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Category Archives: Burlesque

The world of HBO’s “The Deuce,” as a NYC porn writer knew it…

I’m absorbed by this new HBO show, as it’s interesting to see the 1970s New York City sex business depicted in a continuing tv drama. The production is well-done with some good acting, writing, and clever production design, and for me it’s an entertaining supplement to the movie of personal memories that I carry in my head from my own experiences in Times Square over the years both as a fan and as a writer/editor for porn magazines and films.

Maggie Gyllenhaal as the hooker Candy on the stroll

 

The recreation of 42nd Street marquees is well-done, but…

 

…as far as I remember, the streetwalkers looked for customers on Eighth and Ninth Avenues, not on the Deuce. But the marquees definitely make for more vivid cinema.

 

Every inch of the neighborhood has some resonance for me. For example, the doorway shown below, on Broadway near 50th Street (I took this pic a couple of weeks ago) was in the 70s the entrance of one of the few “dime-a-dance halls” remaining in Times Square, where you bought strips of tickets to dance (and grind) with ladies…the tickets were no longer a dime then (that was the 1930s price), but if I recall correctly, around 1974 they were $29 a strip. Why $29, I never found out. I used the experience of going to that place in one of my porn novels which wasn’t very good except for the section set in the dance hall.

I can’t remember what the ballroom was called, though…the Diamond, perhaps? The Tango Palace and Satin Ballrooms were a couple of blocks down.

 

The Deuce helps me clarify my relationship with my own past. Unlike the characters in the show, I did not socialize in a bar with pimps, prostitutes, gangsters, or 8mm hardcore movie makers. I did patronize hookers, yes, on the street or in apartment brothels, but didn’t hang out with them otherwise; I would have, however, as I occasionally asked them to go have a bite or a drink–but they were only interested in making money from me as a john, alas. So my relationship to Times Square was largely as a customer and spectator; like a theatergoer who may see lots of plays on Broadway, but doesn’t hang out with the actors, playwrights and producers afterward.

Scenes on The Deuce where girls get in cars with strangers make my skin crawl. I feel frightened for them. In fact, when I went with a few prostitutes to cheap hotels back in the 70s, I was afraid that I would get hurt, or robbed, or beaten up. Loneliness as much as horniness drove me into their arms in those seedy rooms…and I always felt guilty about it. Oh how many unnecessary VD tests did I take to allay my neurotic fear that I would “punished” for my dalliances!! I always turned out to be okay.

The dirt, the garbage of the streets, the violence depicted on the show, and The Deuce‘s constant flow of “the-fuck-you-say” New York tough guy dialogue: these were not especially part of my experience there. Although while by now after 43 years as a Gotham denizen I have my own New Yorkese patter down pretty well, in the 1970s I was still mostly just a too-nice-for-my-own-good Jewish boy from Chicago and had only mastered one East Coast phrase: “Fuckin-A”. 😉 Does anybody still use that one? Haven’t heard it in ages.

My Deuce (or 42nd Street as I always called it then) was instead a kind of Smithsonian Institute of erotica, where I found mint-condition issues of John Willie’s original late-1940s Bizarre magazines for $3 each…

The clerk who sold it to me for THREE DOLLARS (very cheap even in the 70s) clearly had no idea what it was, and until I got it home & opened it, neither did I. The gorgeous cover got me buying it. And once I looked inside and perused its stylishly fabulous fetish contents, I became a lifelong John Willie admirer.

I also found copies of the fetish digest Exotique, and black and white photo pamphlets of models like Bettie Page or Tee Tee Red or Lynne Carter…and a lurid $1 novel called Growing Up in Pain which I studied assiduously to learn the structure of the cheap bottom-of-the-barrel porn fiction put out by Star Distributors so I could get a job writing the stuff myself.

42nd Street was my grade-Z movie source long before I got a VCR, a place where I could see triple bills of crazy schlock movies and enjoy wild audience commentary unlike anything I’d ever heard or probably will ever hear again.

For example, seeing The Thing With Two Heads at the Anco Theater, the venue furthest west on the south side of 42nd near Eighth Avenue, was the most hilarious ninety minutes ever…the audience was hysterically funny, talking back to the screen as the head of a racist doctor played by Ray Milland is grafted onto the body of a black death row convict played by Rosey Grier. Unfortunately, I also remember how smelly that decrepit old theater could be, too…

I picked up streetwalkers—and some of them were beautiful, knockouts, stunners. They peddled their wares on Eighth Avenue’s “Minnesota Strip” (so-called because of all the Midwestern-bred hookers who strolled there). As I worked up courage to select a pro, I ate souvlaki in the Greek joints and cheap chow mein in the Chinese joints and low-cost spaghetti in an Italian place on 42nd. I also went to massage parlors along Eighth Avenue and even as far east as 47th St. and 6th Avenue, on the edge of the Diamond District.

I found copies of my own porn novels on the racks for the first time in the bookstore next to the National Hotel at 42nd and Seventh, just a stone’s throw from the Golden Dollar topless bar, one of the bleakest clubs in the area. The titles of my books were The Screaming Virgins, The Punk Stud and His Women, Young Michael’s Seductress (wherein I wrote about the dime-a-dance halls), and Teasing Teenage Daughter.

I went to Show World Center at 42nd and Eighth, and Show Center at 47th and Seventh, and Show Plaza at 42nd between Broadway and Sixth, and indulged in fantasies with the one-on-one “booth babies,” the peep show girls who gave private shows in two-person booths separated by a glass panel and connected by a telephone for the exchange of all essential dialogue… 😉 . I still remember some of those ladies’ stage names: Blondie, Annie, Brandi, Olivia, and China. Upstairs at Show World, when I was in my “porn scribe” mode (as opposed to my looking-for-cheap-thrills mode), I interviewed X-rated movie stars backstage at the Triple Treat Theater and sometimes also photographed them there to illustrate my articles.

I went to the barmaids-in-leotard bars recreated in The Deuce which were on 48th between Seventh and Eighth Avenues: a joint like Club International (which ironically later was the title of a magazine I prolifically wrote for) and another one called Al Lang’s where, if I recall correctly, the suave-looking manager was always nicely dressed in a double-breasted suit. Up on 49th between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, I went to Tin Pan Alley (which I’ve read is the model for the Hi-Hat on The Deuce), and chatted with the barmaids there but I didn’t become friends with any of them although I tried to date one or two. I remember Nan Goldin, the famous photographer, briefly worked behind the bar at Tin Pan Alley in the early 80s. Somewhere around that time I was dating a girl who looked a lot like the character of Lori on The Deuce, I mean a REAL lot, as played by Emily Meade. In fact when Lori comes on-screen I feel kinda weird, because even her boobs (seen extensively in the second episode) look the same as I remember my girlfriend’s did…

Lori (Emily Meade) not only resembles my old girlfriend but her character even comes from the same Midwestern state, Minnesota…

On 42nd Street I went to the Roxy Burlesk to see strippers and watch hardcore Rene Bond movies like Diary of a Schizo wherein she played the titular role and made up her face to look like Raggedy Ann when she flipped out after too much sex. She was and is one of my favorite porn stars ever…check out this link, where I found her photo,  to learn more about her (NSFW, though, there are explicit pix there).

Her performance in the film Teenage Fantasies is legendary, as she cheerfully gives head & talks to the audience about oral sex.

 

I went to the Harem Theater on the north side of the Deuce toward Eighth Avenue for porn movies (as opposed to the bigger theaters where I went for kung fu, blaxploitation, horror, Harryhausen, and westerns) but stopped patronizing the Harem after some dude with a Derringer shot another guy in the audience. In the old big theaters I learned from experience to sit far enough under the mezzanine and balcony so that I wouldn’t get hit by flying cigarettes tossed down from above. Nobody ever put their hand on my knee or trying to blow me in a theater, but I also knew enough never to go to the men’s rooms in those places. I had a stronger bladder then.

I went to see burlesque both at the Follies at 46th and Seventh and the Melody (later the Harmony) Theater, watching dancers like Joey Karson and Therasita San Juan and Sonia Tokyo and Crystal Blue and Maria Krupa and Susie Nero and even the legendary striptease superstar Blaze Starr once. The Melody/Harmony was a whole world unto itself, too much to go into here…worthy of its own book or tv show. Check out this link to the adult industry history site The Rialto Report to learn lots more about it.

Through all those years, most of my friends were my fellow editors and writers, with some actors and artists too, often cynical about porn even as it fascinated us. We were all talented in our respective fields and many hoped for the main chance of opportunities outside of smut with more mainstream accomplishments. Some did, indeed, move on.

So, to sum up, in many ways, although I did mountains of magazine stuff related to the area and its workers, I was also always a fanboy and customer down on “The Deuce.”

The reality is my life is still basically on “The Deuce”, though…but rather the Deuce that exists in a different form, the Internet, instead of on a street. It’s the “The Deuce” as a way of thinking, you might say. With my writing about femdom and kink and webcam sites, for example, I’m still on the beat of the sleaze and the twists and turns of la vie psychosexualis.

What a tour I could give of Times Square! In fact, in one of the better porn films I wrote for Vivid Entertainment, 1997’s Masseuse 3, I created a character named Burt Lazarus who stands in front of the Show World Center as a kind of barker, talking about the area’s former tawdry glory. Unfortunately, in the way things sometimes don’t work out in the translation of screenplays to film, Burt’s scenes weren’t done the way I’d hoped, and the effect of his elegiac oratory didn’t have a chance to come across properly.

I could’ve done it better. So if some night you see me holding forth at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue about the vanished and vanquished splendors of smut, don’t be surprised! 😉

 


I made the screencaps above from the first episode of The Deuce.

 

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Erotic phantoms of NYC’s Eighth Avenue…

One thing that fascinates me is what existed in certain spaces before what is there now. I always remember the previous tenants, especially if they have some erotic or sleazy context… 😉

For example, the northeast stretch of Eighth Avenue between 45th and 46th Streets:

This used to have three notorious porn theaters: the Capri (where the parking lot is now on the left); and the gay-themed Eros and the hetero-themed Venus. I can’t help but see in my mind the facades of those vanished edifices superimposed over the hordes of tourists who now stroll by and patronize the restaurants and bar and open-air market that now inhabit those urban footprints.

A block up to 47th and Eighth, across the street on the northwest side, is a marquee for what is now a sightseeing business:

Previously in the 1980s this space housed the Hollywood Twin Cinemas, but even before that in the 1970s the mezzanine was utilized for part of a massage parlor. Back in the 70s (not now!!) the entrance way on the left (painted red now) led to an elevator that took you up to the mezzanine and the girls who were sitting there. But BEFORE that mezzanine was used, and even before the theater showed porn films, not the mainstream Hollywood fare that came in the 80s, the massage parlor was just a street-level storefront on the left where the glass windows of the Duane Reade drugstore now are in 2017.

The very space where those donuts now lay placidly in their display case was, around 1975, the entrance alcove of the massage parlor, where I met one blonde girl named Lydia with whom I first acted out femdom roleplay fantasies (foot and butt worship) and visited several times; and another blonde named Goldie who, on one particularly cold winter night, gave my lonely bones a friendly hug and rubdown, and warm interesting conversation in which she told me she was a descendant of an early American president! I re-created some of that dialogue in the first porn film I wrote, 1987’s Adultery.

This stretch of street was immortalized in the poster for the 1976 film Taxi Driver. Recognize that marquee?

Finally, across the street, where there now stands a Starbucks, a Staples, a medical clinic, a preschool, and apartments, there used to be low-rise buildings that had a fantastically sleazy porn shop, a used comic book shop, an infamous gay bar called the Haymarket, and perhaps most important for the history of pornography, in the center of the block at 776 Eighth Avenue there were located offices of fetish digest publishers back in the 1950s, which showcased the work of such legendary artists such as Gene Bilbrew. I don’t remember the titles offhand right now, but I remember seeing the address on the copyright pages of some vintage issues. If and when I stumble on them again, I’ll amend this post and add the titles. This is the block now…

Look closely, though, and perhaps you’ll be able to imagine, as I do, infamous 50s femdom fetish models like Tana Louise walking down the street in sexy 50s couture and maybe going up the long-vanished steps to editorial offices at 776 Eighth Avenue!

By the way, Tana Louise (as opposed to the actress Tina Louise, an entirely different performer) was one of the very first fetish models I personally ever saw in a magazine. In today’s over-saturated kink environment, it may seem incredible that she really blew me away with her witchy dominant aura, but back in the early 70s I don’t think I’d ever come across anybody quite like her, and I think I noticed her before I even saw Bettie Page, who never looked quite as ferocious to me in any case. I got this image from the cool site Java’s Bachelor Pad, so go here to see and read more about Mistress Tana too.

 

 

 

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Boom Boom Valdez and other catchy names…

Someone on Twitter last night said that they liked a phrase in one of my tweets and wanted to use it as the name of their band. The phrase was “futile lechery,” which I used to describe the hilarious attempts of horny John Astin to score a date with lovely Doris Day in the 60s comedy A Touch of Mink. I gotta admit, I’m proud of that little combo of words.

DorisDay-JohnAstin

Actually, however, it’s not the first time my words have inspired (or will inspire) a band’s name. In 1988 I wrote (and titled) a porn movie called BOOM BOOM VALDEZ.

I wrote several movies directed by Henri Pachard.

I wrote several movies directed by Henri Pachard.

I had briefly met the sexy young star Keisha at the XRCO Awards in L.A., and I was knocked out by her beauty and friendly personality. Then another time (I can’t recall if it was on the same trip) I ran into her at a party at the home of a magazine photographer, and I told Keisha I’d love to write a movie for her sometime. I mentioned this to director Ron Sullivan aka Henri Pachard, who was also there. He told me to come up with a storyline (he had just directed my first two screenplays, ADULTERY and ON THE LOOSE) and I promptly did when I got back to New York. BOOM BOOM VALDEZ is the story of topless dancer Boom Boom (Keisha) and her relationships with her sister, mother, co-workers at the club, and a writer who has a bit of a crush on her. (Nothing autobiographical about it!) 😉

The picture got made and is still out there on disc, old VHS cassettes, online, and even got a very nice IMDb review last year which you can read here. But as luck and occasional porn production ineptitude would have it (and at the time I was extremely annoyed), the producers forgot to include my name in the credits…!

My reaction to this was, and I quote exactly:  $%!!#??#&**##%!!!

I wrote all my movies under my real name Neil Wexler, rather than Irv O. Neil. Many of the scripts had a lot of personal elements, even more in the case of BOOM BOOM VALDEZ which is why the missing credit so irked me. But to whom was I going to protest, the non-existent Porn Screenwriters Guild?

Notice how the disc box has a much more peppy photo of Keisha? She looks so serious on the VHS cover!

Notice how the disc box has a much more peppy photo of Keisha? She looks so serious on the VHS cover above!

Nonetheless, in sneaky fashion, always anticipating this kind of snafu, I’d left certain clues within the script itself as to its writerly parentage. For one, there is a character named “Victor Bloom”—Bloom being a name that has popped up in my work since 1975, either as characters or pseudonyms (I wrote as “Lester Bloom” for many years). Secondly, the characters of the writer played by Joey Silvera and the burlesque fan played by Richard Pacheco are very recognizably drawn on my own personality and interests. The writer, in fact, is a precursor to the character of Vic Vanner in my suspense novel FATE OF A STRIPPER, about a middle-aged writer/editor in love with a dancer.

You might say that in my imagination, Boom-Boom Valdez dances on the same club stage as Valerie Vickers of this novel.

Anyway, it was a kick when I heard, years later, that there was a European band called Boom Boom Valdez—so I look forward to hearing more about Futile Lechery!

 

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Burlesque, Erotica, history of erotica

 

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The dark nights of a stripper’s heart…

FATE OF A STRIPPER is a novel that takes you into the girlie joints of New York’s contemporary Times Square (yes, such clubs are happily still there despite the much-publicized gentrification); the hipster scene of the New Burlesque (a little further downtown in the East Village); and into some very dark recesses of the human heart…

In the tradition of the 50s noir paperbacks and films!

A story in the femme fatale tradition of 1950s noir paperbacks and films.

It’s available on Kindle and many other mobile devices at Amazon USAUK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, India and The Netherlands.

So please click ahead to Amazon and explore the free sample chapters, and then experience…

FATE OF A STRIPPER.

 

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Learn the FATE OF A STRIPPER!

Inside some porn and erotica writers are the restless spirits of scribes who aspire to also prove themselves in the wider arena of words. I’ve written about this on my blog before, that other genres of writing–like literary, suspense, or crime writing–offer different and exciting challenges to my imagination.

And so, with FATE OF A STRIPPER, the new non-porn mainstream novel I’ve just published on Kindle, I’ve met that challenge. It’s a complex story, almost 250 pages long, that’s not simply about a stripper and her customer, but about the difficulty of love and the deceptions of desire. It’s about office politics, and family relationships, and the struggle to survive both financially and emotionally. I guess you might say I packed a lot into it, and it’s available now at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon CanadaAmazon France, Amazon Italy, Amazon Spain, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon Mexico, Amazon India, and Amazon Australia.

 

I look thru thousands of photos until I found this one, which perfectly evokes the stripper of the title.

I looked thru thousands of photos until I found this one, which perfectly evokes the stripper of the title.

FATE OF A STRIPPER tells about a middle-aged New York City guy named Vic Vanner who meets the sweet beauty of his dreams, but Valerie the stripper turns out to have some quirks to her personality, to say the least. Not that Vic isn’t a bit intense himself. Still, they give their all to the relationship–in their own ways–and they even start doing a stage act together in New Burlesque, the popular hip scene made famous by people like Dita Von Teese and which mixes striptease with performance art.

Vic is a romantic and unsure of himself with Valerie, especially since she’s much younger than he is. The situation is not helped by the cynicism of his father, who casts a skeptical eye on almost everything Vic does. Furthermore, Valerie has a thuggish friend named Tino who gives her an outlet for her aggressive tendencies. The way she figures it, if people get in the way of her relationship with Vic, she’ll have Tino take care of them. Tino’s willing to do almost anything for Valerie–as long as he gets to play with her feet…

Yep, FATE OF A STRIPPER is not a porn novel, but ye ole Uncle Irv couldn’t resist making one of the characters a little kinky like the guys in my femdom ebooks. It’s also set in the world of strip clubs and Times Square, two locations of human endeavor that I know a little something about.

Anyway, the situation builds to quite a violent climax, and if the New York Post covered it, the story of Vic and Valerie would be probably be entitled something like THE STRIPPER, THE SUCKER AND THE SLAVE. At one point I even considered using that as the title of the novel; it’s the headline Vic nightmarishly visualizes when he’s wondering what the hell is going to happen to him after Valerie goes over the deep end one dark night in downtown Brooklyn…

I’ve made no secret of my love for film noir and noir paperbacks, and so some of that has rubbed off on this novel as well. I hope you’ll read it, I hope you’ll enjoy it, and please let me know with short reviews on Amazon if you take the plunge and learn the FATE OF A STRIPPER!

You can just click through to the Amazon links above and read the opening two and a half chapters absolutely free!

By the way, months after I wrote the book, I looked through thousands of stock photography images for a cover, and I’m glad I was so thorough–because the image by wisky’ at 123RF.com really captures the way I saw the character of Valerie. Click this link to see his portfolio. I hope you agree!

 

 

 

 

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New York City Bike-Seat Sniffing Surge?

A friend of mine was watching one of the Citibike racks recently installed on the NYC streets for what I call the “Mike’s Bikes” program. Setting up these vehicles for the citizenry was one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pet projects. Anyway, my pal saw a girl in very short shorts alight from her bike and replace it in the docking station, and as soon as she walked off, a guy came up and sniffed the seat which only moments before had been honored with the presence of her Daisy Duked derriere!

Hmm, I’d like to see the New York Post report further on this Citibikeseat sniffing phenomenon. How widespread is it?

I liked how the sun was caressing the seat... :)

I liked how the sun was caressing the seat… 🙂

Come to think of it, those bike seats kinda sorta call to mind the undulating form of a lovely lass laying on her tummy, don’t you think? Or maybe I’ve seen too many pictures by Lucien Clergue

Anyway, what other dirty thoughts have coursed through my porn writer’s mind lately? Well, when I went to a Duane Reade drugstore the other day, I got a glimpse of Katy Perry’s cleavage…

I can hear the crunch...

I can hear the crunch…

“Sweet” and “salty” are definitely terms that come to mind…but I’d rather not feel sinless around Katy! 😉

Meanwhile, on other fronts, the exclusive and intensive interview series I did with the Silent Porn Star about my smut writing & editing career is now complete, and you can read all about my time in the Trenches of Tumescence here. If you can, leave a comment on the Silent Porn Star site and let her know how you liked her work. I think she did a great job, but of course who can deny the uplifting infusion of ego satisfaction I experienced at being interviewed at such length, after spending so many years myself as the relatively invisible interviewer of hundreds of strippers, porn stars, as well as a few dommes, XXX film directors, a noir paperback publisher, a sword-and-sandal artist, and an international ping pong champion?

And, to once again complement the online publication of these pieces, here’s more writing from my early days in the erotica/porn/whatever-you-wanna-call-it trade. It’s the article I did for the December 1978 issue of HIGH SOCIETY (with 70s sex symbol Jackie Bisset on the cover), and it’s a profile of legendary pinup collector Art Amsie, a piece which I mention in the first section of the Silent Porn Star interview. Art, who passed away a few years ago, had an amazing collection of every pinup artist you can imagine, and his gallery was where I first learned about Bettie Page (whose name is “Betty” in the article, since she had still not resurfaced with the proper spelling) as well as great talents like Gil Elvgren, Alberto Vargas, and Peter Driben. It’s written under yet another of my writing names, “Irving Wexler.” Just click on the pictures to make them larger and readable. I hope you enjoy it.

Jackie Bisset was the object of many a horny conversation!

Jackie Bisset was the object of many a horny conversation!

KingPinup-Page1

KingPinup-Page2

KingPinup-Page3

KingPinup-Page4

See how my porn editor’s mind works? I tried to capture your attention with the kinky headline, only to hope you stayed for the serious stuff! 😉

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I got the cover scan of HIGH SOCIETY from the great vintage mag dealer Oldmags.com, and the article was in my clip file. I took the bike and Katy Perry pix myself. (I wish I could have taken a picture of Katy ON a bike! Ruff-ruff!!)

The name is...what the fuck IS my name??

The name is…what the fuck IS my name??

 

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The Forrest J Ackerman Effect…

Well, the third part of the Silent Porn Star interview about my life as a smut scribe has just been published here, and it’s stirred up even more memories seeing it online…

Now, the first magazine I edited, in 1982 after being its staff writer for almost a year, was GAME.

By 1983 I was much better at evocative coverlines than when I started editing in 1982.

By 1983 I was much better at evocative coverlines than when I started editing in 1982.

As an editor I had three influences, besides learning the basics of the job from my predecessor at GAME, a great lady who called herself “Doc Silver.” I had read A. Scott Berg’s biography Maxwell Perkins: Editor of Genius in 1979, and that formed my mental template of how an editor should compassionately and constructively deal with his writers or, in my case, writers and photographers and porn stars and nude models. Perkins was patient and dedicated to bringing out the best of the great talents he edited, people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Wolfe.

This was the cover of the paperback edition of this great book.

This was the cover of the paperback edition of this great book.

My second influence was John Willie, the fetish artist whose BIZARRE magazines from the 40s and 50s I came upon in Times Square porn shops in the early 70s.

This is one of the first of John Willie's Bizarre mags that I saw in Times Square in the 70s.

This is one of the first of John Willie’s Bizarre mags that I ever saw.

In their quirky individualism, these BIZARRE magazines were antecedents to what eventually would be called “zines,” and I was very much attracted to the idea of doing a periodical in that idiosyncratic way, openly expressing my obsessions (in my case, for femdom or butts or legs or pinup style beauty), just as John Willie did with his interests in BDSM in the pages of BIZARRE. I was able to express myself in a oft-quirky way sometimes when I became a porn editor, depending on the amount of editorial oversight the various publishers gave me.

My other influence as an editor was Forrest J Ackerman, who edited FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, a magazine I read especially in my pre-adolescence in the early 60s and later too, which helped foster my love not just for horror films but movies in general.

Many parents of that era found covers like this rather disturbing! But kids loved them.

Many parents of that era found covers like this rather disturbing! But kids loved them.

Forrest J Ackerman in the Ackermansion in the mid-20th century

Forrest J Ackerman in the Ackermansion in the mid-20th century

Like Perkins, FJA (or 4SJ as he also liked to be known) had a great love and positive attitude toward the material he worked with (sci-fi, fantasy, and horror); a positive attitude toward his contributors (Ackerman was also an agent to many prominent sci-fi and fantasy authors); and an especially positive attitude toward the fans of his magazine, young and older. When I first edited FOR ADULTS ONLY magazine in 1983, I started the issues with a section of “what’s coming up next in porn movies” that I deliberately modeled in tone on Ackerman’s enthusiastic “coming next in horror” sections in FAMOUS MONSTERS.

Ackerman’s influence on creative people cannot be underestimated, whether he was mentoring them as writers or filmmakers, or giving them tours of his “Ackermansion” in Los Angeles, which was filled with an incredible collection of movie memorabilia.

What I personally got from Ackerman about the art of editing, just by reading his magazines from the time I was about eleven and absorbing subconsciously, was the need for strong pictures; powerful covers; catchy headlines and blurbs; and most of all, the use of humor in material where it might seem a little incongruous. Ackerman mixed puns and jokes with his descriptions of horror films, a blend which worked in his hands. I similarly found when editing sex magazines that the careful and judicious use of humor provided an additional release for the readers, even though some people believed that erotica and humor do not go together.

A terrific new documentary entitled The Ackermonster Chronicles, available here at JaSunni Productions, takes you into the life of this extraordinary man, from his beginnings as a science-fiction fan in the 1920s to his magazine editing in the 50s and 60s and beyond, to his mentoring of many talents like the film director Joe “Gremlins” Dante or John “American Werewolf in London” Landis.

Uncle Forry's colorful life from 1916-2008!

Uncle Forry’s colorful life from 1916-2008!

The documentary also discusses Ackerman’s interest in erotica, which I knew little about before. I had read previously elsewhere that he was a fan of burlesque and striptease, especially in the 50s, but not that he also had a collection of erotica and that he contributed fiction to the first lesbian zine ever. The movie tells the wild story of how Forry got in trouble with the postal authorities for having a mail correspondence with a male married janitor who pretended he was a lesbian! So the flick is interesting not just as a piece of cinematic and editorial history, but also as sex history. Producer and director Jason V Brock is to be commended for a fascinating piece of work.

Ackerman was great friends with Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen too.

Ackerman was great friends with Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen.

I got to meet Forrest J Ackerman in person once myself, around 2000, when I attended a fan convention in Virginia. I brought along a copy of Phantom X to give to him, the porn version of The Phantom of the Opera, which I’d written for director Paul Thomas in 1989, knowing that the 1925 Lon Chaney version of the story was one of Forry’s favorite films. At the time I felt a little embarrassed to give this eightysomething gent a porn tape, not knowing that he was an “honorary lesbian” and fan of erotica himself! His image as “Uncle Forry,” editor of FAMOUS MONSTERS, creator of VAMPIRELLA, and avuncular icon to his fans, many of whom were kids, never seemed to intersect with porn–but as the documentary makes clear, erotica played a part in Ackerman’s life, and pinups even helped Forry get through World War 2 in a funny and unique way: he used girlie photos given to him by a friend in order to give his fellow recruits the impression that he was a ladies’ man, instead of the anxious virgin he actually was when he went off to war! But check out the DVD for the full details of this anecdote, and many more. Forry’s kindness and encouragement to many people are recalled in the great array of interviews in this fine film.

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I found the scan of the GAME cover at OldMags.com; the scan of the Max Perkins book here; the scan of Bizarre here; the scan of FAMOUS MONSTERS here; and the picture of Forrest J Ackerman here.

 

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