"Beneath Contempt and Happy to be There: The Fighting Life of Porn King Al Goldstein" Book Review

Written by Steve Pattee

Published by Headpress

Beneath Contempt And Happy To Be There 01

Written by Jack Stevenson
2011, 217 pages, Non-Fiction
Released on October 15th, 2011

Review:

No name is more synonymous with skin mags than Hugh Hefner. After him would probably be Larry Flynt, then Bob Guccioni. These three have made their indelible mark on the adult magazine industry with their publications of Playboy (Hefner), Hustler (Flynt) and Penthouse (Guccioni). But what about Al Goldstein? In the world of sex magazines, he certainly was a major player at a time with his rag Screw, but you don't see a movie made about his life, nor do you see Entertainment Tonight covering any parties he might have. I'd argue that outside of New York, Goldstein isn't nearly the household name Hefner is, and I'd go as far to say he's virtually unheard of by the layperson outside of the Big Apple. In his book Beneath Contempt and Happy to be There: The Fighting Life of Porn King Al Goldstein, Jack Stevenson brings Goldstein's trials (literally) and tribulations to light and possibly gives the man some needed recognition.

Beneath Contempt isn't a biography per se. Goldstein's childhood is barely touched upon, and not much attention is given to his life post-Screw. Sure it delves a bit into the magazines he worked for before starting Screw, but not terribly much. But since Goldstein's life was so much a part of the magazine he and Jim Buckley created, it's understandable.

What's interesting about Beneath Contempt is the more you learn about Al Goldstein, the more you wonder if he published Screw to put out a product and fight for his (and our) first amendment rights, make money or just to use as a soapbox for his opinions. After reading it, I get the impression that Goldstein loved nothing more than to piss people off just so he could play the martyr when/if it got to the courts. However, I can't criticize too harshly, because the man fought tooth and nail for his right to publish what some might have deemed offensive, and he spent millions in the process. Whether he was doing it for the people or for himself is irrelevant because at the end of the day he opened the door for others to do what he did, but without the headaches and court dates.

Beneath Contempt leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to detail. It touches upon many aspects of Goldstein's life — his trials, troubles with his ex-wife, health issues and more are mentioned — but it's never fully developed. I would have loved to read more details about his courtroom battles (or even some of the transcripts, as I'm sure it's gold) or learned more about his childhood or school years, but these things are missing. There are gaps that would really help the book if they were filled in, and at a short 217 pages there is obviously wiggle room. There seems to be a missed opportunity with interviews with those who have had interactions with Goldstein as well. Hell, the sheer amount of potential people to talk to just from his publishing days at Screw would be a book in itself.

On the other hand, Stevenson does a wonderful job of being unbiased with the material, while at the same time being an obvious fan of what Goldstein achieved with Screw. That doesn't stop the author from laying out both the positive and negative aspects of Goldstein's life, however, nor does he shy away from finding the truth in some of the porn king's more questionable statements. This is important, as it makes the book much more credible. Sometimes a biography will gloss over its subject's more sordid statements or actions, but not here. Stevenson tells the good and the bad, while maintaining a respect for Goldstein.

Beneath Contempt and Happy to be There: The Fighting Life of Porn King Al Goldstein is a bittersweet read. It's an interesting read, unbiased and sharply written. The fact that it leaves you wanting more is a compliment in itself, but because of its relatively short page count it simply just whets the appetite. If you want a broad idea of Al Goldstein's life, this is a great place to start. Perhaps there will be an updated or revised edition we can look forward to one day that delves a little deeper.

Grades:

 
Overall: Threestars Beneath Contempt And Happy To Be There Amazon Uk Beneath Contempt And Happy To Be There Amazon Us

 

 

 

About The Author
AR2
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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