Mike_Edison_You_Are_a_Complete_Disappointment

Now playing on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast: Mike Edison, former publisher of High Times magazine and former editor-in-chief of Screw magazine. He is also a musician and a professional wrestler. His new memoir, You Are a Complete Disappointment, is available now from Sterling Books.

 

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I was driving to Adelanto listening to some comedy radio show. There’s nothing in Adelanto. At least nothing anybody wants. Just a collection of old cracked streets and faded one-story businesses. The people on the radio show were asking the audience:  What would people find in your drawers if you died unexpectedly? Your closet? They weren’t interested in the collection of Christmas sweaters or the stacks of family albums—they were interested in the dirty things, the things you don’t want anybody to see or know about. The naked pictures. The sex toys. The raunchy.

Conundrum

By Aram Saroyan

Essay

When I was a junior or senior in high school at Trinity in New York, Paul Krassner published an interview with Norman Mailer in The Realist in which Mailer stated that he thought masturbation had the effect of muting or blunting or otherwise desensitizing one’s sexual compass, so to put it.  I thought this was interesting and provocative, although it fell short of exerting a strong influence on my own habit.  Still, I admired Mailer, and if I couldn’t emulate him I did read him with sincere interest, especially Advertisements for Myself, which contained his heralded sequence “The Time of Her Time,” comprising fifty pages about Sergius O’Shaugnessy’s efforts to give his Jewish girlfriend an orgasm. 

So, there’s Katie Roiphe’s Newsweek cover story, in which she posits that today’s women are turning to SM lite en masse as a counter to modern-day independence and that the feminists who fret over such fantasies can suck it. And there’s the clamorous rebuttal coming from every quarter and arriving at more or less a consensus: click-mongering misogynist Katie Rophie misrepresents feminism, BDSM, and psychology, and is totally on crack.

Every day I wake up and thank the Lord that cocksucking is not strictly a homosexual phenomenon.

My first exposure to the joys of fellatio were, typically, in print form—via a late-’60s totem called The Sensuous Woman, by a woman so mysterious that she went only by the first initial “J.”

It would have to have been about 1976 when I first encountered this mind-blowing Baedeker. My pal Eric had somehow secured a copy of this licentious wonder, though I’m pretty sure he boosted it from his folks. They probably did it all the time.

Strange things are happening in Ampersand, Mass. (Keyhole Press). In this collection of short stories by William Walsh, there is pornography, amnesia, obsession, a real life muse, a cross-eyed teddy bear, shoplifting, and a barber running from heart disease. These tales run the gamut from fantastical and bizarre to sweet and touching to heartbreaking and morose. Sounds like life—like most towns, big or small. But in his unique point of view, Walsh unveils relationships that are familiar, and yet, not quite right—a twist or oddity that makes these tales his own.

What I imagine you’re thinking right now is, “Sure. This kind of thing happens to all of us. We’ve all made a porno, we’ve all watched it with our mothers, and we’ve all practically forgotten about it, because of how completely common and universal an experience it is.”

Right? That’s what you’re thinking? You guys?

Well, if that is not what you’re thinking, then I guess this one is for you–the minuscule fraction of the population that has yet to experience the joy of watching (on a giant screen, with your mom) your peers get naked and pretend to make sex.

 

Do you want to get stoned?

Huh? I thought this was going to be a serious interview.

What is the most horrifying smell that you’ve encountered from porn?

The smell of a vagina with vaginitis is the worst ever.  On the set of a lesbian gangbang movie in 2006, a smoking-hot girl opened her legs to get pummeled with gigantic, double ended, black dildos.  Her fellow performers plugged her holes up, airtight.  When the anaconda-like devices came out, it was like breaking a vacuum seal.  Rotten fish garbage steamed out of her. I turned my head and died for her inside.  Too much going back and forth ass to pussy had created the stench.  But she was still fucking beautiful.

 

What makes you happy?

Swearing always makes me smile.  I laugh when I hear and get overjoyed when I read any nasty language.  Maybe it has something to do with a hot sauce and spicy food fetish.  I love the burning sensation and shock in my mouth and in my throat.  If my eyes aren’t watering, it’s not strong enough.  Cussing, in my opinion, can never be overused.  It’s just not for everyone though, and I wish it could be.  Some people’s digestion just can’t handle it.  But it should still be respected.


Who do you love?

I love my husband the most, then artists and whores.  We both love artists and whores.  He may love them more than me even, because he married both.


What disgusts you?

Being a bore is absolutely sickening to me.  I can’t stand it when people brag about being boring or normal.  I can’t stand bragging either.  Unless it’s in a completely ghetto way, then it’s funny.  And that is the highest honor, making someone laugh.


Are you a feminist?

No.

 

What made you think you could write a book?

I didn’t think I could.  The only thing I’ve really done is porn, and most people think porn stars are morons that can’t even read.  Going into writing Girlvert, I had no confidence, just one crazy story at a time.  I knew it would be interesting, and entertaining, but unsure if I was a good enough writer.  Accepting and believing the praise was difficult.  I thought that everyone was just being nice to me for a long time.  Then the book was published and in my hands, and awesome!


What now?  What next?

Right now, I am devoted to Girlvert.  My entire life has changed because of it already.  The porn star is fading out and the writer is born.   It’s a much more grown-up job, with different responsibilities.  I’d like to avoid being censored as much as possible.  My next book is in the works with my publisher.  But there is a lot of real work to be done as a writer.  And I also haven’t quit being an artist…or a whore.  That is the permanent foundation for all my creative energy at the moment.

I would like to proactively begin this essay with Supplemental Materials to this essay:

OIL ON CANVAS

Jackson Pollack was less an artist than a psychic predicting the Exxon Valdez disaster. Or the captain of that ship, Joseph Hazelwood, drinking all night, wanted to pay tribute to his favorite painter, getting loaded and crashing his vehicle bigger that same way.

What has happened to gay male porn? What has happened to gay male self-image? Not that either has ever been built on an overly strong sense of self, but I’d be amiss not to notice the growing trend from within gay culture to look like gay male porn stars, while gay male porn stars are, more and more, looking like über-masculine dudes. Let’s get one thing straight (no pun intended): Gay male pornography of today is not filled with mages of “gay” men; gay male pornography of today is filled with projections of the aggressive, competitive male, suppressed of emotion while engaging in one sexual conquest after another: they are images of a hegemonic masculinity fucking itself.

We’ve been on the sidewalk for five minutes and have moved about fifty feet. Pedestrian traffic on this main thoroughfare near Mexico City’s Zócalo is at its rush hour peak. We turn around, as if searching for a way out, some secret exit ramp, some side alley that will carry us like the matron saint of shortcuts, to a breakfast table and a bosomy pair of steaming mugs. Instead, over the tight parade of purposeful people, we see fat-handed Juan Pérez, beaming his biggest smile of the day, leaning against the doorway of the Rioja, watching our backs.

He sees us turn and raises his arms over his head about to take flight, or, flight-lazy, command the sky and its tenants—sun, moon, stars, Venus—to come to him, drop themselves into his ample palms and drive us walkers to some eternal fiery last meal. He shakes his arms, shuddering in their dress shirt sleeves, and Louisa and I do the same, nearly getting trampled in the process. We right ourselves, face forward again, and immediately miss the sight of our new friend, some good luck charm in concierge clothing.

On a lark—Skylark, Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, whichever species croons the most extravagant coffee-song—Louisa and I push a group of teenagers aside, hip-check their outermost member, and turn left from Avenida Cinco de Mayo onto the slightly less crowded Calle de Monte de Piedad. We read in some guidebook that there’s a restaurant near here that, when available, serves huitlacoche omelets.

We became obsessed with huitlacoche in the first few months of our relationship, having supped on it in Chicago two nights after Louisa met my family for the first time. We stole away to Frontera Grill, just the two of us, Chicago’s famed authentic Mexican restaurant, and were lifted into orbit by the plateful of the oil-black huitlacoche crepes with rich poblano crema. Seeking it out with obsessed fever since then in Mexican groceries throughout Chicago, we could only find it canned—still delicious, but leagues away from the explosiveness of the fresh stuff.

Huitlacoche, revered by many, reviled by many more, is also know as corn smut, dirty, evil, guilty pleasure of the fields, temptress blight, husked pornography… It is a greasy black fungus that results from maize disease, routinely cursed and trashed in American farming, but greeted with biblical gratitude in the fields of Mexico. Linguistically, as seems typical in Mexico, the gravity of such gratitude is coupled with an affirming observational humor; huitlacoche directly translates from Nahuatl into English as raven shit. Louisa and I know it as the truffle of Mexico.

We knew this would happen—that we would come here and spend many an hour, most of them likely fruitless, crisscrossing the city in search of fresh huitlacoche, affirming something ourselves: that after a year trapped in Chicago beneath the wet cloak of mother-disease, each action damped by death—driving, watching television, eating—we still have the ability to revise our priorities, to again shove taste upward, and climb, even if over a mountain of bones, to reclaim it.

And climb we do with protesting stomachs, lean headaches whistling for café con leche, along the shopfronts of Calle de Monte de Piedad—doorless convenience stores peddling magazines, thin-wrappered candies, cans of beer, middle-aged women with suckling infants strapped diagonally to their flanks with green scarves selling woven change-purses and belt buckles on the sidewalks in front.

Soon, the crowd clots like blood, the entire city wounded it seems, and it’s up to us, we melee-ensconced foot travelers, to see, with our body heat alone, that it doesn’t turn septic.

“Why have we stopped moving?” Louisa asks, her voice thick with desperation, all sustenance seeming further and further away now, as supernatural demands are placed upon us walkers to do the sustaining.

I wipe the sweat from my forehead and swear I can hear the stamping of combat boots, a massive collection of angry chants. I’m hungry, thirsty, tired, and panicked; I wish Juan Pérez were here to explain, to smooth the edges of this human blanket and turn everything placid again. I wish the people we loved would never get sick.

The crowd pushes together and soon, we’re in the middle of a street protest, bulldozed forward and to the right. I reach for Louisa’s hand before we can get separated and wonder if those feeding infants can make it through this, still cling fast to the breast. She catches my thumb and uses it to scale my arm. The line of people leading the protest pushes through in the street, carrying signs painted onto bedsheets, words that I can not read. They shout into their megaphones, and the following mob repeats their credo in deafening unison. Banners are tossed into the air, along with bottles and water balloons.

All side streets pour into this one, everyone interrupting their day to see what’s happening. Pedestrians—single, couple, family—stop along the sidewalks and curbs to watch. A father hoists his daughter onto his shoulders so she can see the throng simultaneously hoisting their fists into the air as if striking some invisible overhead drum. People stop and take their breakfasts standing up against the shopfronts, arrested, a multitude of tacos, enchiladas, tamales, held aloft, stopped short on the way from hand to mouth. The tiny women on the street corners freeze in front of their hot comals, their fresh rounds of masa dough only half-pressed into tortillas.

The call-and-response continues in rhythm, some of the marchers bearing angry faces, some excited smiles. And in between such extremes, the breaking of glass, and popping of balloon rubber, urgency and innocence commingle and take Louisa and me into their embrace. Our hearts are boiling and our mouths are confused—Scream? Smile?

What they don’t do, is chew, sip, kiss. But they will again, and will again soon. Yes: this is a place of gravity, gratitude, affirmation, humor, and faith. Faith that food will again fill us, coffee will keep us from sleeping on our feet. We will live today to change our socks, ascend the Rioja stairwell, this time as if from the penetralia of the earth.

The marchers pass, the megaphone sparkling now two blocks away. Louisa and I look to each other and don’t say a word. Somewhere above, a big black bird must be releasing into this world its holy shit, carrying with it the essential nature of division and protest, and we know, we just know, bedsheet-less and without bullhorn, still far below all plummeting excrement, that we will find our elusive huitlacoche. Looking up, we do with our mouths the only thing we can. We open them.

Dear Greyhound, 

Hello. How are you? I’m fine if you were wondering. But last week I wasn’t so fine. In fact, I was pissed off. See, last week I took one of your buses from Victorville to Las Vegas and it was a horrible experience. And I wasn’t in the greatest of moods to begin with. My truck was down (the reason for me taking the bus) and I was going to Vegas not for martinis and kitschy entertainment, but to see my ex-wife and our attorney who was going to deliver bad news to us legally. Ex-wives and attorneys? Not a good time to say the least. That being said, the ride to Vegas wasn’t all that bad. Well, there were some screaming children and it smelled like hot coleslaw and ass, but for the most part is was all right. Sitting next to a friendly good-looking woman did make the ride more negotiable. But I’m not one of those high-maintenance types. In fact, I pride myself in not being a pain in the ass in private or in public. I’m not that whiny cousin or that needy jerk-off who gives the waiter a hard time.  

But the ride home was the worst. Apparently, you guys sold some tickets to some folk who possessed extremely foul mouths and were void of common decency. But let me back up. For starters, the bus was almost two hours late. Two hours is a long time when all you want is to get back home, have a nice homemade meal, and hit the sack. And two hours is a real long time when you’re from out of town, lost all your cash, reek of cheap booze, and need to get back home not for a hot meal and some rest, but to save your sorry ass from further lame destruction. Trust me, Greyhound, I know. I lived in Las Vegas for many years and have seen these bastards come into town all hopped up from Who Gives A Rat’s Ass, USA, and leave the desert crestfallen and looking and smelling like A-1 dog shit. 

As soon as we hit the freeway around six dudes started cussing. Now, this wasn’t a bullshit or a goddamn here and there. It was motherfucker this and motherfucker that. It was fuck you, fuck your whore of a girlfriend, fuck your ugly stinkin’ mama and your limp-dick daddy, kind of stuff. This wasn’t a burst of inspiration that lasted ten minutes either. No. This went on for two hours. People were cringing. It was unbelievable. And to add the proverbial icing on the cake, the same dude that was standing behind me in the terminal watching porn on his laptop was sitting next to me. I was three pages into Paul Auster’s Timbuktu when the reels started spinning again. Girl on girl action with the volume turned up. So, along with the motherfucker and fuck you maxims these geniuses were dishing out there was the scripted moans of two idiots lapping each other’s parts. It was nothing short of disgusting. 

At one point it was so ridiculous, so absurd, I started busting up. Mr. Dueling Vaginas looked at me like if I was crazy. I was crazy. Not even my therapist with her framed degrees in faulty-wired brains hinted at crazy. Fucked up, sure, but never crazy. 

Now, hear me out, Greyhound. I’m no prude. I have a foul mouth, too (you probably have figured this out by now). Sometimes referring to some unreasonable person as “difficult” just doesn’t cut the mustard. Such a person would be better labeled an asshole. So, I get it. I understand the need to execute such language. Context is all, right? Sure. You bet. But what was the context here? What warranted such observations? A father with a butter-soft pecker? Someone’s gruesome-looking mother? A girlfriend who happens to be a whore?  

Jesus Christ.  

Really?  

And as for the porn? Again, I’ve been around the block. Good blocks. Bad blocks. For-the-time-being blocks. I’ve seen it all. Still, you don’t get your rocks off on a public bus or in a restaurant or waiting in line at Piggly Wiggly. You just don’t. Go home and beat up your dick. If you want to cuss like a jackass then wait until you get to your buddy’s pad. Or your own pad for Christ’s sakes.  

And what was your driver doing while all this went down? Nothing. He just kept looking back at those people in his rearview mirror like if his stupid bus driver eyes would pipe them down by his stare alone. That’s it. No warnings, no counseling, no reprimands, nothing. He didn’t calm them down so they carried on like if it was nobody’s business. At one point you couldn’t blame them. They were like: well, if this dude doesn’t want to police us then, hell, it’s on.  

Fuck you, bitch! And your fat ass sister!  

Suck my big swingin’ motherfuckin’ dick, homie!  

See what I’m saying? This happened. For hours. 

Well, Greyhound, I’ve had enough with this damn letter. Allow me to counsel you with some plain old common sense advice: train your drivers to take control of the village. Sit these people down and pass out thick packets of the dos and don’ts of driver duties. Draw up a fancy PowerPoint with tons of flashing colors and graphs and go through the steps one by one on how to manage people and then test their asses until they get it right. Passing grade: 100 %. Anything less is exactly that. Seek excellence. Don’t settle. Remember that people are forking over cash for your services. So get your act together. Be professional. Be considerate. Do the right thing for the love of god! Okay. That’s it. Thank you very much for your time and have a blessed day.

 

Sincerely,

Reno J. Romero 


I’ve always felt it was too easy for a person to be labeled a “porn star.”

The criteria seem to be that you have had sex, on camera, for the purpose of distribution, and that many people have seen it. But such criteria say nothing about one’s history, accomplishment or following. The real problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a linguistic distinction between the entry-level and the career-minded varieties of porn star.

Consider that, to be a movie star, you probably have to have at least one major motion picture out, maybe two, and you have to have been invited to appear, for that movie, on at least one talk show. To get that far, chances are good that you paid your dues: maybe a Lifetime special, definitely a rapist or victim on Law & Order: SVU. And that’s just by modern standards, where buzz is generated much more quickly, and the masses catch all their star news virally. When it comes to the classic star hierarchy, we’re talking about the A and B listers, and even then we’re dealing with maybe eighty people in the whole industry (two of which are Tom Cruise).

Becoming a rock star is a bit easier. One song on the radio will do, and really, if you get up on any stage, belt out a few notes, swagger around a bit and generally act sweaty, most people will give it to you as a kind of honorarium, as something you’ve earned by way of presence. “He’s such a rock star,” in the common vernacular, has come to indicate an attitude more than it does any kind of real success in the music business.

The label “porn star,” however, has the unique properties of being both literal and inclusive. That is, you must have been in a porn to be a porn star.  Cut and dry.  But once you’ve hopped that first gentle bar, you’re in for life, right at the top.  Even if the act was years ago, the distinction then becomes “ex-porn-star.”

The labeling issue is further confused when you consider the relative ease of getting a great many people to watch you in a porn.  Get a small part in an edgy indie movie, and a few thousand might see it. Write a song and some of your friends will be kind enough to listen. Take your pants off on camera and the world will click twice to see what’s going on down there.

Clearly, the title/suffix “star” has been too widely granted. We don’t yet have a good word for an “amateur porn star.” In fact, we stare the absurdity right in the face, because the proper terminology would be just that: “amateur porn star.”

Film critics offer a grim solution to this problem. Whenever the moniker “movie star” isn’t enough, they call an actor a “superstar,” or, ever more often, a “mega-star.

Porn-Mega-Star” has all the charm of an end villain in a Transformers spinoff, but at least it differentiates.

My solution?  Simplify things. We need to establish a base term for, um, entry level porn actors. Instead of “porn star,” we could call someone a “porner” (I also considered “smactor”). A “porner” is anyone who has been in a porn.

With a little effort and some skill in marketing, a porner could eventually work his way up to official porn stardom.  And so on. Such labels might even have the effect of legitimizing a career ladder which has long been dubious at best.

Now, if only we could figure out summer internships.

Kimberly and I had for a few months exchanged idle suggestions that I come to New York to read at one of the Literary Experiences.  Then United had a special.  Buy a ticket with the moon and Pleiades in Acme special configuration, and get another ticket free.  I happened to be traveling for business under that auspicious astronomical prodigy, so I thought to myself, still with an idle inflection, “hey, what better use for that free ticket I have coming?”

I asked Kimberly what she thought, and after a while she responded, “Well, you know, late March is about right for the next TNBLE.  I’ve got you down.”  Oh shit.  So much for idleness.  As I firmed up travel plans I increasingly looked forward to meeting Kimberly and others with whom I was familiar from TNB, including Kristen Elde and Tod Goldberg.  Kimberly set the theme “Growing Pains”, which gave me plenty of space for creation (which is to be expected, since this is the most prominent theme of TNB pieces).

I wrote and re-wrote my piece, a poem called “Growing up Misfit” which I’ll post in a day or two. [Done].  I picked out an appropriate Senegalese kaftan with Djellaba stylings (minus the hood, of course,) made by the excellent tailor Dantata near the Muslim Quarter, Bogobiri Corner, of Calabar.  I was ready.  After an uneventful trip Friday morning I arrived at LaGuardia and took the shuttle to the hotel, taking a moment to puzzle at the groups of soldiers with prominent sidearms hanging out ostentatiously with police at the Queens–Midtown Tunnel.  “What, do they think they’re the Comitatus Posse?” I wondered.