I would be remiss if I failed to mark the passing of Al Goldstein, one of the more fascinating, and grossest, gentlemen ever to grace my television screen. Note that earlier this week, The Observer posted an article titled “Al Goldstein Is Not Dead”, but that claim appears to have been overtaken by events, at least according to the Times:
Al Goldstein, the scabrous publisher whose Screw magazine pushed hard-core pornography into the cultural mainstream, died early Thursday in Brooklyn. He was 77. Mr. Goldstein did not invent the dirty magazine, but he was the first to present it to a wide audience without the slightest pretense of classiness or subtlety.
The manifesto in Screw’s debut issue in 1968 was succinct. “We promise never to ink out a pubic hair or chalk out an organ,” it read. “We will apologize for nothing. We will uncover the entire world of sex. We will be the Consumer Reports of sex.” “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.
A bundle of insatiable neuroses and appetites (he once weighed around 350 pounds), Mr. Goldstein used and abused the bully pulpit of his magazine and, later, his late-night public-access cable show, “Midnight Blue,” to curse his countless enemies, among them the Nixon administration, an Italian restaurant that omitted garlic from its spaghetti sauce, himself and, most troubling to his defenders, his own family. “I’m infantile, compulsive, always acting out my fantasies,” he told Playboy in 1974. “There’s nothing I’ll inhibit myself from doing.” Alvin Goldstein was born on Jan. 10, 1936, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Sam Goldstein, a news photographer, and his wife, Gertrude. They had another son, Bob.
For better, and for worse, the dude was memorable. Rest in peace, Al. You were one of a kind.