The prickly pioneer of pop pornography, described today in his New York Times obituary as a “cartoonishly vituerpative amalgam of borscht belt comic, free range social critic and sex-obsessed loser,” is unknown to those below a certain age. But to all those who surfed late into the evening during the early days of public access cable TV, Al Goldstein remains a lingering and slightly repellant curiosity.
It was on a night in those days, while sampling the strange cable channels with a new thing called a remote, that I was stunned to come upon one of my commercials. A NASDAQ spot written to announce they were now a 24-hour stock market.
To the heart-rending tones of Frank Sinatra’s Wee Small Hours of the Morning, the camera moves lovingly through the deserted 4 AM streets of lower Manhattan. Stentorian Lee Richardson intones on the voiceover: “There will soon be a stock market open for business in the middle of the night. Who on earth would want to trade at that hour? Most of the earth, actually. NASDAQ. The stock market for the next hundred years.”
The commercial ended and suddenly there stood bearded Al Goldstein, speaking to me from the stage of Midnight Blue. It was a sexual variety show where the sex, in the words of the Times obituary, “was seldom pretty, romantic or even particularly sexy.”
“I always loved Frank Sinatra,” said Goldstein in his high New York whine of complaint. “Sure, he has Alzheimer’s now. But I used to love him. And my favorite song was In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. Well, now some f***ing moron assholes on Madison Avenue have gone and ruined this song in some bullshit commercial selling something called NASDAQ.” He then gave his signature signoff for complaints. Looking straight into the camera and raising his middle finger, he said. “NASDAQ! F*** you!”
Al Goldstein apparently cared not a whit for my pithy writing, the superb craft of the cinematography, the image boost enjoyed by the NASDAQ stock market, or the heroic tones of Lee Richardson’s voice. All he cared about was, well, the prostitution of a song he loved.
Now Lee Richardson, the commercial, the agency and Al Goldstein are gone. Early cable sex shows broadcast into the wee small hours of the morning enjoy a shelf life even shorter than that of advertising, which is precisely a nanosecond.
Only Frank Sinatra and his Wee Small Hours of the Morning endure.
Many in advertising have won a Cleo, an Andy or an ADDY. Few can boast winning what I now propose as a brand new advertising creative award: an ALLIE. The statuette will be in the image of a finger.