(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)

[The following reminiscence first appeared in the December 21, 1998 issue of  SCREW, its 30th anniversary edition, and appears here with the permission of its author. More writing by Josh Alan Friedman can be found by clicking on]

More than several milestones in my life occurred during my tenure at SCREW.  Some of these events may sound like a fairy tale, but they are true.  First, I met my wife through the window of the eleventh floor of SCREW's old offices on 14th Street, when she was staying at the Markle---a hotel run by the Salvation Army for young Southern women attending school in New York.  Secondly, I met my best friend, Richard Jaccoma, at SCREW. I published my first story there at age 20, and soon after, the first comic strips with my brother Drew, in what became a notorious, libel-strewn 12-year collaboration known as the Friedman Bros.  And finally, through the entree of my SCREW press pass, the hot gates of Times Square opened before me.  This culminated in my 1986 book, Tales of Times Square, which is still in print and is now under option for a cable-TV series.

But my first month or two at SCREW was miserable.  I had vied for a writing job at Saturday Night Live, and attended their pre­season meetings.  When that fell through, the opening at SCREW (to replace the brilliant J.J. Kane---now reviewing movies for the Daily News as The Phantom of the Movies) seemed like a pitiful consolation.  But I needed a job, and when Richard Jaccoma appeared as Managing Editor, things started to soar.

I was 24, with privileged access to gorgeous, albeit demented, young porn starlets.  There was no such thing as AIDS.  Saturday Night Live, by comparison, went through its most disastrous sea­son, its emasculated staff swamped in failure.  But SCREW offered a fascinating underworld; New York's avant-garde during those last few precious years of the great sexual revolution.

Our crack editorial team galvanized when Jaccoma hired Gil Reavill, who'd just arrived from the Midwest.  How the corn-fed Midwesterner adopted the Goldstein persona for 15 years proved uncanny.  Sydney, our editorial assistant, another Jaccoma hire, was a gorgeous Creole girl.  She would brave catcalls and lewd propositions during her walk along 14th Street each morning, until she reached the sanctuary of SCREW.  After an afternoon he spent observing us, Philip Roth labeled us "nine­to-five anarchists."

The first time I entered the offices of SCREW was in 1977.  Oddly, the editors were all huddled around a telescope.  There were stacks of hard-core stock shots littered about the floor, and 8mm porn loops and magazines were piled everywhere.  But the three editors paid me no mind as I walked in.  We fought like schoolboys for the scope view.  Fifty blocks away, a girl lay on a roof sun­bathing topless.

Everything about SCREW was the opposite of what outsiders might imagine.  Out of the dozens of magazines where I freelanced, The World's Greatest Newspaper was the only one whose editors dealt straight, looked you in the eye and handled Your work respectfully. It was the only men's magazine that paid like clockwork.  The scale was low but the freelancers got paid from the same revolving two-week payroll as staffers.

Meanwhile, Goldstein was the only man alive who could legitimately claim hookers as tax write-offs.

Likewise, SCREW reporters were reimbursed or fronted petty cash for research in the field, like peeps and whorehouses.  Before I took over the Naked City listings, I was a stringer.  SCREW's comptroller, Philip Eisenberg, was a Soviet-style bureaucrat who kept Goldstein's tax ledgers neat as a Torah scroll.  He was also in charge of expenses. When someone needed petty cash for undercover reviews, Philip counted it out as if he were donating blood.

"Nothing more than a handjob," he'd soberly remind you.

In the late-'70s, New York boasted a dozen spectacular "leisure spas," which were theme park whorehouses, like Tahitia and Caesar's Retreat.  The managers would routinely comp the guy from SCREW.  The girls were spectacular, and about 20 lined up as you walked in.  The boss would let you pick out any two you desired, each one of Penthouse caliber, then whisper instructions for them to give their best, he's the man from SCREW.  You were given a palatial suite for a few hours, a Vegas recreation of Caesar's bedroom or a Tahitian paradise.

When I was editing the Naked City listings, I farmed out a lot to other stringers.  Believe it or not, you could even grow weary of sex joints.  But the leisure spas were so much fun that the city of New York closed them all down.

Jaccoma and I were also responsible for overseeing Midnight Blue, Goldstein's raunchy-and still on­going-cable-TV show.  We'd planned to shoot mock interview vignettes of Al and budding starlet, Veronica Hart, whose porno film acting remains unsurpassed to this day.  I was smitten.

I wrote some sketches and personally delivered them, along with flowers, to her loft, hoping to do a little "pre-production work. Veronica was new to Manhattan and had just returned from a tough day on the set.  She sat down in the kitchen and began to luxuriously brush her hair and unwind.  She blushed while describing the leading man's attempt to keep his dick in her ass, as it kept popping out and they had to keep re-shooting.  Just another nine-to-five workday.  

She wouldn't
let him brush
her hair

"Here, let me," I said, reaching for the brush.

She pulled back, slapping my hand.

"What are you doing?" she said.  "You know, I thought we were friends."

She could handle the task herself, thank you, and mentioned that her fiance, a cameraman whom I believe shot some of her films, would soon be home.  This was a monogamous woman.  Still, encountering the prudish side of porn actresses was always jarring.

Most women were fascinated (after an obligatory snicker) to hear you were an editor at SCREW.  Then they would often confide something sexual.  A whole courtroom would burst out laughing during jury duty when you were asked what your job was.  But not everybody approved.

A hard-boiled newspaper reporter who'd gone to college with my father took me out to dinner.

"I'm ashamed of you, Josh," he confided over drinks.  'Aren't you ashamed to work there?  You'll never be able to get a job at the Daily News.  You need to do a few stories for New York or the Voice, sweep all that dirty crap away."

And then, out of the other side of his mouth:

"Jeez, I bet you meet some broads there.  Whaddya say, me and you, we take on a few of those porno broads one night?  Jeez, that Goldstein must be rich.  How much is he worth?  Anyway, I'm ashamed of you.  I'm tellin' ya, get outta there."

In the summer of 1981, when I was senior editor, I began to notice some interesting activity across the way from the art director's eleventh floor window.  Ballerinas and cheerleader types scurried about in the windows of the building behind us.  Incredibly, for 12 years, no other SCREW staffer before me had ever noticed this phenomenon.  I hollered out the window, about 20 yards, to a blonde knockout, asking for her phone number.  Her roommates clasped their hands over her mouth, but not before she yelled back the downstairs phone exchange and their room. 

I dialed her up.  The girl who answered said it was her second day in New York from the Texas panhandle.

"Don't ever give out your phone number to strangers in this city," I advised.

"Well, just who are y'all?"

"We're SCREW magazine," I said. “And thank God you gave your number to us.  If you'd been across from Time-Life, you would have really in with some perverts."

Within an hour, giddy college girls were hanging out of all the top floor dorm windows.  I arranged dates for them with SCREW personnel.  It wasn't long before I became a regular "gentle­man caller" waiting in the quaint lobby of the Markle Evangeline Hall on 13th Street.  Although men were strictly forbidden beyond this point, I soon became known by Major Anderson, the Salvation Army kommandant.  I enjoyed breakfast in the Markle cafeteria, just me and 500 nymphs in their morning bathrobes.  In a coup de grace, the girls snuck me upstairs to the dorms, where I hid in their bunk beds. (Even the SCREW press pass couldn't deliver like this!) The female hormones were so prevalent in these halls that hundreds of young ladies experienced their menstrual cycles simultaneously.  When outside girlfriends visited at that time of the month, they too automatically began their periods.  I dare say, the female hormones were so fragrant, I almost began to menstruate.

"It's the motherload," gasped the editor of High Society, as word quickly spread throughout the men's magazine world.  But I protected the girls from such swine; SCREW, and only SCREW would be the Markle Evangeline Hall's official male fraternity.  Even the geeks from Midnight Blue on the fourth floor nearly ruined everything, exposing themselves like mongoloid idiots out our magic window.

Several elderly men also resided at the Markle.  The qualifying age for men was a mere 55.  In the Salvation Army's world, gentlemen over 55 couldn’t possibly be a threat to young girls, and indeed, the few living there were retired clergyman types.  The Markle was oblivious to the impending possibility that Al Goldstein himself would soon qualify (which I never told Al, for fear he would move in).

Larry Flynt's charades always seemed minuscule, pale imitations of the great Goldstein.  Al feared no man alive (save for perhaps the infamous John Gotti or Roy Cohn).  During a street confrontation one evening, as we led a Times Square tour for visiting ladies, I saw 

Goldstein's mission
was to whine
for a blowjob

Al cut down some porn store goons whom I thought were about to stomp us.  Goldstein was fearless before their threats, said he would see them dead first.  They backed down, contritely apologizing.  Though I witnessed many of Al's grand achievements, it's the little things that stand out.  Like the time Annette Haven came up for her interview.  She was in her prime and generated awe over the fact that such a stunning creature would actually do hard-core (and nothing but hard-core---she loathed "nudie-cutie" stuff).  She was a woman of principle with a sexual mission.  Goldstein had a mission, too, and spent most of the interview whining for a blowjob.

“0h, Al," she would say, bemused.

But Goldstein wouldn’t let up, as if begging for his life.  If he landed a part in one of her movies, could he have one?  No, she declared, that would be too contrived.  And not for any amount of money.  She liked Al but wouldn’t do it as a matter of principle.  I'd never seen a human being grovel to that degree.  He followed her on his knees to the elevator, and onto 14th Street, until her limousine door slammed.  He yelled after the limo for her to make an old Jewish man die happy. It was a heroic failure.

The Great Pornographer suffered grand excesses.  Several donut shops along 14th Street were actually paid off to refuse Goldstein service.  I believe one shop was bribed to lock their door, should Goldstein come a’knockin’--­sort of like Lon Chaney Jr.'s Wolfman begging his neighbors to keep their doors locked at night, no matter how much he howled.  Al's four secretaries received calls from donut proprietors when Goldstein went off the deep end, swallowing donuts by the baker's dozen.. Al's four secretaries from the fourth floor business offices would have to dash over and coax him out.  Sort of like farmhands herding a berserk prize hog back into its corral.

We did theme issues with coverlines that screamed “Armageddon and Dingleberries," or "Voodoo and Vomit." Piled high at newsstands right alongside the New York Post, we felt millions of New Yorkers had a chance of at least seeing the coverlines.  Goldstein might complain whenever we got too cerebral, like Gil Reavll's bogus Goldstein interview with

Goldstein bellowed:
'This is not a college paper!
Get back to fuck shots!'

Hitler's Third Reich architect, Albert Speer, which many people believed.

“This is not a college paper!" bellowed Goldstein.  "Get back to fuck shots!"

A particular brainchild of mine was our "Sex and Diarrhea” issue.  Every page covered some form of shit.  Goldstein was scheduled to appear on BBC radio in London, where he hoped to score a distribution deal.  As with any business trip, his secretary packed two dozen of that week's issue.

I heard the BBC radio tapes, one appalled British interviewer after another.

"Mr. Goldstein, if this is a sex periodical, how come every single page has defecation, feces or diarrhea?"

Al grabbed the paper and was himself surprised to see the "Sex and Diarrhea” cover theme.  BBC hosts raged on:

"Mr. Goldstein, you are a revolting man.  Get out of this studio!  Get out of this country!"

The business trip was cut short.

Though he was like a "Gandhi with his dick out," Goldstein liked to say if he were assassinated, they could fill up Yankee stadium with suspects.  He even went on TV in Southern California, daring rednecks to get out their rifles and take their best shot.

Californians were so inept, he said, they couldn't possibly shoot straight.  There were alternate print crews at the plant where SCREW was printed.  When the Pope issue came out, Catholic pressmen walked off.  But backup crews of blacks, Puerto Ricans, Polish, Italian or Jewish pressman stood by, ready to fill in for any offended ethnic group.

These days, I have but one remaining Times Square "mole," Uncle Lou, the beloved chauffeur, who's driven hundreds of porn stars to their club dates.  He still calls me in Texas, in the wee hours, with news from Show World.  He doesn’t quite believe that I left the beat 12 years ago.

Lou befriends strippers for life, remaining loyal long after other fans have abandoned them.  I once went to dinner in Times Square with Uncle Lou, who brought along a depressed, overweight ex-stripper.  When she went for the powder room, he leaned over and said out the side of his mouth, "If you play your cards right, you got a shot with her."

"But I don't want a shot with her," I said.

"I think she likes ya," Lou contin­ued, "she likes ya 'cause you don't come on like gangbusters."

Even if she'd been pretty, I've long since left the life.  I married the girl who first answered the phone at the Markle.  Followed her back to Texas, where we live in a palace in Dallas.  ##  



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