NEW YORK—Al Goldstein, legendary publisher of infamous Screw magazine, passed away this morning at approximatly 2:30 a.m. ET in a New York nursing home. He was 77.
Writer Larry "Ratso" Sloman, a close friend to Goldstein who was by his side at the time of his passing, told AVN, "He went out peacefully in his room in his nursing home in Brooklyn. We still have to figure out funeral arrangements."
Born January 10, 1936, Goldstein became a cultural icon via the unapologetically decency-defying Screw and his cult cable TV show Midnight Blue. During its 1970s heydey, Screw landed Goldstein under arrest on obscenity charges 21 times ... one of which led to a highly publicized federal trial in Wichita, Kansas from which he emerged triumphant. The magazine also made a memorable appearance in Woody's Allen's 1971 classic Bananas.
In 2002, Goldstein started to fall on hard times, beginning with a conviction in Brooklyn Criminal Court on a charge of harassing his former secretary. Though the conviction was subsequently overturned, Goldstein did serve six days of his 60-day sentence, and during the appeal, he pled guilty to a separate harassment charge by his most recent in a string of ex-wives.
Left broke, Goldstein was shortly thereafter evicted from his office, and Screw ceased publication. In 2004 and 2005 he pulled respective stints as a host at Manhattan's famed 2nd Ave. Deli and as a blogger for Booble.com (the latter continuing on for several years). Toward the end of the decade, his health began to crumble, with extended hospital stays resulting from a stroke and other complications owing to his long history of obesity, diabetes, tobacco use and more.
Still, his legacy was immortalized both in the 2005 straight-to-video documentary Porn King: The Trials of Al Goldstein from Blue Underground (available here) and his own 2006 autobiography, I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life from Thunder's Mouth Press.
In the spring of 2007, Goldstein announced himself as a candidate in the upcoming Presidential election. On his campaign website, he wrote of his fall from grace: "I had everything. Eleven million dollars, wives, girlfriends, everyone loved me, but I lost it all because of my flaws, which are too many. Until recently, I was homeless. I'm coming to you today, a man full of regrets, and great memories, a humble human being, who is here to tell you that the meaning of life can be found in pot and cunnilingus."
Noted industry journalist and historian Eric Danville, who worked at Screw through most of the '90s, offered AVN the following thoughts on Goldstein:
"Say what you will about Al Goldstein, and you're probably right. He was a loud, coarse, vulgar, glutton of a man, a fat bastard full of self-loathing and misanthropy. He was also the best boss I ever had, and informed my work ethic more than anyone I've ever worked for.
"We graduated from the same college, Pace University in downtown Manhattan. I was probably the only person who attended Pace who got his degree (B.A. in journalism) with the express intent of working for Al Goldstein. It took a few years after graduation, but I finally got to live my dream/nightmare. My seven years at Screw ('91 to '98) were the best job I ever had.
"Underneath the cheap snakeskin vests and layers of pastrami-inspired bulge was a man who took what he did very seriously. Working for him was both a badge of honor (when people in the biz heard you worked for Al Goldstein, they knew you had to be good) and its own scarlet letter, but only in Al's eyes; it often seemed as if the only people in the world Al *didn't* respect at any given time were his staff. But I wouldn't have stayed there as long as I did (I'm one of the few who left under his own steam as opposed to being shown the door) if I didn't love the product and, in some weird fucking way my liver and central nervous system are still trying to figure out, the man himself. This industry also wouldn't be what it is without his pit-bull-like fights for freedom of expression, and even the mainstream press enjoys freedoms he fought tooth, fang and claw to guarantee. I'm sure he wouldn't respect me for saying this, but Al, I really loved you and loved working for you. Fuck you, pal! See you in hell."
The late XXX director, David Aaron Clark, was also a writer/reviewer for Screw for several years.
Another close friend, industry icon Ron Jeremy, shared with AVN, "Al helped me out a lot with my career. He took me under his wing in New York. He was very fond of me and Jamie Gillis, and he really helped me out.
"We used to have these great breakfasts, Larry Flynt, Al Goldstein, Jimmy Flynt, Joey Buttafuoco, Dennis Hof and Al's lawyer girlfriend at the time, every Sunday morning we would have Sunday brunch together. I called us the Slime Pack. But my favorite recollection of Al was he had this giant, two-story foam finger, middle finger, that he got from a prop house, and he put it in front of [his house] in Pompano, and they complained so he placed it in the back instead, facing the Intercoastal Waterway. And he said it was to tell people to slow down. He had a little sign next to it that said, 'Slow down, slow wake zone.' People still talk about it.
"Al made some great victories against giant corporations. Everyone knows about Larry Flynt because they made a movie about it, but a lot of people don't know that Al had a lot of significant victories too. And because he went up against these corporations and refused to step down, that allowed comedians to make jokes every night on TV about the president and allowed us to make parodies. Jimmy Breslin wrote a great piece about him for Newsday where he said you might not like him, but you need to know about him."
Larry Flynt himself gave AVN the following comment: "Al Goldstein was a pioneer in the porn industry. He singlehandedly broke down many of the censorship barriers."
Offered Paul Fishbein, president of Plausible Films, LLC and founder of AVN, "Al was a friend and a mentor for many years in the early stages of AVN. If it weren't for Al Goldstein and Larry Flynt, there probably would never be an AVN and perhaps not even an adult industry. Those guys took the arrests for us. They fought the hard obscenity battles. They paved the way for a healthy industry.
"Al was not easy to deal with. He was opinionated and if you got on his bad side, watch out. He'd give you a 'fuck you' in print or on TV. But he was a true believer, generous to a fault, hilarious to be with and a fighter. The shame is that only a few people stood by him until the end. Penn Jillette paid his rent for many years and stuck by him. Ron Jeremy. Ratso. A precious few. Al will be missed and his mark on adult entertainment felt forever."
Photo courtesy of ShlomohSherman.com.