It wouldn’t take a psychiatrist to classify Al Goldstein as an obsessive-compulsive glutton. His material desires are legend. Obsessed with size, he believed if he only possessed a few more inches, this would bring fulfillment in life. Likewise, he once employed four secretaries—two of whom worked full time ordering his circled whims from mail-order catalogs. Goldstein chased happiness through the acquisition of electronic gadgets—if only he could just acquire more.
As publisher of Screw magazine during its 34-year run, Al Goldstein overturned the boundaries of sexual repression. He solidified the right of the media to ridicule power. Church, state and self-appointed moral watchdogs that attempted to silence Screw were brought down in court.
In 1968, Screw became the spearhead of the sexual revolution. Goldstein endured 19 obscenity arrests in the late ’60s alone. A typical bust involved the first advertisements ever published for dildos. The State of New York argued in Superior Court that dildos could be used for criminally immoral purposes. Goldstein went to jail so that your Aunt Murgatroid can now buy a vibrator at the corner drug store. Legend had it that J. Edgar Hoover’s last directive was “Get Goldstein.” Enduring more litigation and arrests than any publisher in America, Goldstein democratized pornography. He made it available, and eventually legal, for the common man.
After several decades as the world’s premier pornographer, Goldstein’s appetites continued unchecked. He spent himself into the toilet. The detritus of a career he left in shambles was put into storage. VCRs, CD players, model trains, gold Mickey Mouse watches, unopened computers, Milton Berle’s and George Burns’ personal cigar humidors. . . Goldstein rarely opened the packages. They were merely hoarded. Worth $11-million in assets at his peak, Goldstein’s wealth declined to less than nothing. The East Side townhouse, the home in Pompano Beach, the chauffeured limo, the hookers and Upmann Cigars—all gone. He became New York’s most famous homeless person by 2005. Spent a year on the streets and in Bellevue Men’s Shelter. Central Park became his nesting ground on nights he missed Bellevue’s 8pm curfew.
Goldstein claimed he “lived for hate,” and refused to die because it would make too many people happy. But a thousand friends and notable admirers tried in vain to stick by him. During his orgy of self-destruction, The Great Pornographer managed to poison relations with virtually all of them.
Goldstein—now 76, residing in a nursing home—left storage lockers hidden across several states. Most were scavenged by street vendors long before the onset of TV’s Storage Wars. Here in The Museum are a few of his personal bound volumes of Screw, office mementos and chotchkas, salvaged from Goldstein’s lost empire. Fool’s gold. —Josh Alan Friedman