WORLD’s 2013 News of the Year issue that was posted online this morning includes 10 pages of “departures” remembering some who died this past year. I’ve written some longer obituaries at times and have always wanted to say something positive about the deceased. That’s hard to do about one man who died just after we went to press.
The New York Times headline yesterday was, “Al Goldstein Dies at 77; Made Pornography Dirtier.” Goldstein published a magazine titled Screw, and I won’t describe its contents. He was arrested more than a dozen times on obscenity charges, which is an astonishing achievement given Supreme Court rulings. He became wealthy, then went bankrupt in 2003 as electronics beat paper. Times writer Andy Newman called Goldstein “a bundle of insatiable neuroses and appetites (he once weighed around 350 pounds). … He married miserably, sold insurance successfully by day and sought solace in pornographic movie houses and brothels by night.”
All parents embarrass their children at some point, but Goldstein wins the prize: “After his son, Jordan, disinvited him to his graduation from Harvard Law School, Mr. Goldstein published doctored photos showing Jordan having sex with various men and with his own mother, Mr. Goldstein’s third ex-wife, Gena.” Goldstein married five times in all but ended up alone and even more miserable—and that leads to the good thing I can write about him.
Ecclesiastes has its famous lines: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. … All things are full of weariness.” Goldstein served the cause of truth once in his life, when he left a voicemail message in 2007 for Andy Newman, the Times writer who would eventually write Goldstein’s obituary. Newman blogged about it yesterday, and here are some lowlights:
“I’m losing my teeth, and life sucks. … Christine and I broke up. 40 years is too big an age difference. … I’m old news, I’m yesterday’s paper on the bottom of a bird cage. … My son, I haven’t talked to in eight years … he didn’t invite me to graduation at Harvard. Basically life sucks. I won’t kill myself but I would love to die. I would love to die because I feel that if there was a relationship … I ruined it. I went for hedonistic orgasms instead of building up intimacy. I have been the biggest fool in the world.”
Maybe that confession will help others who value the thrill of seconds and minutes, rather than the satisfaction of years and eternity, to realize they don’t want to end up the same way. Asaph in ancient Israel wondered what he was missing and wrote in Psalm 73, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” Then “I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.”