This hilarious insider look at fringes of journalism and magazine publishing is written with a gleeful burning-his-bridges-behind-him vibe. Edison is a child of the '70s who came across High Timesmagazine and immediately recognized that it "was a miracle of lifestyle journalism." A daily high school pothead, he delivers an amazingly detailed remembrance of life in New York City after his surprising acceptance into New York University and then, after dropping out, Columbia University, which leads to jobs working first for the World Wrestling Federation, then writing porn novels, before moving on to men's magazines like Cheri. He shamelessly admits that "putting out inconsequential slap rags was a lot of fun." After a dalliance with the Raunch Hands punk group, Edison is back writing for Hustlerand Penthouse, until he finally gets an editing job at High Times. This stint-the bulk of the book-provides a riotous look at that magazine's stoned style, where the staff couldn't arrive on time to planned meetings unless Edison could "fold the fabric of the universe onto itself and led the staff through some sort of cosmic wormhole." (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the Worldby Mike Edison
I Have Fun Everywhere I Go is a rollicking, high-octane, always irreverent journey through the seamy side of the publishing industry. Mike Edison's résumé spans twenty years and a slew of notorious titles, including Screw, High Times, Penthouse, and Hustler. An Ivy League dropout who's never looked back, Edison embarked/i>/i>/i>/i>/i>
I Have Fun Everywhere I Go is a rollicking, high-octane, always irreverent journey through the seamy side of the publishing industry. Mike Edison's résumé spans twenty years and a slew of notorious titles, including Screw, High Times, Penthouse, and Hustler. An Ivy League dropout who's never looked back, Edison embarked on a career that's landed him in the producer's chair for one of the worst B movies of all time; on tour with the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, GG Allin, and the Ramones; undercover at a religious cult; on a bender with Evel Knievel; feuding with Hulk Hogan; smoking dope with Ozzy Osborne; and authoring some twenty novels you wouldn't want your mother to catch you reading—let alone writing. As the publisher of High Times, he battled almost daily with a rainbow brigade of unrepentant hippies plagued with short-term memory loss, and owners who treated their employees more like the tenants of a halfway house for potheads than a team of professional editors and writers, all while leading the magazine to record heights in sales and advertising.
I Have Fun Everywhere I Go combines the fear and loathing of Hunter Thompson's journalistic thrill rides with the acerbic insider voice of Toby Young. It's an eye-opening, gleeful view of life on the edge—and the outlaws and oddballs encountered there.
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I Have Fun Everywhere I Go
Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World
By Mike Edison
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2008 Mike Edison
All rights reserved.
IF YOU WERE THAT GOOD, DON'T YOU THINK YOU WOULD HAVE MADE IT BY NOW?
I earned my first Big-Time Magazine Gig thrashing king hell out of my boss in the middle of the ring. It was not pretty, a bloody no-holds-barred Loser Leaves Town match in Gleason's gym. The bell rang at midnight. I squashed the bastard with my signature Heart Punch, smiled for the cameras, and sent him packing. Then I took my rightful place atop the masthead of Wrestling's Main Event ("The #1 Magazine for Mat Fans Today!") and moved into his vacant office on the eighty -second floor of the Empire State Building. I was twenty-two years old.
Wrestling is an odd beast. Even Roller Derby fans and Republicans look down on it. When I announced to my father that I was going to be working for a wrestling magazine, it so chafed his Ivy League sensibility that he seized up and began frothing like a man in the throes of a major neurological event. He made it clear that for the sake of everyone involved, we were never to discuss it again. Oddly, he always considered my career in professional wrestling a much greater shanda than my gutter-born livelihood as a filth-peddling pornographer. It cast a darker shadow than when I was the publisher of the notorious doper rag High Times. It made him sick to the point of trauma, and still, twenty years later, if I mention that I have been writing, watching, or working wrestling, he pretends he doesn't hear me and asks how the Yankees are doing, even in the dead of winter.
The existential Truth about professional wrestling, it has been said, is much like Dostoyevsky's aphorism for Faith: If you get it, no explanation is necessary, and if you don't, no explanation will do.
I was always astonished at how many otherwise hip people, especially my extended posse of punk rockers, potheads, and pornographers — people who loved all sorts of crap, culture vultures who worshipped whoopee cushions and women-in-chains prison movies — perpetually pooh-poohed professional wrestling.
What, were they afraid they'd get hooked? That wrestling was a gateway to harder sports? Feh.
But those of us in on the joke were having a blast.
It was 1985, the height of the first Hulk Hogan era, the epoch of the nascent WrestleMania. It was a good time to be in the business. Diane Keaton was seen at matches. MTV was saturated with the stuff. You couldn't give a God-fearing jobber a swinging neckbreaker without hitting a poster for Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, who, along with Cyndi Lauper, were going to take on "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and his axis of evil in the WrestleMania main event at Madison Square Garden. Muhammad Ali was the guest referee. Liberace would be the timekeeper, using a diamond-crusted piano-shaped watch given to him by Elvis Presley. He made his entrance with a chorus line of Rockettes. How could anybody resist this stuff? Even Andy Warhol showed up to watch. Vince McMahon, a visionary on par with Columbus, had turned his World Wrestling Federation, much to the chagrin of elitists and squares who never got it, into a media giant.
I prided myself on being the first "heel" editor. "Heel" is wrestling argot for bad guy. We call the good guys "babyfaces." (A "jobber" is one of the bums whose only job is to get his ass kicked.) I modeled myself after the great rulebreakers, outlaws who would pull a pair of brass knuckles, a roll of quarters, or a sharpened wooden tongue depressor out of their trunks to carve up and KO the good guy when the ref wasn't looking. It's tough stuff — wrestling teaches that sportsman-ship is overrated. It is the only sport where you can kick a man when he's down.
I stole riffs from Stan Hansen — who became the most hated man in the game after he broke insufferable fan favorite Bruno Sammartino's neck in front of fifty thousand people at Shea Stadium — and from the Magnificent Muraco, who once beat the living shit out of a hapless opponent while eating a meatball submarine sandwich. I continually paid homage to the original Sheik from Detroit, the most dangerous man who ever entered the ring. The Sheik could metabolize a fireball — he could throw fire — and would use this gift to blind opponents. Add some old-school newspaper shtick lifted wholesale from the Front Page films, along with Perry "Don't Call Me Chief!" White, editor of The Daily Planet in the old Superman TV show, and you start to get the idea of how we rolled at Main Event. Wrestlers had gimmicks, why shouldn't editors and writers?
I hated Hulk Hogan. He was overtanned, officious, and omnipresent, wrapping himself in red, white, and blue and proselytizing to his army of teenybopper fans to stay in school and stay away from drugs. Frankly, he just wasn't my kind of people. I declared a personal jihad against him and the hordes of Reagan-era zombies who followed him, unwaveringly rooting for the babyfaces.
Jeremy, my boss at Main Event, was firmly entrenched in this coalition of self-righteous do-gooders. Our feud boiled in the pages of the magazine for months, until it exploded like a can of beer left out in the sun at the height of a Texas summer. How dare he paint my lifestyle black with his Saturday-morning-cartoon version of American morality! This was going to have to be settled in the ring, mano a mano.
After our match, unprecedented in the history of magazine publishing, Art Burns, a Main Event staff writer, offered this recap, along with a brilliantly gory photo spread:
Mike accused Jeremy of being a "hack artist and Hulkamaniac." Jeremy called Mike "rule-breaking scum" ... There was no quarter given and none asked for ... Jeremy's bleeding head wound sapped him of strength ... the only thing that kept Mike going was his passion for excellence in Wrestling Journalism ... After the pinfall, Edison pounded his fist into Jeremy's face, "just as a reminder."
Of course, I was Art Burns.
I was also Ted Pipe, Mick Wild, and sometimes Monica Lisbon. There were seven names on the masthead, and I was five of them.
Few other magazines would have tolerated the bad-guy editor shtick. But I was throwing high heat and having the time of my life.
Jeremy was an incredibly good sport about honoring the great wrestling tradition of "going out on your back" — dropping the title and pushing the next guy — especially since he was the pioneer who opened the door for all of this insanity. In his final editorial column for Main Event he wrote, underneath a photo of me voguing over his broken, supine body, "It's not easy to admit that you're a loser." Now that's what I call taking one for the team! Supplicating the kind of febrile ego that makes one want to be the editor of a guerrilla wrestling magazine could not have been easy. What a pro! Everyone should take a page from his book.
The Night of the Great Wrestling Epiphany — two years before I ran Jeremy out of town — began innocently enough with a few tabs of exceptionally good LSD, the paper blotter stuff that usually had pretty pictures of pyramids or dolphins printed on it. I was a freshman in the New York University film school. Jeremy was a year ahead of me.
I was hanging out at the East Tenth Street railroad apartment where our pal Jim was living. Jim had been my roommate at NYU, but he was now smelling up this hovel of off-campus housing with cheap wine of a despicably nasty vintage and nickel bags of brown Colombian dirt weed. I was still living in relative luxury back at the dorm, sharing a tiny room with a high-ranking member of the Young Republican Club and an extremely confused Puerto Rican drama student who was trying to come to terms with his own sexuality. You could call the vibe "tense." I spent as little time there as possible.
Jim was a wino/poet/superbrain from St. Louis, a guy who knew as much about philosophy and history as anyone you are likely to meet, a guy who had impeccable taste in the ridiculous, who loved equally Robert Johnson, Robert Rauschenberg, and Romper Room, except he couldn't figure out how to hook up the stereo or light the oven or pay the phone bill, and he was notoriously bereft of social graces and lifestyle-maintenance skills, like doing his laundry on a timely basis. Jim wore his hair halfway down his back and sported hopelessly out-of-date octagonal-framed eyeglasses. He was the only adult I knew who still wore Sears Toughskin blue jeans.
I was in awe of Jim's intellect, most of which could not find practical application. But he could distill the absurd from the mundane, and he truly loved professional wrestling. He was the first person I knew who had, in his own demented way, intellectualized it to an impossibly heady stature.
By the time the World Wrestling Federation show came on at midnight, we were soaring through the spaceways on the backs of those blotters.
I had not watched wrestling since I was a kid. My father would pointedly show his disdain even then, although like most eight-year-olds, I was unprepared to argue whether wrestling was actually real or fake. But even if it was fake, who gave a flying fuck? So was Romeo and Juliet. And people kept lining up to see that beaten warhorse even though everyone and his sister has known for three hundred years exactly how it ends.
But I am nothing if not a slave to the spectacle, as witnessed by my undying affection for Jackson Pollock, the Sex Pistols, and the space program, and if Jim wanted to watch wrestling on acid, it seemed like a safe bet.
The broadcast peaked dramatically with a match between the Masked Superstar, a highly skilled thug who wore a series of spangled red, silver, blue, and gold masks with a giant on the forehead, and Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert, the twerpy-looking protégé of then World Wrestling Federation champion Bob Backlund, a humorless good-guy pissant with a crew cut who flaunted his college wrestling skills and called himself the All-American Boy.
The Masked Superstar was managed by the Grand Wizard of Wrestling — a raving lunatic who wore a ridiculously loud plaid jacket, a supremely ugly tie, flare pants that looked as if they were handcrafted from fuzzy toilet-seat covers, horrid wraparound shades that brought into sharp relief the worst features of his molelike face, and a sparkly turban punctuated with a rhinestone dollar sign. Overall, the effect was one of a Martian who had just raided a Jewish retirement home in Miami. And he claimed to be one of the most intelligent men in the world. He was perfect in every way.
How could anyone, stoned or not, ignore the sublime beauty of this? The Masked Superstar? The Grand Wizard of Wrestling? His big move was something called the Corkscrew Neckbreaker. There was poetry everywhere!
The Superstar's idea of wrestling was to treat Gilbert's head like the twist-off cap on a bottle of Budweiser. For his part, the Grand Wizard exhibited all the symptoms of a man having a stroke. "Break his neck! Break his neck!" he spat, standing over his charge. The Masked Superstar gleefully complied.
It was all so completely insane, so colorful, so out of control, so ridiculous — how could this even be allowed to happen in a civilized country? — I was sold instantly.
The real kicker, though, came after a commercial for the Apex Technical School ("And when you graduate, you'll have a set of your very own professional tools!"), when Backlund came back on TV and began crying.
Not just crying. Bawling his eyes out like a little girl. Oh, Eddie, you didn't deserve to be treated like that. Masked Superstar I'm gonna get you, you Big Bad Man. Grand Wizard, you are so evil, weep, weep, weep ...
This was the Champ? The Heavyweight Champion of the World?? The Standard-Bearer of All That Is Tough on God's Green Earth??? Whatta fruit!
This was all too much for my brain, which was now glowing like molten lava and threatening to erupt. I was laughing so hard that I was on the floor convulsing, crying harder than Backlund. Jim considered calling the paramedics — then he remembered that we were both tripping on acid, and let it go.
The next stop was Jeremy's cold-water flat on Twelfth Street and Avenue A, then still a busy corridor for Alphabet City narco-traffic. Like everything else in that apartment, the buzzer wasn't working, the wires probably chewed through by a mule team of rodents and cockroaches. To get into Jeremy's, we had to call from the corner and then wait for him to come down to let us in. Which could take a while, considering he had dropped the same acid we had.
It took about two seconds for the guy with the shotgun to appear.
It's funny how on LSD things can sometimes appear so clear. Like what William Burroughs said about "the naked lunch," that moment when you can see exactly what's at the end of your fork. In this case it was just about the ugliest mutherfucker I have ever laid eyes on, covered in scars and sweat and leveling a sawed-off shotgun at our heads, demanding to know what the fuck we wanted.
"It's cool," I offered. "We're waiting for our friend." I think I was pretty calm. Just a simple misunderstanding between some harmless college-boy acidheads and a heavily armed smack dealer. For a guy who was about to get his head blown off, Jim was surprisingly relaxed. Probably happened to him all the time back in St. Louis.
At that moment Jeremy opened the door. "Ah, here's our friend now!" When Jeremy saw what was going on, his eyes popped out of his head, just like in a Tex Avery cartoon, but he managed to play it smooth. "They're just coming up to see me," he explained matter-of-factly. It was a big moment. I could feel my balls climbing up into my stomach. The guy lowered the shotgun. "Damn!" he said. "You can't be hanging around here. I'm doin' business!" And he disappeared. My balls descended, joyfully.
"Holy fucking shit —" I stammered. "Holy fucking shit."
"Are you okay?" Jeremy was just as freaked as I was.
"What are you guys talking about?" Jim said good-naturedly. Apparently, he had been busy traveling the astral plane and missed all the excitement.
Jeremy's place was no more relaxed than the street had been. He had also seen Backlund on TV, and his reaction to this aberration (there is no crying in wrestling) was to throw everything not nailed down out the window, beginning with buckets of paint left over from eighty years of dirtbag tenants. He had the twelve-inch single of "Rapper's Delight" on his turntable with the repeat switch on, the perfect soundtrack for druggy urban frustration.
After that, throwing things out of Jeremy's window became a regular pastime for us. TV sets were a hot commodity, and Jeremy used to collect them, picking them up off the street when they were left out for trash and carting them up to his place to be hurled en masse at a later date.
Perhaps throwing televisions out of windows sounds trite to you? Do not underestimate the sound a nineteen-inch RCA Colortrak makes after being tossed down a six-story air shaft. Some things, no matter how many times they have been done — Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, fried chicken, and the Missionary Position leap to mind — still provide near-universal satisfaction when done right.
* * *
Inspired by the warm and fuzzy feeling fully realized only when watching a human bunny slipper like Hot Stuff getting his neck broken by an artiste like the Masked Superstar — not to mention the psychedelic bliss of sharing a near-death experience at gunpoint — I invited Jim to join the new band I was masterminding, which we eventually called Sharky's Machine, an homage to the preposterous Burt Reynolds cop flick.
Sharky's Machine was an experiment — pure, without regard to result. I had never even written a song before, and after years of bashing away at the drums, I had just bought my first guitar (a copper-top '59 Danelectro, single cutaway, the one with two pickups and concentric knobs, 130 bucks at We Buy Guitars) and was bending a handful of roughhewn blues riffs into compact blasts of high-energy rock 'n' roll and then working them out on the drum kit, where I was most dangerous. My idea was something approaching a hard-core thrash band — filtered through the wildly distorting refractors of Captain Beefheart, the Stooges, and the Troggs.
Jim shocked everyone with how great a singer he could be, especially for a first-timer — crooning, hollering, getting the Iggyisms and the Jaggerisms just right, howling very deep-felt lyrics far too complex for a Sunday-afternoon punk rock band, digging into some incredibly soulful stuff, and shredding himself into a bloody mess in the process.
I conscripted Alec to play guitar, for no other reason than that he lived upstairs and owned a really big amplifier and was game, which at the time seemed to trump any real need for conventional rock 'n' roll chops or sense of swing. What I didn't realize was that he was a savant, a pundit on almost everything, a difficult guy to be around for any length of time. Alec is a nice guy, an intelligent guy, and can be very funny; he's just completely off the beam. After he graduated from NYU and became a cabdriver, he was quoted in The New York Times as saying that the only way to make cabs safe was to "put the passenger up front and the driver in the back with a shotgun."
Excerpted from I Have Fun Everywhere I Go by Mike Edison. Copyright © 2008 Mike Edison. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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Meet the Author
Mike Edison is a writer, editor, and musician. He lives in New York City.
Mike Edison is a writer, editor, and musician. He is the author of I Have Fun Everywhere I Go: Savage Tales of Pot, Porn, Punk Rock, Pro Wrestling, Talking Apes, Evil Bosses, Dirty Blues, American Heroes, and the Most Notorious Magazines in the World. He lives in New York City.
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