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In a "Fresh Air" interview on NPR a few years ago, attorney and law professor Alan Dershowitz at first proclaimed himself "an absolutist" when it came to free speech, then quickly modified that to "almost an absolutist". He wrote an article for "Penthouse" back in the mid 70s (titled "Screwing Around With The First Amendment" in their "Advise And Dissent" section) scolding Al Goldstein and also defending his right to publish because the US had a long history of politically motivated naughty speech and Dershowitz saw the prominent porn publishers as being attacked for having left wing sentiments and possibly influencing candidates chances through their support in the magazines.
While communicating one's ideas and emotions in various forms is an important and life affirming act, the unrestricted ability to ruin reputations, cause legal and criminal hardship to innocent people and generally use the law as a weapon for cruelty's sake is not what anybody's founding fathers really had in mind when they created the concepts and documents establishing a vision for their descendent's future.
Alvin Goldstein, born in Brooklyn in 1936, is certainly one of those rabble rousers who have become inextricably linked with what the actual parameters of being offensive for it's own sake are concerned. He worked as a journalist for other periodicals before deciding with Jim Buckley to start "Screw" back in the late 60s and pretty much dare the cops to come and get them! Back then something like what we can see on "Sex And The City" would have been considered hard core porn by many, so it wasn't long before the duo did get arrested and continued to many times.
In his autobiography "I, Goldstein", Al describes his life as a quest for some kind of mental and sexual fulfilment that he assumed his father's generation didn't have. The need for attention became as life threatening an obsessive compulsion as his gluttony with food and prostitutes, not to mention the relentless shopping sprees and generosity with taking friends and business associates out on the town for lavish meals. Al loved feeling like a big shot and the material wealth didn't quite make up for the patterns that would dominate his life for the long haul.
He ended up homeless after not heeding well meant advice to slow down the habits which eventually bankrupted him. And he was wrecked philosophically by the multiple marriages which he never intended to be monogamous within. Living a swinger's existence didn't really give him the self esteem boost he hoped it would.
His public access cable show "Midnight Blue" introduced many folks, mostly in the New York area, to their first taste of the porn world, featuring interviews with almost all of the greats, a notable exception being Linda Lovelace/Marciano, who he'd confronted earlier at a press conference, waving stills from a bestiality film she'd made pre "Deep Throat". In typical Goldstein fashion, he was ejected from the event. He published the first North American photos of Jackie O nude, the same ones Larry Flynt's "Hustler" set adult mag records in sales for a few months later. He accused Flynt of basically taking almost everything from "Screw" and it's not really an exaggeration.
The infamous "Campari" ad parody that landed Flynt in hot water (and eventually before the US Supreme Court) was at first a poke at Al's sexuality in his own publication. That single piece of satire was the fuse for a free speech explosion which had a unanimous decision from all the highest court in the land's justices agreeing figures like Rev. Jerry Falwell were indeed subject to vicious comic treatment that they couldn't really sue over.
Goldstein's treatment of his own family, most notably ex-wife Gena and "former" son Jordan, was a very different kind of attack and even Al's most ardent defenders would have problems with his taking such personal matters into the most public and infamous forums in that cruel a manner. He's been in court at many times for taking any and all frustrations with whoever has crossed him to a ridiculous extent.
In "I, Goldstein", he wonders if all his legal battles (including federal obscenity charges in Kansas that he won after a prolonged and draining fight) were worth it, considering how little the modern porn world has to offer in any soul. He envied John Holmes until the legend faded away and what was finally revealed was a shell of a man trapped in his typecast of a legendary sex machine. Watching Goldstein being interviewed anywhere, you'd have to wonder if living his life would be the ultimate form of seeming to have it all and really having nothing at all.
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