I see Andy Milligan everywhere: a birthday tribute/confessional/tour

 

It’s true: I see Andy Milligan everywhere. Today is his birthday, or would be—born Feb. 12, 1929, he’d be 87 were he still alive, rather than a casualty of the AIDS epidemic. To honor his memory, I thought I’d knock out a quick blog post—messy, unsystematic, written between work-related emails, but roaming over the places where he’s entered my life (and I’ve followed his). Some cool images, too–

Seeing Milligan everywhere, case in point: Philadelphia

Browsing the out-of-print books at the wonderful Molly’s Books & Records in the Italian Market, I come across this relentlessly bleak precursor to Taxi Driver:

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The promised movie never appeared (not sure how it could at the time: the book just wallows in solipsistic urban alienation for 150 pages, then stops), but the one in the background did, and then disappeared—it’s Andy Milligan’s lost Depraved. Could there be a better tribute to the misanthropic filmmaker than using his work as the backdrop to a title that would easily fit into his filmography? And could it better resonate with the Milligan aesthetic than by effectively disappearing? (Jeffrey Frank has gone onto other books, but this one left barely a ripple in cultural memory). Continue reading

Star Wars in Leather: A Lost Movie Review, and Some Notes on Smut-Mag Print-Media Historiography (!)

Okay, I confess: I haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m not a hater; I’m too old to relive my sneering Teenage Adorno years of smug condescension toward anyone who engages with mass culture for such sniveling epiphenomenal pleasures as, oh, entertainment. Nah, I appreciate populist film, even from Hollywood, and thought Creed was great. I just can’t be arsed on this one, I guess (also, apparently we’re supposed to collectively pretend the great river of crap known as episodes I-III never came along and destroyed our—my—goodwill?).

Nonetheless, I thought it was great when Samuel Delany’s original review of Star Wars from Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy popped up online, so in my already-faltering effort to post a few quick-hit archival treasures with minimal blathering, here’s this: the review of Star Wars from Drummer.

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Merry Belated XXXMas, and Out of the Archives, Into a Book

Not particularly timely update here, but just to log this in the way of eight-newscycles-late blogging lethargy, I co-wrote a fun piece with the great Laura Helen Marks that wound up on Salon on Christmas Day: “Merry XXX-Mas: a brief history of Yuletide smut“!

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Archive Fever: My Night with Fassbinder (Stallion, 1983)

I was sifting through old issues of Stallion last week, and came across this.

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As far as I can tell, the only digital trace this has left is some skeevy, inordinately expensive rip-off pay-to-scan site that I won’t link to, but it seemed a loss to history to leave forgotten a nice little article about my favorite filmmaker of all time. If Google Books is to be trusted, Fassbinder’s biographers and scholars have all missed this gem!

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Pornography in Newark, Part 1: From Comstock to the Cold War

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It’s been a porny month here: I wrote a piece about Playboy for The Conversation (mostly about how the magazine wasn’t porn, but still); I gave a talk about Porn Studies at the University of Oregon, then drove (!) from Newark to Madison, Wisconsin, to give a paper on the editing of adult films on VHS at the Film & History conference; finally, I’ve put in some labor-intensive editorial work on a collection about pornography in the 1970s that should finally come out next year (more on that later).

It was all tremendously refreshing, in the sense that I had been suffering from smut-overkill after writing two books on the matter. My academic interests had shifted toward leftist film history, the Queer Newark Oral History Project, and other things that I’ve been working on lately. But meeting a dizzying roster of scholars, archivists, and writers working on porn (and exploitation film)—Peter Alilunas, Chuck Kleinhans, Laura Helen Marks, Casey Scott, Dan Erdman, Kevin Heffernan, David Lerner, Finley Freibert, Maureen Rogers, and more!—really highlighted how much exciting work is going on in this area, and reinspired me to stay engaged with it.

All of which is a preface of sorts to this, a sketch history of pornography in Newark. For a few years, I thought maybe a history grad student could write a strong master’s thesis on the topic, but since no one is beating down my door to do that, I figured I’d take on the project as a sheer labor of love and write this as a sort of indulgence, to wallow in a world where no copyeditor can strip me of my semicolons (look ma; no grammar!). It also gave me an excuse to finally visit the Newark City Archives . . . but I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading