Two Pariah Capitalists
During the 1950s and early 60s, the most
pornographer on the Deuce was Edward Mishkin. He owned outright several
stores (Harmony, Midget, the
Little Book Exchange, Kingsley Book Shop, Esther, and Main Stem), and
was silent partner in
others. His headquarters was Publisher’s Outlet; at least, that
is where, in August 1962, a
sailor from the Queen Mary arrived with a key to a Times Square IRT
station locker. He asked for
Eddie, who wasn't there. He gave the clerk the key and said “Here’s
something for you from the
boys in England.” The locker, Customs agents determined, contained
twelve copies of a British
magazine entitled Thrashed in Many
Sadomasochistic and fetish books, photos and
magazines were a facet of erotica which Times Square democratized.
Before World War II, the
material was available in booksellers’ back rooms, and of course to the
customers of Manhattan’s high hat dealers. The Mishkins, the Browns,
the Shapiros and the Finkelsteins
made it available to the hoi polloi–through the mails, despite the risk
of federal prosecution-- not
just in bookstores. So did Lee Brewster at Lee’s Mardi Gras, a large
second-floor store on 10th
Ave. between 41st and 42nd.
Thus the swelling moral indignation from the clergy at Holy Cross
Church and from Operation Yorkville, an influential East Side
Paperback booklet, 70 pp., sold at Lee’s Mardi Gras Ent., 10th
Ave between 41st and
42nd St, circa 1960
And not just from clergy. The Kefauver subcommittee
investigating the effects of obscenity on juvenile delinquency
subpoenaed Mishkin in 1955, as they
did Irving Klaw,
a publisher whose fetish photos included thousands of
those of the era’s
super model, Bettie Page. Both men’s photo sets and booklet-sized
illustrated stories, with their
themes of flagellation, bondage, transvestitism, and passive men forced
into women’s clothing,
were alleged to “get into the hands of small limited minds, and they .
. . [get] worked up to a
fever pitch, and some poor soul is the victim. Do You get what I am
saying?” The words are those
of those of the judge sentencing Mishkin for smuggling in those copies
of Thrashed in Many
Mishkin, Klaw, and other booksellers to whom they
distributed their materials, not only in New York but throughout the
East Coast, did not get it. In 1957,
Miskin’s Nights of Horror booklets
caused a major outbreak of indignation in Mayor Robert
Wagner’s New York.
Nights of Horror,
issue no. 9: Eternal Bondage, by Ron Winton
Five bookstores were forced to surrender their copies. In 1960,
A. Frank S. Hogan,whose boiling point regarding erotica was just above
prepared a 198-count indictment against Mishkin, calling him “the
largest producer and
purveyor of pornographic material in the U. S.” After that, most of the
retail outlets to which
Mishkin and Klaw distributed may have restricted sales of the materials
to trusted adult customers.
Mishkin was convicted in 1962, but he persisted. Klaw did too, albeit
only for a few more years.
One of the side-stapled, typewritten booklets used (with over 70
others) as evidence in People v.
Mishkin, 1960 (over 70 were cited). This one is about
flagellation and female domination; others featured lesbianism,
bondage, and torture, and clothing fetishes. The prosecuting attorney
argued that such material "deal[s] with the most vicious type of
physical abuse in which human dignity is completely besmirched; all
morality is done away with."
It was probably unconstitutional after the 1957
“Roth test” to deny to the general populace books and pictures which
might stimulate a few sociopaths to
sex crimes. But a Miskin and a Klaw did not get their backs up
because of idealism. They were
pornographers, that is, capitalists, albeit of the pariah variety.
However small a portion of
the general public indulged sadomasochistic fantasies, that subculture
bought the material heavily.
Thus Peggy’s Distress on Planet Venus, Arduous Figure Training
at Bondhaven, Dance with the
Dominant Whip, and Stud Broad.
Mishkin instructed his
hack writers that he wanted “an emphasis
on beatings and fetishism and clothing,” on lesbian scenes, and on “sex
in an abnormal and
irregular fashion.” The Supreme Court upheld the conviction in
1966, but a month later, before serving
his prison sentence, Eddie was back
in business at Square books on 7th Avenue, where police found films on
“female masochism” and
novels such as Perverted Lust Slave.
598 Seventh Ave., circa late 1960s. This was originally
the Liberty Book Shop, later named Forsythe Books.
Photo courtesy Guy Gonzales, New York City.