By James Maher
Name: Eric Danville
Occupation: Managing Editor, Penthouse Forum Magazine. Author of "The Complete Linda Lovelace"
Location: Sophie’s on 5th between A and B
Time: 6:45 on Thursday, February 27
Last week, Eric was discussing working for Al Goldstein at Screw magazine … where we pick up today.
Al had his good times and his bad times, but by the end of it, you couldn’t tell the guy no. He was his own worst enemy, which everyone knows. You couldn’t tell him, ‘No, you should not do that, because maybe buying a plasma TV for every one of your houses isn’t a good idea.’ Anytime he bought something he had to buy four of them because he had four houses and wanted each of his places to have one. There was somebody on staff whose job was looking through catalogues and buying shit for him and setting up VCRs that he didn’t know how to set up. That was this person’s job. It was crazy. He started Screw with $500 and a dream and that’s basically what he left it with, $500 and a dream.
For the last two years that I was working there I was Goldstein’s ghostwriter. Surprise, surprise, he didn’t write his own stuff. His editorials and any article that showed up in other places were written by someone else. One day Goldstein was in a foul mood and we were having an editorial meeting. I was in control of the editorial staff back then and he goes, ‘I’m tired of doing all this shit by myself.’ I knew it was a matter of time before I was going to be fired. Everyone before me had been fired and I was now at the top of the chopping block.
I wasn’t going to let that happen, so I gave him six weeks and I went back to work. I had an article due for Penthouse forum, so I called them and told them I just quit and they told me we’re looking for someone. I did the interview and got the job, where I’ve been for the past 15 years. I get to craft what the typical forum reader gets to experience, which is a bunch of dirty letters, some sex advice, some funny stuff. It’s helping people enjoy their bodies and their sexuality, which is quite endearing. I enjoy it and I also don’t have to worry about going to dungeons and strip bars — I mean there were times when I’d be going out to those places like five or six times a week to cover stuff for Screw, which was fun, but it takes a toll. It’s not easy doing that every day.
Some porn stars are exceedingly normal and some are just scary crazy. If you put 50 of them in a room, there are 50 different types of people, but they’re generally pretty fun to hang out with. They know how to drink. There was a fetish video place out in Brooklyn called Bizarre Video, and they had this big warehouse and they’d shoot maybe one week out of the month and bring porn talent in from LA.
When they’d have something going on, they’d invite us over and I’d do an on-set piece about it and we’d hang out afterwards. One time we were hanging out with this girl named Anna Mal, her husband Hank, Jeanna Fine, the owner of Bizarre, and a couple other people. We went uptown to American Trash in this limo and Hank is here and Anna’s here and all of a sudden Anna starts rubbing my leg. I’m like, ‘Ah fuck, that’s going on?’ She’s like, ‘Oh don’t sit so far away sweetheart,’ and then she goes, ‘You can do whatever you want with me, Hank doesn’t care.’ I was like, ‘ahh,’ cause I’m really very shy, actually. I just laughed and turned red and said, ‘ah shit.’ Anna scared me. She was just so open and into fucking anyone. That really scared me. But some porn actresses are real normal and they’ll talk about movies and TV when they’re not working. They’re normal people in the sense that they’re just like everyone else. There’s a whole range of them.
I just reissued "The Complete Linda Lovelace" [the former porn star of "Deep Throat"]. I had heard in 1996 that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were trying to buy the rights to "Ordeal," which was her autobiography. I got Linda Lovelace’s phone number from a friend and I gave her a call. I figured I’d interview her for a straight magazine. I’ll do it for Vanity Fair. They’ll want it. I can be incredibly naïve sometimes. I’m endearingly naïve sometimes. So I called her up and she pretends to be her own secretary, because from the beginning I said, ‘I’m calling from New York; I work at Screw; I work in porn and I want to interview you.’ She was very polite, she listened to me for about 10 minutes, and then she said, ‘OK, well I’ll pass your message on to Linda… and do me a favor, don’t ever call this number again.’
Despite that, I figured out a way to do a book about her. I got about 300 newspaper and magazine articles about her and I put them all in chronological order. I picked up the ones that told her story best and I critiqued those figured out where people had things right and where they had them wrong. I thought I was inventing a new style of journalism but it’s actually called a bio-bibliography. I traced her career from the first review of "Deep Throat" until when, as luck would have it, I actually got her to pose for Leg Show Magazine and brought her back into the industry after such a long time. She was the biggest porn star in the world, then totally anti-porn, and then she came back for one last photo shoot. That ended the first chapter of my book. I managed to hash all that together and along the way I found all these books that mentioned her and all of her 8mm porn loops. The book covers her career, then the anti-porn and the pro-porn side, and the pop culture side.
Three years later I called her up and I said, ‘Look, I called you up three years ago and I asked you for an interview. You said no. I did a book about you and this book’s coming out anyway, so if you want to talk to me I’ll put this interview in as the last chapter. You can say whatever the fuck you want, you can trash porn, I don’t give a shit what you’re going to say, but if you want to talk to me, I’ll listen.’
So she says, ‘It sounds like you have a million dollar proposition there. Why don’t you fly out to Colorado and we’ll talk face to face? If I trust you and I get a good feeling from you, then I’ll talk to you.’
I went out there and met her and we really hit it off, really, really well. That afternoon, she goes,‘Okay, I’ll talk to you about it.’ I was also showing her ways to make money doing movie conventions and signing autographs and stuff, which she did for the next year. I had to convince her to sign things as Linda Lovelace again cause she would only sign things as Linda. I took her out to Chiller and she made like ten grand in one weekend. I’m counting the money up and I give it to her and she counts off 10 percent and gives it to me. I was like, ‘what’s this?’ She goes, well this is your management fee. I go, ‘Look, I’m not your manager; I’m your friend. I’m showing you how to do this.’
So instead she gave me a hat that she wore at the Ascot races in 1974, when she got thrown out for wearing a see through dress. That meant more to me than any amount of money. And a couple months later I got a package from her that was a bunch of articles that she had been collecting about herself in the 1970s, four of her baby pictures, and an envelope that had a lock of her hair from her first haircut. She must have really trusted me and liked me if she was giving me something this personal to her.
Then, almost a year to the day when the book came out, she died at 53. It was sad because we became good friends. I liked her a lot. She was unassuming and very down to earth. She was very malleable though. I could have gotten her to do basically anything that I could have convinced her would have been in her best interests, but because I’m a nice guy I didn’t do that. It was the first time that she had been treated nicely by somebody that she was working with.
When she started she was in a very physically abusive relationship with her husband, who is the guy who sort of turned her into prostitution and doing porn. The movie ["Lovelace," 2013] was supposed to be based on my book but Hollywood changes things sometimes. I wound up being a consultant for it, so I gave them advice and they didn’t take it.
I mean the fact that I worked in a business that Linda hated as much as she did. A couple times she’d say, ‘You’re such a nice guy, why do you work in that business?’ And I said, well, it’s not the same business that it was when she was in it. It’s a lot different and it’s better for the women and performers because of her.’ When people ask, what do you do, the first thing I say is, ‘I’m a pornographer. I make porn magazines.’
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Out and About in the East Village, Part 1