AL GOLDSTEIN, the founder of SCREW Magazine, was a lot of things to different people. Blowhard? Pornographer? Lawbreaker? Intellectual? Fat slob? The dude wore a lot of hats. But two-faced back-stabber? Not many people knew him as such. Thanks to my diligence in a novel area, Al was revealed as just that.
The story begins when Goldstein’s empire began to crumble owing to the development of the Internet and his concurrent unwillingness to downsize and cut back on his over-the-top consumerism. Swimming in accounts receivable, Goldstein added a distributor which essentially left him in the embarrassing position of cheating on his longtime friend (and exclusive distributor) to increase sales and thereby generate more revenue for himself and response for his advertisers. When the longtime friend (who had actually mortgaged his house to bail Al out of jail when he was arrested for harassing an ex-employee) discovered the truth, Goldstein swore he wouldn’t use the other distributor anymore.
Each week when Screw was printed, Tri-star Offset would send several boxes of the new paper to the Screw offices in Manhattan. And when the staff requested additional copies during this period, the printer told his friend the distributor – and both decided to put a little mark on page 72 of all the copies shipped to the office to see if Al was surreptitiously providing papers for the competition. And now here’s where I come into the picture.
At the time, I had a fledgling publication myself titled “Escort Consumer Review,” which was distributed by Al’s guy. And while on my bike picking up ad money for the Voice, Press etc., I would stop into stores to check if a) my paper was on the rack next to Screw as it was supposed to be and b) whether I was selling or not.
Continuing…the two aforementioned distributors were in a war of sorts with exclusives on different competing publications. And I knew all those papers. While visiting a small store on the Upper East Side, I saw copies of SCREW alongside the other distributor’s publications. And so…I called Frankie (my distributor) to ask him how that could be, not fully realizing the implications of my discovery (I didn’t know about the marked papers or Al’s promise to Frankie).
Frankie exploded when he heard the news. And after discovering that he was just a few blocks away from the store where I was, he told me to stay put. He’d be over in five minutes. Sure enough, Frankie showed up in his broken-down truck…walked in…and went straight for page 72 of Screw to (drum roll) find the damning marking that proved Al was surreptitiously supplying copies to the other distributor.
Soon thereafter, I received a call from the editor of Screw (who was a friend), and was told never to return to the offices. I was officially banned. Gee! Wonder why that happened! I’m not sure the ban actually ever took place as Al needed the ad money I brought in. It was as much a token gesture as anything else. Or maybe Al realized it was all on him – and that I hadn’t intended to out him in the first place.
Anyway…moot point now. Neither of our publications are in existence and he’s gone from this world so it would be difficult to verify the story. But it was an odd moment in time becoming an unwitting sleuth for a distributor who suspected his client was cheating on him. And he had Detective Bill to thank for uncovering Goldstein’s indiscretion.