“Stray Cat Strut” synchronistically shuffled itself onto my iPod as I emerged from the subway station and sauntered over to the Tainted Lady Lounge in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn—a trashy yet classy pin-up-themed bar, decorated with a plethora of paintings and old photos of bare-breasted beauties from before you were born. The DJ (Lynn K) was spinning a killer combo of ’50s sleaze, ’60s punk and old-school R&B—all on seven-inch vinyl 45s—creating the perfect aural environment to celebrate the relaunch of a publication that gives new meaning to the term “rag”—Screw magazine.
For the better part of four decades, Screw has been a bastion of bad taste and free speech, surviving a federal obscenity trial and pornography commission investigation while unapologetically exploring every taboo and presenting hard-core hand candy in all its black-and-white newsprint glory. The self-proclaimed “World’s greatest newspaper” was founded in 1968 by pervert extraordinaire and lifelong pot connoisseur Al Goldstein, whose outrageous exploits and self-destructive habits have most recently resulted in a conviction for aggravated harassment and the loss of his $11 million fortune, including a mansion in Florida that boasted a giant statue of a raised middle finger out back. But before Screw could shoot its last wad, a group of the mag’s vendors, printers and contributors stepped in and bought the title from Goldstein (who now works as a greeter at the Second Avenue Deli), promptly overhauling its look and feel, and choosing a worthy successor by appointing former freelancer Charlie Mordecai (an old bar buddy of mine) as the new editor in chief.
I arrived at the party relatively early. Charlie was entertaining a bunch of suits over at his table, so I stationed myself at the bar—eating cheese balls, pounding Pabst Blue Ribbons and skimming through a copy of Screw’s big revamp issue, including the Sexicon Maximus, an alphabetical encyclopedia of sex acts and terminology; the Shitlist (illustrated by former HIGH TIMES cartoonist Fuzzy Knight); several hilariously off-color ad parodies; and, finally, the main feature—a piece about burningangels.com, an erotic Web site featuring galleries of pierced, punky bad girls with names like Vendetta, Serendipity, Vixen and Nebraska, wearing nothing but their tattoos and engaged in self- (or mutual) stimulation.