Al Goldstein, the anti-Hugh Hefner, died earlier this week. Whereas Playboy marketed the idea that men who leer at naked women embody a suave, sophisticated, almost James Bond-like cool, Screw magazine restored the popular prejudice that pornography remained a habitual refuge for sweaty, socially-awkward blokes frustrated by their inability to live their fantasies in the real world. There was honesty in Al Goldstein’s pornography.
Goldstein knew his audience because he was his audience. Before shops held dirty magazines captive in clean plastic, the “adult” aisle teemed with gawking Goldstein look-alikes. Hefner’s magazine placed women on a pedestal; Goldstein’s knocked them down into the gutter. Playboy did beautiful; Screw, ugly. The physiognomy of its readers reflected the content of its pages.