Al Goldstein, pornography pioneer who claimed free speech, dies

NEW YORK, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Al Goldstein, founder of the unapologetically raunchy Screw magazine and a leader in the First Amendment fight to protect the pornography industry under the umbrella of free speech, died on Thursday in New York.

Goldstein, 77, who had battled several illnesses in recent years, apparently succumbed to renal failure, according to his lawyer.

Born in the New York borough of Brooklyn in 1936, Goldstein brought pornography into the mainstream and helped to shape a form of sexual satire emulated by a legion of pornographers and entertainers, including Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and radio star Howard Stern.

In 1968, Goldstein founded Screw, a trailblazer in the smutty magazine trade. The weekly publication offered depictions of sex that were irreverent, realistic, often-unappealing and frequently controversial.

In 1973, the magazine printed nude photos of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, igniting the fury of her supporters while selling more than 500,000 copies.

Screw predated Flynt’s Hustler by six years, and both publishers fought lengthy court battles to protect their First Amendment rights to produce adult content under the protection of free speech.

Goldstein referred to himself as a “crusader” for personal liberties.

Over the course of a career that saw waning fortunes and diminishing magazine sales, Goldstein battled illness, financial ruin and family break-up.

When he was not invited to his only son’s graduation from Harvard law school in 2002, Goldstein lashed out at his ex-wife and the elite private university.

Screw folded in 2003. Once at the top of a multimillion-dollar porn publishing empire, Goldstein lost his Manhattan home and was forced to sell a Florida mansion that came outfitted with a large statue of a hand with the middle finger raised.

For a time in the mid 2000s, the former porn king took an hourly wage job at Manhattan’s famous 2nd Avenue Deli.

In 2002, Goldstein was sentenced to 60 days in jail for threatening a former employee and leaving obscene messages on her answering machine.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson