Screw has long been circulated by Star Distributing, a wholesale porn distributor controlled by the Mafia and located at 150 Lafayette St., in New York City.
"We have no options as to who to deal with," Al Goldstein told the New York Times. "No legitimate distributor will touch us. I'd deal with Hitler if I had to. I'll deal with anyone I can do business with."
Larry Flynt copied much of Hustler's approach from Screw but Larry's publication became a national magazine while Screw remains a New York tabloid.
In the August 24, 1992 issue of Screw, Al's paste-up flunkies superimposed a gunsight upon a portrait of Larry Flynt in an article attacking Hustler. Larry responded by named Goldstein "Asshole of the Month" in Hustler's 1992 Holiday issue.
"Everybody has to s--- somewhere," writes Hustler, "but only the lowest form of sphincters dump their turd piles on a best friend. Such a treacherous dung ring is Al Goldstein... Though the weighty underachiever has never deserved better than to be wiped from the bottom of a peep-show mop man's shoe, Al Goldstein has been befriended through the years by Larry Flynt, his superior in every way. When Goldstein faced an obscenity trial in Wichita, Kansas, Hustler, Larry Flynt's magazine, was on the scene with support and coverage. When Goldstein's faltering weekly needed to be propped up, Larry Flynt plugged it in the pages of Hustler. With the rest of the world treating Goldstein like some sort of feces-borne bug, Larry never considered the corpulent mooch any less than a 'rhoid-sucking leech."
Alexander Crawford's documentary Screwed captures the flavor of the sex industry. "Do you have any women here waiting to be penetrated by my manly dick?" are the opening words of the film spoken by Al Goldstein. "What a fantasy life I lead," says Al as he cruises to the New York offices of his 29-year old tabloid where nude female porn stars and a midget wearing Uncle Sam garb wait for him.
"Goldstein's no Bob Guccione or Hugh Hefner or even Flynt; he doesn't get on Entertainment Tonight or own gaudy Beverly Hills homes and offices or have Oliver Stone produce star-choked films about his life. Goldstein knows he's at the bottom of the porn food chain...wallowing in the muck and discarded Kleenex. Goldstein makes porn films with titles like Tales from the Clit, and sometimes he appears... licking whipped cream off naked women; he stars in his own cable-access show Midnight Blue, in which he'll break the ice with an interviewee by giving her head..." (Robert Wilonsky, New Times, 1/9/97, p.32)
"Inside the pages of Screw," Al tells the camera as images of his tabloid pass by, "are pictures of people f---ing, total nudity, erections, cocks, cunts... but it also has articles about porn actors and actresses dwarfs with big cocks, dwarfs with little cocks.... It's out of Dante's Inferno."
Film critic Robert Wilonsky: "Screwed succeeds where The People vs Larry Flynt too often failed because Crawford doesn't need to make you like Al Goldstein to tell you his story; it doesn't fake the porn and trivialize his antics as the product of "bad taste" nor does it make Screw some standard bearer for the First Amendment." (Ibid)
Screwed describes the culture of Screw - the community of porn collectors, S-M fetishists and whoregoers.
One guy who loves to be tied up and tortured is journalist David Aaron Clarke who appears along with his teenage dominatrix ex-girlfriend. He told me in the spring of 1996:
I graduated from Rutgers with a double major in journalism and art. Once I found out that I couldn't paint or draw, I decided to become a serious journalist. I wrote for two years for the Dow Jones news service in New Jersey, then switched to Genesis in 1988 and wrote for a friend Michael Banka. He was my college roommate who now edited Genesis. I was bored and looking for something else to write about other than planning commission meetings and human interest stories on missing children, gun shows, etc.. From there I went on to Screw.
I work hard on my writing and it's nice to be appreciated. It's not hard to stand out. Being one of the better porn writers is like - in a country that is blind, the one-eyed man is king.
I started at Genesis writing standard garbage - copy to go with the girlie layouts and the letters that supposedly come from readers. The publisher tended to not read his own magazine and so I put all kinds of bizarre things in there. I amused myself by rewriting or excerpting books that I liked such as Venus in Furs, or The Story in the Eye, and I put it in the banal format of "I can't believe what happened to me and I had to write you a letter about it."
This couldn't last forever. The publisher started to notice and he invited me to leave. We'd had run-ins on things like my interview with crime writer James Elroy who talked about his masturbation habits. This publisher was so old fashioned that he didn't like mention of masturbation in the magazine [Genesis] because it would remind readers of their sorry state. I did an interview photo layout with Lydia Lunch, a punk singer and writer in New York counter-culture. He'd okayed it but then he was upset when he saw the layout because her tits weren't big enough.
At the same time, a position opened up at Screw in 1990... My duties included a three-page column a week on the sex scene and the movie review column on the back which I continue. I came to San Francisco in 1995 to help the edit pro-sex weekly sex newspaper called The Spectator.
I burned out on New York.
I lead a flamboyant personal lifestyle that meshes with my work. In New York I was seeing and eventually got engaged to a teenage dominatrix who slashed me with a knife when she was angry. The story hit the tabloids like the New York Post. Their headline read - "Porn Editor Cut Up By Kinky Cutie." It showed my picture. We moved to San Francisco to get out of the news and I was with her until October, 1995. She's now 22 years of age.
If you're working in the industry, you tend to date people in the industry. I go on the sets of X-rated movies and interview actresses. I go to sleazeatoriums, my own expression for strip clubs. I do everything. Sex is my life. I report on the local sex industry from a consumer viewpoint. A straight world girl has trouble with that.
I'm just getting over a serious bout of depression. I've been thinking about where I've gone. This industry keeps me diverted but I doubt that ultimate happiness is down the road.
Sex fascinates me because it's the dark chasm into the human psyche. I find an endless number of things to write about in the sex industry because it's such an open pit into the bottom of the human consciousness. I live my life staring down into the bottom of the pit.
John Leslie lives in Marin County with his wife. He's built a life for himself that has nothing to do with porn. A beautiful pastoral life with his wife, tending his garden and large dog. He'll just go down to the hellpit south of here for a week or month to make a movie. John's married to a woman his own age. He's a normal human being. One of the few worthies in this biz.
I'm not a big defender of the industry. It's a necessary evil.
I loved Rinse Dream. He made good art and some of it you could jerk off to.
I despise Paul Thomas.. Who watches? Dentists and their wives. Facile, no heart to it. Just like any other form of communication, the more heartfelt, the better. There can be heartfelt porn.
Gregory Dark hit his stride with New Wave Hookers 2... one of my favorite adult movies along with John Leslie's Raw Meat and Radley Metzger's Misty Beethoven. Gregory is not influential. Few people understand his stuff because it's so dark and intellectual.
The most influential director of all time is John Stagliano who made in 1989 the most influential porn movie of all - the original Adventures of Buttman. Before then everyone tried to make movies. John took the camera off the tripod and made documentary POV pro-am with no scripts. He's skilled at getting people to improvise.
There's a sadistic charm to Max Hardcore. Ed Powers is a unique creature in history. What you see in his videos is what you get. Fascinating person. His nerve endings are out there...emotionally sensitive...skilled communicator. Ed pays people a fortune... He cares about people. Ed charms people who want to beat him up. A strip club is the worst place in the world to pick up a woman but he does it. He started as a security guard in New York. Made regular movies under the name Mark Arnold.
There was a porn golden age in the seventies. There's something about film and seeing it in a theater rather than watching a video at home.
David Aaron Clark wrote in San Francisco's Spectator magazine:
Every once in a blue moon we'll be tormenting browsers from a memoir from DAC's actual life. This time, we visit him in New York City back around 1993 or so, on a date with Mistress Shane. Accompanying photos of the pair are by Susan McNamara.
I toppled shoulder-first against the bathroom's sweating concrete wall, pushed by the welcoming shove of Mistress Shane's white hand. The steel needle gleamed in her other hand, held pinched between two long, blood-red nails.
Even under the weak, fly-specked florescent bar lazily swinging from the ceiling, every detail of her vampiric aspect stunned me with strobe-like clarity. Her bright brown eyes, fired by bloodlust. Her raven hair waterfalling across pale white shoulders. Her nostrils flared in anticipation of the moment of penetration, her broad lips skinned back to the gums in red hunger.
She tugged at my shirt, slipping open the top button and impatiently waiting for me to finish the task. The muffled bassline of some anonymous dance record battered against the locked door as Shane ran her hand across my chest in smug possessiveness, stopping at the left nipple to gently, gently caress, stroke, then grab the ring there and ferociously twist until my knees buckled and I had to rap the back of my skull against the wall to dissipate the scream, the triumphant laughter that her hand inspired.
It was Sunday night, and the basement club was nearly empty; there had been no one to see her walk into the bathroom and demand I follow except for a small audience of jealous, unowned submissives who had followed us around the bar since the moment we'd entered. Two had edged up to her, avoiding my gaze while they mumbled clumsy compliments or tried to convince her they had met before.
"Come on now, you're ready, aren't you," Shane throatily purred, pushing aside the silver cross hanging between my nipples so she could hold one tightly. I watched her hand come closer, the short, purple-capped needle in an arc that would be interrupted by my sensitive flesh. When the fear, the anticipation of pain, became too great I shut my eyes and nodded my head to the side, at the same time pulling my shirt down off my shoulders to show my humble acceptance of her gift, my acquiescence to her whim.
I bit my lip and gasped as my body was engulfed with the totality of sensation, the sharp everything, my very flesh opening to receive her thrust. We were collaborating to thwart nature, the animal instinct not to be rent, not to hurt. Before the needle was even out the other side of my nipple, she was humming in pleasure, her loving sadism leaking out in an alto trill, matching harmony with the thrumming pulse of endorphin and adrenaline through every tributary of my bloodstream.
Clark left the Spectator in the Spring of 1998 and began directing for John Bone's Cream Entertainment. I talked to him 7/6/98.
Clark: "A few years back, I made a fetish tape in New York. The dominatrix (Shane) and I marketed it successfully. We used the Midnight Blue studios after hours. It bought me my first video camera. After I moved out here, I made a gift of my first master to her. She still sells it successfully.
"I got sick of being a journalist/writer. You get f---ed over. You're the bottom of the food chain."
Director James DiGiorgio drives up with a beautiful hispanic girl Jackie who's about to enter porn. James and John Bone meet for the first time.
David: "You get no respect. No pay. You walk around CES, and everyone says, 'David Aaron Clark, we love you. You're the best writer in the business. That's nice but I can't even pay my income taxes. I never got offered anything where I could've called the shots. I couldn't bring myself to kiss enough ass. I got a couple of offers from Hustler, but I turned them down. They stopped offering.
"San Francisco was a frustrating experience for me because nothing goes on up there. Everybody thinks they are brilliant without doing anything. They sit around the coffee shops and say, 'I'm a novelist. I'm a painter. I'm a musician.' That's nice. Where's your novel, painting or album?' "Well, I'm working on it.'
"The Spectator was the worst place I've ever worked. I worked for Al Goldstein who's legendary for being capricious, cheap, and unappreciative But on the magazine side, he's my favorite boss. Compared to the Spectator people, he's a living saint. They're typical Northern California hippie types who are in it for the cause. And everybody should sacrifice for their cause. Meanwhile, they are lounging in their hot tubs and watching their 60" big screen TVs and taking endless business trips on their profits while you are unable to pay the train fare to go to work.
"The most money I ever earned there was $24,000 in one year. That was doing half of the layout of the paper and writing at least one major article a week. I basically edited the paper without being able to call any of the shots."
David was not happy with editor Lane Winkleblech and publisher Kat Sunlove aka Kilgore Rangerette. "The standard procedure for me as associate editor and him as editor was: I found this dancer and I want to do a photo shoot with her and an interview and cover shot. He'd say, 'ok, but try to not pay her a model fee. Things are tight around here.' Then he'd take some dominatrix that he wanted to f--- to an expensive lunch while I had to do all the work.
"I tired of that. I've been shooting lots of video footage for myself of some of the girls I'd been hanging with. Some hardcore.
"Around the end of 1996, the club Power Exchange wanted me to start a sex paper for them that would compete with the Spectator. I knew they had no idea how much money and patience and resources were needed to start a publication. So I offered to direct fetish tapes for them for free. I'm proud of the tapes [no penetration. Much of it due to the quality of the people I could get to work for me.
"The nightmare is, these tapes are not available. I gave the Power Exchange all the knowledge and expertise I had, not just on the product side but on the business and marketing end The club is run by a dysfunctional young couple who'd rather snipe at each other over who was looking at which cute person in the club than actually work. I made three great tapes - Asianatrix, Queen of Pain, and Salome 2000.
"It became a self-fulfilling prophecy. They kept saying to me, 'you are just doing this as a calling card so you can work in Los Angeles.' At the time, that was the furthest thing from my mind. I was seeing some girls in SF and I had always hated LA. But as they kept saying it
"I took the couple, Michael and Marie Powers, to CES in January to learn distribution. And she only came on the convention floor for a day and a half. It was humiliating.
"I gave John Bone a sampler tape. I've known John for years from reviewing his work for Screw. A few years ago, he was doing stuff with more life and spirit and ideas than anything else going on at the time. He's always been open to new things. He used bisexual men in his shows when it was unfashionable. Women with strap-ons did men [up the ass].
"This was the Israel Gonzales period of John's work 1993-95 The Annabel Chong period before she descended into drugs. I keep hearing about sightings of her. I don't know where she is today.
"I was very impressed by her. She had a brilliant mind, but she ruined it with drugs. Too much speed and other club drugs.
"At the convention, every one showed the requisite interest. 'Oh David, you're making movies. About time. I'd love to see that.' I gave all the big people tapes. Most of them didn't even watch the tape that I gave them. A lot of them lost the tapes. Only John Bone and John Stagliano watched them. John Stagliano didn't get it. He said, 'it's very interesting but I don't know what I would do with it. It's not like anything out there.' And John Bone called me: "I love this stuff. It's not like anything out there. I can do a lot with this. It's not like anything out there.'"
Luke looks closely at a crucifix hanging on David's neck. A crucifix of a crucified Jesus getting a blow job from a naked lady.
"My friend Axel in New York makes jewelry for Axel Rose [rock star] and other famous people. Part of the East Village crew that I was friends with. He had an earlier model that I liked better of a woman in a shape of a cross with her arms out, and I made the mistake of giving that away to a girlfriend."
Luke: The skulls around your neck?
David: "Joanne Vargas, the teenage dominatrix who slashed me, made this. She appeared in some fetish tapes under the name Juliana Dominguez. She's retired, married and has kids. We're still friends.
"We stayed together after the slashing for 18 months. She came to San Francisco with me but she couldn't stand the city. She went nutty and went spinning off to New York.
"She is Mexican. It [slashing] is how they show their love. She was mad that I was leaving her. She thought I was turning my back on her. She was 21 years of age when she cut me."
David shows me the scars on his arms and hands. "There are some that I can't show you, such as on my inner thighs "
Someone yelps. John Bone's dog Cleo has nipped another victim.
David: "It was one of the more interesting events of my life. Today happens to be the anniversary of it. 1993. I woke up with her that Monday with her on top of me with the kitchen knife.
"We'd had a big fight the night before. I'd gotten drunk and the last thing I thought of before falling asleep was, 'boy, I guess we're going to have it out in the morning. And the next thing I knew, I was waking up with her on my chest saying, 'It's over, is it? Well, now it's really over." She was just being theatrical.
"It was devastating at the time but amusing now. The police came. She'd claimed that she'd thrown all my clothes off the roof which was not true. She had just put them in the hallway. And when I came to get them in the hallway, the doorman came to see what all the noise was about. He sees me covered in blood and gets upset and calls the cop. And I said to Joanne, 'you better get rid of that knife. The cops are coming.' So she got rid of the knife, and put on her best and sexiest black sheer dress, and heels, and went off to the police station... She wasn't punished because I wouldn't press charges."
Luke is shocked: "Did you like it?"
David: "No, it was horrid. It was emotionally devastating. Physically We'd gone to some extreme places before that in S-M. We had put on some performances where people fainted I have much huger scars that were deliberate. But there is a big difference between being prepared mentally and knowing what someone was going to do I blame some of it to the fact that she was 21, and I was allowing her to go to places that she wasn't mature enough to handle. She was too young and immature not to get bloodthirsty from that, and act out when she felt emotional. The dysfunctionality was mutual. I would hardly say I was the innocent goofball
"It took me a long time to forgive her. Certainly that day I had no intention of seeing her again. It's all in the background of that movie about Al Goldstein, SCREWED. I thought it was a brilliant movie. Al doesn't like it. He says it is not an accurate portrait of him. I'd say that it is the most accurate portrait you could ask for. That he doesn't like it, says the best thing about it. If they had nailed my entire life as well as they had nailed his I wouldn't like it either. The movie is a bit misogynous. The guy who was editing it, Alex, was breaking up with his girlfriend at the time he cut it. So Al's problems with is wives, and my problems with Joanne, became relevant to him
"Joanne was fabulous. She was the best of the long line of lunatics that I've been attracted to San Francisco is so smug. We are the center of the sexual revolution. That drove her away I stayed I thought the city would be a dreamland and it was more like the waiting room to hell. So, after getting screwed by so many people in SF, like the Power Exchange and the Spectator, I thought, 'why sit in the waiting room any longer? Why not pat Cerebus on the head and walk straight into hell. And so here I am in an extremely hot day in the Valley talking to you.
"John Bone was the only person to make me a solid offer to come work for them. Everybody else was hot air I came down on Easter Sunday and went out to brunch at Universal City Walk with John and his wife. I'd heard what a bastard he was, and how he couldn't be trusted. I had ten pages of notes of questions that he would have to answer before I would even think about signing a contract with him. And he passed, Straight As.
"I looked at him and thought, 'this is probably what Satan looks like. Nice and affable and probably has a nice British accent.' I told him that, that he must be Satan And he laughed and waved his eyebrows theatrically. We struck a deal to do some fetish shows.
"I saw more of LA. Instead of one comic bookstore, there was 20 to choose from. Instead of one night club to my taste, there were 50. It's closer to the New York City that I love. San Francisco is more like a village, with that insularity.
"I engineered my exit from The Spectator by demanding to be paid what I was worth. And refusing to mop the floors anymore, so to speak. They couldn't fire me for doing anything wrong So, they laid me off begging financial difficulty. Which was fine with me because it allowed me to get unemployment.
"I came down here and shot The Second Queen of Pain featuring LA dominatrix Ilsa Strix, a big blonde Valkeyrian woman. I knew her from San Francisco. She opened her home to me [in LA] and showed me places. Of all the sex workers, I like dominatrixes the best because they are the most well adjusted. You can be friends with them. They are independent. They are not like the needy people John talks about."
Luke: "Do you like to be dominated by women?"
David: "Some women. Fewer and fewer as I get older. I've had some unfortunate meetings with women over the past few years who've thought, 'this is the famous masochist David Aaron Clark. He's going to fall to my feet and kiss my boots.' A woman has to earn my respect and I haven't met anyone in a couple of years who's earned the right
"Masochism was therapy for me. I dated a girl [Jean Leslie] when I first started at Screw who committed suicide by jumping out a window. She was also a singer in my band. She was a hooker. I was so devastated by her suicide. It came out of her drug problem.
"She moved out of my house into a womens only SRO - single room occupancy. She took up her speed and cocaine habits again after she left me. One night the police came to my house and said, 'will you please come identify this body.' She had jumped out the window. July 9th, 1993. This is not one of the best of weeks for me."
John yells over: "David, you're fired."
David laughs. "Or worse, I'm hired.
"Her death was devastating to me. I had dabbled S-M before that, but after her suicide, I got deeply into it, working out Catholic guilt issues and so forth. And I've worked out many of those issues. I no longer psychologically need to be abused."
John: "I make him listen to my jokes."
David: "He makes me deal with his contract girls. He tells them, 'David is going to do this big fabulous show for you. Go talk to David.' Then he gives me 49c to shoot it on.
"I look down my nose at people who get into S-M because it is fashionable. For me, it was visceral. It grew out of my life circumstances. It wasn't picking up Skin Two and said 'Damn, people look good in rubber.' Though I did get adopted by that crowd because I was flamboyant."
Luke: That black outfit is disturbing.
John: Only to little old ladies and you Luke.
Luke: The glorification of death bothers me.
David: I embrace life and death. I think everybody is dysfunctional. That is the price of consciousness. We are the only species to have a soul. We're blessed and damned at the same time.
The chicks dig it. Especially the disturbed chicks.
Luke: Do you always dress in black?
David: It's slimming.
Laughter all round.
John says that when David doesn't wear black, he looks portly. "The only reason I hired him was so I could stand next to him and look thin."
David: "Al Goldstein said the same thing. I weighed 50 pounds less in New York. I went to a gym three times a week. I had a trainer. Then I came to San Francisco and got depressed. What else was there to do but eat and be abused by strippers.
"I'm coming out of a somnambulent period of my life. I've been off Prozac for 18 months. It was making me too amiable and willing to get f---ed over.
"John is a wheeler dealer. He tries to be honest. Compared to other people in this industry. I've never received such respect and financial openness from anybody that I've received from John.
"Sometimes John has cash flow problems but he's opened his books and life to me He's doing the right thing.
"I'm down here for two reasons. One, to make a better life for myself. Two, to prove a point. All these posturing idiots who think of themselves as great artists and brilliant filmmakers are by and large full of it As a critic, when I decided to review pornography, I decided to give my subjects a certain benefit of the doubt and approach it as pornography And take my critical standards from there, rather than compare it to a higher form of art. What distressed me is that many people I praised for being moderately talented, read my praise and mistook it for my saying that they were the equivalent of Francis Ford Coppola, or Orson Welles or David Cronenberg. Being a film nut, I'd look for parallels.
"When I wrote that Robert Black was similar to Martin Scorsese, it did not mean that he was anywhere near Scorsese's level of intelligence or filmmaking ability. It's just that Robert Black came off the mean streets and knows how to film people like that. And give it some verisimilitude. But all these people started thinking of themselves as geniuses.
"I intend to excel them. I want to set a new standard of quality in the business. And that doesn't mean Paul Thomas style quality of using lots of extras with SAG cards. It means we're going to make the best pornography that my experience, talent and aesthetics can conjure up. John is the only person who believes in that vision.
"When I first started shooting hardcore, I was timid . I pulled back I figured that he still wanted it to be traditional porno But he's giving me the courage to do it like I want John Stagliano, Ed Powers, Robert Black 'How can you work for him? He's satan.' But none of them offered me a job. They were only interested in when was my next review of their tape coming out.
"I write a monthly column for Exotica magazine in SF. I do it to piss of the Spectator because it competes with them. And I do some work for my friend Rick Hall at Hustler Leg World. I like the magazine. It's got a heel, leg and nylon fetish "
Luke: How do you think Mistress Kat will do as a Free Speech Coalition lobbyist in Sacramento?
David laughs heartily. "Please transcribe that word for word. Ha, ha, hahaha. Look how well she is doing already."
Luke: Not very well, actually.
David: When some people leave their make-believe kingdom they find how difficult is the real world, where you rise or fall on your abilities rather than on how well you intimidate people.
November 16, 1998 at
a David Clark set for Extreme's "Asianatrix."
The Shady Business Of Porn
Director David Aaron Clark writes on RAME for the first time in five months: "The S.F. Valley porn industry is 99 percent thieves and snake-oil salesmen -- from the most supposedly hoity-toity companies who don't care what kind of crap they package to the bottom-feeders who rip-off performers, directors, producers and the public. To say that vice industries attract such folk doesn't even excuse it -- I don't think I've met a drug dealer in my lifetime as mercilessly dishonest and manipulative as your average porn magnate."