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Monday, November 16, 2009

The Coming of Beaver Street

Robert Rosen (left) with Headpress publisher David Kerekes in London, June 2009.

By Robert Rosen

Leo: The new moon on the 16th is the time to launch the new plans that you’ve been thinking about obsessively for far too long.

I don’t often read horoscopes, but the one above, by Katharine Merlin, astrologer for Town & Country magazine, spoke to me, and I listened. That’s why I’ve chosen today, November 16, 2009, to announce that my investigative memoir, Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography, will be published next year in the UK by Headpress.

Beaver Street is my first book since Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon, which was published more than nine years ago. For those of you who’ve read it, you may recall the crucial role that the T&C horoscopes played in Lennon’s life.

Without going into too much detail about Beaver Street, let me just say that it’s based on diaries I kept while working in porn for 16 years as an editor for magazines like Swank, Stag, High Society, and D-Cup, as well as on extensive research, and that I define “modern pornography” as the fusion of erotica and computers. This first occurred at High Society in 1982 with the advent of “free” phone sex.

In Beaver Street, I explore the hidden nexus where cutting-edge technology meets raw sex, generating vast fortunes for the largely anonymous men who run America’s “adult entertainment” empires. It’s kind of a Tropic of Capricorn for the digital age, as well as a serious history that reads like a comic novel. If you’ve read Nowhere Man, then you’ll have some idea of what I mean.

I’ll be posting more information here as it becomes available. But if you’d like to get more of a sense of the book’s flavor, you can read an interview I did in 2003, when I was in the middle of writing it.

I do want to extend a heartfelt thanks to everybody who’s read Nowhere Man and has expressed an interest in this long-awaited “next book.” Though the subject may be very different, I feel confident that if you enjoyed Nowhere Man you’ll enjoy Beaver Street.

For now I’m going to celebrate with a cup of British tea.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ship of Fools

“The Count” (Philip Seymour Hoffman) bakes over the UK with rock ’n’ roll on his illegal late-night radio show.

Pirate Radio

Forget about the multiple intertwining plots: lovable longhaired outlaws vs. repressed government officials; DJ vs. DJ; boy’s search for father; boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Though occasionally affecting, they’re frequently clich├ęd, and they’re so all over the place, it’s as if writer/director Richard Curtis couldn’t decide what this movie was really about and didn’t have enough confidence in any one story line to stick with it. And though the acting ensemble—especially Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Count, Tom Sturridge as Young Carl, and Bill Nighy as Quentin—is wonderful, the best reason to see Pirate Radio is for the soundtrack, which is skillfully interwoven to reflect the various plot points. And, indeed, the energy and exuberance of the knockout opening sequence with Brits of all stripes dancing to the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” as it blasts from the radio is hard to top. It’s rock ’n’ roll! It’s outta control!

What we have here is, perhaps, one of the best music videos ever made. Set on a pirate radio ship anchored off the coast of England in 1966, at the height of the British Pop phenomenon, when the BBC broadcast only two hours of rock per week, a wild and crazy crew of outlaw DJs and their helpers beam round the clock to a rock-starved nation such soon-to-be classics as “I Can See for Miles” and “My Generation” by The Who, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum, “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks, “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by The Stones, “For Your Love” by The Yardbirds, “Eleanor” by The Turtles, “This Guy’s in Love with You” by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, and a few dozen other songs of equally outstanding pedigree.

The soundtrack is so good you might not even notice the assorted anachronisms and the absurd absence of The Beatles. And—SPOILER ALERT!!!—you may even be willing to forgive an ending so Titanic-like, you’ll probably find yourself looking for Leo, Kate, and the iceberg. —RR