history, filled with echoes of McCarthyism and worse.” I then explain how “amidst the wars, death, terrorism, and threats of annihilation from ‘weapons of mass destruction,’” Congress takes the time to unanimously pass a resolution condemning a book, Harmful to Minors—a well-reasoned indictment of abstinence-only sex education, by Judith Levine, published by the University of Minnesota Press—as a work that promotes child pornography.

So, it’s taken the government ten years and how many billions of dollars to kill bin Laden? Is anything going to change now that he’s dead? Just asking, as they say. Read More 
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Spiro Agnew vs. Orrin Hatch

Today we shall contrast an anti-porn statement of Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's bribe-taking vice president, with another pearl of wisdom from the Honorable Orrin Hatch, senior senator from Utah.

"As long as Richard Nixon is president, Main Street is not going to turn into Smut Alley." --Spiro Agnew

"Obscenity is toxic. Like other forms of toxic waste, obscenity harms everyone it touches." --Orrin Hatch

Read about it in Beaver Street, now back in stock on Amazon UKRead More 
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Orrin's the One

It would be instructive, I think, to contrast a recent quote about pornography from Senator Orrin Hatch with quotes about porn that President Richard Nixon and his Vice President Spiro Agnew made nearly 40 years ago.

"Pornography is like a cancer in our society. It is spreading and is more harmful than ever." --Orrin Hatch

"Pornography can corrupt society and a civilization. The people's elected representatives have the right and obligation to prevent that corruption." --Richard Nixon

"A child's constant exposure to a flood of hardcore pornography could warp his moral outlook for a lifetime." --Spiro Agnew

Read all about it in Beaver StreetRead More 
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A Question for the Honorable Orrin Hatch

Senator, how did your experiences employing Elisa Florez, who after working for you became the porn star Missy Manners, influence your views on the porn industry?

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