COLUMN FIFTY-SEVEN, MARCH 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
WORKING FOR A PORN KING
[The following reminiscence first appeared in the December 21, 1998 issue of SCREW, its 30th anniversary edition, and appears here with the permission of its author. More writing by Josh Alan Friedman can be found by clicking on http://www.joshalan.com.]
than several milestones in my life occurred during my tenure at SCREW.
Some of these events may sound like a fairy tale, but they are true.
First, I met my wife through the window of the eleventh floor of SCREW's
old offices on 14th Street, when she was staying at the Markle---a hotel run by
the Salvation Army for young Southern women attending school in New York.
Secondly, I met my best friend, Richard Jaccoma, at SCREW. I
published my first story there at age 20, and soon after, the first comic strips
with my brother Drew, in what became a notorious, libel-strewn 12-year
collaboration known as the Friedman Bros. And
finally, through the entree of my SCREW press pass, the hot gates of
Times Square opened before me. This
culminated in my 1986 book, Tales of Times Square, which is still in
print and is now under option for a cable-TV series.
my first month or two at SCREW was miserable. I had vied for a writing job at Saturday Night Live, and
attended their preseason meetings. When
that fell through, the opening at SCREW (to replace the brilliant J.J.
Kane---now reviewing movies for the Daily News as The Phantom of the
Movies) seemed like a pitiful consolation.
But I needed a job, and when Richard Jaccoma appeared as Managing Editor,
things started to soar.
was 24, with privileged access to gorgeous, albeit demented, young porn
starlets. There was no such thing
as AIDS. Saturday Night Live, by
comparison, went through its most disastrous season, its emasculated staff
swamped in failure. But SCREW
offered a fascinating underworld; New York's avant-garde during those last few
precious years of the great sexual revolution.
crack editorial team galvanized when Jaccoma hired Gil Reavill, who'd just
arrived from the Midwest. How the
corn-fed Midwesterner adopted the Goldstein persona for 15 years proved uncanny.
Sydney, our editorial assistant, another Jaccoma hire, was a gorgeous
Creole girl. She would brave
catcalls and lewd propositions during her walk along 14th Street each morning,
until she reached the sanctuary of SCREW.
After an afternoon he spent observing us, Philip Roth labeled us "nineto-five
first time I entered the offices of SCREW was in 1977.
Oddly, the editors were all huddled around a telescope.
There were stacks of hard-core stock shots littered about the floor, and
8mm porn loops and magazines were piled everywhere.
But the three editors paid me no mind as I walked in. We fought like schoolboys for the scope view.
Fifty blocks away, a girl lay on a roof sunbathing topless.
about SCREW was the opposite of what outsiders might imagine.
Out of the dozens of magazines where I freelanced, The World's Greatest
Newspaper was the only one whose editors
dealt straight, looked you in the eye and handled Your work respectfully. It was
the only men's magazine that paid like clockwork.
The scale was low but the freelancers got paid from the same revolving
two-week payroll as staffers.
Meanwhile, Goldstein was the only
man alive who could legitimately claim hookers as tax write-offs.
SCREW reporters were reimbursed or fronted petty cash for research in
the field, like peeps and whorehouses. Before
I took over the Naked City listings, I was a stringer.
SCREW's comptroller, Philip Eisenberg, was a Soviet-style
bureaucrat who kept Goldstein's tax ledgers neat as a Torah scroll.
He was also in charge of expenses. When someone needed petty cash for
undercover reviews, Philip counted it out as if he were donating blood.
more than a handjob," he'd soberly remind you.
late-'70s, New York boasted a dozen spectacular "leisure spas," which
were theme park whorehouses, like Tahitia and Caesar's Retreat.
The managers would routinely comp the guy from SCREW.
The girls were spectacular, and about 20 lined up as you walked in. The boss would let you pick out any two you desired, each one
of Penthouse caliber, then whisper instructions for them to give their
best, he's the man from SCREW. You
were given a palatial suite for a few hours, a Vegas recreation of Caesar's
bedroom or a Tahitian paradise.
I was editing the Naked City listings, I farmed out a lot to other
stringers. Believe it or not, you
could even grow weary of sex joints. But
the leisure spas were so much fun that the city of New York closed them all
and I were also responsible for overseeing Midnight Blue, Goldstein's
raunchy-and still ongoing-cable-TV show.
We'd planned to shoot mock interview vignettes of Al and budding starlet,
Veronica Hart, whose porno film acting remains unsurpassed to this day.
I was smitten.
some sketches and personally delivered them, along with flowers, to her loft,
hoping to do a little "pre-production work. Veronica was new to Manhattan
and had just returned from a tough day on the set. She sat down in the kitchen and began to luxuriously brush
her hair and unwind. She blushed
while describing the leading man's attempt to keep his dick in her ass, as it
kept popping out and they had to keep re-shooting.
Just another nine-to-five workday.
let him brush
let me," I said, reaching for the brush.
pulled back, slapping my hand.
are you doing?" she said. "You
know, I thought we were friends."
could handle the task herself, thank you, and mentioned that her fiance, a
cameraman whom I believe shot some of her films, would soon be home.
This was a monogamous woman. Still,
encountering the prudish side of porn actresses was always jarring.
women were fascinated (after an obligatory snicker) to hear you were an editor
at SCREW. Then they would
often confide something sexual. A
whole courtroom would burst out laughing during jury duty when you were asked
what your job was. But not
hard-boiled newspaper reporter who'd gone to college with my father took me out
ashamed of you, Josh," he confided over drinks. 'Aren't you ashamed to work there? You'll never be able to get a job at the Daily News.
You need to do a few stories for New York or the Voice, sweep
all that dirty crap away."
then, out of the other side of his mouth:
I bet you meet some broads there. Whaddya
say, me and you, we take on a few of those porno broads one night?
Jeez, that Goldstein must be rich. How
much is he worth? Anyway, I'm
ashamed of you. I'm tellin'
ya, get outta there."
the summer of 1981, when I was senior editor, I began to notice some interesting
activity across the way from the art director's eleventh floor window.
Ballerinas and cheerleader types scurried about in the windows of the
building behind us. Incredibly,
for 12 years, no other SCREW staffer before me had ever noticed this
phenomenon. I hollered out the window, about 20 yards, to a blonde
knockout, asking for her phone number. Her
roommates clasped their hands over her mouth, but not before she yelled back the
downstairs phone exchange and their room.
dialed her up. The girl who
answered said it was her second day in New York from the Texas panhandle.
ever give out your phone number to strangers in this city," I
just who are y'all?"
SCREW magazine," I said. “And thank God you gave your number to
us. If you'd been across from Time-Life,
you would have really in with some perverts."
Within an hour, giddy college
girls were hanging out of all the top floor dorm windows.
I arranged dates for them with SCREW personnel.
It wasn't long before I became a regular "gentleman caller"
waiting in the quaint lobby of the Markle Evangeline Hall on 13th Street.
Although men were strictly forbidden beyond this point, I soon became
known by Major Anderson, the Salvation Army kommandant.
I enjoyed breakfast in the Markle cafeteria, just me and 500 nymphs
in their morning bathrobes. In a coup de grace, the girls snuck me upstairs to the
dorms, where I hid in their bunk beds. (Even the SCREW press pass
couldn't deliver like this!) The female hormones were so prevalent in these
halls that hundreds of young ladies experienced their menstrual cycles
simultaneously. When outside
girlfriends visited at that time of the month, they too automatically began
their periods. I dare say, the
female hormones were so fragrant, I almost began to menstruate.
"It's the motherload,"
gasped the editor of High Society, as word quickly spread throughout
the men's magazine world. But I
protected the girls from such swine; SCREW, and only SCREW would
be the Markle Evangeline Hall's official male fraternity.
Even the geeks from Midnight Blue on the fourth floor nearly
ruined everything, exposing themselves like mongoloid idiots out our magic
elderly men also resided at the Markle. The
qualifying age for men was a mere 55. In the Salvation Army's world, gentlemen over 55 couldn’t
possibly be a threat to young girls, and indeed, the few living there were
retired clergyman types. The Markle
was oblivious to the impending possibility that Al Goldstein himself would soon
qualify (which I never told Al, for fear he would move in).
Larry Flynt's charades always seemed minuscule, pale imitations of the great Goldstein. Al feared no man alive (save for perhaps the infamous John Gotti or Roy Cohn). During a street confrontation one evening, as we led a Times Square tour for visiting ladies, I saw
was to whine
for a blowjob
Al cut down some porn store goons whom I
thought were about to stomp us. Goldstein
was fearless before their threats, said he would see them dead first.
They backed down, contritely apologizing.
Though I witnessed many of Al's grand achievements, it's the little
things that stand out. Like the
time Annette Haven came up for her interview.
She was in her prime and generated awe over the fact that such a stunning
creature would actually do hard-core (and nothing
Al," she would say, bemused.
Goldstein wouldn’t let up, as if begging for his life.
If he landed a part in one of her movies, could he have one?
No, she declared, that would be too contrived.
And not for any amount of money. She
liked Al but wouldn’t do it as a matter of principle.
I'd never seen a human being grovel to that degree.
He followed her on his knees to the elevator, and onto 14th Street, until
her limousine door slammed. He
yelled after the limo for her to make an old Jewish man die happy. It was
a heroic failure.
Great Pornographer suffered grand excesses.
Several donut shops along 14th Street were actually paid off to refuse
Goldstein service. I believe one
shop was bribed to lock their door, should Goldstein come a’knockin’--sort
of like Lon Chaney Jr.'s Wolfman begging his neighbors to keep their doors
locked at night, no matter how much he howled.
Al's four secretaries received calls from donut proprietors when
Goldstein went off the deep end, swallowing donuts by the baker's dozen.. Al's
four secretaries from the fourth floor business offices would have to dash over
and coax him out. Sort of like
farmhands herding a berserk prize hog back into its corral.
We did theme issues with coverlines that screamed “Armageddon and Dingleberries," or "Voodoo and Vomit." Piled high at newsstands right alongside the New York Post, we felt millions of New Yorkers had a chance of at least seeing the coverlines. Goldstein might complain whenever we got too cerebral, like Gil Reavll's bogus Goldstein interview with
'This is not a college paper!
Get back to fuck shots!'
Hitler's Third Reich architect, Albert Speer, which many people
is not a college paper!" bellowed Goldstein. "Get back to fuck shots!"
A particular brainchild of mine was our "Sex and
Diarrhea” issue. Every page
covered some form of shit. Goldstein
was scheduled to appear on BBC radio in London, where he hoped to score a
distribution deal. As with any
business trip, his secretary packed two dozen of that week's issue.
heard the BBC radio tapes, one appalled British interviewer after another.
Goldstein, if this is a sex periodical, how come every single page has
defecation, feces or diarrhea?"
grabbed the paper and was himself surprised to see the "Sex and Diarrhea”
cover theme. BBC hosts raged on:
Goldstein, you are a revolting man. Get
out of this studio! Get out of this
business trip was cut short.
he was like a "Gandhi with his dick out," Goldstein liked to say if he
were assassinated, they could fill up Yankee stadium with suspects.
He even went on TV in Southern California, daring rednecks to get out
their rifles and take their best shot.
were so inept, he said, they couldn't possibly shoot straight.
There were alternate print crews at the plant where SCREW was
printed. When the Pope issue came
out, Catholic pressmen walked off. But
backup crews of blacks, Puerto Ricans, Polish, Italian or Jewish pressman stood
by, ready to fill in for any offended ethnic group.
days, I have but one remaining Times Square "mole," Uncle Lou, the
beloved chauffeur, who's driven hundreds of porn stars to their club dates.
He still calls me in Texas, in the wee hours, with news from Show World.
He doesn’t quite believe that I left the beat 12 years ago.
befriends strippers for life, remaining loyal long after other fans have
abandoned them. I once went to
dinner in Times Square with Uncle Lou, who brought along
I don't want a shot with her," I said.
think she likes ya," Lou continued, "she likes ya 'cause you don't
come on like gangbusters."
if she'd been pretty, I've long since left the life. I married the girl who first answered the phone at the Markle.
Followed her back to Texas, where we live in a palace in Dallas.
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