BOOK REVIEW: BEAVER STREET
Pornography seems to be one of those topics that is always joked about, randomly will pop up in a conversation, and generally will be taken light-heartedly and in that context it is ok. The general public will find it acceptable to jest about pleasuring oneself to a fuck flick as long as one is not entirely serious. Joking about it is fine if its casual and to elicit a laugh or chuckle. Fact is, I joke about porn and jacking off to fuck flicks as the focus of getting a laugh out of my peers, acquaintances, and pals. Generally, as I know joking about porn will get a laugh out of them, but I believe porn to be as normal to me as watching television or taking a nice, long piss in the early morning hours. Maybe that is not such a good thing but, hell, I enjoy watching it and it keeps me faithful to the women I may be dating or involved with at the time because, believe me, it would be hard to satiate my fetishistic needs or fantasies in real-life at the drop of a hat whenever the feeling arises for me to want to jack off to some big, bootied hoes or have an urge to see a woman take it in every orifice from various males endowed with enormous members. Shit, I don’t think I have the balls to whip my dick out, get hard, and have sex with a woman that is also taking it from another dude. That scenario just sounds too unsanitary, messy, and way too vulgar for me to act out and actually go through with but, on the other hand, watching it from the comfort of my home and instantly deciding to think with my dick and give in to my dirty thoughts—that is just fine with me. I personally feel that porn caters to one’s sick (or healthy) fantasies as easy as powering up the computer and jumping online, throwing in one’s favorite dirty movie, or pulling the beat-off mags out from under the bed or going into the garage or closet and unearthing their secret hiding spot to rub one out. Masturbating to porn releases stress, caters to somewhat unobtainable fantasies, and stimulates the perverted portion of one’s libido.
Robert Rosen, a writer who has worked behind the scenes (and in front of for a brief moment) at some of the biggest magazine publications known to perverts and sex addicts out there: High Society, Stag, and D-Cup. Sadly, I have yet to read (ahem, I mean jerk off to) an issue of Stag or D-Cup, having never heard of them until reading Rosen’s book entitled Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography out on Headpress (www.worldheadpress.com), but that is not to say that these magazines don’t offer anything of value. I definitely thumbed through my fair share of High Society, along with Hustler, Playboy, Penthouse, Perfect 10, and Barely 18. Sadly, the older I got the less I enjoyed looking at the naked women in these magazines because neatly trimmed or completely bald vagina was the trend and anyone that knows me is keenly aware that I have always been pro-bush (and the not political kind). Nowadays, I have to browse through the fetish line of porn mags to get what I am looking for.
Rosen has written a book that is comprised of notes from his diary that he has written in since 1977. The books has been edited to tell a very informative and entertaining story while keeping the facts true but sometimes mixing separate incidents into one to not reveal the identities of certain co-workers or individuals. If this occurred, I couldn’t tell. I only was entertained in the author’s voice and style of narrative that mixed both facts, figures, personal stories, and the dirty reality that one working in the porn industry for an adult magazine may encounter on a regular basis.
I now know the history of Swank Publications, how the company was not always in the dirty magazine business. I learned quite a great deal about some of the pioneers of the comic book industry although I do believe that there was one error stating that The Human Torch and Sub-Mariner teamed up with Captain America to form the Avengers. My knowledge of Silver and Golden Age comic books is lacking and when I stated this as fact (as I thought it was), I was rudely called out as being completely wrong. Apparently, the Human Torch never was an Avenger. Rosen cites a book entitled The Comic Book Heroes: The First History of Modern Comic Books from the Silver Age to the Present, by Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs out from Prima Publishing as his source which I believe was just misquoted or every comic book geek and nerd I talked to is completely wrong. I did do some research and find no record of the Human Torch ever being an Avenger. In fact, the Human Torch was part of the Fantastic Four, but not the Avengers but this book only got upon the subject of comic books because the publishers at Swank Publications weren’t always publishing porn mags and the companies’ name not always called Swank, Inc.. This fact, and many other interesting tidbits of information are unearthed in Chapter 6 where readers learn about the “secret history” of Swank. To be honest, there were so many names dropped (some of which were identical but were different individuals who just happened to have the same name but is easily explained through incessant footnotes throughout the book) that one may get confused after awhile (as I almost did) but overall the read is quite interesting.
I find that having read more than one book concerning the in-and-outs within the adult film and magazine industry that all of the business end of things is as fucked up as the material itself. Wherever money is involved, there is an every-present amount of shady activity surrounding it, the Earth’s mantle to its core, or more applicable would be a worm to a rotten apple. Selling sex and smut is a dirty business and in more ways than one. I believe that author Robert Rosen conveys this fact and presents it to readers with a small amount of business sense and class. That is not to say that the book is littered with stories of increasing vulgarity from page to page, but the book is not just a collection of dirty and pornographic stories revolving around gangbangs, anal orgies, and sex hi-jinks
around the office.
Rosen has a flair for writing—that much is obvious. I think that whether he is writing his memoirs of working in the porn magazine industry for the past sixteen years or writing the biography of John Lennon, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. The book balances the facts and figures well with the sticky and gooey stories of salacious sex, maddening editorial deadlines, and an all-around stressful environment that running a giant porn mag empire encompasses. Personally, I thought working for a pornographic publication would be awesome. One gets to look, talk, write, and discuss pussy, cock, ass, and tits all day long—what is not to love?!?! After reading Mr. Rosen’s account at the end of the day is still facing tight deadlines and creative roadblocks that demand a professional’s skill and finesse to get things done. Also, contrary to what one may think, there probably is less steamy office sex and gorgeous sluts just waiting to be nailed employed at the company. If anything, sexual harassment is probably brought up more often than not and the only one getting away with it is the president or v.p. of the company (as sometimes is the case).
Probably the most interesting chapter in the book after the genesis of the company in Chapter 6 would be the chapter focusing on Traci Lords in Chapter 10 entitled “So ya wanna talk about Traci Lords?”. Hey Robert, talking about Traci Lords will never get old with me. I find her story and how she single-handedly turned the porn industry upside down by making approximately 81 hardcore porn films, all but only a tiny amount before she was of legal age to do so. Hell, the story behind this can’t help but be anything but fascinating and a good portion of what was written in the book comes from firsthand accounts and key individuals involved.
One does not need to be a pervert or porn-fanatic to be able to enjoy this 213 page book about the history of modern pornography, but one does need to have an open-mind in regards to learning new fetishes, terminology, and information regarding the dirty mag business and if one is hoping for photos and a plethora of full-color shots of various celebrities (in the porn industry) that Mr. Rosen has worked with they will be sorely disappointed as there is only one small b&w photo of Mr. Rosen in the prologue of the book, sitting with two women on a couch, fully clothed. I say grab this book and read it from cover to cover, taking special interest to go through the entire appendix at the end of the book. I got some special satisfaction by reading this historical and technological timeline. It is not something one would ever have learned in any “proper” institution, but something fans of the adult film industry and sordid history buffs alike would enjoy.
Beaver Street is a unique insider’s view of one pornographer’s career, a fascinating peek inside a world of sex, indulgence, and exhibitionism for money, power, and a magazine empire that fought tooth and nail to survive in an ever evolving industry re-defined by the advent of the internet. A strong recommendation for Beaver Street for those curious into the inner workings of the adult magazine industry and a world where writers have just as much stress and pressure, if not even more, than any mainstream rag sitting on the magazine racks at one’s local grocery store.