Progressive sex author Susie Bright had some questions for me:
Q. Paul, what's the story of the first "dirty picture" you ever saw?
A. When I was 11 or 12, my older brother, George, had somehow obtained nude photos of movie stars, like Rita Hayworth and Burt Lancaster.
"What are these for?" I asked.
"To give you a hard-on," he replied.
And so we started selling them for 75 cents each. Our parents never knew. In retrospect, it seems like destiny that I ended up writing a column, "One Hand Jerking," for "AVN [Adult Video News] Online" -- a slick magazine that serves as a trade journal for the vast, lucrative, Internet porn industry -- where the contents of my collection "Porn Soup" [available at paulkrassner.com] originally appeared.
Also in junior high school, my classmates were passing around these little (three inches high by four inches wide) anonymous, underground, eight-page comics, known as "fuck books," consisting of comic-strip characters, famous actors, sports heroes, political figures, traveling salesmen and notorious criminals -- all having sex, accompanied by vulgar speech balloons.
In 1997, Simon & Schuster published Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies, 1930s-1950s. In an introductory essay, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman wrote: "...This sort of psycho-sociological analysis is important, but inevitably sounds like a defensive ploy to inject Socially Redeeming Value into the concupiscent stew. Paul Krassner, editor of The Realist and, briefly, Hustler, aptly insisted that 'appealing to the prurient interest IS a socially redeeming value.'"
Q. You were a child prodigy at the violin...was there any erotic aspect to playing the strings, or learning that discipline, obvious or not so obvious?
A. I began playing the violin when I was three years old, practiced myself right out of my childhood, and didn't really wake up to my own existence until I was six, onstage, playing the "Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor," in the process of becoming the youngest concert artist ever to perform at Carnegie Hall. There was nothing erotic about it.
However, the next year, I saw my first movie, Intermezzo. It was also Ingrid Bergman's first movie. She fell in love with her violin teacher, and I fell in love with the background-music theme, the song "Intermezzo." I couldn't fathom why it just felt so good to hear this specific combination of notes in a certain order with a particular rhythm, but it gave me such pleasure to keep humming that sweet melody over and over to myself. It was like having a secret companion. Now THAT was an erotic experience, not to my genitals but to the depths of my soul. I couldn't wait to tell my violin teacher that I wanted to learn how to play "Intermezzo." But he obviously didn't share my enthusiasm.
"'Intermezzo?'" he sneered. "That's not right for you."
His words reverberated in my heart. "That's not right for you!" How could HE know what was right for ME? This wasn't merely a turndown of my request. It was a universal declaration of war upon the individual.
Q. So many people have a Deep Throat or Linda Lovelace story. I washed her car, for a few bucks, parked up the street, when I was in high school. My first acid trip coincided with seeing her introduce Deep Purple at a monster rock fest on a desert racetrack...What's yours?
A. Deep Throat inspired me to write a little book, Tales of Tongue Fu, a New Age media satire about a man with a 15-inch tongue [which has just been re-published by Ronin Press]. In this fable, Tongue Fu sees the movie and considers Linda Lovelace to be his soulmate because her clitoris is in her throat.
Q. And really...have you ever been in a porn film?
A. No, not that I know of...unless, of course, there was a hidden camera in the room.
Q. What is the best drug, in your experience, to accompany sex? The worst? I asked a group of older folks once, about their favorite combo, and they said: Pot and Espresso.
A. The best enhancer has always been marijuana, combined with LSD, and later on a terrific aphrodisiac called MDA -- which would have been distributed in America by one of Charles Manson's victims -- and, more recently, good old Ecstasy. I was once going to be in a threesome with two ex-girlfriends, but we had all ingested Quaalude and fell asleep. That turned out to be the worst.
Q. Are you jealous, or have you been attracted to jealous lovers? What is your masochism tango on the Monogamy question?
A. As for jealousy, I only experienced it when I felt insecure in a relationship. And I was distracted by jealous lovers who kept needing reassurance. As for "masochism tango," well, that's a loaded question. I'm totally pro-choice about abortion rights, drug use, ice-cream flavors and sexual practices. So, in my life, there have been times when I've enjoyed promiscuity, other times when I've enjoyed celibacy, and currently I'm enjoying monogamy with my wife, Nancy, not because of any wedding vows we took -- obviously, marital vow-taking has never prevented adultery -- but rather because it's my choice.
Q. When you were a kid, who did you think were the "sexiest" stars?
A. Ann Sheridan was an actress who became my first fantasy babe.
Q. How did that change, or not, as you grew up?
A. Later it was Brigitte Bardot. And the latest was Halle Berry.
Q. Women often say, when asked why they were attracted to a man, that "he was funny, he made me laugh." Not so many men would answer that way when asked about a woman's appeal. What do you make of that?
A. Well, virtually every man I know is attracted by a woman's sense of humor. Personally, I find it almost inextricable from physical attraction. Occasionally, in fact, when a woman has made me laugh, I've actually gotten an erection.
Q. Did you ever give your daughter sexual or romantic advice? What was the result?
A. Her mother, Jeanne, took care of all that stuff. A few years after our marriage broke up, when Holly was seven, I moved from New York to San Francisco. We stayed in touch by mail and phone, she would stay with me on her school vacations, and I would come to New York a few times. She came to live with me for a year when she was 11, accompanied me on a shamans and healers trek in Ecuador when she was 15, and lived with me again for a few years when she was 17.
When Holly was 10, on one of my trips to New York, I took her and Jeanne out for dinner.
"Mommy told me all about sex," she confided in the restaurant.
"Oh, really? What did you learn?"
"Oh, she told me about orgasms and blow jobs."
I blushed. They laughed.
One evening, when she was 16, Holly called me.
"Hold on a second," she said, then held her phone to the speaker of her stereo, and I heard Carly Simon singing, "Daddy, I'm no virgin, and I've already waited too long...." Then Holly hung up quickly. I began to laugh and cry simultaneously. I was laughing at the creative way she had chosen to share this news -- my generation had avoided communicating with parents about sex altogether -- and I guess maybe I was crying because I never got any when *I* was 16. The sexual revolution had still been just a horny dream back then. Now I was delighted to see its legacy in action, yet I also felt a certain vestigial resentment. "Why, these young kids today, they just don't appreciate the joy of YEARNING." I had to be careful not to let the memory of my own blue balls turn into sour grapes.
When Holly visited me for the Thanksgiving holidays that year, I teased her, "Did you bring your diaphragm?"
"Oh, Daddy," she responded, "even if I fall in love with someone, it doesn't mean we have to go to bed right away."
She had found her own place on the spectrum between abstinence and promiscuity.