Monday, August 1, 2011

End of an Error: The Farewell Column for SCREW

It’s been 25 years since I wrote my farewell column for Screw’s “Naked City” listings. This back section of the paper contained some 200 capsule reviews of New York City’s peep shows, porn theaters and sex establishments (virtually all defunct now). Each week opened with a report from the streets, interview from a burlesque dressing room, or editorial.

Reprinted from
Screw, June 23, 1986


This week marks the 225th Naked City column I’ve written under my own byline. It is also the last.

When I first inherited this wild beast of a job, in Issue #678, March 1, 1982, I was then Senior Editor of Screw. I’d been editing “Tony Esperanto’s” Naked City as part of my weekly function. Esperanto was the pen name of another Screw editor who’d done Naked City for five years. I never wanted to take over these listings, but it seemed inevitable. Custom had it, since the inception of Screw, that whoever handled Naked City would use an Italian pseudonym. That way, some mobster couldn’t threaten whoever gave his massage parlor a bad review, or might figure it was written by some Guido you don’t fuck with. For years, Naked City carried the byline “Rocco.”

I was never one to believe in pseudonyms, and thus remember a few sleepless nights after I took over this column. Several dives objected to their lowered ratings, and protested through odd and varied means of communication. One obvious tactic a proprietor might take upon a lowered cock rating in Screw was to mail me an onslaught of letters. Every letter purported to be a regular reader of Screw who was outraged that his favorite club had been lowered in the ratings. Each of the 30 letters would have the same town post office mark, or be written in identical style, thereby exposing the owner’s obvious ploy. Fake letters became quite easy to differentiate from authentic ones.

This column has taught me how to write like no other training ground—simply because I had to make a deadline every week, for four-and-a-half years. It was often an edgy, nervous type of writing, because you were reviewing the kind of joints that maybe the owners didn’t want anyone nosing around or drawing attention to. The stripper profiles were most fun, particularly Hyapatia Lee, Candy Samples, Kelly Everts, even last week’s backstage romp with Sue Nero. My “Sex in Brooklyn” series and “Sex in Queens” series, as well as anything to do with the Harmony/Melody Burlesk, stand out as peculiarities that only Al Goldstein’s World’s Greatest Newspaper would cover. “The Consumer’s Guide to Erotic Entertainment,” a lame subtitle I inherited under the Naked City logo, was the world’s first Ralph Nader-type watchdog listing for the consumer pecker. These establishments exist, so why the hell not have a protective customer guide for them?

If I saw a horse vomit in Times Square, spent Thanksgiving at McDonald’s, Christmas in the drunk tank, or imagined I saw the lights go on at the All-Live, Whirly-Girly Revue on 46th St., first time since ’62—I could write about it, then see my nightmare produced in smeary newsprint the next week in this column, off my chest and onto yours. Even if only two people might read it. But if any of my loyal readership feels a tinge of regret over my departure, let me refer you to my new book, out in a week: Tales of Times Square, published in hardcover by Delacorte Press. It contains the meat of every secret I’ve learned from Naked City, and my 10-year association with Screw. It is like this very column, although “respectably” packaged so that thousands (hopefully millions) can read about Times Square throughout the world.

As for the work I’ve done herein, protecting you, the unlaid, masturbating Screw reader—laying my cock on the line so that yours may be safe—I’ll give myself a 3 1/2 rating. The sex biz is really on the skids. But I drink a toast to all the joints and dives listed here, ’cause they’re more humane than what’s gonna replace ’em.

Farewell, suckers.

artwork by Drew Friedman. Visit his blog.
text and photos © 1986, 2011 Josh Alan Friedman


  1. Beautiful but sad...
    Was there ever a hardcover copy of TALES...?

  2. Hi Jason, this is Wyatt. There were two English-language hardcover editions of TALES that I'm aware of. The first printing Delacorte HC from 1986 is visible in the paw of Melody Burlesk's Al Kronish in this pic from Josh's "Lost New York" series:

    I believe there was also a hardcover of the initial Feral House edition back in 1993; that's the one that borrows the "Wrong Side of Town" header graphic from Josh's SCREW column for its cover.