Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bruce David-A Speculation

On July 4, 2016, I wrote the introduction to this series on the art and artists of the Bellerophon issues of Weird Tales from 1984-1985. I have moved through the categories of art reprinted from other sources (Clare Angell, Edd Cartier, and Rod Ruth) and art reprinted from previous issues of Weird Tales. I will leave a few names in the latter category--Joseph R. Eberle, Jr., Virgil Finlay, and Frank Utpatel--for another day. Instead, I would like to move on to the five names in the category of artists new to Weird Tales with the Bellerophon issues. First is Bruce David. And what I have written here is based on the speculation that the Bruce David about whom I write is the same Bruce David who contributed to the magazine. I can say at least that it is a speculation with a little force.

Bruce David
Journalist, Writer, Editor, Cartoonist, Screenwriter
Born 1941
Died June 17, 2016, presumably in Los Angeles, California

Bruce David was born in 1941 and served in the U.S. Army, in Germany and elsewhere. When he and his sister graduated from college, she asked him what he would like to do with his life. "[B]asically because I'm a shallow person," he remembered, "I said[,] '[U]ltimately I'd like to be the editor at Playboy magazine'." (1) David didn't quite make it to Playboy. Instead, he worked for Hustler for nearly forty years. Publisher Larry Flynt remembered how David arrived at Hustler:
Bruce was working for Screw and wrote a review of the very first issue of Hustler back in 1974. He said, "The new men's upstart, Hustler, has just nudged out Refrigerator Monthly as the most boring publication in America." So I called him up. I told him, "I love your review. And I agree with you, by the way. Why don't you come to Columbus and help us out." He worked for Larry Flynt Publications for nearly four decades. He was stubborn, arrogant . . . very creative. He was Bruce." (1)
Before going to work for Mr. Flynt, Bruce David wrote for Screw and Penthouse, was founding art director of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, and produced and sometimes co-hosted a television show called Midnight Blue in New York City. David returned to television in the mid 1980s with scripts for Family Ties, ALF, Mr. Sunshine, and MacGyver. He was a fan of science fiction and was interested in UFOs and mythology. "I came up through the underground press," David said, and that influence showed in his comic strips, including S.M.O.G., which appeared in Weird Tales in 1984-1985. (3) Although I have not seen every issue of Weird Tales (far from it), I think it pretty likely that S.M.O.G. was the only comic strip ever to appear in the magazine.

Bruce David retired from Larry Flynt Publications in about 2013 and died this year, on June 17, 2016, presumably in Los Angeles, at age seventy-five. He was well remembered at his death and is keenly missed by those who knew him.

(1) Quoted in "Interview with Bruce David" by Bruce David in Genetic Strands, November 3, 2008, originally in Hump magazine in the 1990s, here.
(2) Quoted in "Hustler Editorial Director Bruce David Passes Away" by Ariana Rodriguez in XBiz: The Industry Source, June 21, 2016, here.
(3) Quoted in "Interview with Bruce David."

Bruce David's Comic Strip S.M.O.G. in Weird Tales
Two installments each in the issues of Fall 1984 and Winter 1985

Further Reading
The sources shown above in the notes; "Former Hustler Editorial Director Bruce David Passes" by Mark Kernes in AVN, June 21, 2016, here; and other sources easily found on the Internet.

S.M.O.G., Bruce David's comic strip about a man who immerses himself in a sensory deprivation chamber in order to face his fears, from Weird Tales, Winter 1985, page 87.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. When looking at the content of the S.M.O.G. strip that you reprinted here (about a man whose immersion in fantasizing about the "perfect woman" prevents him from ever having a meaningful relationship) it does seem likely that it was produced by the same Bruce David who spent most of his professional life working in the porn industry. I don;y recall Bruce David's work specifically, but I do remember Screw, Hustler and Penthouse from the mid to late 70s.
    That was an interesting time for pornography; a time when many moral boundaries were coming down and it looked -- very briefly -- as if sexually explicit entertainment would merge with more mainstream movies and publications. There were a few relatively big budget porn films made, and a few performers did manage to cross over into mainstream movies and TV, while a couple of minor Hollywood actors tried to legitimize porn films by appearing in them (such as Aldo Ray's role in "Sweet Savage", a hard core western.)
    In addition to the weekly tabloid Screw, publisher Al Goldstein also produced a short-lived slick magazine titled National Screw which was notable to me because it featured comics by such luminaries as Wally Wood and Will Eisner!
    Ah, those were different times...

  2. Mike,

    You have a better perspective of that time and that industry than I do, but even I could sense then that porn was not something hidden away but something that approached the margins of mainstream society. I remember seeing advertisements for X-rated movies in the newspaper, and it wasn't uncommon for ordinary working men to have Playboy or even Penthouse laying around the house or garage. Although National Lampoon wasn't specifically a pornographic magazine, there was a lot of nudity and sex in it, and that was a regular newsstand kind of magazine. (I wasn't allowed to see it.) And of course TV was full of jiggle shows. Those were different times for sure--the end of the Golden Age of Heterosexuality (not that pornography constituted that age--it was merely an expression of it).

    Thanks for writing.


  3. There was a great book that came out in 2005 called, THE OTHER HOLLYWOOD: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Industry. Written by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne, it neither glamorizes nor demonizes the industry, but rather does a commendable job of presenting all aspects of the early porn industry and its place in popular culture of the day. It is a rarity among historical works; an unbiased account that non-judgmentally shows all sides of the subject matter and allows the reader to come to their own conclusions. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who'd like to get some perspective on just what was going on with porn and our culture in the 70s and 80s.