From our media partner Sun Sentinel...
Al Goldstein, the profane and hilarious New York pornographer who made an indelible mark on South Florida, died on Thursday. He achieved fame and fortune with Screw Magazine, erected an 11-foot tall middle-finger sculpture in the backyard of his Intracoastal mansion in Pompano Beach and once ran for Broward Sheriff against the late Nick Navarro, whom he despised.
The Brooklyn-born Goldstein loved to battle the high, mighty and hypocritical, and he held tough in important first amendment fights. But he also battled his closest friends and family, including five ex-wives and his son. He lost his empire, but never his sense of humor, and he had a helluva time all the way, every day.
"He was one of a kind," said Norm Kent, a South Florida attorney and publisher.
Goldstein was 77 and died of renal failure at a Brooklyn nursing home, according to this engrossing obituary from the New York Times.
Things you might not have known about Goldstein: He once was jailed in Cuba after he took unauthorized photos of Raul Castro as a news photographer, and he took an hourly-wage job as a greeter at the famed 2nd Avenue Deli in Manhattan after he lost his South Florida mansion and money last decade.
Of all the enjoyable days I've had in South Florida, perhaps none has been more fun than the afternoon my then-wife and I spent at one of his infamous Sunday cookouts in 2002.
He had food on the grill, beers and drinks at the bar, and porn playing on every one of 23 plasma-screen TVs scattered around the 6,500-square-foot mansion. He grimaced when I asked if I could turn one of the TVs to football.
He kvelled (that's Yiddish for bragged) about his son Jordan, who was graduating from Harvard Law School, then excoriated him for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of expensive watches from him.
Here's a reprint of the Sept. 2003 column I wrote about him, just after this man of enormous appetites had stomach-stapling surgery and was on the verge of losing everything:
POMPANO PORN PUBLISHER SEES LEANER TIMES AHEAD
Al Goldstein giving up food is like a fish giving up water, the earth giving up its rotation, or Donald Trump giving up his ego.
So when I read the item in a supermarket tabloid about the Pompano Beach pornographer having stomach-stapling surgery, I shook my head in disbelief.
After all, this is a man who once said, "I'd rather have a good meal than good sex." This is a one-time Broward sheriff's candidate who reacted to Nick Navarro's 1992 defeat by saying, "It's better than Haagen-Dazs." This is a man who had a New York Times profile headlined, "Part Pit Bull, Part Teddy Bear, All Appetite."
When I called to confirm the news Monday, I was shocked to discover it was true. And that his waistline wasn't the only part of his empire in trouble.
"We missed a printing last week," Goldstein said. "First time in 35 years."
Screw Magazine, the raunchy New York sex tabloid Goldstein started with $150 in 1968, is in danger of going under. He owes money to his printer and the landlord of the magazine's offices. He needs to find a new distributor.
"I have no money," said Goldstein. "I've furloughed everyone on the staff."
Goldstein, 68, is getting desperate.
He is scrambling to come up with $500,000 to keep the publication afloat. He is trying to get a loan using the equity in his 6,500-square-foot estate, the one with the infamous middle-finger sculpture that salutes boaters on the Intracoastal. He has started auctioning on eBay the precious knickknacks that clutter his home, including huge collections of wine and pre-Castro Cuban cigars, George Burns' humidor and Sammy Davis Jr.'s Coke machine.
And he can't even drown his troubles in Godiva chocolate ice cream anymore.
"I haven't tasted ice cream in 17 weeks," Goldstein said. "I miss it."
On the bright side, Goldstein said he can see parts of his body that he hasn't seen in years and that he is in love again, with a 28-year-old psychology student.
He had the gastric bypass procedure in June. His doctors didn't want to do it because of his age, but he said he "begged and pleaded for them to give me my life back." Now he is down to 199 pounds, a drop of 71 pounds since surgery and nearly 150 pounds from his peak two years ago.
"I can only eat six ounces at a time," Goldstein said.
He still holds his weekly Sunday cookout for friends. "I ate half a hamburger for lunch, the other half for dinner," Goldstein said. "It's pathetic."
Goldstein still takes 19 medications a day for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and he said the stress of his ongoing legal troubles is wearing him down. He will represent himself when he is retried next month in New York on charges of harassing a former employee. He also is suing his son for allegedly stealing a collection of watches.
"I'm suicidal, but I can't kill myself for two reasons," Goldstein said. "It would make too many people happy, and my son has a $1.2 million life insurance policy on me. I go on out of anger."
He looks around and sees an era passing. Screw's circulation has shrunk from 120,000 to 20,000. Penthouse has declared bankruptcy. Playboy's circulation has gone from 4 million to 1 million. It's all about the Internet and video now. He said Screw's Web site, telephone chat lines and his Midnight Blue cable show remain profitable.
Goldstein is exploring his options.
Larry Flynt of Hustler has rejected Goldstein's entreaty to be taken over. If he can't save Screw, Goldstein might go to work for a Nevada prostitution ranch or run two strip clubs in Miami. He said he needs to make $200,000 a year to keep the beloved Pompano home he has owned since 1996, even though he can sell it for millions.
"It's like a museum to me," Goldstein said. "I don't want to make the finger homeless."