Risqué Business

How John Van Means Wound Up Selling Sidewalk Erotica

Van Means's lifelong love of women and his dealings in erotica are perhaps a contradiction, and depending on how you read it, his explanation is either forthright or brilliantly evasive. Over lunch, Van Means says, "Feminists have attacked me on many issues. I have a stock answer: If you disagree with what I'm doing, do you believe in the Constitution as it is written? Those 55 white men who met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to write the Constitution, one of the most magnificent documents ever written, gave me the right to do what I am doing. I am breaking no law. If you disagree with what I'm doing, I would suggest that you go to Congress and get the law changed. I have an orphanage to help in Africa. I have a leper colony that I look out for in Africa. Did you know that there are still lepers?"

He turns reflective. "I don't have a wife, but I do have to eat. I like pastrami sandwiches that cost $10, and until you can get those laws changed, I will continue to do these things. I'm 57. I missed out. All the great women, all the fantastic women, I fucked up. I thought I'd stay 20 years old forever with a 32-inch waistline. I'd get married now, if any woman would have me."

Reached in Los Angeles, Lou Gossett says, "Van Means is an artist. He's a genius and a charlatan. He's all of these contradictory things. Give him my number and tell him to call me. And tell him I'm driving a Corniche Two."

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