Monday, November 3, 2008

Interview with Bruce David

(Originally published in my rag HUMP somewhere in the 90s)

Guys, how many times have you been looking at magazines at Tower when you hear the uneven breath of a pasty faced pudge ball next to you? You look up and see that a fifty year old yupster is gawking at the newest issue of Big Booty as he unhurriedly looks for his car keys in his pocket. “You freaking pervert,” you think to yourself. You remind yourself “I am above that cretin. I do not feel the need for pornography. I do not need to look at naked pictures of women showing me their vulvas.” Suurrrrreee!!!

This month I achieved one of my life goals. I got my picture in a porno mag. Yup, in the November issue of Rage, a Larry Flynt publication, you can find my ugly mug on the contributors page. Perhaps it’s the DNA kiss of death, or perhaps it’s other factors, but the day the new Rage cam out, I got word from editor Bruce David that Rage had ceased publictation.

David sees it this way; “Larry Flynt had us do up promotional material which suggested the magazine was going to be soft. When the first issue hit the stands with a girl jamming a gun in her twat, retailers and distributors freaked. Many sent the book back unopened. 75% of all future issues were polly bagged, which meant you couldn't see our covers or coverlines. Nor could you peek inside. But then we could no longer get on most newsstands anyway and the ones we did get on placed us with titles like Cheap Sluts and Hot Hotties, so we missed our demographic.

Regarding ads: we had no ad force. The only reason we got any "straight" advertising is because a girl in the production department took it on her own to call the skateboard companies and such. It was hard selling them, though, when no one could find the mag on the newsstands. Compounding that, most legitimate advertisers won't advertise in a mag with dicks in it. That's what happened as I see it. Others might see it differently.”

In any case, being printed in Rage was definitely a highlight for me. The magazine was the toast of the underground as it combined interviews with White Zombie, Social Distortion, Korn, Tool and Motley Crue with interviews with Cyber genuises. Rage also included strong anti-corporate pieces and a strong tendency for humor. But what would you expect from a guy who ran Andy Warhols Interview magazine, Larry Flynts Hustler and wrote ALF’s famous lines.

Spread ‘em and HUMP as we look inside Bruce David’s mind……………………



David- You sent me some girl copy and it was about monkeys and I got confused. What was that about?

HUMP- It was from a book that was published in 1951 called Monkeys as Pets.

David- Was it a book that seriously dealt with the issues of monkeys as pets?

HUMP- Yeah it was a complete monkey manuel, their habits, training and care. I just thought it was funny.

David- Did you change the text at all?

HUMP- I changed the sex of the monkey from him to her.

David- I’m concerned about copyright, but people who wrote a book about monkeys forty years ago could all be presumably dead. So what’s with this new publication of yours.

HUMP- Well the conservative periodocals are on the rise in Chico and I’m getting pretty sick hearing about the great legacy of Ronald Reagan.

David- Oh it’s terrible, it’s all a nightmare. I keep asking myself how we got here. The situation is so absolutely perverse that I walk around saying “this is all wrong.” I’m a little older so I’ve witnessed the progression of at least my time-span. You know we al grew up just accepting this stuff and the younger generation gets stuck believing even more of it. Things seem like they always been the way they are, so it’s hard to even question it.

HUMP- I figure the least I can do is give a differing voice.

David- Well I don’t know if you get The Nation, but it’s a great source of information. But the latest is that the Chrysler Corporation has sent out notices to all the magazines and newspapers that they advertise with. They request they get to see any advance articles that mention the Chrysler company, either negatively or positively. If the magazines don’t give them an advance look, so they can obviously censor it, they will pull their advertising. And, they may no apologies about it. Although the news didn’t cover it, when questioned about it Chrysler said “hey we’re just doing out front what everyone else is doing under the table.”

HUMP- Even smaller publications have to bow to their advertisers. My goal with HUMP is to have an agreement with my advertisers that we reserve the right to say whatever we please. So.. did you have a hand in the Larry Flynt movie? Were you a consultant?

David- Actually my participation was to have my lawyers send Oliver Stone a cease and desist letter, threatening litigation if I was portrayed in any manner whatsoever. So the character would have been me was Arlo. You’ll notice there was no mention as to what his Job category was, or his history. In the original draft he was clearly named the editor and was given some bogus history that had nothing to do with my life. That just bothered me right from the start. That was even before they added the twitchy eye.

HUMP- Did you go to see the final product?

David- Of course. I was at the West Coast premier. It was totally accurate. Everything that happened in the movie according to my own personal knowledge actually happened. My quibbles with the movie were more deeply personal, like the fact that I didn’t have a twitchy eye. I saw myself in a much more glorius role in the day to day success of Hustler Magazine. I brought a lot of talented writers into the pages of Hustler. But quibbles is all they are. The movie was about Larry’s life not mine. If I ever get the opportunity to make a movie, then I’ll be the hero.

HUMP- When they showed the Larry Flynt building, is that the real building.

David- Yeah, it’s where I’m sitting right now. It’s like a massive boat on Wilshire Boulevard. It’s literally shaped like a boat. Of course it’s not the building that Larry and I first worked in when we moved Hustler to Los Angeles. At that time we were in the twin towers. To toot my own horn a little bit, I was working in New York as a journalist and the founding art director of Interview magazine, Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. I was writing for publications like Screw and Penthouse and I was producing a TV show that still runs on cable called Midnight Blue. Larry appeared on the TV show, but before that I had written a review of Hustler in the pages of Screw in which I said that “Hustler has just edged out Refrigerator Monthly as the most boring magazine in America.” Larry read the review and agreed with me and offered me the managing editor position. The masthead was Larry, Althea and then me.

HUMP- Have you ever had any qualms about getting into the industry that you’re in?

David- Well you know that I always saw myself working at the New York Times, but the New York Times didn’t share my vision. I came up through the underground press, which means I had one foot in pornography to start with. First of all it was never an issue with me, secondly I was excited by the idea. When my sister and I had just graduated from college, she asked me what I would like to do with my life, and basically because I’m a shallow person, I said “ultimately I’d like to be the editor at Playboy magazine. But when Hustler came along, I saw that it had a lot of potential and when he offered me the job, I jumped at it. I could see that Larry was pushing the envelope but that he needed someone like me who knew how to write and knew how to get writers. It still annoys me to this day that people still make such an issue out of sex.

HUMP Did you ever wish that you went mainstream when Larry would end up in jail and before the Supreme Court?

David- Well it was very exciting. When I got out of college, I was young and na├»ve and I’m sure I entertained some vain glorious ideas about the Times. It didn’t take long to realize what a conservative environment that would be and that I wouldn’t fit into an environment like that. It would give me no comfort level because that’s not the kind of person that I am.

HUMP- With Rage, are you shooting for a new demographic?

David- Well even more than that we are trying to redefine what men’s publishing is all about. We tried to get rid of all the predictability of Playboy and Penthouse. Those magazines are so staid in their layout and their text. Mike Salisbury who is the designer of Rage, is the guy who created Joe Camel and the logo for Jurassic Park and about a 100 american icons that you would recognize immediately. When we sat down to talk about Rage, we wanted to change everything from the way it’s photographed, to the way it’s designed, to the way it’s written, to the type of things that are addressed in the pages of the magazine.

HUMP- What made you revert to the Adult advertising in the back?

David- Well, we’ve been under pressure from the beginning to take the ads for the 900 numbers. Larry Flynt was great about not forcing the issue. But there comes a time when you’re still in the red where you have to make the decision about breaking even on all the money that was put into the magazine.

HUMP- Rage features the leading technicians and cyber-gurus who will be affecting the future of our county and culture, do you have a Rage Web site?

David- That’s really embarrassing, next question please.

HUMP- Rage is very anti-capitalism.

David- Yes. We are very anti-corporate. Capitalism didn’t just kill Communism it has killed Democracy in the process. Just the fact that Westinghouse and General Electric own NBC and CBS is frightening. I mean along with all the other nefarious things that they are up too, their shooting plutonium into space. If there’s a mishap on the launch pad, we can all wave goodbye to Florida. Of course, if it blows up in the atmosphere, that’s the end of 5 billion people. It’s obvious NBC and CBS are not going to deal with this issue on their newscasts, they have no motivation to get people inflamed with the sheer madness of it. In essence the American people are being lied to.

HUMP- You got involved with Hustler in 1975. Did it seem that the lines were more easily defined between the counter-culture and society at large then they are today?

David- I don’t think that the lines are mixed today at all, it’s all so clear. To simplify things, to distill it down to its most basic form: corporations are evil. Multi-national corporations have seized control of our government. They have bought and paid for all our politicians and they have destroyed the two-party system. No matter if it’s a Republican or a Democrat that gets into office their the same beast with two heads. No matter whose in the White House, the same people pay him for. Even if he did try to get the truth out, what news station would allow it? They might let him make his statements, but he would be so ridiculed by the press, which is owned solely by the multi-nationals, that the American public would lose all respect for him. The pro-corporate press very easily manipulates Americans. I can’t believe when Rush Limbaugh says the press is left-leaning when it’s so obviously right-leaning.

HUMP- Isn’t the Larry Flynt empire a corporation?

David- Under the FCC laws conglomerates or multi-nationals can own as many radio and television networks that they want. The problem is that the same people who own the sources for news and information are the same people who own nuclear power plants. So when there has been up to a 50% sperm reduction count over the last thirty years, you might hear a 10 second byte on it. And as my father says “it’s quieted to death.” I think that the purpose of the entertainment industry today is o keep the American public calm and distracted from what is really happening. Listen to what it says her in The Nation:

“ Even before PatCo stilled the hand of union busters, Business Week whined it’s newest mission, quote “ It will be a hard pill for many Americans to swallow, the idea of doing with less, so that big business can have more. Nothing that this nation or any nation in recent history compares in difficulty with the selling job that must be accomplished to get the American people to accept the new reality.””

That was written twenty years ago. The thrust was already in motion.

HUMP- When Larry Flynt takes over like Blunt or Big Brother, skateboard magazines, how does the editorial content change?

David- Well I’m not involved with those publications, so I’m not there when Larry talks to the publishers. My guess would be that there is no agenda, I’m sure Larry leaves them to do whatever they want
No other publisher in this country would have let me do what I have done with Rage magazine. I have taken a political position that is anti-press and anti-corporation and have not had to worry about advertisers and kissing their butt. Granted, because we are a men’s publication, many advertisers do want to advertise with us anyway. But it all comes together to allow me the ultimate goal in publishing. I am not answerable to anyone except Larry Flynt and Larry doesn’t care what I put in the pages of the magazine. The girl part of it is his focus and he’s very concerned about the photo features.

HUMP- Is there censorship in what can happen in the girl copy?

David- Well of course I can’t say that they are a minor becaue they must be over 18 years of age and I can’t say that they have been screwing their pet dog because bestiality is illegal, but you would think I would have the right to report on that. So even though, by the letter of the law it is legal for me to write something like that, you end up with distributors and retailers freaking out and perhaps even getting busted by conservative prosecutors in back water counties in Georgia.

HUMP- So when Larry was involved in all the court hearings were you running Hustler?

David- Yes that’s true. And during part of that time I was running Hustler from the courthouse. At the Cincinnati trial for instance, I think Althea was one of the people originally charged and although she was second in command, I was running the magazine for them. It was always from the first day I got there Larry, Althea and me. Althea was always actively involved with the magazine. I could always count on her to represent the best interest of the magazine.

HUMP- Were you in Georgia when Larry got shot?

David- Actually I was going to go to Georgia where he was shot, but Larry said “don’t worry about it, nothings going to happen there.”

HUMP- In the movie it appeared that after Althea contracted AIDS, that respect for her dropped from the other staff members.

David- I left Hustler right before any of that happened. I began to write for television shows like Family Ties and ALF.

HUMP- How was it going from issue driven content to fluff?

David- I hated it. I don’t think that I fit anywhere but in the world of porn. It’s the only place where I find people that are not uptight, not inhibited and who are free and easy with their speech and don’t mind a good debate. I still to this date have dinners with Al Goldstein. This guy is a great iconoclast. You can sit at the table and discuss anything and take any position pro or con and it won’t poison you’re relationship with him. He’s guided by free thought. In the entertainment business there is huge amounts of money and everybody is afraid that the next guy coming up will get his job.

HUMP- At what point did you realize that ALF wasn’t cutting it.

David- I think I was becoming more and more concerned with what was going on in the world. I would watch TV news and I wouldn’t see my reality on it. I was becoming very aware that something was wrong and increasingly frustrated that I didn’t have a platform to express my views. I noticed that all the jokes that I would put in the show that were based on social commentary would inevitably get cut out. So I went to Larry, knowing his dedication to the first amendment and free speech with a proposal and Rage is what came out of it.

HUMP-- Wasn’t Rage out years ago as a test issue.

David- Althea Flynt at one time started a rock magazine called Rage. I’m not sure if it really ever came out, but it was Altheas intention. But LFP still had the name. We tried many names, but Rage kept coming up. We almost went with Bravo though, but there was a copyright problem with it.

HUMP- Bravo seems more like a theater review magazine. Do you feel like there is a certain age where kids shouldn’t be exposed to nudie magazines. When I was 12,I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Playboy.

David- Well I don’t think there is anything wrong with sex, nor showing pictures of naked women and naked men having sex. On the other hand I have twin boys who are six years old. And while I am very relaxed on the subject, I don’t leave the magazine laying around where they can find it. I think if they did find an issue they would be mildly curious and then they would quickly forget about it. Sex is a non-issue for them. But I’m not a psychiatrist, so I don’t know what the long range effects of that might be. Besides it’s a social taboo. I don’t want my ids running around on the streets saying that they saw daddy’s naked pictures. It’s a practical decision. But by the time your twelve or thirteen, if you’re healthy, you’ll want to get your hands on a men’s magazine. It’s normal and I can’t believe that society would frown and make such a big deal about it.

HUMP- Do you still get harassed by the Christian coalition?

David- Well Jerry Falwell still does his same old number. But even more so, the feminists always through Hustlers name into the mix. For the A&E biography on Larry Flynt, Larry asked me to participate for a couple of minutes and I reluctantly agreed. Of course the set-up to my talk was Gloria Steinem saying how disgusting and revolting the piece of meat cover was and then they cut to me saying “oh yeah, that was my idea.” I think that pornography or x-rated material is a non-issue, that war, that battle was decided by Larry Flynt back in the seventies and eighties. The religious right and the feminists can piss and moan all they want, but their not going to change anything. By and large the American people don’t care. The news is happy to print controversy about Larry Flynt, it keeps the public distracted from the real problem that the corporations control the American government.

HUMP- I would imagine that working for Hustler you probably saw just about everything under the sun. How was it when Larry hooked up with Ruth Carter?

David- That was disturbing. But by that time I had learned that not only is Larry unpredictable, he was also capable of making connections and links to people in areas that you would never expect, and that is part of his genius. To him the normal demarcations don’t apply. He was constantly establishing connections and seeing similarities in things that you would think had nothing in common. But still, his thing with Ruth Stapleton Carter was just too much. It was a problem for me terms of how I saw reality, but it wasn’t a problem for me in terms of how I saw Larry. I always knew it was his magazine and that he could do anything he wanted with it. I never questioned that or resented his choice of directions. Although the Christian slant in Hustler I did think was ludicrous and embarrassing, I had my name removed form the books shortly after that. And then I left the magazine entirely somewhere around 1981-82.

HUMP- One last question Bruce. If not Crispen Glover, who would have picked to portray you in the movie.

David- Brad Pitt.

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