Al Goldstein, R.I.P.


Al Goldstein, notorious publisher of the newsprint porn mag Screw, designed to be a gleefully and proudly crude "Consumer Report of sex" from its 1968 founding, is dead.

While considered the most vile of pornographers by most, he was well regarded by many independent cartoonists to whom he gave early work (including Reason's own Peter Bagge) and briefly dallied with the Libertarian Party as well–quite understandable for an American who faced federal prosecution and arrest just for publishing a magazine.

William F. Buckley found Goldstein's presence as a delegate to the L.P.'s 1992 presidential nominating convention a sign of the Party's downfall. He got press in 1991 for announcing a run against Broward County, Florida, Sheriff Nick Navarro, famous for prosecuting porn rappers Two-Live Crew; he hoped to run under the L.P. banner but as near as I can tell that didn't actually happen

The NY Times obituary. Details from it about his legal troubles:

With renown came obscenity arrests and lawsuits, which Mr. Goldstein in turn milked for maximum publicity. (He also wrote countless scathing editorials accusing his accusers of hypocrisy, often accompanied by crude photo collages showing them engaged in humiliating sex acts.) Mr. Goldstein, claiming First Amendment protection, beat most of the charges, occasionally paying nominal fines.

In 1973, though, a United States Supreme Court decision made it easier to prosecute pornographers. Before then, one legal test for obscenity was whether a publication was "utterly without redeeming social value." The 1973 decision broadened the definition to include material that lacked "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value," and it empowered communities to set local standards for whether such material was obscene.

This led federal prosecutors to direct some postmasters in Kansas to order copies of Screw. Upon delivery, Mr. Goldstein was charged with 12 obscenity and conspiracy counts and faced up to 60 years in prison.

His lawyers argued that the anticensorship diatribes in Screw made the magazine sufficiently political, though Mr. Goldstein himself ridiculed this defense, insisting that a reader's erection "is its own redeeming value." After three years and two trials his conviction in the first was overturned, and the second ended in a hung jury. Mr. Goldstein's company, Milky Way Productions, paid a $30,000 fine in return for the dropping of personal charges against him and Mr. [Jim] Buckley [his co-publisher].

I find that line about an erection being its own redeeming value admirably to the point.

My pal Ken Kurson at NY Observer eulogizes him nicely:

Al Goldstein was a much more complicated man than the "crude, obese pornographer" character he himself helped create. He was a passionate defender of the First Amendment, and not just out of self-interest—he deeply understood how important it was to America's greatness and viewed its defense as the height of patriotism.

Al Goldstein was generous, both with his money and time. When I was new to New York City, he took me under his prodigious wing and introduced me to a crazy cast of first-rate cartoonists like Danny Hellman and Sam Henderson, classic NYC has-been celebs like Al Lewis, and a bunch of over-the-hill porn starlets who were still something to behold. He was an extremely proud Jew and that made an impression on me. I also was touched by how proud he was of his son, and how he wrangled a mention that the boy went to Harvard into every conversation….

New York City has lost a true character and a good guy.

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  1. I knew you’d be on this story.

  2. Florida, Sheriff Nick Navarro, famous for prosecuting porn rappers Two-Live Crew;

    Oh how quaint, back when liberals liked the first amendment!

  3. Goldstein sounds more interesting than the Duck Dynasty guys.

  4. Scabrous pornographer!

    “He clearly coarsened American sensibilities,” Alan M. Dershowitz, the civil liberties advocate and Mr. Goldstein’s sometime lawyer, said in 2004.

    “Hefner did it with taste,” Mr. Dershowitz added, referring to Hugh Hefner, the founder and publisher of Playboy, which predated Screw by 15 years. “Goldstein’s contribution is to be utterly tasteless.”

    Apart from Screw, Mr. Goldstein’s most notorious creation was Al Goldstein himself, a cartoonishly vituperative amalgam of borscht belt comic, free-range social critic and sex-obsessed loser who seemed to embody a moment in New York City’s cultural history: the sleaze and decay of Times Square in the 1960s and ’70s.

    He got some (blue) noses seriously bent out of shape, so you’ve gotta like him.

    1. right, because nothign says taste like a pajama-clad septegenerian (octogenarian?) giving the impression of banging his great grand-daughter.

  5. William F. Buckley found Goldstein’s presence as a delegate to the L.P.’s 1992 presidential nominating convention a sign of the Party’s downfall.

    I didn’t know we had anywhere to fall down to back then.

    1. I remember when Buckley used to play footsie with the LP. God, what an overrated fuckface. (If you don’t believe it, read Peter Brimelow’s account memories of the guy when he kicked the bucket.)

      WFB = Poor man’s George Will

      1. WFB = Poor man’s George Will

        George Will is the poor man’s George Will.

        Buckley used to play footsie with the LP because back in those days there were libertarians who favored a minimal state, but still advocated mostly mainstream social conventions. If you didn’t like WFB, you probably wouldn’t have much liked, say, Murray Rothbard either.

  6. Mr. Goldstein spent much of his childhood stuttering, wetting the bed, getting beaten up by bullies and amassing the portfolio of grudges that would fuel his passions.


  7. After his son, Jordan, disinvited him to his graduation from Harvard Law School, Mr. Goldstein published doctored photos showing Jordan having sex with various men and with his own mother, Mr. Goldstein’s third ex-wife, Gena.

    Yeah, he was a real “good guy.”

    1. How do you know his son wasn’t in the wrong?

      1. A lot of people have sons who do bad things. Should they all be targeted by incest jokes.

      2. How do you know his son wasn’t in the wrong?

        Assuming he was, you think doctoring photos of him fucking his mother is appropriate? Are you even vaguely familiar with libel?

  8. I find that line about an erection being its own redeeming value admirably to the point.

    To say nothing of the hung jury.

  9. “proud…of his son,” but circulated pictures of his son engaged in incest.

    Good thing he wasn’t *ashamed* of the boy, who knows what would would have happened.

  10. Still, an American original.perhaps he can find eternal happiness.

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