calls. He’s in New York and wants to get together. I’m having a terrible
week, and three, four nights in a row I screw things up. When we finally
meet for lunch, I half-expect him to want to beat me. I mean, I’m bigger
than he is, but he’s got the rep. And the rap sheet.
he’s extremely polite about the whole thing, a model of gentlemanly forbearance.
A couple of things occur to me.
Goad knows a thing or two about terrible weeks.
Goad may in fact be the bad man his wife, his girlfriend, the State of Oregon
and numerous others said he is, but he’s also a man of principle. You may
disagree with his ethics, they may even repulse you, but you can’t deny
that he’s thought them through, can articulate them with unusual clarity,
tries to live by them more faithfully than you live by yours and if you debated
him on them he’d probably kick your ass.
speaking, of course.
is easily the most notorious character ever to emerge from zine publishing.
The four annual issues of ANSWER Me! he and his wife Debbie produced
1991-’94 remain legendary benchmarks of angry, ugly, outrageous self-publishing.
(You can see samples on his website, jimgoad.com.) Apparently advocating rape,
violence against women and suicide, among other hot topics, ANSWER Me!
took terms like “misanthropic” and “misogynist”–not
to mention “goad”–to whole new levels of meaning. Goad’s
first book, The Redneck Manifesto–published in 1997 by, surprisingly,
Simon & Schuster–was an extended rant about the “scapegoating”
of white trash that had him branded a racist to boot.
most outrageous act, so far, had nothing to do with print. In 1998 he got into
a vicious fight with the girl he was fucking while his wife lay dying of cancer.
The girl pressed charges. She and Goad’s wife bonded, the wife claiming
that he’d been beating her for years. Faced with two angry women and over
25 years behind bars, Goad copped a plea for a three-year sentence. He served
2.5 and got out last year.
book, with the lovely title Shit Magnet: One Man’s Miraculous Ability
to Absorb the World’s Guilt (Feral House, 319 pages, $16.95), tells
the story of his life in extremely painful detail. It was written behind bars.
months on the outside, Goad, who just turned 41, still has the look of the recently
released felon. He’s jailhouse pale and prison-gym built, lean, with guarded
eyes in a narrow face. His hair is 50s redneck, as is his blue jeans-and-wifebeater
of course, is a visual pun. There’s something mildly, not at all off-puttingly,
theatrical about Goad’s entire affect. Like a lot of people with a rep,
he dresses for it. I sense this is Jim Goad playing Jim Goad. I’m not at
all startled to hear that as a young man in Philadelphia he wanted to come to
NYU to study acting under Stella Adler.
work out. “My parents decided they didn’t want their son to be a fag,”
he says with a tight, bitter grin. (According to the early chapters of Shit
Magnet, his parents didn’t want their son, period. Goad believes it’s
part of why he’s so fucked up.)
As it turns
out, Goad is playing Goad, more or less, while he’s in New York:
He’s acting in a low-budget film, The Suzy Evans Story, playing
a bad-lieutenant sort of detective who starts out protecting the battered Suzy
and ends up…battering her.
I know,” he shrugs when I give him a look. “Typecasting.”
I grew cynical
when belching slabs of female swineflesh insisted that I was the pig.
Magnet is a relentlessly sad, ugly, hateful, raging, repellent, violent
and brutally candid memoir-manifesto. It’s as hard to put down as it is
to read. Think Celine, or Klaus Kinski’s rabid autobiography. Mostly it’s
about Goad working out a rationale not only for his own violence, but for a
generally violent world.
his own disposition toward violence began literally in the womb, when his drunken
father punched his pregnant mom in the hopes of inducing her to abort. He relates
a bleak and freakish childhood in Philadelphia, where he was always the smart,
big-headed weirdo kid, a loner, a misanthrope from very early on. Shrinks described
him as an adult’s brain in a child’s body; once, in his sleep, he
actually seemed possessed and spoke with a woman’s voice. School was torturous
boredom at the hands of the nuns; his early sexual experiences were dalliances
with other boys based on their reading of porn. Eventually, after getting beaten
often enough–by his dad, by bullies–he learned to use his fists and
fight back. He describes numerous fights in the book: some he won, some he got
his ass kicked; some with guys, some with women.
He met Debbie
at a Johnny Thunders concert in New York. She was 32, he was 24. He was a tormented
Catholic boy from Philly, she was a morose Brooklyn Jew. She wore a button that
said I HATE PEOPLE. “A girl who thinks like me,” he thought. He writes:
for the needy.
And we were
both very needy.
And we were
both intensely miserable.
But we liked
So it became
was “share the bitterness.”
were together for over a decade, a self-contained unit of misfits, making very
few friends. They fled New York when Goad beat up their Brighton Beach landlord
for, he says, calling Debbie “stupid.” Assault charges were later
dropped, but they still moved across the country, to L.A.–where, not surprisingly,
they felt even more out of place. He writes:
where nothing is real and everything is deadly.
where there are no Hollywood endings.
I moved here from New York to mellow out.
It was in
L.A. that they began to work on ANSWER Me!, earning undying fandom and/or
envy in the zine world, and much outrage elsewhere. Completely antisocial, often
revoltingly vicious, ANSWER Me! had repercussions far beyond its peak
circulation of 13,000. Goad reveled in upsetting the politically correct, especially
on issues of race and feminism. All it took was an essay like “Let’s
Hear It for Violence Toward Women!,” which began:
are only good for fucking and beating. When you get tired of fucking them, there’s
only one thing left to do.
you fuck them, they start talking. That’s when you beat them. They all
talk too much, especially when you don’t want to hear it.
what do they talk about? Violence toward women. But they fail to realize that
their whining is what provokes most of the violence…”
ANSWER Me! were banned or seized by customs officials in several countries.
The final “Rape Issue”–one long, vehemently antifeminist rant
(Goad calls it their “malevolent Meisterwerk”) that argued rape is
a natural, not a political, act–made national news and raised an enormous,
often hilarious and usually idiotic maelstrom of protest; as Goad writes, “People
swiftly reacted as if an acutely unholy event had occurred.” Bookstore
owners rejected and, in at least one case, actually burned copies of the issue.
As ultimate (if possibly apocryphal) proof of its triumph, Richard “The
Night Stalker” Ramirez, a Goad prison pen-pal, supposedly remarked, “Don’t
you think that issue went a little too far?” In the state of Washington,
bookstore owners who’d displayed the issue were prosecuted on a pornography
charge and acquitted on a technicality.
made the news again when a crazed gunman took 29 shots at the White House with
an assault rifle, and it was claimed that he’d been influenced at least
in part by ANSWER Me! And again in ’96, when a young British trio
with neo-Nazi leanings killed themselves, and the third (“Suicide”)
issue of ANSWER Me! was cited as a possible inspiration. It’s said
that Kurt Cobain also read that issue a few months before he offed himself.
It contained a photo of a man who’d blown his head off in a manner suspiciously
similar to what Cobain would do to himself.
that press, even if it was almost uniformly bad, it was perhaps inevitable that
Goad would score a commercial book contract. But Simon & Schuster seemed
mortified by his Redneck Manifesto–which argued that poor whites
should be just as proud of their heritage as poor blacks–as soon as it
appeared and began to be called a “racist” or “white supremacist”
tract. A classically Goadian disclaimer–”I’m no fan of white
supremacy–everyone knows the Jews and chinks are superior”–didn’t
help. The publisher arranged exactly one public reading for the author. Though
a cause celebre in certain circles, the book barely dented the mainstream
Goad got himself arrested.
Are you ready for this one?
I hit you because I cared too much.
loves company for so long. Goad claims that over time Debbie drove him to violent
rage with her depression, her constant complaining and her lack of intelligence.
Addressing her in the book, he writes:
as dumb as a lobotomized garden slug… Your stubborn imbecility frustrated
me to the point of madness. I couldn’t treat you as an equal, and I resented
treating you like an inferior. After a while, I felt as if I was taking care
of a retarded child…You were possibly the dumbest adult with whom I’ve
willingly spent more than five minutes.
were definitely the most miserable.
time he hit her, he slapped her. Later, he would punch her, blackening both
about that one. It tore me up to see what I’d done to the woman I said
I loved. The coily-haired li’l Hebe-girl whom I’d promised never to
But a few
weeks later I shoved you while in the bathroom and you fell against a towel
rack, bruising your ribs.
even remember why I did it…
other violent outbursts, forever marking him as a wife-beater. Debbie would
later claim the abuse became daily, which he has always strenuously denied.
I ask him:
“Is Jim Goad a wife-beater? And if not, what’s the difference between
Jim Goad and a wife-beater?” Prompting this exchange:
Jim Goad regularly beat on his wife?”
beating. The dictionary defines beating as repeated striking.”
did that with my wife. Hit her maybe 10 to a dozen times over 10 to a dozen
years, and would gladly trade being hit as many times as I hit her with being
slogged with her neuroses. And you could hook me up to a lie detector test and
see if that’s true. I know what it’s like to be hit–big fucking
deal. A lot worse ways to suffer than being hit.”
beatings in the sense that I never hit you repeatedly during the same incident.
It was just one desperate lunge each time. None of it was premeditated. It was
always quick and instinctual.
And I hate
myself for doing it.
And I hate
what you did that led up to it.
Debbie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And Goad started cheating on her with
an ANSWER Me! groupie, Anne Ryan. Ryan put out her own misanthropic zines
and handed out personal business cards describing herself as a “Psychotic
Neo-Nazi Bitch With a Whip.” She turned out to be a lot worse than that
for Goad. Shit Magnet narrates–from Goad’s point of view, of
course–an intense, psycho affair in minute, painful, degraded detail. “Sweet
Dracula girl,” he calls her. “Fifteen years younger than me and a
thousand times more fucked-up.”
that he hit Ryan first, but claims that as their relationship deteriorated they
took to beating each other up pretty regularly. They fought in public, were
arrested and released. When she wouldn’t stop fighting and started threatening
to kill him, he took out a restraining order against her. He says she continued
to cling and “stalk” him anyway. They had their last, savage fight
in his car in the hills outside Portland, where he left her by the road.
he’d had her in his car, Goad faced tough kidnapping as well as assault
charges, potentially topping out at over 25 years. After 7.5 months of pretrial
incarceration, during which Ryan and the dying Debbie formed their bond and
virtually all the media portrayed Goad as the blackest of woman-beating blackguards,
he copped his plea. (Ryan would later do a couple of months on an unrelated
assault charge of her own.)
never expressed a scintilla of remorse. Asked if he’s sorry for beating
Ryan, he tells me, “Absolutely not. I enjoyed it.”
Now I know why women have
a hole between their legs. That’s where they hide all their problems.
But a guy
isn’t supposed to hit a woman, I say. “The guy’s
not supposed to hit a woman,” he counters, “but it’s okay for
a guy to hit a weaker guy. I mean, it has nothing to do with physical weakness.
Woman are ‘sacred’ [in this society]. This idea that they’re
second-class citizens is bullshit. They live longer, they don’t go to jail
for the same crimes, they don’t have to go to war. It’s bullshit.
They get better bathrooms. Anybody who says women are second-class citizens
should go into a male and female public bathroom, and come out and tell me with
a straight face that women are second-class citizens.”
you’re still not supposed to hit a woman.
has “nothing to do with Strength v. Weakness,” Goad writes, “and
everything to do with Man v. Woman.”
If I had
assaulted, say, an eight-foot-tall Negro gentleman as many times as Anne attacked
me, and the Negro gent finally hauls off and pulverizes me, everyone would think
I deserved it, even though the eight-foot Negro is stronger relative to me than
I am compared to Anne.
If I had
broken the nose of a man smaller and weaker than Anne, would anyone think I
deserved life in prison?
could be said that a gentleman hits neither a woman nor a smaller guy.
Mencken said a gentleman is a man who never hits a woman without provocation,”
rejects any argument that men are more prone to physical violence than women.
study of family violence that’s ever been done has seen it neck and neck–or
women committing more violence than males,” he argues. “Does
the justice system reflect that? Women do as much damage with a frying pan in
their hand, or a knife or a blunt instrument, as any man.” The lopsided
law “has nothing to do with relative physical strength, and everything
to do with female sanctity, and male scumminess, or males being subhuman compared
to females, and guys get blamed for it.”
it succinctly in Shit Magnet:
Bobbitt sliced off her husband’s bratwurst, comedians joked about it for
the laughter if he’d mutilated her vagina.
hit anyone who’s seriously threatening my life,” he tells me, “and
that’s what happened, and that’s what sent me to prison.”
You can’t get elected
these days without promising to smash criminals’ testicles under a pile-driver.
county jail, Goad spent a year in a minimum security prison, a kind of dorm
he shared with 400 other inmates. He was later sent to a maximum security facility
for fighting with another inmate. There it was two guys in a cell 5.5 by 7.5
feet, with bunks less wide than the table in the diner where he and I sat having
lunch. It was small enough that he could easily stretch and touch all four walls.
found the minimum security prison a lot worse than the maximum,” he says.
In his tiny cell in the maximum security prison, “at least there was some,
some semblance of privacy,” as opposed to the open dorm living.
“Dostoyevsky said the worst thing about prison was forced communal existence.
I mean I hate going out, I hate socializing. So when you’re forced to cohabitate
with a thousand other guys constantly… That was the worst part, just having
to constantly brush up against these imbeciles.” In Shit Magnet
he describes his fellow inmates as “Shockingly illiterate. One slow-lidded,
drooling troglodyte after the next. Men whose mental energy couldn’t power
a wristwatch. Ugly, stupid, belching, conscienceless, unfeeling, driven-by-instinct,
worthless turd dumplings whose only purpose in life is to remind us that forced
sterilization maybe wasn’t such a bad idea.”
says that contrary to the Oz image of constant violence and sexual aggression,
being in prison is “like a monastery. At least in Oregon, and Oregon may
be an exception, but you don’t have the gang rape and the gang culture
and the air of hostility. Everyone really is miserable enough without having
to create more trauma. Everyone wants to be left alone. It’s the most respectful
place I’ve ever been in my life. People apologize when they bump into you.
Never happens out here.” He found the holding pens at the county jail “a
lot more stressful” than real prison. In the county lockup, “those
people are being dragged off the streets all dope-sick and they don’t know
if they’re getting out, if they’re ever getting out. In prison
people know how long they’re there, and everyone who was a junkie is cleaned
up at that point. People are cleaner and in better shape than they are in jail.”
unlike some states, inmates are allowed to receive a variety of reading materials,
but still it’s “really difficult to get anything controversial. So
the big irony was that I wasn’t able to receive any of my own writing because
it might have a bad influence on me.”
that black inmates preferred to be around the openly racist white ones, because
at least they knew where they were coming from. “One black inmate after
the next told me that the only whites they respected were the Nazis. Initially
I was totally shocked seeing these guys with White on one triceps and
Pride on the other sitting at tables playing cards with the blackest
of the black inmates. But the truth is, in prison non-racists don’t get
respect from anybody. They’re considered nerds or weaklings. It’s
considered a virtue to have esteem for your heritage in prison. I mean, you
have so very little else in there, you focus on those sort of tribal identities.”
Indisputable proof of life’s
worthlessness is that it always ends.
release last year Goad’s been back in Portland, where he got a job that,
compared to past escapades, sounds almost staid: He edits and writes for Exotic,
which he describes as “a free guide to the Northwest sex industry–you
know, escort girls and strip clubs.” Not a bad spot for a con. He’s
got a new young girlfriend and knows that in general he needs to stay out of
fights and out of trouble.
do girls think of you now?” I ask him. “Jim Goad, the famous woman-beater?”
it hasn’t detracted from my appeal,” he replies. “Numerically,
I’ve had more girls since I got out than I had in my entire life before.”
you can’t be winning a lot of ladyfriends with your opinions.”
be surprised,” he counters. “So many of them find it refreshing that
a guy’s not ashamed to be a fucking guy. I stayed with some friends the
first couple of days after I got out. We went to some little hipster restaurant/bar,
and all the men looked so severely fucking emasculated, just slump-shouldered–the
women seemed dominant and in control. I just remember being disgusted.
always fills a vacuum. It’s understandable that there’d be so many
lesbians and dominant women with these mealymouthed, self-hating, anti-male
guys. Of course that’s not gonna be appealing. I don’t mince words.
A lot of people find that incredibly refreshing, and–it’s a gay word–but
‘liberating’ almost. ‘Somebody’s finally saying what I’ve
been too terrified to say.’ Why are they terrified to say it? Because you
get demonized like Jim Goad got.”
the end,” I ask him, “what did Debbie think of you?”
think Debbie thought I was evil,” he replies. “She thought that Anton
LaVey, GG Allin and El Duce were her guardian angels in heaven, and that I was
going to hell. I wish I could view the world that simplistically. In the end,
how did I view her? As a fucked-up, sad person.”
what if somebody says to you, ‘Jim Goad, you got all this stuff in here
about your terrible childhood, your horrible dad, your horrible mom, am I supposed
to take that as an excuse for your being a woman-hating fuckhead now?’”
I say is, why do I need to give an excuse to anybody? I guess I just wrote a
whole book justifying myself, but it was to myself. It’s like I said at
the end, ‘You all need my forgiveness.’ I think I was imprinted
with some pretty wacky, heavy, hairy, violent situations when I was young, and
even when I was prenatal–it definitely had an effect. Excuse? No. All I’ve
ever said is things are complicated. The idea of this is good, this is bad,
you cut it right down the middle here–that’s retarded. It is a big
mess, but people can’t handle a big mess. I guess we have simple minds,
we can’t handle the utter horrifying complexity of everything, the fact
that there aren’t clear-cut good guys and bad guys. People suffer overload
from that. It’s all a big cesspool. The tide flushes this way and that
way, you squeeze the balloon on this end and it pops out that end. I think early
experiences had an effect on who I grew up to be and why I’m insanely driven
and insanely defensive of myself and my actions, ’cause I think I’ve
put a lot of thought into what I believe and who I am and the biggest lament
of my professional life is for all the shit people talk about me, I’ve
never had one fucking shit-talker ever agree to a public debate, ever,
or anything fucking near it. It’s like, if I’m so stupid, if I’m
so easily dismissed, if my ideas are so laughable, why don’t you just make
a mockery of me in public? It’s like foxhole syndrome, they’ll take
a shot and then hide.”
who says he rejects all moral systems, Goad has worked out for himself some
very well-articulated ethics. They’re not everybody’s ethics, but
he’s got them.
know,” he says, “rare is the true sociopath. People laugh about honor
among thieves. But the convict code to me is an incredibly moral thing. Why
are rats and snitches hated in prison? ‘Cause every one of them is guilty
of something. They’re trying to get out of whatever they’re charged
with by pinning it on someone else. And to me, that’s the ultimate act