Al Goldstein, onetime Pompano Beach resident and publisher of Screw magazine, died Thursday at a nursing home in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. He was 77.
Goldstein was a pioneer of smut mags when he introduced Screw in 1968 to a world in which porno magazines had to be sold under the guise of "class" and "refinement," like Playboy. In 1969, his magazine was the first to publish photos of two men having sex.
But Goldstein was unapologetic about being real. He brought a grit and an edge to the porn mag industry and wasn't afraid to rail against politicians, organized religion, or anyone else who seemed to piss him off -- all while doing so between pages that featured lots and lots of boobs.
"Politically, editorially, this is the most honest paper you'll ever see," Goldstein told New Times in 2001. "It abuses everybody, but it also has hooker ads and masturbatory material. How can you go wrong? I also have a TV show that has been on 25 years in New York that's called Midnight Blue. Even though it has tits and ass in it, my favorite part is a segment called 'Fuck You.' I abuse the laundromats and watch dealers and politicians that rip me off."
Goldstein was also famous for a giant middle-finger sculpture he kept in his waterfront mansion. Anyone passing by on a boat would be greeted by a sculpture shooting them the bird.
Then-Pompano Beach Mayor complained that every time he'd go out on his boat, there was the finger.
But far and away, Goldstein's legacy is his magazine and his don't-give-a-shit attitude.
He spent millions on First Amendment lawsuits and once ran for sheriff, though he lost that race.
Goldstein was adamant about being honest about sex. He believed that his generation was taught that sex was dirty and shameful and that a magazine like Playboy had to hide behind a "classy" pretense.
But Screw was honest, in-your-face, dirty, raunchy, and offensive. And that's exactly the kind of mag he set to put out. In the time since he started it, Goldstein was arrested 19 times on obscenity charges.
He ran into hard times at the turn of the century. The magazine folded, and Goldstein pleaded guilty to harassing one of his ex-wives with obscene phone messages. He also had a falling-out with his son, whom he accused of stealing money from him.
In a 1974 interview with Playboy, Goldstein proudly talked up how he left a mark in the smut biz.
"We lead the league in tastelessness," he said. "Our photographs are filthier and our stories are more disgusting. We make no effort to be artistic. Our photos are so explicit that the readers can see the come running from the girl's mouth. Our stock in trade is raw, flailing sex."