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Far From Flatbush

Scenes from a "Deep Throat" Panel

I was among the people who Kristin Battista-Frazee asked to participate in a panel discussion at the Strand bookstore, in New York City, to launch her memoir, The Pornographer's Daughter. This honest and unadorned depiction of what it was like to grow up with a father who was a major distributor of Deep Throat provides an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the fellatio flick that changed the way America saw pornography. Joining us on the panel were Dr. Belisa Vranich, who moderated, and Eric Danville, author of The Complete Linda Lovelace.


I’ve posted two short clips of my performance on this memorable night. In the above video, I read a key passage from Beaver Street that explains how Richard Nixon helped make Deep Throat the 11th-highest-grossing movie of 1973. And in the clip below, I talk about the possibility that Linda Lovelace was forced at gunpoint to perform in the film that made her America’s first porno superstar.


Click here to see the complete discussion. Read More 
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Like Stepping into a Literary Salon of Yesteryear

My panel discussion on Deep Throat, porn, and pop culture, at the Strand, on Friday, September 26, 7-8 PM--a launch event for The Pornographer’s Daughter by Kristin Battista-Frazee--will be held in the store's Rare Book Room. Below is the Strand's description of that room--a description that I think would entice any book lover to want to spend time amidst the priceless volumes and listen to four provocative authors talk about how, with a little help from Richard Nixon, a dirty movie changed America.

Stepping into the Strand's Rare Book Room is like stepping into a literary salon of yesteryear; leather-bound classics line the walls from floor to ceiling and natural light inundates from all angles. A charming and airy loft-like space with original floors from 1901, the historic room is home to an array of one-of-a-kind treasures--from proofs and first editions, to signed and inscribed books and papers. One day you may find The World as I See It, inscribed by Einstein, and the next a Christie's catalogue on Princess Diana's dress collection, signed by Diana herself. The collection is ever-changing--in quantity, style and subject--in the spirit of the dynamic and diverse nature of the Strand.

Hope to see you there. Read More 

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Even Nobel Honorees Do It


Ever since YouTube achieved global dominance, book trailers have become de rigueur for every author, from Nobel laureates, like Mario Vargas Llosa, to self-published scribblers who give away their e-books on Amazon.

A well-done trailer can create awareness that a book exists and can attract media attention, which can lead to… more media attention, which can be helpful if you've written a book that's worth reading.

The Pornographer’s Daughter, by Kristin Battista-Frazee, is a memoir that vividly depicts the trauma and chaos of growing up with a father who was a sex-club owner and a major distributor of Deep Throat, the fellatio flick that changed everything.

To promote The Pornographer’s Daughter—and her September 26 panel discussion about pornography’s impact on pop culture (in which I’ll be participating), at the Strand, in New York City—Kristin has released the above trailer, starring David Koechner, best known as Todd Packer on The Office and Champ Kind in Anchorman and Anchorman 2.

Koechner plays two roles in the trailer: himself and a character named Gerald “T-Bones” Tibbons, an obnoxious reporter who interviews Kristen about The Pornographer’s Daughter even though he hasn’t read it and thinks it’s a filthy book, like Fifty Shades of Grey.

Kristin holds her own against both incarnations of this bona fide comic heavyweight. And maybe the trailer will persuade you to venture out to the Strand to see our porn panel, which also includes Eric Danville, author of The Complete Linda Lovelace, and will be moderated by Dr. Belisa Vranich, author of the self-help book Get a Grip.

In the meantime, for your edification, please contrast and compare The Pornographer’s Daughter trailer with my own trailer, below, Erich von Pauli on Beaver Street: Episode 1—there are four episodes altogether—starring Paul Slimak as renegade Nazi Erich von Pauli. Shot on a budget of approximately £1, a few months before Beaver Street was published in the U.K., the video features Agnes Herrmann’s voiceover and Mary Lyn Maiscott’s performance of the Beaver Street theme song (with apologies to Ray Davies and the Kinks).

Gerald Tibbons, meet Erich von Pauli. Long may you run.

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Delighted to Be Invited or: Deep Throat + 42 Years

The Strand might be the best bookstore in New York City, if not in the entire country. It's been around for 87 years, the last 57 at its current location, at 828 Broadway, on the corner of 12th Street.

Despite the digital upheaval now roiling the book world, the store continues to flourish and remains the go-to performance space for such literary luminaries as Patti Smith and Junot Diaz.

I've spent many entertaining hours browsing the Strand's aisles, in search of reasonably priced out-of-print books. And whenever the pile of books on my coffee table gets out of control, the Strand is where I go to convert them to pocket change.

These are among the reasons why I’m delighted to have been invited to participate, on Friday, September 26, from 7-8 PM, in a launch event at the Strand for The Pornographer’s Daughter, a memoir by Kristin Battista-Frazee, whose father achieved notoriety in the 1970s when he went from being a respectable Philadelphia stockbroker to a major distributor of Deep Throat, the dirty movie that changed everything.

Here’s my mini-review of Kristin’s book:

An honest and unadorned depiction of what it’s like to grow up in a house where hardcore pornography and live sex shows pay the bills. Set in a twilight zone somewhere between All in the Family and The Sopranos, the cast features a father facing federal obscenity charges in Memphis, a mother washing down Nembutal with shots of Wild Turkey, and a daughter taking it all in with the eye of a budding journalist. It’s miraculous that Battista-Frazee was able to persuade her family to tell her in such unsparing detail what went down when she was a child. The most surprising plot twist, however, is that Battista-Frazee emerged from the chaos and trauma to lead a shockingly normal, middle-class life.

Deep Throat expert Eric Danville, author of The Complete Linda Lovelace, will join us for a free-wheeling panel discussion about porn’s impact on American pop culture, moderated by Dr. Belisa Vranich, author of Get a Grip.

If you’d like to attend the event in the third floor Rare Book Room, please buy The Pornographer’s Daughter or a $15 Strand gift card, which is good toward the purchase of Beaver Street or any other book in the store.

There will be wine. Read More 

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"Your Shirt Was Terrific Too!"

Still waiting for my mother to weigh in--she'll probably object to my not having worn a sport jacket--but I do appreciate all the positive feedback I've been getting about my appearance this week on the John Lennon episode of Hollywood Scandals. Most of the critiques have been delivered to my face (no "book"), with a significant portion coming via e-mail and telephone.

My favorite comment: "Your shirt was terrific too."

For that I give full credit to Mary P. Fox, who selected the shirt in a second-hand store in Santa Barbara and persuaded my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, to buy it for me. I'd also like to thank Salvatore Ferragamo, who designed it. Read More 
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Must-See TV

Should you find yourself in front of a TV tonight, Thursday, August 21, you might want to check out the Reelz channel at 9 P.M. ET or 8 P.M. CT. I'm going to be on a show called Hollywood Scandals, talking about John Lennon and his killer, Mark David Chapman.

I pop up eight times altogether, three times quickly in the opening minutes and five more times, somewhat more substantially, towards the end.

The episode is an accurate and surprisingly evenhanded rundown of Lennon’s life and death. But as the name of the show implies, they don’t hesitate to highlight the numerous “scandals” that punctuated his life—the “bigger than Jesus” controversy; leaving his first wife, Cynthia, for Yoko Ono; and his affair with May Pang, for example.

There is, however, nothing salacious about the presentation. Like Detective Joe Friday on Dragnet, which was also set in L.A., Hollywood Scandals wants “just the facts,” wherever they may lead.

It’s rare that I’m given the opportunity to talk about Lennon on national TV, and it’s extraordinary that they’ve allowed me to mention his diaries or any of the details of his final years, before he emerged from seclusion to record Double Fantasy. So this is must-see TV for Lennon fans, and especially for the ever-growing community of Nowhere Man readers.

Using the hashtag #HWDScandals, I’ll be making every effort to live-tweet the show.

In New York City, Reelz is 128 on Time Warner cable; you can click here to find it on your cable or satellite system.

The Lennon episode will also air on the following days:

Sunday, August 24 at 12 P.M. ET
Monday, August 25 at 2 A.M. ET
Thursday, August 28 at 8 P.M. ET


Hope you can all come together and watch this one. Read More 
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The Brown-Paper Curtain

You know that Beaver Street review, by Peter Landau, on Goodreads, that I posted about yesterday? Well, today it's migrated to Fleshbot. So, if you neglected to read it yesterday, please read it today on Fleshbot. They have much better pictures than Goodreads, just in case you need a little more incentive to click here now. Read More 
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Call Me Virgil

I should pay more attention to Goodreads because people often post reviews of my books on the site, and I'm one of those authors who not only reads his reviews, but also likes to engage with his critics.

Last night I found two positive Beaver Street reviews. The first one, by Peter Landau, the writer who conducted the epic interview with me that ran last month on Fleshbot, describes me "as a Virgil to the reader's Dante on tour of a business that grew to define pop culture in America." In his thoughtful analysis, Landau calls the book "a fun and informative trek through a lost world," meaning that the profitable and dynamic magazine world that I depict in Beaver Street has long ago ceased to exist. He gives the book five out of five stars.

Thank you, Peter.

The other review, by Mike McPadden, is notable because the writer “vividly” remembers “the naked nun photo scandal of 1979,” which I describe in an early Beaver Street chapter about editing Observation Post, an underground newspaper at the City College of New York. (Actually, the “nun” went well beyond being naked, but I suspect that Goodreads is subject to censorship, and McPadden prudently restrained his language.) Overall, McPadden calls the book “breezy” and “funny” and recommends Beaver Street “skinthusiastically.”

Thank you, Mike. And keep those reviews coming. Read More 
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A Question of Conspiracy

Last December, Roberto Ponce, an editor at the Mexico City newsweekly Proceso, sent me four questions about the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding John Lennon's murder. A comprehensive Spanish-language Lennon biography, Bendito Lennon, by Octavio Cavalli, had recently been published and the book gave credence to one of the theories. My answers to Ponce's questions ran as a column, titled "Sólo creo en una conspiración: la de Yoko Ono en mi contra" (I just believe in one conspiracy: Yoko Ono's against me), in a special Lennon section in their December 8, 2013 issue.

My blog posting yesterday, "Imagine Yoko Watching," about an upcoming Lennon episode of
Hollywood Scandals that I’ll be appearing in provoked a flurry of questions on Facebook about the conspiracy theories.

Here are Ponce's questions and my answers in the original English.


1) Octavio Cavalli, author of the biography Bendito Lennon, told me that one of his important sources of information about John Lennon’s murder is an article by Salvador Astucia, “José Joaquín Sanjeanis Perdomo: John Lennon’s true assassin?” In another one of his articles, Astucia has accused you, Mr. Robert Rosen, of being involved in the killing of John Lennon. What can you say about this?

I’m aware that Octavio Cavalli has thoroughly researched every aspect of John Lennon’s murder and for a variety of reasons doesn’t believe that Mark Chapman was the lone gunman. Among the issues Cavalli raises is the presence at the murder scene of Dakota doorman José Joaquín Sanjeanis Perdomo, a Cuban exile and former CIA agent, according to “Salvador Astucia,” which is the pseudonym of a Holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist. Astucia says, among other things too numerous to recount here, that I’m the Zionist-funded CIA spymaster who gave the order to kill Lennon, after which, in order to disgrace his memory (as well as the entire antiwar movement), the CIA then paid me to write Nowhere Man. He also says that I, along with another Jew, Edward Teller, the “Father of the H-bomb,” and Ronald Reagan, felt that Lennon had to die (and his memory besmirched) so America could go forward with its “Star Wars” missile-defense initiative.

The mere fact that Astucia is still alive is proof enough that his theories are absurd. Because if anything he said were true, a real spymaster would have silenced him 10 years ago, when he started posting this stuff online.

I don’t know if Astucia says these things because he believes them, or to provoke and to get attention. My inclination is to dismiss outright everything he or any other Holocaust denier says about anything. That Cavalli was able to find one shred of truth in Astucia’s insane ravings is a tribute to Cavalli’s tenaciousness, and his abilities as a researcher.

Though I must give Astucia full credit for my inclusion as number two, alongside J. D. Salinger and Stephen King, on a list titled “Top Three Conspiracy Theories Revolving Around the Death of John Lennon.”

And I’m sure that he’d be pleased to know that I briefly considered dedicating to him the novel I just finished writing, Bobby in Naziland, about a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s and early-60s, alongside Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who’d fought the Nazis. That dedication would have read: “For ______, my Personal Nazi, who reminded me I was a Jew and taught me anew the meaning of anti-Semitism.”

2) What do you think of the conspiracy theories that accuse the CIA, FBI, various ex-presidents of the U.S., Operation 40, and even the Jewish people of being behind Lennon’s murder?

I don’t completely reject all conspiracy theories. I’ve had 50 years to think about JFK, and the official explanation still strikes me as less than satisfying. But I don’t think Lennon was the victim of a conspiracy. I think Chapman was a lone nut, and I think if Yoko Ono believed that Lennon’s murderer, or an accomplice to the murder was still at large, she’d have conducted a private investigation—for her own safety. She’s done nothing of the sort.

I think most conspiracy theories—Manchurian Candidates, for example—are based on scenarios so complex, they’d be nearly impossible to execute. My understanding of the psychology behind conspiracy theories is that certain people cannot accept the fact that horrendous events, like murder, can be totally random and can happen to anybody. So they need to invent fairy tales, impervious to rational evidence, that give them a sense of control and show that it can’t happen to them. That’s why Astucia is the only so-called “journalist” I’ve ever refused to speak to. Because no matter what I told him, he’d use it as further “proof” that I work for the CIA and that I did order Lennon’s murder.

There is, however, one Lennon-related conspiracy I am aware of: The unsuccessful attempt by Ono, the New York District Attorney’s office, and G. Barry Golson, a former Playboy editor, to have me arrested on criminal conspiracy charges unless I signed a document forfeiting my First Amendment rights to write about Lennon’s diaries. The libelous article that Golson ran in the March 1984 Playboy is the root of all Lennon conspiracy theories about me. He took a comment from my diary (which Ono had given to him), about what I saw as Ono’s skillful exploitation of the Lennon legacy, and depicted that comment, “Dead Lennons=BIG $$$$$,” as my indictment of my own behavior, portraying me as a criminal conspirator drooling over Lennon’s corpse.

3) In your book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon you created an interesting profile of Mark Chapman’s mind. How has your vision of the killer changed since then? Why did he kill John Lennon? Did he commit the crime alone or maybe not?

My vision of Mark Chapman has not changed since I wrote Nowhere Man. I still think he was a mentally unstable and possibly psychotic individual who acted alone and was motivated by envy and a desire to be famous, and believed that by shooting Lennon, whom he considered a hypocrite, he’d literally vanish into the pages of The Catcher in the Rye and become The Catcher in the Rye for his generation. I await definitive proof that this is not the case.

4) After your experience with the Lennon diaries, what ideas would you suggest to the new generation of Latin American students about how they can be more effective in their work and lives?

In 1982, I was an obscure freelance writer who’d uncovered a story that was the equivalent of Rock ’n’ Roll Watergate. That’s why it took me 18 years to publish what I knew about Lennon’s diaries. In the eyes of the mainstream media, in any country, it’s simply unacceptable for an unknown journalist to come out of nowhere and break the story of the decade. Also, what I learned from the diaries went against the myth that Ono remains determined to perpetuate—that in his final years, John Lennon was a content, bread-baking househusband. That’s why she used all the political and media influence at her disposal to try and stop me. So, I’d say to any journalism students that it’s not enough to uncover a great story, especially one that goes against powerful people or institutions (as great stories often do). You must be prepared to fight for years, if not decades, to get your story out to a mass audience. I’d also say that anybody who’s considering investigating conspiracy theories should be aware that you’re walking into a swamp that you may never come out of. Or if you do make it out, you’ll emerge with a bag of half-answers, shadows, suspicions, and more questions than you took in there with you. Read More 
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Imagine Yoko Watching

There's a show on the Reelz channel--128 on Time Warner cable in New York City--called Hollywood Scandals. In April, in L.A., they interviewed me for almost two hours about my John Lennon bio, Nowhere Man, going over the book point by point. It's the most comprehensive Nowhere Man discussion I've had with any media organization in the 14 years the book has been in print.

The show is scheduled to be broadcast on the following dates:

Thursday, August 21 at 9 P.M. ET
Friday, August 22 at 12 A.M. ET
Sunday, August 24 at 12 P.M. ET
Monday, August 25 at 2 A.M. ET


Here’s a capsule summary of the Lennon episode, taken from the Hollywood Scandals Website:

John Lennon is one of the most influential and important artists in music history. But the public face of peace, love, and revolution is a mask. Behind his righteous persona is a troubled man crippled by a traumatic childhood. John Lennon buries the pain of abandonment by spending his whole life building a myth. And when the private truth became public, it ultimately cost him everything.

I don’t know how much or which parts of my interview they used or who else they interviewed. I do know that during my interview the chemistry was right and I settled into a good story-telling groove.

I hope you’ll watch the show, and I hope to live-tweet at least one of the broadcasts.

And while I’m on the subject of Lennon, I want to send out a big thanks to the 6,074 (at last count) people on Facebook who liked the Nowhere Man Wiki mirror page. I’m sure you’ll all be watching. Read More 
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The Epic Fleshbot Interview

I've done a lot of interviews since Beaver Street was published, but the 5,000-word epic, conducted by Peter Landau, that was posted on Fleshbot today is one of the most comprehensive and far ranging.

If you haven't read Beaver Street yet, our conversation serves as a fine introduction to both the book and to my entire career, in and out of porn. It's also a very nice birthday present. I'll say no more and simply ask you to click here and enjoy. Read More 
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You're Only Cheating Yourself, Kids!

For a book that was originally rejected by every publisher in creation, things turned out pretty well for Nowhere Man--multiple bestseller lists and translations, rave reviews, and so on. Now I see that Nowhere Man has finally penetrated academia.

A commendably accurate essay about the book has turned up on one of those sites where students go to download term papers. The site, eNotes.com, bills itself as a "critical compilation" of "literary masterpieces." And though I might not be up there with William Shakespeare, who has four works among the top 10 most popular term paper subjects, and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, which is #1, it's still gratifying to be included at all.

So, I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a few words of advice to any student who’s considering writing a paper about Nowhere Man: Read the damn book and write your own paper, kid. You’re only cheating yourself if you download a paper somebody else wrote! And remember, I’m here for you. AMA. Read More 
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Taking it Personally

I tend to write about movies that have a direct, personal connection either to my life or my books--see About Cherry, Magic Trip, and Chapter 27--and the latest such film to fall into this category is the generically titled Back Issues, a documentary about Hustler magazine. (Why not just call it Hustler?)

I enjoyed Back Issues in part because it adds an additional dimension to much of what I write about in Beaver Street. And Beaver Street, with its tales of High Society publisher Carl Ruderman trying to pattern his magazine after Hustler, only to end up as Hustler’s "Asshole of the Month," adds an additional dimension to Back Issues.

But the primary reason I’m writing about the film is because Bill Nirenberg, whom I used to work with at Swank Publications—the company at the center of Beaver Street—is at the center of Back Issues. Before landing at Swank, Bill was an art director at Hustler during its glory days, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, and watching the film with two of my former colleagues filled me with the disorienting sense of being back at Swank and listening to Bill regale us with his Hustler and Larry Flynt stories. Bill’s demeanor, his tone, his vibe, as well as the stories themselves are exactly as I remember them.

Capturing somebody on film just as they are in life is not an easy thing to do. But the reason Bill comes across so realistically—in fact the reason this film exists at all—is because his son, Michael Lee Nirenberg, directed it. And because of the intimate connection between subject and filmmaker, Michael was able to gain access to all the key Hustler players, including the often-inaccessible Flynt, as well as former editors Paul Krassner and Allan MacDonell, whose memoir, Prisoner of X, covers the same time period as I do in Beaver Street.

Michael also managed to unearth a number of documents that illustrate some of the most notable moments in the history of a polarizing magazine whose impact on American popular culture was profound. The most outrageous document is an audiotape of Flynt ranting at the Supreme Court justices, in 1983, when they were considering a libel case that Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione’s girlfriend, Kathy Keeton, had brought against Hustler. The language Flynt uses, a series of gratuitously racist and sexist slurs, is so inflammatory it transcends the realm of mere obscenity and serves as a sublime demonstration of a man rendered paraplegic by an would-be assassin’s bullet, who now thinks he has nothing to lose, speaking the truth (as he sees it) to power.

Among the people Michael speaks to who didn’t actually work for Hustler but still offer valuable insights about the mag, its founder, and the porn biz are Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein, who is at death’s door and giving what would be his last interview; writer Michael Musto, who does an excellent job of explaining how the Internet destroyed the porn magazine business; and professional anti-porn activist Gail Dines, who, uncharacteristically, comes across as a sane person.

But it’s the segments where Michael interviews his father, who’s now retired from the porn biz, that give the film a homey, intimate feel, which is unusual (if not unheard of) for a documentary that covers this kind of gritty and often offensive material. This intimacy also helps to make Back Issues an essential document for anybody who wants to understand not only Hustler’s place in the history of modern porn, but how, in the late 20th century, pornography was able to supplant rock ’n’ roll as the premier symbol of American pop culture. Read More 

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Blast from the Past

It took a year and a half, but my interview that ran in the print edition of the December 2012 issue of StorErotica, a glossy trade mag for sex-shop owners, has finally found its way online. The print edition was unusual; it was two issues in one, featuring two “front” covers--one on the front and the other on the back. In the online version, which is now available as a downloadable PDF, the second issue begins with the front cover on page 27; my interview begins on page 46.

I was in good form the day I spoke to StorErotica, and the interview is one of my better efforts. I hit all the right notes, I think, especially if you happen to own a store that sells adult novelties. The article also features some photos of me and a couple of porn stars, including Traci Topps, and a great half-page shot taken by Marcia Resnick. So, if you haven’t already seen this interview—and if you’re not in the sex-shop business you probably haven’t—I invite you to check it out. StorErotica and I were on the same wavelength, and they were indeed able to fully appreciate the myriad charms of Beaver Street: A History of Modern PornographyRead More 
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It Was 110 Years Ago Today

James Joyce, a writer banned in America for obscenity.
Happy Bloomsday to all those who are celebrating the 110th anniversary of the day that James Joyce's Ulysses takes place. Joyce chose June 16, 1904 because that was the day he had his first date with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle. The novel, in part, depicts protagonist Leopold Bloom's--hence Bloomsday--activities in Dublin, which include such things as voyeurism and public masturbation. That's why Ulysses was banned in America, and that's why, two years ago, I chose June 16 to celebrate the U.S. publication of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, at the Killarney Rose, an Irish bar on Beaver Street in downtown Manhattan.

At the time, Amazon had refused to make the print edition of Beaver Street available, and it was only after they got wind of the fact that the book-launch party was turning into a public demonstration against Amazon censorship that they managed to fix the “computer glitches” and “bureaucratic snafus” that had already cost me all pre-orders and three months of sales. “We would never censor a book,” an Amazon spokesman told me. (I’m pleased to report that sales have since recovered, and Beaver Street now routinely ranks among Amazon’s best-selling books on pornography.)

Bloomsday on Beaver Street was such a success that I decided to do it again last year, when June 16 fell on Father’s Day, and that, too, went rather well. It looked as if my literary celebration, featuring readings, music, porn stars, and theatrical performances, was going to become a New York City tradition.

This year, unfortunately, life (and a new job in magazines after a 14-year hiatus from the workforce) interfered with mounting Bloomsday on Beaver Street III. As much as I would have liked to, I just didn’t have the time to put together what’s become the equivalent of an Off-Off Broadway revue. This evening, however, I will raise a glass of something alcoholic (perhaps Guinness) and join in spirit all those who would have liked to gather in the Killarney Rose on Beaver Street and celebrate great books that were once denounced as obscene. Read More 
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Raw Talent

Video-box cover for Raw Talent.


That I've used pseudonyms for many of the "characters" who populate Beaver Street was an unavoidable concession to the fact that I was writing about real people, and it would have had a negative impact upon their lives to be portrayed as pornographers or former pornographers. One of those characters is "Pam Katz," and soon after Beaver Street was published, due to a variety of factors, it no longer was necessary to disguise her identity. She is Joyce Snyder, best known as the writer and producer of Raw Talent, parts I-III, classic XXX films from the 1980s that have recently been rediscovered by such sites as The Rialto Report and The Projection Booth.

What Joyce has to say about making these films while she was working for Swank Publications should be of special interest to anybody who’s read Beaver Street. “Pam Katz” comes to life, veritably stepping out of the book. Her segment of The Projection Booth’s Raw Talent interview, on the above player, begins at the 51-minute mark.

The other people interviewed are the film’s director Larry Revene and its star, Jerry Butler. Read More 
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Good Parts Only

This July marks the 14th anniversary of the publication of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, and as we approach that date, the book continues to make cultural inroads. I do my best to keep abreast of them.

The latest one that’s come to my attention is a volume called Sex and the Beatles. Written by Canadian author Jeff Walker (not the be confused with Jerry Jeff Walker), the book is a compilation, drawn from a wide variety of sources, of 400 Fab Four sexual escapades that took place between the 1950s and 2013.

Among those escapades is at least one, #153, lifted from the “Lennon’s Complaint” chapter in Nowhere Man, and subtly titled “Warning: Sordid Lennon Account Not for the Squeamish.” It’s Walker’s retelling of a 1963 backstage encounter between John and a groupie.

I suspect the book is peppered with more Nowhere Man tales, like the one about the prostitute in South Africa. But having not yet gotten my hands on Sex and the Beatles, I’ll reserve final judgment until Walker does me the professional courtesy of sending one. Thanks in advance, Jeff. Read More 
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Listen to the Scatterbrains Podcast Here and Now!



Important update: The above player no longer works. You can listen to the interview here.

No need to even leave this website to listen to my interview with Alia Janine, which was originally posted on OnMilwaukee.com. Just click on the player. Next thing you know, you'll be hearing Alia sing the theme from Rawhide. Apparently , if you live in Milwaukee, this song has nothing to do with cowboys and everything to do with Rosen. Read More 

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Scatterbrains Podcast with Alia Janine

Yes, I'm aware that The Sporadic Beaver has been more sporadic than usual lately, but I've been unusually busy with life, literature, and work. I will, however, break my silence with this bit of news: My Scatterbrains Podcast interview with former porn star and Milwaukee native Alia Janine is now live on OnMilwaukee.com, that city's premier arts and entertainment Website.

Alia, whose X-rated talents cannot be overstated, has developed (so to speak) into a first-rate interviewer. It’s her ability to put her subject at ease, and make an in-depth interrogation seem like a friendly chat that sets Alia apart in this competitive journalistic arena. Some of the people she’s previously interviewed include porn star Belle Knox, actor Joe Reitman, and comedian Gareth Reynolds. They’re all archived on OnMilwaukee.com.

Alia and I cover a lot of ground in a half hour, but mostly we talk about Beaver Street, deconstructing everything from the invention of free phone-sex at High Society magazine (which marked the dawn of the Age of Modern Pornography), to the Traci Lords scandal, to Edwin Meese, the rabidly anti-porn attorney general who was driven from office under a cloud of corruption.

And please stay tuned to The Sporadic Beaver for more big news. Read More 

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House of Secrets

El Solano, in Palm Beach, designed by Addison Mizner, and home, at one time or another, to John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and Larry Flynt. Photograph courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach.
"House of Secrets" was originally published, under a different title, on a Florida-based design website that no longer exists. Some of the information in this article is drawn from my book Nowhere Man, in which I write in detail about John Lennon and Yoko Ono's stay in this Palm Beach mansion. In the book, I misspell "El Solano," calling it "El Salano." Should there be future editions, this will be corrected.

On March 6, 1978, a white-supremacist serial killer, outraged by an interracial photo spread in Hustler, pumped a .44-caliber bullet into Larry Flynt near the Georgia courthouse where the magazine publisher, on trial for obscenity, had just testified in his own defense. One year later Flynt, paralyzed from the waist down because of his injuries, rented the house at 720 South Ocean Boulevard--or S.O.B., as the locals call it--in Palm Beach. His landlady, socialite Brownie McLean, would have much preferred to sell the 10,000-square-foot white elephant known as El Solano. But in those grim days of hyperinflation and gas lines, there were no takers, not even the recession-proof Flynt. So McLean, who had once refused the Hope Diamond as a wedding gift from her husband because she believed the jewel was cursed, didn't hesitate to accept a much-needed cash infusion from the man who introduced "split beaver" to a mass audience.

Most of Flynt’s neighbors took the porn publisher’s presence in stride—even though it was common knowledge that he employed a team of photographers to shoot X-rated pictorials throughout the Spanish-style mansion’s six bedrooms, five servant rooms, ballroom, and sauna, as well as by the square “morning pool” and rectangular “afternoon pool.”

Through a spokesperson, Flynt has declined to offer any more information about his season in El Solano.

The current owners of El Solano also prefer not to discuss their winter residence—though they do say, through a spokesperson, that it’s “public knowledge” that they own it, and that it’s permissible to publish their names. Apparently, this wasn’t the case in 1993 when the extensive renovations of architect Darby Curtis, working with designer Robert Metzger, were documented in Architectural Digest—the most detailed and elaborate El Solano pictorial on record. The owners were quoted anonymously, and the story failed to mention that they were the architect’s parents: Alan Curtis, an investment banker, and Christine Curtis, a freelance writer, who had bought the house in January 1990 for $4,315,000, though it’s not publicly known from whom. More surprising than this was Darby Curtis’s reaction when asked if she might shed some additional light on her work at the historic abode: “I have nothing to say.”

Perhaps Curtis’s reticence is best explained by others who’ve worked in the house, some of whom were willing to speak (anonymously) of the fact that in a small community like Palm Beach, those whose livelihoods depend on access to the super-rich—and occasionally super-famous—would be foolish to make unwanted revelations about their employers (or parents). But in the same breath these people also speak of the house’s strangeness, of their belief that things have happened in El Solano that those who have lived there simply don’t want to talk about.

In a way, El Solano exists in the realm of the mystical, a piece of unreal estate—a mansion with a long history of secrets, celebrated owners, and at least one profound occurrence that changed the course of rock ’n’ roll.

The first person to live in El Solano was the man who built it in 1919, controversial “society” architect—many considered his designs hideous—Addison Mizner, who named it both for the hot Mediterranean winds that blow through Spain, and El Solano County, California, where he was born in 1872. A mythical figure whose 11-foot-tall statue now stands in Boca Raton, a city he helped develop, and whose Mediterranean Revival style came to define the look of Worth Avenue, the six-foot-two, 250-pound Mizner settled in Palm Beach apparently for health reasons.

(Stephen Sondheim has chronicled the Florida misadventures of Mizner and his flimflamming business-partner brother, Wilson, in his musical Road Show, which portrays both Mizners as incestuous, Addison as homosexual, and in the end, according to The New York Times, reduces the brothers to “cocaine-snorting wrecks.”)

Though Mizner’s Villa Flora, which he built for J.P. Morgan, and La Guerida, which became John F. Kennedy’s “Winter White House,” may be better known than El Solano, the latter is regarded as the purest expression of Mizner’s chaotic vision—a “stream of consciousness” consisting of idiosyncratically connected spaces, as designer Michael Christiano, who also worked on the 1993 renovations, described the house to Architectural Digest.

The house so intrigued next-door neighbor Harold Vanderbilt, grandson of railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, that he bought it from Mizner and added on—as did many of the successive celebrity owners, such as actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who briefly settled into El Solano in 1973 with his second wife, Mary Lee Hartford, heir to the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company fortune.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, too, were taken by the house, and on the advice of their tarot card reader, whom they called Charlie Swan, Patric Walker’s Town & Country horoscope, and Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, bought it—on January 27, 1980, for a million dollars, a price they considered a steal. (“John made the tea, while Yoko hammered out the negotiations,” real estate broker Ben Johnson told The Palm Beach Post.)

In years to come, many stories about the ex-Beatle’s El Solano activities would filter into the public domain—a rare breaching of the house’s shield of secrecy. Most of them were inconsequential, such as details about Lennon’s ongoing feud with Paul McCartney, reports of an ugly incident that occurred when the actor Peter Boyle and his wife came to visit, and tales of locals stopping Lennon on the beach, without realizing who he was, to talk about the historically cold weather that February. But one story of significance would emerge as well: After five years of musical silence, it was in El Solano that Lennon reconnected with his muse, which many in his inner circle had given up for dead.

On February 27, 1980, Lennon and Ono were watching the Grammy Awards in the den when Bob Dylan came on to sing his latest hit, “Serve Someone,” which says it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to have to serve either Satan or God. The song provoked from Lennon a spontaneous musical explosion called “Serve Yourself.” Accompanying himself on guitar, Lennon lashed out at everything and everybody: Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, his sons, his mother—the world, the universe. And this song soon primed a flood of new material that seven months later appeared on Lennon and Ono’s album Double Fantasy. (“Serve Yourself,” which Ono considered too raw, obscene, and off-message for public consumption, wouldn’t be released for another 19 years.)

On December 8, 1980, Double Fantasy was riding high on the charts. That night, John Lennon, aged 40, was shot to death by a deranged fan in front of the Dakota, his apartment building on West 72nd Street in New York City. Among the candlelight vigils held throughout the world, one took place outside El Solano, which Ono kept until 1986, adding on to its chaotic sprawl and then selling it for a numerologically harmonious $3.15 million to a Bostonian family that preferred to remain anonymous. Read More 
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Quote of the Day

"If Surrealism leans towards the pornographic, then outright pornographers find kindred subversives in the Surrealists--as with long-time pornographer Robert Rosen who claimed to embrace the idea 'that pornography and transgressive art could be one and the same.'" --from an untitled paper on pornography and surrealism, submitted to the English and Film department at the University of Exeter, U.K., and posted anonymously online Read More 
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This Is Not a Review

One of the best ways I know of to not enjoy a good book is to read it under deadline pressure with the intention of writing a review. And two of the greatest sins a reviewer or critic (as some reviewers prefer to call themselves) can commit is to review a book that he or she has only skimmed, or to review a book that he or she has contributed to, and then pretend to critique it objectively.

This, then, is not a review; it's an acknowledgement of a new book.

There’s a lot of material in Cut Up!’s 394 pages—poems, prose, artwork—that I look forward to lingering over and processing at my leisure. Then I may come to understand fully what Joe Ambrose and A.D. Hitchen have assembled in this anthology of cut-up-technique writings. Also, I’ve written the introduction to Hitchen’s “Split-Beaver” poems, which are drawn from my book Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography.

A bit of essential history: One way to perform the cut-up technique, popularized by William Burroughs a half-century ago, is to take a complete text (like Beaver Street), cut it into pieces with one word or a few words on each piece, and then rearrange the pieces into a new text. Another way is a “Third Mind” collaboration, pioneered by Burroughs and poet Brion Gysin; the author combines words cut from a text with his own words. Cut Up! (Oneiros Books) features both techniques, and includes works from well-known writers, like Allen Ginsberg (“Notes on Claude Pélieu”).

Many of the contributing authors are names I’ve become familiar with through social media. Among these dedicated practitioners of this avant-garde art form are: Kenji Siratori (“The Worst Deadly Bank Account Number in the History of the Universe”), Christopher Nosnibor (“Flickering images: life-size shadow-puppetry”), Gary J. Shipley (excerpt from Spook Nutrition), Niall Rasputin (“disgraceful blade”), Muckle Jane (“Recipes”), Cal Leckie (“Micro-Verse”), and Lucius Rofocale (“Ne/urantia: Close Encounters of the Third Mind”). Billy Chainsaw and D M Mitchell contributed artwork.

A word of caution to those with delicate sensibilities: Phrases such as “corpse fetish pussy gangbang” (which I’ve cut from Siratori’s “Phishingera”) occur with frequency.

More adventurous readers, however, may argue that they do not occur frequently enough. Read More 
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John Lennon Through His Journals

By Octavio Cavalli

Saturday, February 15, 2014: Meeting Robert Rosen in New York City

Maybe it's because I'm a novice when it comes to researching the life of John Lennon and promoting a book based on that research. But I didn't remember until I was in the midst of publicizing my Lennon biography, Bendito Lennon, that one of my Facebook friends was New York writer Robert Rosen, author of the best-selling Lennon bio Nowhere Man. Rosen's book is based on his knowledge of Lennon's diaries, which were given to him by his friend Fred Seaman, John's personal assistant from 1979-1980.

Robert commented on a post I made about my book, which led to a conversation that we conducted mainly through audio files, which we sent back and forth, between Buenos Aires and New York. I'd ask him questions about John's diaries and he'd respond in detail.

Since mid-2013 I’ve been correcting and revising Bendito Lennon, primarily adding new information and fresh material from all phases of John’s life. Among the new things I wrote about are John’s feelings as a Beatle, in 1963, when the group was being hailed as heroes in the U.K., but hadn’t yet conquered the world, and also his way of telling stories through his poems, tales, and songs. Robert Rosen was supportive of my endeavor to revise Bendito Lennon, and especially helpful regarding the last six years of John’s life. And I was very pleased to share my new information with him, and grateful that he’d agreed to meet me and talk about Lennon when I told him I was coming to New York.

On the afternoon of February 15, in the middle of a blizzard, with the temperature plunging well below 0º C, I met Robert in the neighborhood where he lives and where John also lived for a couple of years when he first moved to Manhattan: Greenwich Village. At Cafe Reggio, 119 MacDougal Street, we drank coffee and cappuccino as Robert accepted a paperback edition of Bendito Lennon and autographed my Spanish edition of Nowhere Man.

We talked about Lennon’s life, and Robert was humbled and impressed by how much I knew about John, especially his childhood. I, of course, couldn’t help but be aware that he was one of the few people who had access to John’s diaries, which covered much of his daily activities and feelings from 1975-1980. He told me what it meant to him to have Lennon’s diaries for more than six months, and he described the long task of transcribing them and deciphering every drawing, word, and letter. It was obvious, he said, that John was writing for himself, and that the diaries were not meant to be read by others, though they could have been a first draft of the memoir he never got to write.

He also told me about his shock and horror when all the material that Fred Seaman had given him, and that he’d studied and transcribed, was taken from his apartment... by Seaman. Later, Robert said, when Yoko Ono found out that Seaman, in despair after John’s death, had stolen all kinds of things from her Dakota apartments, she had Seaman arrested for grand larceny. When Robert met with Yoko to discuss what had happened, she asked him to give her his own diaries, so she could use them as evidence against Seaman. He did so, and she held them for 18 years.

Robert then told me how he wrote Nowhere Man, elaborating on what he remembered from Lennon’s diaries, incorporating notes from his own diaries, and spending years doing additional research. He concluded by talking about his impressions of John’s last years.

After Cafe Reggio, Robert and I walked in the Village, through the driving snow, to 105 Bank Street. He asked me if I knew which apartment John lived in. I wasn’t sure, and we agreed that researching John Lennon’s life is a difficult task for all writers, even ones who'd met him, and even if, like us, they'd had the opportunity to speak to members of his family, former assistants, and friends. Those closest to John are usually reluctant to talk about him to anybody who's writing a book.

Other people, thankfully, will trust an author to use their information responsibly, and will share their knowledge and opinions.

As of today, Bendito Lennon has sold out in Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, and Mexico, but is still available as an e-book in Canada, the U.S., and Spain. The new edition, due to be published sometime in 2014, will be completely revised and will include all the information from my conversations with Rosen.

Even though I’d intended to be finished by now, my research continues—though I realize I have to set a limit on how much time I can spend learning the details of Lennon’s life. Because if I don’t, the work will be endless. There will always be new pieces of information, new sources, and new people to interview, and I’ll always want to rewrite some portion of the manuscript in order for the biography to be accurate and up to date. This, then, is the compromise I must make to complete the book, which has attracted readers around the world who want to know in detail the story of one of the greatest musicians and social leaders of 20th century. Read More 
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18 Across the Board

Today, February 18, 2014 (2/18/2014), is Yoko Ono's 81st birthday. Ono, a devotee of numerology and of Cheiro's Book of Numbers--read all about it in Nowhere Man--is aware that numerologically, this is a day that will never happen again, even if she lives forever. Because today, not only is Ono's age the reverse of her birth number, 18 (18 and 81 have equal value, Cheiro says), but she's looking at 18s across the board.

Here's how today works out according to Cheiro's formula, which says that all numbers should be added together, like this:

2 + 1 + 8 + 2 + 0 +1 + 4 = 18

The symbol for 18, according to Cheiro, is “a rayed moon from which drops of blood are falling; a wolf and hungry dog are seen below catching the falling drops of blood in their open mouths, while still lower, a crab is hastening to join them. It is symbolic of materialism striving to destroy the spiritual side of the nature. It generally associates a person with bitter quarrels, even family ones, war, social upheavals, revolutions; and in some cases it indicates making money and position through wars. It is a warning of treachery, deception by others, also danger from explosions. When this ‘compound’ number appears in working out dates in advance, such a date should be taken with a great amount of care, caution and circumspection.”

If you reduce 18 to a single digit, 1 + 8, you get 9. (The single numbers 1 to 9, Cheiro says, represent “the physical or material side of things” and compound numbers from 10 on represent the “occult or spiritual side of life.”)

Cheiro has a lot to say about 9:

“Number 9 persons are fighters in all they attempt in life. They usually have difficult times in their early years but generally are in the end successful by their grit, strong will and determination. They are hasty in temper, impulsive, independent and desire to be their own masters.”

“When number 9 is noticed to be more than usually dominant in the dates and events of their lives, they will be found to make great enemies, to cause strife and opposition wherever they may be and are often wounded or killed either in warfare or in the battle of life.”

“They have great courage and make excellent leaders in any cause they espouse. Their greatest dangers arise from foolhardiness and impulsiveness in word and actions. They generally have quarrels and strife in their home life. They strongly resent criticism. They like to be ‘looked up to’ and recognized as ‘head of the house.’ For affection and sympathy they will do almost anything, and men of this number can be made the greatest fools of if some woman gets to pulling at their heart strings.”

“This number 9 is the only number that when multiplied by any number always reproduces itself. The number 9 is an emblem of matter that can never be destroyed. At the 9th hour the savior died on the cross. All ancient races encouraged a fear of the number 9. The number 9 is considered a fortunate number to be born under, provided the man or woman does not ask for a peaceful or monotonous life and can control their nature by not making enemies.”

Happy birthday Yoko! Read More 
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On the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles in America…

February 9, 1964, left to right, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Ed Sullivan, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney.
The Internet is filled with thousands of Beatles forums--online communities where people can log in and discuss the Fab Four. DM's Beatles Forums, Steve Hoffman Music Forums, BeatleLinks, and rec.music.beatles are among the multitude of sites I've browsed over the decades.

If John Lennon were alive today, I think he'd enjoy posting anonymously on some of these forums, and I'm certain that whatever he said would be greeted with comments far less generous than, "You don't know shit about the Beatles!"

That's because Beatles forums tend to be vipers’ nests of ignorance and hostility, with the most vicious comments coming from the people who know the least. May Pang, for example, used to post in rec.music.beatles, but was driven off the site by malicious attacks on virtually everything she said.

The most scathing reviews of Nowhere Man that I’ve seen anywhere have been posted by people who proudly declare, “I’ve never read the book. I don’t have to. I know what’s in it.”

Last night, inspired by the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, I was browsing one of the more civilized forums, Beatles Bible, when I came across a comment that shocked me. Going against the usual party line of “Nowhere Man bad!” somebody who uses the moniker “10centwings” indulged in a bit of independent thought. Softening his or her post with the standard caveat about reading it “with one eyebrow raised,” 10centwings said, “I’m 1/3 through the Rosen book…. This one’s a page turner. I actually lunched in today just so that I could sneak in an extra hour of reading.”

A comment like this, from a “real” reader, in a forum that’s usually hostile to the book reminds me yet again why Nowhere Man endures 14 years after publication. And though the controversy will probably never cease, more people are beginning to see the book for what it is.

I can hardly wait till Nowhere Man’s 50th anniversary. Read More 
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Gloria Leonard: 1940-2014

Gloria Leonard

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

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

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

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

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

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An Ice-Cold Bath of Publishing Reality

According to David Comfort, author of The Rock & Roll Book of the Dead and The Reborn Bible 2.0, most writers share the following personality traits: They're hateful, envious, suicidal, masochistic, and megalomaniacal. In a word, they're assholes. But they are capable of producing pithy quotes about the writing biz, and such quotes are scattered throughout Comfort's latest book, An Insider’s Guide to Publishing (Writer’s Digest Books, $19.99). Here's one of my favorites, from Jean Cocteau: "Listen carefully to first criticisms of your work. Note just what it is about your work the critics don't like--then cultivate it."

An Insider’s Guide also contains a wealth of eye-opening statistics, like this one: There's a .0000416 percent chance that The New Yorker magazine will publish an unsolicited short story.

For aspiring writers looking to save time and postage, this is useful information that you won’t easily find elsewhere. And though I’ve never submitted a short story to The New Yorker—and swore off submitting unsolicited manuscripts to anybody 20 years ago—I can attest to the general accuracy of Comfort’s calculation.

I was afraid that the well-earned and corrosive cynicism that suffuses An Insider’s Guide would remind me all too vividly of what I already know: The writing biz is fucked. Only a fool would go into it. Therefore I must be a fool.

Instead, I found it to be an entertaining rejoinder to the rising tide of fantasyland pep talks about how to make $1 million self-publishing e-books.

Rich with anecdotes about the hard-won wisdom of distinguished authors who survived (or didn’t survive) careers spent slinging words, much to my surprise, An Insider’s Guide left me feeling better about some of the life choices I’ve made.

I’m happy to say, at this late date, that the writing biz has not yet driven me to suicide (as it did Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Hunter Thompson), alcoholism (as it did Jack Kerouac and F. Scott Fitzgerald), drug addiction (as it did Edgar Allan Poe and William Burroughs), murder (as it did Burroughs), attempted murder (as it did Norman Mailer), insanity (as it did Hemingway before he blew off his head with a shotgun), a duel (as it did Marcel Proust), or fraud (as it did James Frey).

Literary talent has little to do with success, Comfort suggests, and in many cases it can be a hindrance, because if there’s one thing publishers hate, it’s originality. According to Comfort, “Luck, Suck & Pluck” are what it takes to succeed, and he returns to this theme throughout the book. Again, I can personally attest to the inherent validity of this formula.

The fact that John Lennon’s diaries fell into my hands was extraordinary luck, for example. But I couldn’t have done anything with them if it wasn’t for pluck. That publishers rejected Nowhere Man for 18 years, usually for the most ridiculous reasons—Not enough interest in John Lennon!—and that the book then become a bestseller and a cult classic is a monument to pluck. The thing that’s held me back, however, is that I suck at sucking, by which Comfort means “sucking up.” I’ve never developed a strong enough stomach to frequently and with feeling kiss the assorted body parts of the people who are in a position to further my ambitions. But as Meatloaf might say, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

People who become real writers—like Hemingway, Franz Kafka, and Jane Austen—can’t help themselves. There’s no rational decision involved. For people like this, it’s the only path to take. You hear the voice in your head and you need to get it down on paper (or on a computer screen). An Insider’s Guide will not save people like this from themselves—though they may be able to glean a few nuggets of practical advice from it.

An Insider’s Guide is a great book for people who think that writing might be a good career move, but can’t quite decide if they should be a writer, get an MBA, be a supermodel, or join the navy. For those people, An Insider’s Guide will serve as an ice-cold bath of publishing reality. I recommend it strongly.

Let me leave you with one last thing aspiring authors should keep in mind: Even the most successful writers, like Fitzgerald, and even those who’ve won the Nobel Prize, like William Faulkner, considered themselves failures and died penniless.

Need I say more? Read More 
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John Lennon's Final Voyage

Thirty years ago today, on January 27, 1984, Yoko Ono released Milk and Honey, the album she and John Lennon were working on the night of December 8, 1980, hours before Lennon was murdered. In commemoration of this anniversary, NME, the venerable British music mag, has run a cover story about Lennon and the LP.

Because I read, transcribed, edited, and wrote about Lennon's diaries in my book Nowhere Man, I was one of the people they interviewed for the article.

They also spoke with my former writing partner and Lennon's personal assistant Fred Seaman, photographer Bob Gruen, and three musicians who played on Milk and Honey: guitarist Earl Slick, arranger Tony Devillo, and keyboard player George Small.

Written by Barry Nicolson, “The Final Voyage” is notable for its even-handedness. Nicolson takes pains to get beyond the myth of Lennon as a content, bread-baking househusband, and instead portrays him as a contradictory, deeply flawed, three-dimensional human being—which is probably why Ono refused to talk to him.

Nicolson balances my take on Lennon’s relationships with Ono, Paul McCartney, and May Pang, and his obsession with the occult, with Gruen’s attempts to perpetuate the myth, and Seaman’s efforts to characterize Lennon as a Republican and a supporter of Ronald Reagan. (The only thing Lennon said in his diaries about Reagan was that they’d shoot him and we’d get a CIA government. He was right on both counts... eventually.)

My only complaint about the piece is that the photo identified as “Robert Rosen” isn’t me, and I’d suggest that a correction is in order.

“The Final Voyage” is a rare example of rock journalism that neither places Lennon on a pedestal (like Ray Coleman) nor tears him down to size (like Albert Goldman). Click here to read the complete story. Read More 
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Crucifix Lane

It was October 1990, and I was in London on business. (You can read about the exact nature of that business in Beaver Street, in a chapter called "The D-Cup Aesthetic.") Mary Lyn Maiscott had joined me there, and one weekend we crossed over the Thames to lose ourselves in the distinctly non-touristy streets of the South Bank. That was where Mary Lyn, standing under the Shand Street viaduct, snapped this picture. Wearing the black "jumper" I'd just bought on Portobello Road and my new Dr. Martens, I was reading London A-Z, trying to figure out where the hell Crucifix Lane was. For more than 20 years, that picture has sat on top of our piano. (Click here to see what Crucifix Lane looks like today.)

Last month, as Mary Lyn was searching for artwork for the cover of her soon-to-be-released EP, Crucified, guitarist Gary “Hoop” Hoopengardner pointed to the photo and said, “That’s it!” And so it was—with the minor addition of that naked silhouette in the window.

Tomorrow, at 4:00 P.M. Eastern Time, Mary Lyn will be appearing on Rew & Who to talk about her EP and EP release show—featuring Hoop, Peter Weiss and a surprise guest—at Ella Lounge, 9 Avenue A in New York, on January 18, at 9:30 P.M.

In the meantime you can listen to another song that will be on the EP, Time.

And yeah, it’s kind of cool to be on the cover of a record album, looking as if I might be about to get some. Read More 
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Pornography and Capitalism

I've always believed that the pornography industry is a microcosm of the capitalist system, and that looking at capitalism through a pornographic lens is a legitimate way to gain insight into that system. One purpose of my book Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography is to offer such insights in an entertaining and humorous manner. And with the exception of one critic, a former pornographer who dismissed the book as "smut," most readers and critics "got it," as the pull quotes on this page and my home page attest.

In November, I wrote about a college textbook, published by Palgrave Macmillan, titled The Ethics and Politics of Pornography, by David Edward Rose. The book had come to my attention because it references Beaver Street in a chapter called "'I Can’t Do It by Myself!': Social Ethics and Pornography." But I didn't know exactly what the book said; I only knew that I was listed in the index atop French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

I’ve since received a copy of the book, which I plan to write about at length in a future posting, along with another textbook, also published by Palgrave Macmillan, titled Pornographic Art and the Aesthetics of Pornography, edited by Hans Maes. But for now I’d like to share with you what The Ethics and Politics of Pornography says about Beaver Street.

The reference is on page 214, in a section about capitalism called “The real enemy,” and it comes from my chapter about working at High Society magazine in the early 1980s.

“The aim of capitalism is not to make good art,” Rose writes. “Nor good products. It is not interested in the product per se, but only in the product as a means to satisfy other desires, as capital in motion. As one insider in the industry astutely observed, ‘The product, as well as my job, was anything but transgressive; it was corporate moneymaking at its most cynical, conservative, and tightly controlled. It wasn’t even about sex; it was about using sex to separate people from their money.’”

And that is indeed a spot-on description of what it was like to work in Carl Ruderman’s smut factory, a place where the most exploitative face of modern capitalism was on display daily. Read More 

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