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

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

In 1973, though, a United States Supreme Court
 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. Buckley.

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

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.

from Hit & Run

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