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Sleaze, sleazy

Related: cheap - sleazoid - trash - vulgar

photography by Enrico Sacchetti
image sourced here.


  • Shabby, dirty, and vulgar; tawdry. “sleazy storefronts with torn industrial carpeting and dirt on the walls” (Seattle Weekly).
  • Dishonest or corrupt; disreputable. Some sleazy characters hang around casinos
  • Tastelessness [as in not having good taste, ergo bad taste] by virtue of being cheap and vulgar. --American Heritage Dictionary

    The Meaning of Sleaze

    By Brittany A. Daley
    So, what is sleaze, and what does it mean when referring to this genre of books? Generally, "sleaze" is a term that refers to the often inexpensively produced, mass-market paperbacks of the 1960s that catered to an "adults only" audience consisting primarily of men. Swappers, swingers, transvestites, hookers, dominatrixes, and lesbians were just a few of the taboo topics these naughty 1960s novels had the guts to explore. I look at these colorful "smut" gems as artifacts of a by-gone era where sex was sexier than it is today--an era where it was still fresh and daring and not at the center of some over-played national news story. I call these slightly kinky, sorta kooky books "sleaze,“ because that's what everyone else refers to them as, and I don’t have any objections to the term that would make me call them anything else. The term used for this genre of books has changed over the years, though. As Earl wrote in an email to me: “ I've lived through dozens of name changes for the same product, dirty books, smut, adult books, erotica, etc. They all have no meaning and, every few years, a new label becomes popular.” Meanings are always in flux and what the average person feels the word “sleaze” means is very different from what people interested in the genre feel it means. The average person’s idea of “sleaze” might consist of the president getting it on with an intern and a cigar. --http://www.efanzines.com/EK/eI21/index.htm#sleaze [Jan 2006]

    Sleazoid [...]

    Coined by the magazine Sleazoid Express, http://www.sleazoidexpress.com/, edited and authored by Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford

    Sleazy D - "I've Lost Control"

    Feelin' Sleazy - Mr. Fingers

    'Feeling Sleezy', explains Robert, 'IS sexually motivated. It's about the all-American feeling of beeing at home, bored, on your own, and wanting someone, going out to find them. --Robert Owens

    Non-fiction paperback sleaze

    Unidentified English language edition of Psychopathia Sexualis (1886)
    image sourced here.

    Fiction paperback books have, not surprisingly, gotten the lion's share of attention from collectors. They tend to have the most imaginative prose, have the most spectacular covers, and on occasion are even well-written. Huge numbers of non-fiction - and supposed non-fiction - titles were also published during the '50's and '60's, but have been pretty much ignored by collectors and commentators alike.

    Nonfiction paperbacks owed their existence to a long-forgotten legal loophole - a book could not be censored if it was (or, in practical terms, could make a pretense to being) a serious scientific study. This distinction was used, initially, to make previously obscure scientific texts available to the reading public. The great-grandaddy of all of these books is Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard von Kraft-Ebbing, published in German in 1886. It was initially only available in the United States as a German-language medical textbook, then as an English language book with the really "nasty" parts left untranslated. (This used to be a common practice in high-end sleaze publication; I remember my father owned a copy of The Philosophy of the Bedroom by the Marquis de Sade with the hot parts in French). As community standards became even more lenient, a number of different publishers issued their English language own editions of the book.

    England's Sex Explosion, by Allen Carson (Social Behavior Books #152, (c) 1967)
    image sourced here.

    The mass-market appeal of this book lay in the fact that, unlike, for example, The Kinsey Report, it did not just lay out statistics of behavior, or provide general summaries - it set forth hundreds of individual case studies, in many cases supplemented with interviews with the persons profiled. The "disorders" profiled range from simple cases of behavior now viewed by many as unremarkable, such as homosexuality or transvestitism, to hideous cases of sexual sadism (even Jack the Ripper merits a case file.) For many outsiders in the less tolerant periods in our country's history, Kraft-Ebbing supplied the first evidence they has ever seen that there were others like them out in the world. For others in search of a cheap thrill (not that I have anything against cheap thrills) this book supplied personal interviews with many of the person profiled, sometimes with breathless descriptions of the acts they had reveled in.

    Flagellation, by Simon Defont (Viceroy Publications #297, (c) 1967)
    image sourced here.

    A flood of these "studies" followed, beginning in the '50's, as paperback publishers rapidly came to realize that they could put out them out at little cost and legal risk, and that they would sell, particularly if they could find a scientific figure willing to devote a little less space to analysis and more space to those fascinating interviews. Most of these books were allegedly written by physicians or psychologists, but I think we can safely assume a great many, particularly the more obviously exploitative examples, were written by individuals whose only medical expertise was an encyclopedic knowledge of alternative nouns for different parts of the body.

    A selection of examples from different genres, in chronological order, follows. --http://users.rcn.com/xcentrik/nonfict.html [Aug 2005]

    see also: paperback - non-fiction

    Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square - Bill Landis, Michelle Clifford

    Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square - Bill Landis, Michelle Clifford [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    From Library Journal
    New York City's grindhouses (burlesque theaters gone to seed) are long gone, but sin-ema fans can relive the experience with this definitive study. Landis, founder of the eponymously titled cult classic periodical, and Clifford, his partner in grime, take readers on a tour of the Deuce, the psychosexual netherland on 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues. Between the 1960s and 1980s, the area was home to numerous theaters before being razed and overlaid with family theme restaurants and chain stores in the 1990s. Organized by film genre ("Blood Horror," "Eurosleaze," etc.), the book covers the venues themselves as well as industry personnel, 42nd Street habitu s, and, of course, the deliciously offbeat and perverse films-Black Mama, White Mama; Women in Cages; and, this reviewer's personal favorite, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. Like Jimmy McDonough's The Ghastly One, an excellent biography on sexploitation auteur Andy Milligan, this book moves the chains down the field in grindhouse cinema's march for respectability. Great fetish film fun for all popular culture and film collections. --Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

    From Booklist
    Drawing upon their "full-scale magazine with a website" (gol-lee!) Sleazoid Express, which is dedicated to exploitation cinema, Landis and Clifford revel in old Times Square and the porno shops, dirty-movie theaters, and titty bars it hosted before Disney and its ilk made it safe for squeaky-clean consumerism. Yet they eschew the square's typical denizens for a whole chapter on the Rialto, which featured "the American blood horror genre" more than nudie-cutie flicks; Herschell Gordon Lewis and his magnum opus, Blood Feast, put in honored appearances here. A lesser name of no lesser glory that also pops up is Larry Buchanan, whose Mondo Exotica (aka Naughty Dallas) was a documentary about Jack Ruby's Carousel Club; it and other movies with mondo in the title were loosely patterned after the 1962 hit Italian "shockumentary" Mondo Cane, and, besides being surefire Times Square attractions, constitute a distinctive, often icky genre all of their own. Though not for every film buff, this book will draw vintage-sleaze fans from both sides of the culture-wars skirmish line. Mike Tribby, amazon.com

    What It Is... What It Was! (1998) - Andres Chavez, Denise Chavez, Gerald Martinez

    What It Is... What It Was!; The Black Film Explosion of the '70s in Words and Pictures (1998) - Andres Chavez, Denise Chavez, Gerald Martinez [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    From Booklist
    Ever since 1970s black activists coined the derogatory label blaxploitation to describe the likes of Sweet Sweetback's BaadAsssss Song, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, and Mandingomovies full of snappy street patter, outrageous pimp suits, and comic-book-style action--debate has raged over whether they are valid popular artwork or just demeaning. Most of the actors, writers, and directors interviewed for this book--'70s veterans like Melvin Van Peebles, Pam Grier, and Fred Williamson as well as current stars Ice-T, Samuel L. Jackson, and Keenan Ivory Wayans--disagree with the label. Their remarks are copiously accompanied by publicity posters for the controversial films. The garish graphics are intended to be the volume's main attraction, according to the introduction, and dating from a time when their kind of thing was still painted rather than assembled from photographs, they're pretty nifty, all right. But the text, especially the contributions of the stars of the blaxploitation genre, makes this a special bit of film history. Mike Tribby, Amazon.com

    see also: Blaxploitation - film - 1970s - sleaze - trash

    Book Description
    Square In a bygone era, when Times Square was crammed with adult bookstores and drug pushers, moviegoers flocked to the grindhouses on 42nd Street. Those theatres are now gone, but the films remain, and here the legendary underground film magazine offers this jaw-dropping guide to the grindhouse scene. Focusing on a unique genre in each chapter, while painting intimate portraits of directors and stars, and including detailed reviews of landmark films, this is an indispensable guide to the sleaze canon. "Intoxicating" - Sam Gaines, Eye via Amazon.co.uk

    In a bygone era, when Times Square was crammed with adult bookstores, gun shops and drug pushers, disenfranchised moviegoers flocked to the grindhouses along 42nd Street. Those theatres were gone by the mid-1980s, but the films survived. Now SLEAZOID EXPRESS reproduces for the reader what no home video can - the experience of watching a movie in the grindhouse setting. Each chapter focuses on a unique exploitation genre - blood horror, Eurosleaze, celebrity crime, etc. - and paints a close, intimate portrait of its directors, stars and showcases. Also included are detailed reviews of landmark films such as Blood Feast and Let Me Die a Woman, plus an appendix of exploitation video companies, making this an indispensable overview of the canon of sleaze. via Amazon.co.uk

    Trash: The Graphic Genius of Xploitation Movie Posters (2002) - Jacques Boyreau

    Trash: The Graphic Genius of Xploitation Movie Posters (2002) - Jacques Boyreau [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    About the author: Jacques Boyreau co-founded the half-bar, half-underground cinema known as the Werepad. His archive, Cosmic Hex, contains hundreds of cult, horror, and sci-fi films, as well as thousands of movie posters. This is his first book. He lives in San Francisco.

    Trash proudly assembles more than 150 masterpieces of twisted brilliance: lowbrow graphic poster art from the sickest, sleaziest, sexiest, and weirdest films from the 1950s through the 1980s. A feast for the eyes and other visceral zones, Trash rolls in the mud with graphic art of such questionable aesthetic quality and social worth that it practically redefines the poster as advertising medium. Chapters each define a key Trash topic (Sex Trash, Action Trash, Sick Trash, Race Trash, Groovy Trash, Docu Trash), collecting the most zombified, oversexed, lethal pest-infested, and tasteless posters from each genre. With plagues of frogs, meteors headed straight for earth, sex-starved zombies, and explosion after glorious explosion, Trash gleefully crawls across the underbelly of both the cinematic and poster arts. --Book Description

    SIN-A-RAMA: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties (2004) - Lydia Lunch, Adam Parfrey

    SIN-A-RAMA: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties (2004) - Brittany A. Daley, Adam Parfrey, Lydia Lunch, Earl Kemp, Miriam Linna, Jay A. Gertzman, John Gilmore, Michael Hemmingson, Robert Silverberg, Lynn Munroe, Stephen J. Gertz [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    "Earl Kemp edited smut and went to prison for it..." (more)

    From Publishers Weekly
    Older readers may remember the lurid soft-X-rated paperbacks-titles like Topless Waitress, Lake of Lust, Casting Couch and so on-that crowded the shelves of newsstands and candy stores but more often adult bookstores in the 1960s. What most distinguished these paperbacks wasn't their narratives but their frequently amazing covers, swashes of erotic eye-candy that, as surely as a Warhol soupcan, now define an era. And so the emphasis in this first-rate celebration of these paperbacks is on the covers, with hundreds reproduced in what looks like accurate (i.e., soul-shocking) color.

    Most of these reproductions appear in the editors' grouping of sex paperbacks into various themes (Asphalt Jungle, Sex at Play, Butch Swish, etc.) but more show up in the startling essays and profiles that precede these groupings-startling for the several well-known authors profiled (Donald Westlake, Ed Wood, Lawrence Block) and for the praise-going by the illustrations, well justified-for a handful of the star cover artists.

    The book opens with overviews of the history of softcore paperback publishing by Jay A. Gertzman and Stephen J. Gertz and, most notably, by acclaimed SF author Robert Silverberg, who in "My Life as a Pornographer" recounts how by 1962 he was "turning out three Nightstand books a month" and earning enough money to buy "an enormous mansion in the finest residential neighborhood of New York City." A catalogue of "sleaze publishers" and a list of author pseudonyms (Miriam Gardner: Marion Zimmer Bradley; Paul Merchant: Harlan Ellison, etc.) close this informative and giddily entertaining book. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Boston Globe, March 20, 2005: The Golden Age of Sleaze
    Deeply satisfying...a lavish tribute to the courageous authors, illustrators, and editors...There is much to admire about SIN-A-RAMA.

    see also: Jay Gertzman - 1960s - sin - sleaze - pulp - exploitation - erotic books

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