Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain

In the late 1970s, Legs McNeil was the “resident punk” around the New York office of the seminal underground publication Punk magazine. In this volume, he and co-author McCain gather together reminiscences (presented verbatim as an “oral history” and without commentary) of the movers and shakers in that city’s punk rock and proto-punk scenes, from the Velvet Underground and MC5 to the Ramones, the Dead Boys and even those limey interlopers the Sex Pistols. Some may quibble with the authors’ assertions that New York was the solitary birthplace of punk rock, or that the scene died with the arrival of the Sex Pistols in the U.S. and their implosion soon after. But the book is crammed with sleaze and gossip aplenty as well as hair-raising tales of heavy drug usage and indiscriminate sexual activity which will keep readers turning pages far past their bedtimes. The sensitive of heart take note: not since Romeo and Juliet have so many major characters died in the last act. LP

Publisher: Grove
Hardback: 320 pages

The Phantom Empire

Geoffrey O’Brien

“Instead of memory, there is a culture of permanent playback” in which Barbara Steele, Alexander Nevsky, D.W. Griffith, Zombie Holocaust and a hundred thousand other cinematic images flicker in and out of our consciousnesses. The Phantom Empire is an elegantly written, dreamy rumination on how we have absorbed motion pictures into our individual and collective psyches. At various levels, it is about the creation of the spectator, the way movies initiate us into society, and how time distorts when we see old actors in their youth and dead actors living on the screen.
At the same time author O’Brien relates nothing less than a condensed history of the cinema itself. “The screen,” he writes, “was a second sky, where what you saw was nothing compared to the anticipation of what you might at any moment witness: a shooting star, a spaceship, an apocalypse.” Hypnotic and thought provoking. LP

Publisher: Norton
Hardback: 281 pages

Call Me Mistress: Memoirs of a Phone Sex Performer

Natalie Rhys

“Phone sex is a unique form of erotica. Like written stories it is pure fantasy, yet… it is the customer’s fantasy, not the writer’s.” A self-described “mild-mannered computer systems analyst by day,” Rhys transforms herself into “an uninhibited fantasy performer by night,” answering phone-sex calls in her home. In these pages, however, her uninhibited side takes a backseat to her analytical prowess, as she divides callers into categories such as ‘Demanding,’ ‘Invasive’ or ‘Pseudo-Intimate,’ among others. Her volunteer work as a telephone crisis-line counselor is apparent throughout as she speculates on the life experiences that may lead to a caller’s particular fantasy. She never mentions if she gets her crisis-line clients confused with her phone-sex callers, only to tell the lovelorn and suicidal to try a hot coffee enema. While Rhys describes phone sex as “the perfect second job,” her book is more New Age touchy-feely than hot and sexy—definitely not the stroke book to bring to a desert island. On the other hand, Call Me Mistress is an excellent primer to the nuts-and-bolts business of phone sex. LP

Publisher: Miwok
Paperback: 123 pages

Great Big Beautiful Doll: The Anna Nicole Smith Story

Eric and D’Eva Redding

In 1991, Houston-based photographer Eric Redding and his makeup artist wife, D’eva, took a series of Polaroid test shots of a young woman from Mexia, Texas, named Vickie Lynn Smith. The photos were submitted to Playboy, and five months later Vickie Lynn, rechristened Anna Nicole Smith, graced the magazine’s cover. For Anna Nicole, fame, fortune and a lucrative Guess? clothing contract were followed all too soon by problems with drugs, weight and marriage to a man some sixty years her senior. According to the Reddings, who profess to have been among her “biggest fans,” Smith “is a mix of contradictions, contrasts and is big, like the [Texas] map.” But if prose isn’t their strong point, gossip and innuendo are, and they deliver it with a vengeance. From her early days at Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken through breast enhancement surgery to allegations of prostitution, lesbianism and unchecked greed, the Reddings recount the unsavory details of Anna Nicole Smith’s rise and, especially, her fall with ill-concealed glee, often quoting stories from the tabloid press in the process. Highlights include the reproduction of Smith’s handwritten releases for the Playboy test shots (her likes include “Gentlemen who no [sic] how to treat a lady”) and a mug shot which clearly shows her height, consistently referred to as 5’11” or more, to be just under 5’9”. And then there was the time Eric Redding had to explain to Smith that Los Angeles was located in California. Great Big Beautiful Doll will delight all gossip mongers—and who among us isn’t? LP

Publisher: Barricade
Hardback: 208 pages

Making It Work: The Prostitutes Rights Movement in Perspective

Valerie Jenness

The time: Mother’s Day, 1973. The place: San Francisco, California. The event: the founding, by former working-girl Margo St. James, of what has become the United States’ premier prostitutes’ rights organization, COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics). While decriminalization of prostitution is COYOTE’s main goal, of equal importance has been their claim that “to deny a woman the option to work as a prostitute, under the conditions of her own choosing, is a violation of her civil rights.” In Making It Work, sociologist Valerie Jenness studied COYOTE in order to analyze “the reconstruction of a social problem and the normalization of deviance.” As such, she traces the history of prostitutes’ rights in the U.S. and its relationship to the gay-and-lesbian and women’s rights movements, as well as the effect of the AIDS epidemic upon it. Of particular interest is her chapter positioning COYOTE’s rhetoric within and against the larger discourses of contemporary feminism. While Making It Work is largely academic in nature, lay (ahem!) readers will find Jenness’ account of COYOTE and its flamboyant leader, St. James (who in 1996 missed being elected to a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by only the slimmest of margins), highly informative and entertaining reading. LP

Publisher: Aldine de Gruyter
Paperback: 150 pages

The Impossible: A Story of Rats Followed by Dianus and by the Oresteia

Craig Jacob as told to Phil Berger

Under other circumstances, Jacobs would be hailed as a savvy businessman filled with entrepreneurial chutzpah. Instead, he turned his unique talents into a 20-year criminal career during which he made millions of dollars via his sophisticated credit card scams, counting among his victims corporations such as Western Union and Proctor and Gamble, as well as casinos, airlines and just about every other business imaginable. Unfortunately, Jacobs’ severe addiction to gambling caused him to lose most of those millions as quickly as he acquired them, leaving the titular appellation “genius” open to question. Long-suffering urbanites may or may not appreciate the scheme in which he sublet an apartment under a false name, then “rented” it to approximately 60 different individuals, collecting a hefty deposit from each before disappearing. Even his numerous straight businesses functioned on the border of illegitimacy, probably not unlike most Fortune 500 companies. Come to think of it, Jacobs used the name “Donald Trump” for one of his scams, and but he and the Donald have never been seen in the same room together. At the very least, Jacobs’ tale will make you guard your credit cards with your life. LP

Publisher: City Lights
Hardback: 205 pages