The Sticky Floors of History at the Little Theater (Pornography in Newark, Part 4)

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The other month I wrote an article for Vice about the Little Theater, Newark’s last and finest theatrical den of smut. It was nice to share the story of Newark’s rich sexual and cinematic subculture with a much wider audience than this humble blog reaches, but it came at the cost of paring things down to 1200 words, sacrificing some of the history I wanted to present. I get it: Vice readers might be interested in the fact that men are still attending porn theaters and curious about what goes on inside; they are less likely, collectively, to hold a deep interest in the Little Theater’s development from ethnic grindhouse to multicultural cruising spot or its role in Newark’s cultural history. Continue reading

Curt McDowell, with Love and Leather

confessions

I’ve just finished a feverish four-day run of attending “Loads of Curt McDowell” at the Anthology Film Archives, truly a cinematic highlight of 2016 for me; I love McDowell’s work, and much of it is near-impossible to see, hence the exhausting commitment. McDowell arguably captured the queer, freewheeling sexual currents of 1970s San Francisco better than any other filmmaker, and the features and shorts included in “Loads” range from outright smut to ethnography, surrealism to musical to melodrama. It’s a beautiful, dizzying mixture, and I’m posting this fast and artlessly in the hopes of inspiring someone, anyone, to go check out the series as most of it repeats in the next few days.

As well, I’m posting some documents I came across in the archive on the very days of the screenings, a serendipity too delicious to pass up: Continue reading

Archive Fever: New Jersey Lesbian Cat Poetry of the 1970s (and a brief election rant)

I hate everything about this election. I hate the candidacy of a garbage-monster fascist, and I hate that I’m related by blood to people who will vote for him. I hate the neoliberal emotion-management of the DNC, and the fact that brilliant, progressive people I know and admire seem genuinely enthused about a warhawk candidate whose loyalty to the international 1% is so strong that she had to be shamed into supporting a $15 minimum wage (and ecstatic too about Cory Booker, who has made a remarkable career in government without doing much in the way of actually governing). I hate that she and her VP are pretending not to support the TPP until after the election, when they will most assuredly support it (“oh, we didn’t support it as then written; now we fixed that semicolon, all good!”). I hate the third-party-shaming by friends who in some cases actually teach and write about the concept of hegemony but still insist on the need to be reasonable, and I hate the futility of supporting third parties, which I have done since I cast my first vote against Bill Clinton’s reelection. I hate that Facebook is cracking down on dank memes, which often feel like the only worthwhile political commentaries out there. I hate it all.

So what better relief, I ask you, my fellow Americans (and others, of course!), than previously undigitized lesian cat poetry from the 1970s? Continue reading

Archive Fever: Pelting Gay Marchers with Eggs and Busting Porn, a 1980s Wisconsin Flashback

Here’s a depressing spectacle, but one that bears witnessing and remembering: Ray Fisher of Sparta, Wisconsin, waiting with smile on face and egg in hand, to pelt participants in what would have been the town’s first gay rights march.

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Would have been the first march, “but no gays showed up.” I wonder why. Continue reading

Pornography in Newark, Part 2: The Failure of Decency

If part 1 of this Brick City smut saga ended with the Cold War, part 2 began here, at a talk last year by Gail Malmgreen at the New Jersey Historical Society, discussing her work on the wonderful Newark Archives Project.

 

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Well, that caught my attention. As did learning that Newark’s Legion of Decency left its files to Seton Hall University, just outside Newark city limits in neighboring South Orange. Continue reading

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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Continue reading