Robert Rosen has an uncanny knack for combining fact and filth in Beaver Street, resulting in an account of the porn magazine industry that is both detailed and informative, as well as accessible and riveting. The book provides insight into the lives of porn stars and porn producers that had me laughing one minute, and reeling the next.
You get the sense that Rosen has always had this book in mind from the very day he started working in the industry. An account this evolved and thoughtful clearly comes from years of work, tireless note taking, and perhaps most especially from the ever-alert and observant eye belonging to this talented journalist.
Whether you're doing research about the industry or you're simply reading up on it to enhance your own understanding, consider Beaver Street a great resource. Rosen's account is well-balanced, illuminating, and visceral when need be.
Ever wonder what kind of creature lurked beyond the green XXX door, helping create the $8 billion a year monster called the porn industry? Ever wonder how Marvel's X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, and Spiderman himself were behind it all?
Beaver Street reveals all, leaving no holes barred.
Robert Rosen, aka Bobby Paradise, started writing "girl copy" and phone sex scripts for High Society in the early 80s. His boss, Carl Ruderman, had started him at $17,000 to make the magazine "crazier" than its competitors. Tapping into his earlier experience as a comic skit writer, the rookie cranked out his first HS pictorial feature: a Cool Hand Luke leather-and-lace lesbian chain gang.
Ruderman declared his new recruit a "creative genius" who "would not be standing in a breadline." By this time, the skin tycoon was clearing over a quarter million dollars a month from High Society's phone-sex juggernaut. The computerized system logged over 500,000 calls a day, Ruderman made 2 cents per (the phone company made 7), and his best customer was the Pentagon.
Like his colleagues in the industry, Ruderman fancied himself a progressive publisher not a purveyor of smut. So when Bobby Paradise described High Society to a New York Post interviewer as "porno," the outraged smutmeister axed him.
Rosen landed on his feet at Ruderman's competitor, Swank Publications, which published hundred of titles, including the iconic Swank and Stag. At Stag, he worked with porno's expanded Fantastic Four, "The Nasty Nine." On the receiving end of the celebrity cocksmen were the likes of Wendy Whoppers, Candy Cantaloupes, Busty Dusty, Pandora Peaks, and Auntie Climax.
Soon Rosen climbed the equal opportunity porno ladder and took over as managing editor at Stag's sister rag, For Adult's Only. Till now he had been a kind of Gulliver -a stranger in a strange land. At FAO, he went native with what he calls "an experiment in participatory journalism." He became the star of his own "$5 Blowjob" feature. But, in spite of the heroic efforts of his co-star, a Hungarian, the "newcummer" got stage fright. Otherwise known in the industry as the dreaded "waiting for wood."
Finally, Paradise became the poet laureate editor at Chip Goodman's D-Cup. He wrote of "bodacious bazooms,""magnificent milkers," "succulent saggers," and "wobbling wazoobies."
Sixteen years in the trenches, the author witnessed the rise and fall of the industry: from its phone sex Golden Age, to the Traci Lord's scandal ("the pornographic equivalent of a Chernobyl-size toxic spill"), to Reagan's anti-Obscenity crusade, to the free internet porn which put the final stake through the heart of the men's mag biz.
In Beaver Street, the defrocked Mr. Paradise leaves us with a new kind of X-File which creates its own genre: a confessional for-adults-only romantic comedy with a rare, thoughtful twist. Brilliant!
Robert Rosen describes "Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography" as an "investigative memoir," which it definitely is, in the best and truest sense of both words. Aided by meticulous research and an engrossing, pull-no-punches narrative, he has succeeded in creating what, to my mind, is a new and unique genre of non-fiction writing. He manages to combine his own personal history--from the streets of Brooklyn to the halls of City College and the Pentagon, to the sweat-stained cubicles of the porn magazine jungle--with an incisive history of the pornography business that principally focuses on the period starting with the creation of phone sex to the present.
As a former denizen of Smut Alley myself, I can attest to the accuracy and veracity of Rosen's book. I loved his humor and honesty, and I also learned a lot of things that I never knew about the people who ran the magazine mills--the Carl Rudermans and the Chip Goodmans who strove so mightily to remain anonymous and above it all, yet laughed all the way to the bank.
For the millions of people who have an abiding and well-nigh insatiable curiosity about porn--and I discover them anew every time I go to a social gathering and mention that I once toiled in the vinyards of lust--"Beaver Street" will be a real treat and impossible to put down. For the rest of us who are curious about the world we live in and how it got that way, this is essential reading.
I've just completed Beaver Street and could not put it down. There is nothing like it; rather no comprehensive history of modern porn, especially of what is called The Golden Age of porn, the Eighties. The author was right in the thick of things--not just observing--but just detached enough to be objective. He explains how phone sex came about and why there are now laws to protect minors from appearing in porn. But, as the author reveals, there was nothing to protect the porn industry from the likes of the conniving underaged Traci Lords. The author calls his book an investigative memoir. I'd call it a perfect (and perfectly outrageous) mix of personal experience, research, reporting, and conclusions.
Vivid and funny, "Beaver Street" moves at a cinematic pace, a period piece that picks up the story of modern porn where "Boogie Nights" leaves off. This wickedly honest personal memoir of the 80s and 90s sex industry segues from a behind the scenes look at porn shoots to hilarious office banter amid the cramped cubicles of fetish magazines. Rosen is particularly sharp on the one-two punch that brought down the huge porn mag industry--first, the Traci Lords scandal (she was underage when she burned up the screen in such classics as "Talk Dirty To Me III"), followed by the unexpected success of the phone sex business. For a fascinating and funny look at America's id, "Beaver Street" can't be beat.
A fascinating read which explores the characters and workings of this bizarre business. At times the subject is dark but Rosen maintains a level of humour which results in an engaging, absorbing, compelling read. One for the wish list.
What is in common between "Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon" and "Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography" ? The answer of most of you would be: Nothing! but you all are wrong. Let me tell you that the common thing between that two books is both have been written by a WRITTER with capital letters: Robert Rosen.
Beaver Street is not a novel. Beaver Street is not a detectiv story. Beaver Street is not a gossip biography. Do you want to know what is Beaver Street? Well, Beaver Street is a BOOK with everything what it carries. It is a BOOK written by a WRITTER, without shame and no blush. Beaver Street is a REAL BOOK telling a REAL STORY and that's all what a Best Seller needs. So, ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you the best book of this year:
I bought Beaver Street for academic reasons. I wanted to know more on the "industry", and especially about the magazine business before the Internet. I wanted to know who were the people shooting those pictures, who were the people writing for them (if there even was some text on it). Beaver St. has the answer. And it's told by an insider. Robert Rosen's honest and bareback writing kept me amazed and dazed, wondering how in the hell could Spiderman be related to the porn magazine industry. Want to know what it feels like to be a star on one of these shootings? Watch out for the gonzo episode..
There used to come a time in the teenhood of most guys when you graduated from Playboy to more single-purposed periodicals, the type of magazine that, before the Internet all but did them in, offered improbably fantasy images that nevertheless served a single purpose. And thus sold well.
Robert Rosen was in the editorial trenches of a number of such magazines, and "Beaver Street" unhesitatingly chronicles not only the rise and fall of the industry but also profiles its key players, not least of whom was Rosen himself. Profit margins could be slim, so eventually the magazines he edited were cranked out as quickly and cheaply as possible, and the backstage escapades he recounts make you wonder how any of it got published at all.
If smut publishing magnates like Carl Ruderman and Chip Goodman come off as barely housebroken - well, that seems entirely in keeping with an industry that asks you to leave good taste far behind. The wonder is that Rosen survived it for as long as he did, although he makes no bones, if that's the phrase I seek, about the appeal of a steady paycheck.
As was true of his previous book, "Nowhere Man," which profiled the last years of the life of John Lennon, "Beaver Street" is written in a friendly, very accessible style. Rosen has a journalist's sensibility, telling his stories thoroughly and telling them well. But this is immersion journalism, an I-was-there saga, and he's not at all bashful about revealing his own surprising levels of participation in various events.
Good thing I'd already given up on these magazines before I read the book - "Beaver Street" strips them, if that's yet another phrase I seek, of any possible glamour. Thank goodness the Internet is here.
Robert Rosen's Beaver Street has been the source of my reading entertainment for the past week or so, and `entertainment' is certainly the most suitable word for me to use, though perhaps not in the sense that folk may immediately think given the subject matter. I'm talking about reading an interesting book produced by an intelligent writer.
The style of Robert's writing achieves a good delivery, flows well, and refreshingly tackles many difficult aspects of the topic head-on; a particular challenge given that the subject matter is such a controversial one. I have certainly read books in the past which I've put down way before creasing the spine given they've been so disjointed in composition,- this was not the case at all. However, I also found this to be the case with Robert's first international bestseller "Nowhere Man", so no real surprise that he managed to achieve the same here. Of key note is the fact that Robert does not waste words; some chapters of both books are tiny, in that he clearly conveys the required messages without feeling like he has to pad it out chapters in order to get a thick volume on the shelf.
I found myself experiencing all sorts of thoughts about the porn industry and Robert's involvement. Many would be quick to stereotype those who have worked in this field, though one must step back and think logically about the underpinning driver of the industry which is, of course, money. Seemingly more-so than any other commodity-based opportunity in the world, there is a huge demand for pornography, and where there is demand human nature is to respond with supply to make a buck or two. Therefore, should it be such a surprise that there are so many people working within the industry making money from what entertains others? Should one's work always say something anything about one's personality? I work as an engineer, but does that mean my life and soul is concerned with cables and wires? Certainly not.
It is particularly interesting to read of the public reaction to various porn milestones, from the overwhelming demand for phone sex following its arrival, to the governmental condemning of various controversial movies. One can only ponder over what an extreme reaction of disgust is really hiding. Shouldn't a politician be more open minded than anybody else? The shocking issues of the dark side of the industry were also handled well, with Robert commendably navigating through this area and defending those innocent.
Overall, this is a quirky book with sufficient portions of fact, humour and revelation to keep one interested.