Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Asshole's Asshole

In 1980, Bruce D— oversaw Larry Flynt’s three magazines, the fervently vulgar Hustler, the considerably subtler, very much less popular, Chic, and, if memory serves, Bathroom Companion, which published that which…sit down for thisss!…Hustler found distasteful. I was down on my luck, and agreed to come in to be interviewed for the senior editorship of Chic, with the understanding that I would conceive, assign, and edit exposės of prominent American hypocrites, and have nothing whatever to do with the sleaze for which Hustler was infamous.

Bruce’s little office was very dark, and smelled vaguely of singed hair. As his secretary, who I understood to be something like his 19th in the past three weeks, left me at its threshold, he glowered as though at someone who'd ruined his childhood, though we'd never met. He reviewed the writing samples I’d brought in and demanded why I wasn’t contributing to Hustler. I didn’t say, “Because I find it appalling on every level.” They hired me.

I hadn’t been in my oppressively beige office high above the smog of Century City two hours before I heard screaming from down the hall. I came to understand that Bruce believed that flying into deafening rages without provocation inspired everyone to strive for ever-greater excellence. Someone was forever getting fired, deafeningly.

At our regular editorial meetings, anyone who dared make eye contact with him was apt to get Bruce's incisors imbedded in his or her trachea. Only two people were safe. One, of course, was the seldom-seen Althea Flynt, Larry’s drug-addled former child bride. The other was a Sammy Glick-ish little slimesac named Jack O— who’d somehow managed to brownnose himself into Althea’s favor after being hired to oversee Bathroom Companion because no one else would sink that low. Seated to Bruce’s immediate right, he'd snarl and sputter and seethe right along with him, like a little kid imitating his angry daddy. Everyone would have snickered — and not a few pantsed him (pulled his trousers down in front of everyone) — if not for the fact that it might have drawn Bruce’s attention. The great irony being that Bruce clearly loathed him as much as any of the rest of us did. If there was any pleasure at all in these meetings, is was that of seeing Bruce having to leave Jack's trachea intact.

Naïve country boy from Playa del Rey that I was, I’d never seen anyone in an office ascend so far and so quickly as Jack solely on the basis of shamelessness, nor a bigger monster than Bruce. The scariest thing being that a fair number of my women colleagues were known to find him very sexy. It was said that, without cocaine, he was actually a decent human being. Without Nazism, Adolf Hitler might have been remembered as a painter of landscapes, and affectionate toward dogs. I spent every lunch hour pouring enough alcohol down my throat to make the afternoon endurable.

I was hugely ambivalent about getting fired after three months. I needed the money, but the stress was killing me. (Did I mention that Althea's horny elder sister had taken a shine to me, and that her husband, Larry's Chief of Security, was widely thought to be both pathologically jealous and homicidal?)

Bruce apparently continued to run the show at LFP, to remain its alpha asshole, well into the present century. In 2004, to express his contempt for feminist critics of violent porn, he apparently ordered a three-page pictorial of women being dragged behind farm equipment. Take that, bitches! The year before, he’d featured his own twin sons, then not yet teens, in a parody ad with the hilarious title My Parents Aren't Home, Give It To Me Quick. An asshole’s asshole, our Bruce.

Meanwhile, Jack, whose idea of writing was to get out a thesaurus and organize long parades of synonyms, apparently went onto some success as a screenwriter, which I believe tells you all you need to know about Hollywood. 

I wrote and performed (in San Francisco, London, and Madison, Wisconsin) a one-man theatrical show about my experiences at LFP, which I called Wm. Floggin' Buckley. I played all the characters, obviously, the most fun being Althea, who, at our sole meeting (at which she hoped to see for herself if I were as cute as Marsha had told her), nodded off into her salad in mid-sentence. 

On reflection, I see that Jack might actually have been a bigger asshole than Bruce, who at least was about something other than ambition, even if said something were sadism.

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