Crimson Celluloid: There’s one question I meant to ask you when you were out here a while ago. How is the Jim Goad of today a different person to the way you were before you were incarcerated?
Jim Goad: Well, I certainly didn’t emerge from prison regretting anything I ever wrote, nor did I feel remorse for my crime in the least. As I view it, spending over two years in a cage is far worse than having your face pounded and dealing with a black eye for a week or two. Fuck, spending years and years afterwards dealing with the eternal stigma, the retarded name-calling, and the invisible black eye of being a previously violent ex-con is worse than having a literal black eye. I’ve noticed that if you spend ten years without shooting dope, people consider you an ex-junkie, but one never is considered an ‘ex-woman-beater.’ I can’t tell you how many times people—through the anonymity and safety of the Internet, of course—have told me ‘You beat women’ as if it was an ongoing, daily thing. The only person ever brave enough to say it to my face quickly surrendered his courage when I said, ‘Would you like to step outside and see if I can beat men, too?’
Unlike the vast majority of people, I’ve been locked in a box like an animal and I’ve also been on the receiving end of bloody thrashings, so I feel uniquely qualified to judge which is worse. And it seems as if most people who know the specifics of my case tend to believe they sent the wrong one of us to jail. Therefore, as most ex-cons do, I walked out of the gates highly suspicious of a society which is so stupid and naive that it perpetually indulges the fallacy of ‘the million wrongs we just inflicted upon you in response to your single transgression—which harmed only one of us—is justice.’
Still, the experience fucked up my whole program. There were people whom I considered friends or loved ones who either abandoned me or betrayed me in ways I’d never have suspected. But there were others who had been barely acquaintances of mine whose loyalty and efforts on my behalf made me realize that not everyone was as inherently rotten as I’d previously believed. So it caused a violent split in my view of humanity—people turned out to be far worse and far better than I’d ever dreamed possible.
I’m still an obsessive personality, and I still think I’m right, and I still believe my literary balls hang far lower than nearly anyone else’s alive. More than most, I believe I’m highly attuned to how heresies eventually become mainstream belief systems and how the vast majority of people who consider themselves ‘edgy’ are those who only embraced radical ideas LONG after it became safe for them to do so. I tend not to hang with ‘the crowd’ because I believe that at any given moment in history, the crowd is only standing somewhere because some lone, brave nutjob broke down the walls for them first.
For example, it’s not exactly courageous to be an anti-racist these days; a hundred years ago, it was. Nowadays, you suffer the same risks—ostracism, career loss, possible assault—for being perceived as racist that you would have encountered a century ago for daring to question racist ideology. People huddle together in doctrinaire herds, and the same jackasses who, without the slightest risk, now scream against racism are the same conformist personality types who would have carried torches in lynch mobs a century ago.
I still partially suffer from the delusion that if you explain things logically and systematically, most people will abandon their emotional prejudices and respond to logic. But I don’t suffer from that delusion as wholeheartedly as I did in the past. So if there’s a fundamental difference, it’s that I’ve accepted the fact that most imbeciles will never ‘get’ me and I shouldn’t allow myself to get so upset about it.
Otherwise, I’m more muscular than I was in my younger days. My biceps and shoulders, especially.
CC: Aside from all the material it provided for your amazing book Shit Magnet, did any good come from that whole experience?
JG: I think that any time a person comes face-to-face with their own mortality—close enough to Death that they can smell its breath—they have a choice
1) Fall to pieces;
2) Reassemble yourself and keep walking.
I could have completely lost my mind or became a junkie or abandoned all sense and judgment and committed some rash, stupid act that would have sent me right back into the cage. Instead, I chose to be happy—but not so much for the sake of happiness as for spite. I chose to become happy in order to spite the whole stupid fucking world. I made a point of being so happy, the world would become even more nauseated than they were by the gore pictures in ANSWER Me!
If anything, I’ve probably tended more toward humor in my writing and veered more toward pleasure in my personal life. Shit Magnet, which was written entirely behind bars, is one of the least funny books ever written. But after my captors disgorged me back into the social fish tank, I began getting gigs writing for porno magazines, which seemed to be the only places willing to hire me.
I believe “human sexuality” is one of the most ridiculous aspects of being a human, and here I was, facing publications whose prevailing editorial slant sought to portray our basic rutting instincts as something “ennobling” and “empowering,” to depict women who were fundamentally whores and predominantly unstable as “sex workers” and “goddesses.” And as far as I could tell, no one else was making fun of a non-fiction subgenre—“sex-positivity”—that begged and screamed and barked out loud to be lampooned. So for five years or so, I wrote about hardly anything besides sex, and I compiled the results into Jim Goad’s Gigantic Book of Sex, which I think is the funniest and most clever thing I’ve done.
No one would ever suspect it from my grandiose and bulldozingly serious answer to your first question, but prior to graduating from high school, my 955 classmates voted me the Class Clown and the Class Wit. And one of the greatest pleasures I get from my measly professional career is confusing people. “Wait—he beats women and seems like a Nazi, but he has impeccable grammar and keen reasoning skills and sings country music and can, from time to time, say or do something really funny?” It absolutely doesn’t compute for them. I enjoy that immensely.
CC: Does it strike you as ironic that the key protagonist in this whole episode has somehow managed to come through unscathed? Debbie has died, you have been imprisoned and had a brain tumour and what has happened to her? The multi-hyphenated young female (surely not “lady”)…dog-shit-eating…deformed-vagina-having…canine-oral-sex-performing-ex-stripper has a big karmic debt to pay. What would you say to her if you had the chance? Isn’t it odd that the people who DESERVE cancer are never the ones that get it!?
JG: The idea of “karma” reeks of primitive religious superstition, so I don’t place a lot of stock in it. I believe that to some degree there are situational and psychological laws of cause-and-effect, but I don’t believe there’s some Über-soul who doles out “justice.”
More than any other reason, Debbie came down with ovarian cancer in 1997 because she ignored my pleadings to have her ovaries removed after doctors discovered a large benign ovarian cyst in 1991. Her mother died of ovarian cancer, it’s highly hereditary, and we never wanted kids. So I think there was some basic cause-and-effect involved there. The Hindu gods had nothing to do with it.
I went to prison—even though I had no prior criminal convictions—largely because of things I’d written and because O. J. Simpson’s acquittal on murder charges created a climate of bloodlust directed at the domestic abusers, which—despite reams of research to the contrary—most English-speaking cultures consider to be an exclusively male avocation. It always baffled me how people could listen to MP3s on my website of death threats she’d left on my voicemail…or how they could be fully aware that I had a criminal Restraining Order in effect against her when this all happened…or how they can look at all the scratches on my face in my mug shot…or how they can be apprised of the DNA evidence which revealed my blood was at the crime scene, even though police found no scratches on my hands…and still refuse to admit this was mutual combat. Intense cognitive dissonance. In a perverse way, it’s very patriarchal to think that women can’t be malicious or violent.
But you asked specifically what has happened to her, and the answer is “nothing.” She has entirely faded away, and I honestly don’t know or care whether or not she’s dead. If you knew the psychopathic degree to which she craved fame, you’d appreciate what torture this must be for her, assuming she’s still alive. If you Google her name but specify that the results DON’T include the word “Goad,” there’s nothing. Again, this is the result of cause-and-effect. She is unknown because she has no talent.
I wouldn’t say anything to her if I had the chance. She confronted me twice on Portland streets after I got out of prison, and I walked away each time without saying a word. I’m certain this frustrated the living fuck out of her, just as it must have irked her that both times I was with girls and she was alone.
There’s a section of transcripts on my website where she was recorded talking to my friend Sean Tejaratchi while I was in jail and still facing criminal charges. She was recorded gloating about the fact that I was facing decades in jail and that Debbie was dying of cancer. She went so far as to say she was going to masturbate to the fact that Debbie was dying. Sean, a very wise man, said this to her:
My God, you’re going to fucking be YOU for the rest of your life. I can’t imagine a worse fate.
Me neither. In contrast, I’m alive, happier than I’ve ever been, and I’m doing exactly what I want. And she’s still her.
CC: When you think back on all your time with Debbie after all this time are you filled with more sadness than bitterness?
JG: I spent the better part of two or three years crying about her cancer diagnosis. There were times I cried so hard, I could HEAR the teardrops falling on my blue jeans. I cried so hard, I literally believed I was going to die from crying. But then she pulled a series of stunts that were so calculated and malicious, I rapidly moved past feeling sad for her or about our time together. Rather than detailing her malicious “stunts” within this interview’s context, you can read about them here:
I suppose an outsider could call it bitterness, but the overwhelming emotion I now feel about our dozen or so years together is regret. I don’t regret any of my transgressions, because I believe I paid for them a million times over. I told her how sorry I was a million times more than that, while she never apologized for anything. Nothing. Ever. Not once.
I regret all the time I wasted with her. A primary flaw in my psychology is that I’ll give people a hundred yards’ worth of rope with which to hang themselves, but once they reach that hundred-yard line, I strangle them to death with it. I loved Debbie for years, and what remains on the historical record would never give you an inkling of how affectionate and protective I was toward her in many ways, but ultimately none of this put the slightest dent in her Great Wall of Self-Pity. She was easily the most obstinately depressed person I’ve ever known, and in the end, I regret wasting so much time with someone who steadfastly refused to be happy. Back then, if I had the sort of self-esteem I’ve managed to accrue now, I would have left her years before it all unspooled into such a dismal situation.
CC: Most of us go through life with more skeletons than we can count rattling away in our closets. Is it liberating BEING Jim Goad and having most everything about you, good and bad, out in the public?
JG: It’s a double-edged dildo, my friend. And what’s good and bad, sweet spirit, are in the eye of the beholder.
“Liberating” is a gay word, so let’s phrase it this way: I know everything about me and still manage to be good friends with myself, so nothing anyone says that’s truthful about me ever bothers me.
What are a genuine pain in the ass are all the misconceptions and outright lies. I read somewhere that in 2004 I was homeless in Seattle and drinking heavily, which came as a shock since I’ve never been homeless and haven’t had a drink since 1982. I’ve also heard SEVERAL times that I’m a card-carrying member of several white-supremacist groups, when the last group I belonged to was the Boy Scouts.
Right now, there’s a theatrical production playing in LA where the main character’s name is “Jim Goat,” who, along with his wife “Debbie Goat,” publish a very angry magazine in Los Angeles before they split for Portland and Jim gets involved with a younger girl. All of it’s transparently and unimaginatively based on parts of my real story. A friend of mine who also knew Debbie and the “younger girl” saw the play last night and was amazed at how utterly inaccurate the author’s depiction of everyone was. None of it rang true for her at all. Of course she’s a friend and has some bias, but she was simultaneously amused and flabbergasted at how two-dimensional and off-base the portrayals were. I guess the Jim character walked around naked throughout the play, was a speed freak, and was rude toward everyone around him. Through some of my writing and a few of my personal actions, I guess that’s how people expect me to be. But I’ve never had a meth habit, I don’t walk around naked, and unless I’m actively provoked, I’m generally polite and well-spoken. When people meet me and discover I’m not a psychopathic babbling rageball, it blows their fucking minds. It doesn’t compute for them at all.
It’s very odd to observe someone else taking your identity into their own hands and getting it all wrong. I don’t think most people will ever get to experience how truly weird it is. During the ANSWER Me! “Rape Issue” obscenity trial, both the prosecution and the defense tried to explain what I’d been trying to say in the magazine, and both sides were way, way, WAY off.
Negative opinions about me don’t faze me unless I respect the person giving the opinion, which is rare. And if it’s someone I respect, I usually take heed of what they’re saying. But if I don’t respect them, which I usually don’t, what’s the point?
A lot of people expend great time and effort explaining why they don’t like me, but none of them ever try to explain why their opinion should matter to me. I think most of them sense, but would never be brave enough to admit, their subordinate role in the food chain relative to me. Most of those who spend their lives as critics secretly wish they’d be considered important enough for someone to bother criticizing them. Have you ever taken a sober look at any of the mutants who run these Hollywood-gossip sites? What a crew! None of them could ever, ever be stars, which is why they’re always trying to “take the piss” from those they envy.
I think that 99% of the snipers who take shots at me from electronic foxholes also realize they could never withstand the sort of public disparagement, nor the revelation of so many personal details, that I’ve endured for years and still remain as impenitent, obnoxious, and ready to argue all critics into the dirt as I am. I think this also jacks up their hatred level, because they realize they’d never be so strong-willed.
CC: What memories do you have of your time in Australia ? You were flown out here to appear on the John Safran show, making a notable appearance with the affable lisping Jew-boy and cranky Father Bob.
JG: My first memory was of being detained for four hours by the nice Customs officials at Melbourne International Airport. My detention came after roughly 22 hours of travel from my home, much of it spent listening to toddlers on the plane as they wailed and kicked the back of my seat, so I was irritable and loopy by that point. Two hours or so before landing, the stewardesses had handed out small questionnaires which included questions such as, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” At first I checked NO and handed back my card, but then the soon-to-be-slaughtered-by-a-stingray TV adventure hero Steve Irwin appeared on the plane’s video screen and sternly warned that if we are caught lying on these questionnaires, we WILL be arrested and incarcerated. So the “Crocodile Hunter” put the fear in me. And since I was slated to go on Safran’s national television program primarily to discuss why I was convicted of a crime, it occurred to me that it would probably be wise to admit on the questionnaire that I’d been convicted of a crime. So I asked for another questionnaire and filled out the second one truthfully.
Of course it was a female Customs officer who saw my card and said she wanted to speak with me about my crime. And of course a second female Customs officer accompanied us into the detention room. I tried explaining the precise reason I’d been flown to Australia was to discuss my criminal case and how many cases of family violence aren’t simple morality tales of evil abusive men versus innocent abused women. The officials kept disappearing into another room and Googling my name, which is always murder for me. After more than three hours of such nonsense, I demanded that they put me on a return flight home. I said something along the lines of, “As fucked-up as my country is, we don’t ask people what they’re going to SAY once they cross over our borders.” There were some desperate last-minute calls with the TV producers, who begged me to write some affidavit that Aussie officials in Canberra were requesting about what I intended to say on the TV program. So I banged out a sincere one-page letter and they faxed it to the capitol. Ten minutes later, the female officer returned to my room, told me that what I wrote was “eloquent,” and allowed me to enter the country.
So my initial impressions were not extremely pleasant ones.
Whenever I visit an industrialized nation that isn’t the United States, it immediately becomes apparent how much more educated and informed and aware of international events their citizens are compared to Americans. I didn’t see much besides Melbourne and a quick trip down to the Twelve Apostles, but all the Aussies I encountered were good-spirited and had a fine sense of humor.
Culturally, I think what struck me most was how overwhelmingly fucking Caucasian it is down there. Mind you, I live in an area of Atlanta that is nearly 88% black. But in six days in and around Melbourne, I saw maybe three people of African origin and maybe one easily identifiable Australian aborigine. And though your major media kept smacking me upside the head with the word “multicultural,” you goddamned Australians are the most racist bunch of people I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not talking about Safran, because he only seems concerned with race as far as it’s a taboo, which is where my interests primarily lie. But it was simultaneously refreshing and a bit shocking to see how cavalierly most Aussies toss out slurs and insults about nonwhites.
In 2007, an Aussie director paid to have me flown back down in order to act in his film project. I suppose my original tour though Customs in 2006 resulted in a giant red “X” being placed next to my name, because in that go-round, they refused to issue me a visa. I was stranded in Honolulu for a few days before I turned around and flew back to the States. Fuck you guys. I’m the only convict who couldn’t get into Australia.
Read part two here