Al Goldstein: The Pornographer in Winter

goldstein2 Al Goldstein: The Pornographer in Winter In April shooting will begin on Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story, starring Malin Ackerman. And last month, rumor had it that a second Lovelace biopic was in the works, this one with Kate Hudson in the lead. It’s unlikely, however, that either actress would be getting ready for her money shot, Mr. DeMille, if not for a review by Al Goldstein, founder and publisher of Screw and host of long-running cable-access show Midnight Blue, in the June 5, 1972 issue of his magazine. Lovelace, wrote Mr. Goldstein, “is almost a Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not as she takes the whole joint down her gullet. No, it’s not a small-potato penis but a roustabout rod of ten inches that plummets into the deepest recesses of our lady’s oral cavity. It seems a miracle. … I was never so moved by any theatrical performance since stuttering through my own bar mitzvah.”

Deep Throat, which had the look of a garden-variety low-budget porn film, had opened and closed in L.A. in four days, causing no stir whatsoever. But after Mr. Goldstein’s glowing (swelling? throbbing? spurting?) assessment appeared in Screw, Deep Throat became a sensation. It grossed more than $40 million and ushered in the era of porno chic, as the upper middle class flocked to the World Theater in Times Square. Executives took their clients. Husbands took their wives. Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra and Spiro Agnew were early audience members. Barbara Walters mentioned having seen the movie in her autobiography. When Bob Woodward of The Washington Post invoked the reference in identifying W. Mark Felt as his informant in the Watergate scandal, it was clear that the film had entered the nation’s collective consciousness.

When I first met Mr. Goldstein at Big Wong’s in Chinatown in the summer of 2009, he called himself “an old condom somebody popped a load into, then threw away.” I was immediately charmed. We started to spend time together, meeting for eggrolls and moo shu pork every month or so. In 2005, though, Mr. Goldstein, after ballooning to 350 pounds, underwent gastric bypass surgery. This made dining out problematic: he requires unfettered access to a toilet, ideally a private one, whenever he eats. More and more he has preferred to conduct his communicationg over the telephone. Here, for example, is a voicemail I received last fall:

“Hi, Lili. Al calling. If you and I were talking 10 years ago, I would tell you how many mouths I ejaculated into, how many clits I licked. But now, since I have no money and no one’s interested in me, I want to tell you what TV shows I’m watching. Invasion of the Jellyfish, a 5 o’clock documentary on the mountains of Drakensberg, a PBS two-hour documentary on the ballet dancer, Rudy I-can’t-pronounce-his-last-name. I finally sprang for Verizon FiOS. I love TV. I fuckin’ love it. It’s better than an orgy. Not better than a buffet, though. I’m doped up on sleeping pills, so don’t call me back tonight.”

Fumbling sounds and muffled curses follow, then a dead-air click. Other messages have contained offers: analingus; a bootleg copy of Let My Puppets Come, a musical comedy featuring Muppet-style marionettes violating each other; use of Mr. Goldstein’s Costco card. Still others have contained demands: various sex acts, the name of the ’80s thriller in which Al Pacino does it to Ellen Barkin against a wall (Sea of Love), assistance registering his Starbucks card online. These messages, whether in give mode or take, always inspire in me the same reaction–a laugh-wince, equal parts amused and grossed out.

The public’s reaction to Mr. Goldstein, though, has been more wince than laugh. He was a pornographer and he looked like one–a hairy, sweaty, cigar-chomping, eczema-ridden fatso. He never posed like Hugh Hefner, pipe and smoking jacket over urbane lounge wear. The pictures he peddled were of ordinary-looking women letting it all hang out, not ponytailed girl-next-door types acting nasty but being cute about it. Screw was utterly without pretensions to middle-class respectability. In it, fucking wasn’t a beautiful experience, fucking wasn’t art and fucking certainly wasn’t tasteful; fucking was fucking. And Mr. Goldstein was, by all appearances, a genuinely scummy guy in a genuinely scummy business.


  1. IFnotforAL says:

    In a day and age where you can “tweet” anything you want- and people as norm post facebook photo’s of themselves in little more then a thong-  Does it matter that none of this would have ever been possible if not for one Alvin Goldstein. As a child growing up in manhattan- You HAD to watch “Interludes after midnight” and ” the grand dame of the ball “Midnight Blue”.   Here I was- a “Husky”  Jewish boy on the upper east side of manhattan, And nothing spoke to me more then “Screw” –  “Mad Magazine” being a close second.   And in such they were both the same-  Both thrived on satire, and showed you the world behind the drawn curtain- Was Mercedes really in league with nazi’s??  (Yes) Was hollywood really a cult of sex,drugs,and nepotism??  (Yes)   As a child we are lied to by adult’s from the moment we can speak-  When someone finally has the guts to tell the truth, they are shunned.   I leave a with a Quote Mr. Goldstein used to throw out after just having wished a horrible death to someone that had been giving the once over to the “Regular guy”   And I would ask every man and woman to look to themselves for the answer.   “There is no man so good who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life”  Michel de Montaigne, French philosopher

  2. Sig says:

    I knew Al well. We had friends in common, we dined
    together (he introduced me to Elaine’s and Mr. Chow’s), he offered to sell me
    his townhouse on 61st (it needed work, but I should have, but couldn’t
    afford it), I stayed in his guesthouse on the Pompano Beach Estate and appeared on Midnight Blue—in short we
    were good friends. I even ran articles on all in my own magazine at the time
    (and lost a few advertisers because of it.) Yet I wouldn’t change any memories
    I have of Al, including when, in the middle of a double date at Bice on 54th,
    as a total non sequitur, Al offered my then girlfriend $1,500 to blow him
    because he thought she was classy. I laughed! She didn’t. She passed on the
    offer and broke up with me a few days later.  But being Al’s friend had a price, and the price is often
    heavy. Yes Al is (or was) brilliant. But he was also deeply disturbed, abrasive
    and acerbic. He was generous in many ways, and tyrannical in others. The last
    time I spoke to Al was about three years ago. I wanted to see him, he demurred
    because he said he preferred I remember him the way he was when we hung out ten
    years prior. As Lili mentioned in her story Al’s voice messages were classic, I
    used to save the ones he left me. The last one I received was in the spring of
    2008, “This is Al Goldstein, I don’t know what you’re on, but your message
    sounds like you fucking high as a kite. How much weed have you smoked?…” And
    it went on and on. Needless to say my outgoing message is both clear and
    succinct. Al is, and always will be, a classic New York character, they kind
    they just don’t make any more. In short, he’s a one-of-a-kind.

  3. Marcia (The Moose) Blackman says:

    I know Al for over 40 years; worked at Screw when it was a ‘start up’ and I’m thrilled he’s still alive and stirring shit. I knew wives #2, #3 and #4 and his brilliant son Jordan was a ‘member’ of our family by his connection to my niece.   I tried keeping in touch with Al;  but never know where he’s rotting away for his final years and lose sight of him occasionally.  I am always surprised that after all his eating/operations/marriages/ups and downs that he’s still alive and breathing.  Thanks for the article, it’s really ‘right on’ and a tribute to his final days which are fast coming.  He’s ‘one of a kind’ which is a cliche…but I can’t describe him any better.  The world is better off because of Al.  I think of him often and miss him always.  Marcia (The Moose) Blackman

  4. Tesla110v says:

    I to was a friend of AG, was on the set of Gerry D’aminos let my people come. The comments have summed up the man, the myth and the legend. we were close friends for 15 years and he was an emotional rollercoaster ride. A ride in retrospec was well worth taking. My exgirlfriend worked for him and moved him from huis Jane st. apartment to the b61st street town house. His purchasing excess are legend……pocket change in a bucket in the bedroom $15,000 + . The dinners at Spago’s , he tipped every thing that stood still for 5 minutes or more. The  BMW motorcycle he gave me to hold for 15 years incase he ever wanted to ride it ……..I guess even though he could be a total asshole he was a great friend, and an experience knowing. I could write a book on the years together, when Jordan was born and beyond, the wife before Gena…….
    It was a great ride my friend.

  5. MarcBerglass says:

    Brillant and Brave Man…defender of Free Speech…his “Fuck You”s were Legendary….Midnight Blue represents the zenith of original Cable Public Access!