Legendary pornographer Al Goldstein, whose Screw magazine published the work of cartoonists ranging from Wally Wood and Robert Crumb to Art Spiegelman and Peter Bagge, passed away this morning in Brooklyn at age 77. Premature reports of his death had circulated earlier in the week.
His attorney Charles C. DeStefano told The New York Times the cause of death is believed to be renal failure.
Considered a pioneer in his industry — Screw debuted in 1968, six years before Larry Flynt’s better-known Hustler — the colorful, controversial agitator who was arrested 21 times on charges of indecency and described by New York magazine as “among the earliest of the First Amendment porno-warriors.”
Goldstein’s Screw folded in 2003 after 1,800 issues because, he said, “the Internet will give you all the porn you want” (the magazine was later relaunched by former employees).
Over the course of the next couple of years, the one-time New York porn king was left broke by his divorce from his fifth wife, lost his Florida mansion after filing for bankruptcy and jailed for harassing a female former employee. Effectively homeless, he was hired in 2004 as a host at a deli for $10 an hour. His last paying job was blogging for $1,000 a month for a porn search engine.
A longtime smoker with a history of manic depression, diabetes and obesity (he had slimmed down considerably by 2004), Goldstein as recently as 2010 had spent nearly a year at Bellevue Hospital and at the Brooklyn VA hospital. When New York magazine caught up with him in December of that year, he was recovering from a stroke.
“I honestly think, down the road, one day, like Lenny Bruce, there’ll be an Al Goldstein article capturing his life and all the battles he’s waged,” Goldstein told the magazine. “It won’t matter because I’ll be dead, but I really think it will make something positive.”