An engrossing panorama of porn’s heady past.




A celebrated porn director looks back on the bawdy soul of his genre’s golden age in this frank, psychologically probing debut memoir.

Brown, who left behind this manuscript upon his death in 2012, recounts his 1967 epiphany when, as a film hobbyist roaming New York City, he discovered legions of men, and some women, eager to pose suggestively for his 16-millimeter camera. Some allowed him to film them having sex, and what began as a fun outlet for his own fantasies burgeoned into a business with the rise of the hardcore pornography industry in the early 1970s—a time when porn films ran in theaters, had press screenings, and got notices in mainstream publications, such as Variety, Interview, and Esquire. (Appendices cover the author’s filmography and glowing reviews.) Brown, a gay man who made both gay and straight porn, portrays his films as exercises in sexual humanism with upbeat stories and an emphasis on his actors’ pleasure. Central to his productions was an extensive casting process featuring interviews with performers about what kinds of sexual practices and partners they liked, so he could couple compatible actors in genuinely erotic scenes. There is much explicit, though not sensationalistic, play-by-play, but the focus is on emotions and personalities: most of the book consists of vivid, well-observed profiles of porn actors in which Brown tries to suss out what makes them tick (and who makes them climax) by playing both therapist and matchmaker. “I wanted to use him but was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find his perfect cowboy ideal for him,” he writes of one Marlboro Man–obsessed prospect. The result is a parade of quirky character studies, including cross-dressers, BDSM enthusiasts, brazen showoffs—one actress rented a print of a film in which she appeared, for a gathering of her friends—and introverts who blossom for the camera. The common thread, Brown contends, is their drive to self-actualize by becoming the stars of their own life stories. The author’s liberationist take on ’70s porn sometimes feels a tad idealistic, but his warm empathy and unblinking eye for psychosexual foibles keep it grounded.

An engrossing panorama of porn’s heady past.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-937627-31-7

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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