Dirty Old Men

Comix great Peter Bagge captures the essense of Al Goldstein. Odd, thought you needed a jar for that.

In keeping with Unfair Park's groundbreaking coverage of First Amendment Champ-cum-Fallen Porn King Al Goldstein, Josh Alan Friedman provides this dispatch from the front lines.

A cocktail party for our book, I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life, was held at The Slipper Room in New York two weeks back. The Slipper is a neo-burlesque cabaret on the Lower East Side -- the same block where my great-grandparents lived, prayed and shopped vegetables from pushcarts in the 19th century. Strip queens perform throwback burlesque routines here (think "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" from Gypsy). The action takes place on a Victorian stage, through a Suicide Girls sensibility -- and barely a nipple is splayed. Such was the location choice for our book-release party, the last hurrah for the old King of Porn.

Though it was media-only by invitation, there were a few crashers amongst 200 in attendance. A clueless contingent from Gawker slipped in. Oblivious to world history before Paris Hilton, they proceeded to document hard-boiled, fedora-topped newsmen, retired cops and gigolos as "dirty old men who haven't seen live nude women in decades." The reverse was true in fact, since The Slipper attracts a lipstick lesbian art crowd, and our strippers hadn't seen dirty old men in decades -- not since being accosted by their uncles in early childhood. And as my friends will attest, I prefer no better company than crusty old men sitting side by side with demented young starlets.

The Gray Lady was in the air, as word slipped out we'd receive a two-page rave in Sunday's New York Times Book Review. Al was in shock over this. The eminent design critic Steven Heller ended his review by stating point blank he wouldn't have amassed 33 years as senior art director at The New York Times had it not been for his early training at Screw. More importantly, after interrogating a mole at the Times Obituary Dept., Al received confirmation that yes, his obit would indeed warrant a photo. This pleased him immensely, as he pointed out to other journalists present that their Times obit would likely not include a photo. Such are Goldstein Family Values -- the same values that lost him relationships with his son, five ex-wives, a rougue's gallery of important friends and landed him ass-first on the streets, homeless for a year.

Al's first-ever visit to Texas occurred earlier this month. A huge banquet was thrown in his honor by Dawn Rizos at the Lodge. He appeared on "The Jagger Show," Pugs & Kelly, spoke to the Dallas Press Club and the Ad League. Although I wrote the book, I felt like the guy who follows an elephant around the circus ring, cleaning up pachyderm droppings. I had to apologize for Goldstein's behavior left and right. Though he ultimately received a better reception than JFK on his last visit, Goldstein's borscht-belt charm was sometimes met with confusion.

He propositioned young ladies at the Lodge and gave out his hotel room number on radio (The Lodge put him up at the Four Seasons). His Make-A-Wish Foundation soliloquy was Oscar-caliber ("I'm an old man whose dying request is one last taste of pussy"). Several dancers were hypnotised as Goldstein exercised his playa chops. One of them seemed a sure-fire bet to appear at his hotel room door -- until Al blew the mood by revealing his last liposuction left empty skin folds hanging over his waist.

I introduced Al wherever he appeared. A disgraceful human being, I warned the audience -- but also a fearless martyr of free speech, a man arrested more than any other American publisher in history and the apostle who made it possible for Americans to look at themselves fully naked, with or without socially redeeming value. --Josh Alan Friedman

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky