Jews can be many things, but one of my greatest sources of pride is the fact that we are very brash, offensive, crass, raw, and uncensored when speaking on any subject. We hear and see the many frank conversations of the neurotic Jew through the great books written by Phillip Roth or the great films made by Woody Allen. Jews have been in the forefront for many decades when it came to pushing the comedic envelope. It should also be mentioned that other forms of business and entertainment got the same Jewish treatment. These comedians, who pushed their audiences not only to laugh but also to think, influenced many in the following generations in the many forms of popular culture. One of my favorite old school provocative and funny comedians was the late great Lenny Bruce. Bruce’s mythology is steeped in comedy using offensive language while pushing his right to the use of free speech. He fought for the dialogue needed when he did his routines, by using politics and other satire in order to shore up his audience. He was revolutionary in many ways due to his broad subject matter used in his routines. He spoke openly about music, sex, religion, law, race, drugs, the KKK and his own spin on Jewishness and Judaism. He even joked on the Steve Allen Show on the fact that Elizabeth Taylor should be Bat Mitzvahd now that she was married to Eddie Fisher. One example of his early brashness was shown in full bloom in an early performance. After a mild conservative routine in the catskills he closed with a few parting words. He said “thank you ladies and gentlemen, and now I’m gonna piss on you.” Gasps, stares and silence loomed over the club as the old ladies shook and the old men shook with laughter and sheer surprise. The crass in your face and fuck you if you don’t like it has been in the Jewish DNA for centuries.
Sex in Judaism is spoken of in many ways. There are two tractates, as well as assorted parts in other Jewish literature, that speak of sexual relations and gratification. Unfortunately the more religious have adorned themselves with a culture of not speaking of sex. Therefore, the bedroom can be rather awkward after the wedding ceremony, or it could be a learning experience. On the secular side sex has been used in jokes and other anecdotes given by the many Jewish comedians. However, there was one Jewish fella who was quite the sexual character, and he just passed away before we brought in the new goyish year. Al Goldstein was the living embodiment of that old Jewish pervert who pushed the crassness of sex into people’s faces. Al was the antithesis of Hugh Hefner and the Playboy credo and language of a refined WASPish taste. Goldstein published Screw magazine, which was far more in your face when it came to the words and the images. The soothing and calming language for sex and genitalia were replaced for the honest and sincere way people referred to a good fuck and the words dick and pussy, respectively. This brash way shows how uncomfortable some of the straights were when gazing into the magazine and any other projects he endorsed. He was living in New York City in the middle of the 1970’s where sex clubs were the rage. Clubs like studio 54 or the more frisky Plato’s Retreat (also owned by another perverted Jew) were in the vogue, and he was in the middle of it all.
To connect this with my previous posts I have to admit that this is another connection of Jewish entertainment and pathology. Jews have been in show business since the mass immigrations from Russia and Eastern Europe. These entertainers came from very dark and dingy existences in Europe. They were treated as second class citizens, pariahs in the midst of the fearful and frightening goyim. In the face of all this turmoil and pending doom Jews maintained their sense of humor. Not only that, but like certain traditional African American jokes in the forms of playing the dozens, boasting or toasting, Jews used tragedy as humor. They took the bile and exposed guts, swirled it around in a large pot of ideas and presented a far more crass and honest product. Humor, along with music and other cultural representations are close. African Americans have used, and still use, humor in order to alleviate the terrible oppression and living situations they faced, and still face. This connection is ever present and in the realm of Hip Hop music and culture it is the exact same song.
One last note on Al Goldstein and Jewish humor. Goldstein has appeared in various documentaries of recent recalling his role in the sex world and the culture in the 1970’s. He recounts the times he had trolling the sex clubs of NYC while enjoying the heydays of hedonism in the heart of Manhattan. One of my personal favorites is the documentary about New York City in the monumental year that was 1977. The film, titled NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell, recounted the many ups and downs for New York City in that fateful year. The film covers many facets of the year including the crazy mayoral election, the Son of Sam killings, the blackout in the summer days, as well as the rise of the Punk and Hip Hop cultures. One part covered the seediness of what we know now as the kiddy version of Times Square. In the present Times Square is a huge corporate tourist trap where no real New Yorker will tread. However, in the 1970’s that area of the ground zero for sleaze with the many sex clubs and street walkers all over the place. Sex clubs were the rage as the 1960’s gave way to the concept of free love. By the 1970’s the self-indulgent hedonism reached its apex. The 1970’s culture of narcissism allowed people to swing, which created a need for places where couples can get together and sleep around freely. These were the days before AIDS so the clubs were full of care free swingers ready to get down. One of them I mentioned earlier was Plato’s Retreat, which was a big lavish spot with many rooms for many forms and acts of pleasure. Al Goldstein said that it was crazy how limbs of flesh were flailing all over the place, and of cousre the stink and stench of sweat and other odorous liquids waved through the air. Lovely! The best part though was that when Goldstein was asked what his favorite part of the place was he said “The salad bar.” Always trust the Jew to throw a nice twist to one of his favorite pastimes. Rest in peace you scummy man and thanks for the pushing.