The Porn Hunter -
There's cash in Grandpa's dirty pictures.
By Jennifer Kabat
Mark Rotenberg, with a fraction of his vast porn collection.
(Photo credit: Phillip Toledano)
Mark Rotenberg greets all the waitresses at his local diner by name. "They have no idea what I do," he whispers as we sit down, "or that I've got a thousand bucks in
my pocket right now. You never know when someone wants to sell some smut."
Rotenberg is one of the country's preeminent porn collectors. Four Taschen books have been based on his personal stash-nearly
200,000 pieces and growing. "I want to acquire all that I can afford," he says.
Rotenberg became a porn-hound back in Brooklyn Heights in the late seventies when his neighbor-an heirless man who had been hoarding prints, magazines, first editions, and pornography
for decades-died. City workers hauled armloads of obviously valuable first editions out of the apartment, but they left everything else to be tossed into the trash. Already something of a
pack rat, the then-26-year-old Rotenberg scavenged Cruikshank drawings, Civil War newspapers, signed Picasso lithos, and lots of erotic material. He wasn't even into the porn at first.
It was only after a friend suggested he show his finds to an editor at Screw that he realized there might be money in it.
Back at Rotenberg's old stone farmhouse, he tells his wife, Laura Mirsky, about the day's unexpected haul. A local auctioneer gave him four boxes of material-"including a 16-mm. reel of
Candy Barr getting down and verrrry dirty." The seller, he explains, didn't want these items to be associated with her late husband, so she asked the auction house to destroy
them. "Two boxes did make it to the bottom of a very wet Dumpster," he laments, "while the others were delivered unto me." His wife sighs indulgently.
The photos are organized in binders, and the binders are multiplying: Victorian hard-core, Edwardian postcards, fifties cheesecake-which is itself subdivided into blondes, twosomes, threesomes, big
breasts, fetish, famous models, Irving Klaw, bondage, whips, Asian, black, and older women. At the request of Dian Hanson, head of Taschen's Sexy Books division, there's even a
category for dirty feet. "I don't even keep the Playboys anymore," says Rotenberg. "How many copies of June '73 does one person need?"
You can access the full article at New York Magazine's website if you click here.