In an obituary for Legendary Freak Al Goldstein, the NY Times said:
“Mr. Goldstein did not invent the dirty magazine, but he was the first to
present it to a wide audience without the slightest pretense of
classiness or subtlety. Sex as depicted in Screw was seldom pretty,
romantic or even particularly sexy. It was, primarily, a business, with
consumers and suppliers like any other.”
getting beaten up by bullies and amassing a portfolio of grudges that
would fuel his passions. Before he found porn, Goldstein served in the Army, captained
the debate team at Pace College and briefly followed his father’s
footsteps into photojournalism, shooting Jacqueline Kennedy on a 1962
state trip to Pakistan and spending several days in a Cuban prison for
taking unauthorized photos of Fidel Castro’s brother, Raúl. He married
miserably, sold insurance successfully by day and sought solace in
pornographic movie houses and brothels by night.
After his marriage failed Goldstein ran a dime-pitch booth at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair; he sold rugs,
encyclopedias and his own blood; drove a cab; and landed a job as an
industrial spy, infiltrating a labor union. That experience so appalled
him that he wrote an exposé about it for The New York Free Press, a
became friends with one of The Press’s editors, Jim Buckley and
persuaded him that there was money in covering NYC’s growing
commercial sex scene. The two men invested $175 apiece to publish the first issue of Screw in
November 1968: a 12-page paper dedicated to the sleazy underbelly of the city and featuring
blue-movie reviews, nude photos, a guide to dirty bookstores and Goldstein’s report of an artificial vagina field test. Although hardly considered “porn” by today’s standards, it outraged many who still felt that bare breasts would prove the downfall of humanity.
As quasi-legal, discreetly misnamed “massage parlors” multiplied across
the city in the early 1970s, Goldstein assigned himself to visit and
rate each one. His early, enthusiastic review of the
movie “Deep Throat” helped turn it into hard-core pornography’s first
bona fide mainstream hit. An issue in the 1970s with frontally nude photos of Jacqueline Kennedy
Onassis sold more than a half-million copies- a
fraction of the seven million copies of Playboy sold in those days, but enough to
raise the paper’s profile considerably.
The covers of the magazine -actually more of a newspaper- tended more towards illustration and featured some of the best underground artists of the times, including Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez, Milton Night and Paul Kirchner.
When Screw first hit the newstands the American legal system was
embroiled in a battle over what constitutes obscenity. During the magazine’s first three years Goldstein was arrested 19 times
on obscenity charges and had to spend millions defending himself; he
ultimately scored a major victory in 1974 when a federal judge threw out
an obscenity case brought against him.
Goldstein lived to shock and offend, but he stuck around long enough for social
mores and technology to overtake him. By the time his company went
bankrupt in 2003 he was a no longer a force in the $10-billion-a-year porn industry he pioneered.
350 pounds), Mr. Goldstein used and abused the bully pulpit of his
magazine and, later, his late-night public-access cable show, “Midnight
Blue,” to curse his countless enemies, among them the Nixon
administration, an Italian restaurant that omitted garlic from its
spaghetti sauce, himself and, most troubling to his defenders, his own
Playboy in 1974. “There’s nothing I’ll inhibit myself from doing.”
“We promise never to ink out a pubic hair or chalk out an organ. We will apologize for nothing. We will uncover the entire world
of sex. We will be the Consumer Reports of sex.” -SCREW manifesto, 1968
Gradually, Goldstein’s empire declined. The Village Voice and other newspapers, many of them free, siphoned
off the ads for escort services that were Screw’s mainstay. Goldstein failed to stake out strong positions in the booming sectors of
video and Internet pornography.
his Florida mansion and a series of subsistence jobs in New York,
including one as a greeter at the Second Avenue Deli. In 2004, while
living in a homeless shelter, he was arrested and charged with stealing
books from a Barnes & Noble store.
Veterans Affairs hospitals to a cramped apartment in Staten Island paid
for by his friend, the magician Penn Jillette, to the Brooklyn nursing
home where he spent most of his final years. At age 69, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the Adult Video
News Awards for his age-defying role in “Al Goldstein & Ron Jeremy
For better or worse, Al Goldstein’s influence on the world of porn was undeniable.
did it with taste,” Alan M. Dershowitz, civil liberties advocate and
occasional Goldstein lawyer said in 2004. “Goldstein’s contribution is
to be utterly tasteless.”
R.I.P. Al Goldstein, January 10, 1936- December 19, 2013.