BROOKLYN, December 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pornographer Al Goldstein, a onetime millionaire who pioneered hardcore pornography in print, died today in a Brooklyn hospice at the age of 77.

In 1968, Goldstein launched Screw magazine, widely touted as the first magazine to publish photos of sexual intercourse. Six years later, he began a late night pornographic talk cable program called Midnight Blue, which ran for decades on New York cable.

Both ventures brought him into scrapes with the law and would transform America's cultural landscape for decades to come.

Even his defenders could not excuse the impact his work had on the country. “He clearly coarsened American sensibilities,” said famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, who long defended Goldstein in a litany of obscenity cases. “Goldstein’s contribution is to be utterly tasteless.”

The New York Times wrote that Goldstein “seemed to embody a moment in New York City’s cultural history: the sleaze and decay of Times Square in the 1960s and ‘70s. ”

Born on January 10, 1936, in Brooklyn, Goldstein took a series of jobs before deciding to make his hobby – watching pornography – his livelihood. He and Jim Buckley, an editor of the radical tabloid New York Free Press, started Screw magazine in 1968 for an investment of $175 each. The first issue rolled off the presses in November 1968.

At a time when hardcore pornography was available only in seedy movie theaters and “respectable” pornographers would not depict the sex act itself, Goldstein went further, and lower, than his competitors. He reveled in depicting penetration. 

His magazine published a photo of homosexual sex in 1969. In 1973, he published a nude photo of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

His new vocation frequently landed him in court for violating obscenity laws. He settled one such case for $30,000. He later paid $12,500 to Alabama Governor George Wallace to settle a slander lawsuit.

He claimed at its height, the magazine sold 140,000 copies a month and made him a very wealthy man. His cartoonish image as a 350-pound, foul-mouthed pornographer made him a fixture on local, and sometimes national, media.

But Goldstein seemed to thrive on legal opposition. "I really need the attention of being arrested, because that means I'm still bugging the establishment,” he told Playboy in 1974.

Goldstein also published editorials railing against organized religion and various forms of “censorship,” such as anti-obscenity laws.

"To be angry is to be alive. I'm an angry Jew,” he said in 2001. “Anger is better than love."

He once discussed his motivation for making pornography. “The only reason that Jews are in pornography is that we think that Christ sucks. Catholicism sucks. We Jews don’t believe in authoritarianism,” he said.

When asked if he believed in God, Goldstein replied, “I’m God. F--- God.”

In moments of introspection, he described himself as “infantile, compulsive, always acting out my fantasies. There’s nothing I’ll inhibit myself from doing.”

Although he was nicknamed the Clown Prince of Porn, Al Goldstein never restricted himself from railing in violent, vulgar ways against his perceived enemies – including his only son, Jordan.

Jordan graduated Harvard Law School. But when he asked Al not to attend the ceremony, Goldstein produced an artificially created photo collage showing his son engaging in homosexuality and incest.

The anger drove him further into isolation and loneliness. Goldstein was divorced four times. He married his present wife, Christine, who is 40 years his junior, more than a decade ago. She was a “psych student” who suffered from Crohn's disease. Goldstein joked “that when she’s dead, I’ll date her three sisters.” The couple had reportedly been estranged for years at the time of his death.

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In 2002, he was convicted of harassing a former secretary, though the conviction was later overturned. He later plead guilty to harassing an ex-wife and was later arrested for stealing books from a bookstore.

Having changed the world of pornography, Goldstein watched as the industry adopted his newer, lower standards – and put him on the street. He went bankrupt in 2003, sold his $1.7 million mansion in Florida in 2004, and moved into a Florida homeless shelter. He later lived in his car, on in-laws' floor in Queens, and on various friends' couches.

He briefly had a gig as a greeter at New York City's Second Avenue Deli, owned by friend Jack Lebewohl. Despite the temptation of food, Goldstein lost 150 lbs. by having his stomach stapled.

Longtime employee and friend Josh Alan Friedman remembers that as a rare exception in Goldstein's lifelong self-destruction. “He self-destructed in the grandest fashion of any celebrity in history,” he said. “And he did it to himself.”

But he said Goldstein influenced others, calling Hustler publisher Larry Flynt “a second-rate imitator” of Goldstein's.

The pornographer believed his long career would bring him renown and acclaim. In 1997, he told Rod Dreher, then a Florida newspaper reporter, “I think when I die, there will be books imagining me as sort of a Lenny Bruce figure. I think I will develop heroic proportions.”

As he broke, his self-image broke, too. In 2004, he told the New York Times, “Anyone who wishes ill on me should feel vindicated, because my life has turned into a total horror.”

In an online reflection today, Dreher concluded, “A ruined life — that’s what Al Goldstein did with the years he was given. RIP.”