Al Goldstein

Active - 1972 - 2013  |   Genres - Film, TV & Radio, Adult, Culture & Society

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One of the most infamous of all late 20th century adult entertainment purveyors, Al Goldstein made headlines as the founder and proprietor of Screw magazine. As the title implies, Screw -- not unlike Hustler, which emerged several years later -- embodied something of an indignant response to the airbrushed eroticism of Hefner's Playboy and Guccione's Penthouse. Unlike those entrepreneurs, Goldstein traveled to the most tasteless extremes he could conceive of, with the raunchiest, filthiest photographs, stories, and cartoons imaginable. (His attempts to shock and gleeful vulgarity were not in any way confined to sex; in one notorious incident, Pillsbury sued him for incorporating a cartoon into his magazine that depicted a grotesque act of racist homicide perpetrated by the famous Pillsbury Doughboy; Goldstein won the case and thus expanded the boundaries of free speech to include send-ups of famous brands). The publication achieved considerable success and a massive readership, and coincided with the erosion of censorship in the late '60s and early '70s. Goldstein himself began making public appearances on national television, including -- most memorably -- a controversial mid-'70s appearance on Donahue that was banned in some outlets because affiliates objected to the use of the word "screw" on daytime television.

With the release of the 1975 S.O.S. (Screw on Screen), a raunchy, super-hardcore feature comedy that skewered the talk show format while serving up outrageous sexual acts (and co-starred Goldstein and his cohort, director Jim Buckley), Goldstein briefly seemed poised to enter filmdom, but he achieved more permanent success in front of the cameras as the host of Midnight Blue, a late-night, local access sex show that ran in the Manhattan area for years (and that neatly mirrored the talk show format of the said feature).

A blindingly colorful, outrageous personality, Goldstein drew frequent attention via his own off-the-wall personal behavior, as well; his antics included publishing the personal contact information of his enemies (particularly his female enemies) in his magazine, verbally assaulting journalists in public, and making harassing, intimidating phone calls to colleagues. Unsurprisingly, those acts claimed no real legal protection and got the publisher into hot water. By the early 2000s, The New Yorker and other publications revealed that Goldstein had declared bankruptcy and lost his mansion and townhouse; he spent a particularly low period wandering around the streets of Manhattan and residing in homeless shelters, then began to bounce back via a sales job with a bagel/catering company. Screw magazine continued unabated, however. Goldstein himself was the subject of the James Guardino-directed documentary Porn King: The Trials of Al Goldstein, and participated as an interviewee in Obscene, a film about the life and times of Barney Rosset.

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