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The Adult Publishers

The “dirty stories” that he wrote for the “hippy paper” were getting Bukowski in trouble at the Post Office. But he had discovered that he could sell them to adult magazines for much more, which he did for a long time. Bryan argued that Bukowski should bundle the most outrageous—one about a 300-lb whore, another on a burglar who urinated in refrigerators—and submit them to an adult publisher he knew, Essex House, which published “the very finest in adult reading by the most provocative modern writers.”29 Bryan sensed possible routes to financial capital, which Bukowski, who hated all powerful people, had no idea about.

Essex House was a subsidiary of Parliament News, owned by Milton Luros.30 An illustrator for pulp magazines, Luros (born Milton Louis Rosenblatt) had moved to LA after serving in World War II and changing his name in 1950. He had worked his way up at Famous Detective, started an art agency, and become art director of men’s magazines like Adam and Knight, eventually owning several of them. His company Parliament News distributed nudist and erotic magazines, but Luros was impressed by the cultural pretense of Grove Press and Evergreen, where Barney Rosset published such prurient material alongside Beckett and Borges.

Luros thought he could achieve the same success with more macho material. He started Essex House in imitation of Rosset, requiring authors to use their real names, and also published Samuel Delaney. We have seen that Evergreen was previously in Bukowski’s sights, and we know from Loren Glass and Abel Debritto that this avenue to publication was not unusual in the 1950s and 1960s. D. H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Vladimir Nabokov, and William Burroughs published in these magazines. Essex House was local, which worked in Bukowski’s favor, capitalizing on the fame of his “Dirty Old Man” columns. So did publishing under his real name. In January 1969, without an agent, he got a standard contract: 4% of the retail price on the first 150,000 copies, with the book to be published a year later.31 The book eventually sold around 90,000 copies. Luros, his publisher, never met Bukowski: they were simply of use to each other commercially.32

During the intervening year, Bryan was blind-sided by an obscenity suit. LA County prosecuted him for running an ad for a Leon Russell album with a naked woman on the cover. Six months later the D.A. struck again over a story titled “Skinny Dynamite” by Jack Michiline in a supplement edited by Bukowski. The $1,000 fine for the first offense eventually bankrupted the paper, just as Bukowski’s career took off.33 Bukowski was not contrite, nor did he make any loans to Bryan. He wrote a tell-all for Evergreen Review in 1969 in which he parodied Bryan and his wife as the editors of “Open Pussy” magazine, mocking their financial and emotional problems. “He was a great writer and a lousy human being,” said Bryan.34

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