CULTURE
Sleaze, Smut, and Times Square: Outlaw Biographer Jimmy McDonough on '80s Drug Culture
The premier profiler of Neil Young, Russ Meyer, and Al Green talks rock star drug trips, Times Square sleaze sex, and the reissue of "The Ghastly One," his shock bio of cult filmmaker Andy Milligan.
Published on November 18, 2019

Over the past two decades, author Jimmy McDonough has penned the definitive life stories of rock god Neil Young (Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography), sexploitation titan Russ Meyer (Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film), country icon Tammy Wynette (Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen), and R&B overlord Al Green (Soul Survivor: A Biography of Al Green). In addition, McDonough co-authored the 2016 memoir of Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty, titled Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music.

Prior to covering A-listers, though, McDonough scoured the underworld of sewer-level entertainment. He co-edited Sleazoid Express, a legendary NYC ’zine created by a mad genius named Bill Landis that chronicled the 1980s Times Square grindhouse scene as it crumbled around its correspondents into crack-AIDS-and-Giuliani ruin.

In that milieu, McDonough came across the work of Andy Milligan, a maker of no-budget schlock horror and sexual psychodramas that — no joke — make the films of Ed Wood look like Academy Award winners. 

With bizarre ambition and questionable talent, Milligan pumped out eyesores on the order of Bloodthirsty Butchers (1970), Torture Dungeon (1970), Guru, the Mad Monk (1970), and The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972). 

Still, as with Ed Wood, a unique vision permeates Milligan’s output and McDonough picked up on it. Diving deeper, McDonough discovered that the director of Gutter Trash (1968) and The Man With Two Heads (1972) had also been a pioneer of gay cinema with his breakthrough short Vapors (1962). And, as the creator of the Caffe Cino theater, Milligan helped establish New York’s Off-Broadway movement. 

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Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo
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