Al Goldstein, who died recently and made the front page of the New York Times, was among the world’s most disgusting men. But hardly as repellent as Charles Saatchi and certainly without the coward’s bullying manner — against women, that is. Goldstein founded Screw magazine during the Sixties and pushed hard-core porn into the mainstream without the usual excuses of it being art disguised as porn, or vice versa. He apologised for nothing and took no prisoners and gave the finger to an outraged establishment who thought him rather vulgar, to say the least. I met him once and it was on a baseball diamond.
Back in the Seventies there was a regular softball competition in New York’s Central Park among magazines — most of them, like Life, Look, Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post, now gone. I played third base for Esquire and as luck would have it we drew Screw in the first round. Word had got around that Screw would provide oral sex to anyone on either side who hit a home run, and the vile act would be performed right at home plate. Catching for Screw was an enormous bull dyke, who I noticed during the warm-up was throwing the ball like a man, and then some. My first two times up she yelled at the pitcher that ‘sunny boy here couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn’, and other typical baseball barbs. I was able to fly out deep both times up at bat, then on my third time got hold of one which fell between left and centre. I flew around the bases and approaching third I saw the coach holding up both hands signalling me to stop with a stand-up triple. But I had made my mind up and never broke stride. Heading for home, I was beaten by a mile and the bull dyke had gone down on her knees with her shin guards blocking the plate.
In such a situation, in real baseball, the runner barrels into the catcher at full speed, lowering his shoulder and aiming for the catcher’s head, more often than not injuring the receiver and knocking the ball off him. (Major League Baseball is now trying to change the rule because of the injuries involved.) But this was softball, a joke of a league, and the catcher was a member of the weaker sex, her size and voice notwithstanding. So I did the gentlemanly thing and slid into home plate and was tagged out. Both sides were laughing and booing me when Al Goldstein, non-playing captain, ran from the bench and screamed at me, ‘You didn’t want the blow job bad enough, you f***!’ Then he gave me the finger. I was already on the ground and stunned at his reaction. Then I burst into laughter and that was the end of it. But I did notice the catcher wink at me. (We won, by the way, but never tested the home-run rule.)
Mind you, had I scored, I wouldn’t have accepted the prize, certainly not in full view of everyone in Central Park. I may be many things but a sexual exhibitionist I am not. Why am I writing about a coarse pornographer like Goldstein in High life? Well, first and foremost he was extremely funny. He once appeared on national television, and produced a certified cheque for $10,000 as a reward for anyone who would shoot him dead if he ever married a Jewish woman again. He then produced a pistol to go along with the cheque and was thrown off the show.
My friend and mentor Professor Ernest van den Haag, now also gone, was a big fan of Goldstein. I hate to think what those two dirty old men got up to, but I was sad to read that Goldstein died penniless in a nursing home in Brooklyn, the millions he made by the foulness of his business all gone. He lived to shock and offend but technology finally beat him. Why buy Screw when the internet is full of what even Screw wouldn’t publish and in full Technicolor, to boot. The $10-billion-a-year industry he pioneered should have taken care of him once he went broke, but expecting a pornographer to have a heart is like counting upon Charles Saatchi to act like a gentleman. (Incidentally, I read that Trinny Woodall is now accompanying that particular cowardly slob. Trinny is a nice, disturbed woman, but she should lecture not on addiction to drugs but on dependence on filthy lucre.) The art world is full of rogues and pirates, and in my book the heroic man who grabbed Nigella by the throat is both of these things, and he is most welcome to come and try to grab my little throat anytime.
But I didn’t answer my own question about why I am writing about Al Goldstein. He certainly made the world a worse place, and perhaps that’s why he died broke and alone and miserable. Which means there is a higher power that judges us, which also means the Saudis and Qataris will one day be judged for the misery they are paying for, meaning the paid jihadists spreading death and destruction in the Middle East. Are 4,000 dead Nepalese worth a single football match in that sandy hellhole? Ask Sepp Blatter and the rest who voted for the World Cup to take place down there. The Almighty takes his time but, trust me, one day, like the rest of us, they will be judged, and I wouldn’t want to be in their turned-up shoes.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.