I, Goldstein, the "autobiography" of Screw Magazine publisher Al Goldstein, is just plain fun to read. It's filled with anecdotes from Goldstein's life in the sexual subculture, with some fairly revealing passages as to how he got there. Moreover, for anyone in the adult industry, I, Goldstein will evoke many pleasant memories of times gone by – mainly in New York City in the '70s and '80s – plus it will add to those folks' knowledge of people and places with whom/which they may be somewhat familiar but have little or no personal experience.
But the reason "autobiography" is in quotes above is that, for anyone who's spent time with Goldstein himself, much of the narrative seems too coherent be have been written by The Master himself – and that's sad, because in the "old days," listening to several minutes (or an hour) of a good Goldstein rant was worth its weight in gold – or so it seemed.
But descriptions like, "There was a time, not too long ago, when pornography was dirty and exciting and illegal. It seemed like an invasive peek at behavior deemed so private and personal, it was unbelievable that anyone – particularly female – would ever expose themselves to be gawked upon and photographed while fornicating," just doesn't sound like Al ... so that and other such expositions should probably be credited to Josh Alan Friedman, one of Goldstein's editors at Screw, who often penned Goldstein's editorials in the later years of the magazine's existence.
The narrative here bounces between remembrances of what came to be known as the "sexual revolution" and the people, places and events connected with it, as well as Goldstein's interactions with his Screw staff, his attorneys and his several ex-wives, and descriptions of his situation today: broke and nearly homeless, largely abandoned by the industry he lionized and in which he was revered (though often from a distance). Those later revelations usually turn up under the heading "Staten Island Ferry," a phrase which indicates where Goldstein lived after the failure of his business and conviction on harassment charges, but also symbolizes Goldstein's removal from the heady, vital world of Manhattan where he felt most alive.
Along the way, readers will meet lots of porn stars like John Holmes, Seka, Ron Jeremy and Linda Lovelace; the Mitchell Brothers; Goldstein's partner Jim Buckley; publisher Lyle Stuart; swing club Plato's Retreat; publishing Screw's first issue, etc., etc., etc., plus excerpts from Screw interviews and editorials, quotes from mainstream authors like Gay Talese reflecting on the sexuality of the times, and observations about prominent media personalities. For instance, a young Goldstein was chauffeur to gossip columnist Walter Winchell toward the end of the scribe's career, and mentions a few of Winchell's sexual liaisons.
Observe also plenty of musings about food, from Goldstein's favorite delicatessens to Ron Jeremy's notorious aversion to picking up a check.
If there's one problem with the book, it's that it feels unfinished, with the last half devoted mainly to "character sketches" of people and events that were prominent in the world of porn, but nothing that draws together what Goldstein's learned through his many travails, including several brushes with the law. Early on (pg. 122), Goldstein admits, "I went too far. I've burned bridges. I have regrets" ... but it's unclear whether Goldstein actually has taken that to heart.
Still, if one is interested in reading what life was like on the "sexual underground" of the latter part of the 20th century by someone who lived it intimately, it's unlikely that there will be a better narrative of it than I, Goldstein.
By Al Goldstein and Josh Alan Friedman; Thunder's Mouth Press, 245 W. 17th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10011; 271 pp; $26.95