Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ralph Ginzburg

Ralph Ginzburg died last week. Ralph Ginzburg was a brave and courageous hustler, a man for whom the big score was worth sacrificing your livelihood for. He was a street smart striver who talked in the clipped Brooklyn patios of a Coney Island barker. Working his way though the advertising department at the old Look magazine in the 50's, he became a high-level exec in short order. But when he thought it might be a good idea to trawl libraries for obscure erotica and then publish it in book from, the shit really hit the fan. Ginzburg published An Unhurried View of Erotica while working as an editor at Esquire magazine. The book was a sensation; Mike Wallace had Ginzburg on his old NightBeat talk show, and the book wound up selling over 300,000 copies.

That wasn't a good move, as it turned out, as Ginzburg appeared on the Wallace show against the wishes of his boss, Esquire publisher Arnold Gingrich. So Ginzburg was fired from Esquire, but he didn't stop there. Next came a high-end quarterly called Eros, in which Ginzburg published previously unseen nude photos of Marilyn Monroe. This created an even bigger shitstorm, as the Supreme Court got involved, and ruled that Ginzburg was sending prurient material through the mail and was thus violating obscenity laws.

So Ginzburg then served hard jail time. But he bounced back with a series of small magazines, some of which did better than others. He then completely reinvented himself and became a very fine photojournalist for The New York Post.

Ginzburg was a rare breed indeed. Although he harbored a lot of bitterness over what had transpired across his long life, he never stopped moving forward. I admired the heck out of him, and I'm sorry to see him go.


oliviab said...

Wonderful to see an obit ~ and such an affectionate one ~ for an everyday hustler and adventurous, enterprising lowlife. People like Ralph are rarely honored in death, a wrong that has been refreshingly righted here.

The tedious procession of sanctified whitewashes in most obits is pukeadelic. Ralph's obit, on the other hand, is a celebration of the dark underbelly of life and society, a celebration of diversity. Hooray for you, and hooray for Ralph. And thank you.

Anonymous said...

In the name of all that is holy: Ralph Ginzburg did not talk in "clipped Brooklyn patios," unless he was visiting them.

(Also, it wasn't spelled "Ginzberg.")

I was always freaked out by Eros and Avant-Garde, because I saw them when I was really quite too young. But I much admired Moneysworth, even if today it would be a blog.

MW said...

oops..sorry for the ginzburg typo -jeez... it has been rectified...

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