Underground Porn King and Screw Magazine Publisher Al Goldstein Is Dead
In 1999, in the pages of the Village Voice, pornographer Al Goldstein had a tender moment, reminiscing about founding Screw magazine back in 1968.
Image via Danny Hellman's Pinterest, another longtime Screw illustrator. A November 1978 issue of Screw, with art by Spain Rodriguez.
"I was a walking hard-on," he said. "I believe my hard-on is the greatest gift to the world."
It was that kind of delicate sentiment that made both Goldstein and Screw famous: a view of sex that was coarse, in-your-face, and unapologetically scuzzy, although exuberant in its own way. Celebratory, almost.
After a lifetime in the sex business, both in the shadows and in the spotlight, Goldstein died on Thursday, at the age of 77, in a nursing home in Cobble Hill. His lawyer, Charles DeStefano, told the New York Times that the cause was believed to be renal failure.
Goldstein's Screw was a porno touchstone throughout the late '60s and '70s; he's widely credited with making 1972's Deep Throat a success, after writing a rave review of the film, which went on to be the most famous adult movie ever made. According to a New York Observer profile from a few years back, Goldstein raved especially about star Linda Lovelace's oral abilities, calling her co-star's penis "a roustabout rod of about ten inches," and declaring that as he watched her attending to it, "It seems a miracle. ... I was never so moved by any theatrical performance since stuttering through my own bar mitzvah."
But besides being nasty in a complimentary way, Goldstein could be -- and often was -- genuinely disgusting and wildly misogynistic. In the same Voice piece where he reminsced about his early days at Screw, he said of Lovelace, "I made Deep Throat successful. Suddenly, because of me, it became chic. The New Yorker wrote about it. Linda said she was raped, she was forced. She blew me -- I have photos of my dick in her mouth. She was a hooker in Florida and she said she was forced to do it. I mean, I like Linda. She was a stupid cocksucker, but a good one."
Besides Screw, Goldstein published a few other, less successful publications: Ramrod, a gay spinoff, Gadget , a tech magazine, and newsletters with what the Miami New Times termed "functionally descriptive titles," including Cigar and Death. By the early '90s, all of them but Screw had folded.
The Times obituary notes that Goldstein managed to make "countless" enemies, whom he excoriated both in the pages of Screw and on a late-night public access show, Midnight Blue. Those foes, the paper says, included "the Nixon administration, an Italian restaurant that omitted garlic from its spaghetti sauce, himself and, most troubling to his defenders, his own family." (His relationship with his only son, Jordan, was strained, according to the paper; after Jordan asked his father not to attend his Harvard graduation, "Goldstein published doctored photos showing Jordan having sex with various men and with his own mother, Mr. Goldstein's third ex-wife, Gena.")
Those enemies also included Leonard Stern, owner of the Village Voice between 1985 and 2000. In a February 1991 issue of Screw, Goldstein laid out his feelings on Stern with unforgettable clarity:
All of Stern's cutthroat business dealings are a feeble attempt on his part to compensate for his ugliness, his shortness, his vile and malodorous existence. Here was a man, I thought -- giving him the benefit of the doubt -- who would try anything to erase the shame of his tiny dick.
He had a real way with words. Goldstein also accused Stern, who made his fortune in the pet supply business, of killing dogs and cats with his company's Blockade flea repellent, writing, "Stern already has to kick away the dead animals at his doorstep just to go home at night."