Al Goldstein, On Women
Interview Veronica Vera. Photos Annie Sprinkle
(originally published November, 1986)
At fifteen Al Goldstein was a shy teenager who sent away for a book on how to kiss girls. He practiced technique on his own hand. At age 32, Goldstein created SCREW magazine, “the world’s greatest newspaper,” the sex tabloid responsible in its eighteen year history for millions of orgasms. A newspaper that men like to read with one hand.
Now 50, Goldstein is recently divorced from wife number three and, after an exhaustive romp through the personal ads and video dating services, perhaps headed for marriage number four. He has bedded prostitutes and porn stars, professional execs and Jewish princesses. His success as a pornographer inspires both rage and respect.
Author Gay Talese, in his book Thy Neighbor’s Wife, describes Al Goldstein as “a man who did not aspire to influence society so much as to reflect the world as he knew it was being lived each and every day and night by thousands…” I decided to find out how this now famous “everyman” really feels about women—and maybe learn something about men in the process.
When I interviewed Al in his office, he was calm, gracious, mature, on his best behavior. It was different from our initial meeting six years ago when he invited me to lunch and expected me to eat him for dessert. At the time, he was on one of his never-ending diets. “I experience life through my mouth,” he says later. “That is why I love to eat pussy.” He took me to the local coffee shop, ordered broiled filet of sole, no butter, then took me back to the dark cheater’s pad he kept near the office, and unceremoniously dropped his pants. I begrudgingly bestowed a few lackluster licks on his penis just because it seemed the thing to do. Then I came to my senses and hustled out of the apartment while he was still at half-mast.
“I did that?” he says now, all surprised.
“Do you feel like a pimp because of all the hooker ads you publish in SCREW?”
“I’ve thought about that. But The New York Times makes most of its money from real estate ads. Are they in the real estate business? I am definitely plugged into the sex pipeline.”
During the course of the interview, Al mentioned romance and touching and intimacy. “I am not looking to get married again, but it’s possible. I am seeing a woman who I care about… But after you are 0 for 3, a three-time loser… I feel like the next marriage could be capital punishment.
“The advantage of being in love, which is what I am now, is that all things are possible. I am probably really a romantic, which means that the woman is really very special to me.”
But a survey of SCREW, the heart of Al Goldstein’s work, does not reveal a hint of romance. “I am a cock, but I am also a soul.” SCREW definitely appeals to the cock.
“My readers come to me for fantasy. Men stop me on the street because they think I have the key, that I get laid, that I have the answer to this very ambiguous mystery called sex. But none of us has the answer.
“What I give my readers is, (1) The promise of all the experiences they think that everyone is having but them. (2) I think SCREW validates their physical component. It is okay to masturbate. It is okay to have detached sex. The reason SCREW is so hated is because we say, if you want romance, buy the Reader’s Digest. SCREW is about coming. Fucking is friction, that’s what SCREW is about.”
The image Al Goldstein projects through the media, waving an American flag in one hand and SCREW in the other, is very provocative and to some disturbing. Al Goldstein, too, is about friction, and he likes it that way.
“You have fucked quite a few porn stars. Tell me, what have they been like?” I ask.
“I was a tongue away from eating Marilyn Chambers on a photo set but Chuck Traynor (Ms. Chambers’s lover/manager) was there, and I thought it would be unprofessional. Suddenly, I had a moment of ethics,” he says ruefully.
He had a good time with Seka in 1979. “She is beautiful. It was great.” But again, her lover was present and Al felt somewhat inhibited. He did publish the sex photos immediately afterwards in SCREW. He sent me a copy of this illustrated interview after our recent second date. In red magic marker he wrote, “Here, VV, masturbate to this!” My favorite photo in the series shows a svelte Mr. Goldstein dropped to his knees beside Seka. He smiles happily as he nibbles her underpants.
“Linda Lovelace was a lousy blowjob,” he tells me with glee. “I have always been infatuated with (but not fucked) Annette Haven… I regret that I have not fucked Samantha Fox.”
“Perhaps if I had thought he could offer me a big movie role…” Samantha tells me when I mention my Goldstein interview to her on the telephone.
A few months ago, I again found the Goldstein charm irresistible and accepted his invitation to dinner and a movie. His social schedule at that time was quite hectic, though I did get top billing in his Dictaphone notes:
“Veronica is firm for Thursday at 8. So I have, Monday night is Amy and Randy; Tuesday night is Lesley, there’s some trickiness there. I hope she gets back in time. Wednesday night, I haven’t asked Lisa out yet. I will do that Saturday night. Thursday night is Veronica. So I have Friday open.”
By the time Thursday rolled around and we had our date, Mr. Goldstein fell asleep in the movies.
“Gloria Leonard and I were great friends for years before we fucked. I think that we finally did it just to get sex out of the way. Gloria is a real straight shooter and one of the most honest women I know, but I couldn’t take her seriously as a cunt and I’m sure she couldn’t take me seriously as a cock.”
“Do you think you could ever have a serious emotional affair with any women in the porn business?” I ask.
“No, I think the women in the business are as fucked up with who they are as I am with who I am. And who can take Amber Lynn or any 21 year-old in the business seriously? They giggle and they are bubbleheads and they talk about fucking Ron Jeremy to death like that is an accomplishment… You could fill Yankee Stadium with the people who have fucked Ron Jeremy.
“I don’t want to be half of ‘The Ozzie and Harriet of Porn.’ The people in this business feel the need to compensate or to justify that they have been in the porn business… I don’t think being a pornographer is so wonderful. It is like saying. ‘I am the best leper on the block.’
“Being a pornographer is not a plus for me with women. What is a plus is having a successful business for 18 years. Women like that.”
“Name five women from any walk of life whom you really respect.”
Dead silence from Mr. Goldstein.
“Gee… There are two I would really like to fuck who I don’t respect. Gloria Steinem has great legs but she is a moron on the porn issue. I respected Jane Fonda when she was against the war in Vietnam, but she has turned into such a closet fascist with her anti-porn position…”
(Then, giving it some more thought),
“…I would even agree with her position about pornography if I could eat her pussy.”
“Diane Sawyer of Sixty Minutes I am impressed with. I don’t know her politics, but she is so articulate. I like women who are concerned with what goes on in the world.”
“Do you desire to have sex with every women you meet? Do you always wonder ‘What would she be like in bed?’”
“Yes, all except fat women.”
“Have you ever been seduced?”
I remind him that he was quite notorious for trying the same thing with every starlet who ever crossed his path. But now Mr. Goldstein feels romantic. He’s been bitten by the love bug. “I have a record going now, eight weeks of monogamy, and it is giving me cold flashes, headaches… I’m nauseous, a lot… But if a Ford model called me and I had a shot to fuck her…”
Thin, flat-chested, long-legged Ford models are Al Goldstein’s “ideal type.” The publisher of America’s raunchiest newspaper would rather masturbate to The Sunday Times Magazinesection. “I look for the nylon ads.”
Al Goldstein is by necessity very well organized. Each day he produces reams of Dictaphone notes which are transcribed by one of his secretaries and distributed to the employees involved. During the past year, each time I had a reason to visit some minion in the Goldstein empire, I took home a copy of Al’s humorous, highly readable and eminently quotable Dictaphone notes. Since his divorce two years ago, top priority for Mr. Goldstein has been to fill his social calendar and eventually find a new mate.
He and his staff composed many different types of personal ads, designed with various goals in mind. One of the earliest, placed in New York magazine read:
“Can you handle life in the fast lane? Controversial publisher with limo and East Side town house is looking for a model or actress or stewardess.”
“This was an ad to attract gold-diggers,” says Mr. Goldstein. “It was right after my divorce. All I wanted were 22 year-old bimbos, and I got them.” According to his Dictaphone notes:
“I have a date for Saturday night. I don’t have a date for Sunday night. The people I’m going to want to see are: Enid is a possibility for Sunday; Margaret, though she is the flakiest of all the women I know… Lisa is the sweetest. Marjorie, I’m interested in. Chris, I’m interested in. We know that girl Maria is out. I’ve got to make a date for Sunday.”
“The subject is women,” I remind Al as we sit in his office, and Annie Sprinkle, with assistant, sets up the strobe lights for the ultimate Goldstein portrait.
“Women, you mean, pussies, tits, cunts…”
“Is that what women are to you?” I ask.
“Women are sources of amusement, bemusement, confusion,” he says. “I think, like all men, I feel a lot of ambiguity: loving them, wanting them and probably on some level, hating them… We seek so much approval from women…”
In a moment of indignation from his Dictaphone notes: “Lori sent me a snotty letter and I want to send her a telegram saying, “Dear Lori, the ad you responded to had all the subtlety of Rocky IV and all the sensitivity of Jumbo the Elephant. (New paragraph.) Re-read the ad or have someone help you re-read and you’ll see that my ad was crass, materialistic and clearly pointed out that I wanted a good-looking woman whose age would be 19-32. You responded knowing exactly what I was looking for and now you have repeated the pattern of your life by becoming a victim, whining and complaining about my materialism. If you read the words, you clearly knew what I was looking for. Best regards, and hope that you quit blaming everybody else for your own dissatisfactions. Signed, Al Goldstein of Marina Del Rey.”
I glance around Al Goldstein’s office. There is not a bare space in sight. He is an incurable collector, obsessive. There are photographs, one of Jackie Kennedy that he shot years ago when he was a Hearst photographer. A wooden chair in the shape of a hand, several dozen robots, toys, radios, gadgets…
“Maybe it comes from an innate fear of poverty,” he says. “I still renew my hack license every year just in-case.” His valid license to drive a taxi is posted prominently on the wall.
“How many women have you had in your life?” I ask the insatiable collector.
“Less than Johnny Holmes, but probably more than Ronald Reagan.”
“The first year after my (third) marriage ended, I got about 900 responses to my ads in New York magazine and The Village Voice. I probably had about 400 dates last year, sometimes three to five dates a day. I was retired from running SCREW. I would have a date at 10, at 1, at 5… My primary motive was to get laid, but I knew I could not succeed every time. All the women knew I was the publisher of SCREW. They expected me to be an animal, so I had to play that down and act normal. If I was really horny, I would masturbate before the date, so that I would keep my hands off the women.
“Men and women fuck for different reasons. Men just want to drop a load. They want to ejaculate. Men focus on coming. I think that women do want to have sex and are orgasmic, but then they want to cuddle. You show me a man who wants to cuddle after he comes and I’ll show you a nerd. Women see the sex relationship as a totality and men see it as almost masturbatory. Men fall in love but they are sort of suckered into it.”
But later, speaking of his own new relationship with an attorney: “Now that I am in love, I have become very bourgeois. I have sex to be with her. It’s the connection. It’s the touching.”
Like many men Al Goldstein had sex with a prostitute that very first time. “She told me, ‘Anything you do in bed is good.’ It was like a family ritual. My uncle set it up. My mother knew about it. My father knew about it.”
“You have had lots of sex with prostitutes since then. Other men look to your magazine to help them find sex with prostitutes. Do you prefer to pay for sex?”
“In the old days (read two years ago), I would rather pay for sex. I cheated during all my marriages. I liked paying for it because the sex had a beginning and an end. It was clearly defined. My $100-$150 clearly defined that I was buying a service. I didn’t have to be responsible for anything afterwards. I came and that is all that mattered. I think the most honest relationship is between a hooker and a john.”
An example of the problems involved with “free love” comes again from the notes:
“While I’ve been here with Lisa Sunday night, I’ve gotten calls from Maria and Vicki in North Carolina so I want to call them both back, but I really need this answering machine to pick up that 04 number so when I’m with one girl, the other girls won’t be insulted. I’m lucky I’ve been in the right rooms to handle it.”
Goldstein had just returned from one of his many trips to the Orient.
“Tell me what it’s like to be with the whores of the Far East?” I ask.
He issues still another of the consumer reports for which SCREW is famous:
“I hate massage parlors except for the ones in Bangkok, because in Bangkok your body is touched a lot. It is like being in a Bendix washer.
“In Japan, the sex is boring. The girls jerk you off like they are milking a cow. They are very efficient, as if they were making transistor radios. It is like having sex at McDonald’s.
“Hong Kong is such a greedy town that the pussy is almost as expensive as in Las Vegas. I don’t want to pay $300-$400 for sex. I can buy a dozen walkmen for that price.
“But in Bangkok, ah Bangkok, the women suds you up and they use their boobs to rub up and down your body. I would book three women for an hour and a half. It cost me about $15 per girl. I got three girls for $35 and gave each one a $10 tip. I thought I was in paradise. The food is good too.”
“Do you feel that had you been born female and decided to be a prostitute, you would be a successful one?”
“Yes. I would just tell the johns how wonderful they are, that their cocks are so big and that no one ever made me feel so great. Men are schmucks,” he says, chuckling and by his laughter including himself. “Men are really retarded twelve year olds.”
Rest In Peace Mr. Al Goldstein