BOOK REVIEW: ANSWER Me! All Four Issues, Edited by Jim and Debbie Goad
“We're back. Are you going to kill yourself, or do we have to do it for you?”
In 1991, the husband and wife team of Jim and Debbie Goad started their own magazine in Los Angeles called ANSWER Me!. To say this magazine “caused a stir” would be as much of an understatement as saying that your mother “really gets around.” The magazine was hated by the zine community at large: part of issue two was quoted by the 1994 White House Shooter, the third issue was blamed for the suicide of three British teenagers, and the fourth issue was subject to an obscenity trial.
Previously, three of the four issues had been released as a collection. For the first time, this edition from Nine-Banded Books brings all four issues together. No more sucking dick in alleyways to be able to afford the rare and expensive fourth issue for you!
This edition includes an extensive interview with Jim Goad about the magazine and its origins, a collage of press that it received, and letters to the Goads from both the White House Shooter and one of teenagers who committed suicide. It also includes high quality inserts of the “Rape Game,” a cut-out board game that was featured in the fourth issue.
The first issue opens with a picture of Jim and Debbie flipping off the readers and saying “fuck you” to anyone who picked this thing up.
“If you hate what we’re doing, that’s more of a reflection on you than it is on us. Our aim is to amuse, provoke, and maybe jog your lazy-ass mind out of the stupor it’s been in. Which leaves one thing unresolved about ANSWER Me!—what the hell is the question? That’s easy—WHY ARE YOU SO FUCKING STUPID?”
Believe it or not, this is the least angry issue. Strap in, pussy.
The first section of the issue consists of several fascinating interviews. The first of these is with sexploitation director Russ Meyer. I’m not familiar with Meyer, but I still found this a very entertaining read. Luckily for me, it also includes a selection of Meyer’s cinematography for neophytes.
The most well-known figures interviewed here probably are acid guru Timothy Leary and hip-hop group Public Enemy. I found the interview with Leary mostly forgettable. This would be far more interesting to someone who doesn’t know anything about Leary, and I know more than I should about him from a paper I wrote back in a college class.
The interview with Public Enemy discusses the ideological motivations in their music, their experiences in the industry, and their brief breakup. It also recounts how Kid N’ Play attempt to stall the audience at a show as Chuck D waits for Flavor Flav who is late due to a delayed flight, and the show that went on when Flav finally showed up.
The final, and my personal favorite, interview is with author of Pimp Iceberg Slim, likely the last he gave before he died. Jim Goad aptly describes Slim as creating “characters so real, you can whiff their intestines.” Slim speaks on growing up poor, how he became a pimp, his time in prison, and on racism in America.
The second part of the issue features two misanthropic editorials from Debbie Goad, “Babies are Dirty” and “People Ruin Everything.” Debbie’s articles about the things she hates are a signature of ANSWER Me!, and believe me, she hates a lot of things. Most of all you and your bitch ass. She’s also hilarious.
“Sunsets, mountains, architecture, anything looks better without people showing up and ruining it. It’s been a rough day of sightseeing. I think I’ll drop by the hotel’s Jacuzzi and soak all my pain away. The hot bubbles soothe me. I finally feel calm. But wait. What’s this? A group of people barge in. They ask stupid questions like, “How’s the water?” It’s wet, asshole! I immediately leave. I’m not calm anymore.”
One piece here is a “New Journalism” style report on a Fourth of July celebration in Bakersfield, California called “Death in Bakersfield.” Jim and Debbie watch the parade, listen to the speeches, and interview some of the participants.
“Liberals are dumb because they don’t understand that history is a murderous power struggle and their standard of living was purchased with blood; conservatives are stupid because they try to justify the murderous rage.”
As Jim and Debbie attempt to head back home, they come across an accident. A pedestrian smeared on the road under a car. Jim and Debbie join the crowd in watching the emergency workers doing the clean up.
“Staring at the dead body with passive interest, we feel like true Americans. That’s what’s so fucking scary.”
Another piece in the same style is “Twelve Steps to Hell.” Jim and Debbie attend various Twelve Step meetings for pot, coke, alcohol, and heroin. Though instead of finding companionship and being inspired to start an underground club dedicated to hand-to-hand combat, they just find themselves put off by the religious undertones of the meetings.
“Twelve-Steppers make much of total honesty. If they were truly honest with themselves, they’d admit that when they pray to their ‘higher power,’ they’re only talking to a mental projection. Their prayers never rise above the ceiling. If anyone wants to tell me with inalienable certainty that they’ve actually spoken with God, let me point the way to the nearest mental hospital.”
The issue also contains a couple of fiction pieces. In the hilarious “Jonah ‘Greasy’ Stubb’s Tips on Tips: A Critical Analysis,” we’re presented with a fictional handbook from the owner of a cab company who gives hints on bilking customers for tips. These include things like insisting to women customers they are “a celebrity she doesn’t remotely resemble,” and to insult your male customers because “he’ll feel like a nebbish and tip better.”
The issues ends on a two-page spread called “Filler.” One of the funniest parts here is a little section wherein Jim and Debbie prank call the customer service lines of several products. They give same the complaint of “I was overwhelmed with suicidal depression as a result of using your product.” Some of the representatives realize the prank while others take the complaint seriously. Others are just confused.
The second issue, the “Murder” issue, was where ANSWER Me! really found its voice. At least as much as it could for the limited time it was around. The cover of the second issue is probably the best summary of the magazine altogether. It features a graphic portrait of a man blowing his own brains out (drawn by Nick Bougas) and blurbs promising “MURDER!,” “SATANISM!,” “RACISM!,” and “PORNOGRAPHY!”
It delivers on several of those promises with interviews with founder of the Church of Satan Anton Lavey, former KKK grand wizard David Duke, and founder and editor of SCREW Al Goldstein. Continuing its infatuation with hip hop, it also features an interview with pioneering gangsta rap group the Geto Boys written in the style of a criminal profile.
Debbie returns with her rants against everything, this time targeting families, women, and men. She shows she’s not getting any less hateful or funny. Take this section from “I Hate Women.”
“If women were truly pro-choice, they’d choose to keep their fat legs shut. But they’re just talking shit when they talk about ‘controlling their bodies,’ and want the government (i.e., daddy) to pay for their sloppy one-night stands. Destroy all infants, remove all ovaries, and pay abortionists more than the president!”
Jim contributes a rant of his own called “The Underground is a Lie.” The first issue of ANSWER Me! wasn’t received well by the zine community, especially by the “artsy” types. Jim decides to strike back here.
“The ‘creative community’ doesn’t consist of the most creative people; you’re the ones with the most spare time to create, those whose parents tolerate—and often finance—your flighty pursuits. What usually passes for art is just the idle noodling of the leisure class.”
The centerpiece of the issue is “Night of a Hundred Mass-Murdering/Serial-Killing Stars,” where, as the title suggests, a hundred murderers are listed and described. It even includes a legend to help detail the types of murder they committed, i.e. an icon of silverware indicating the murderer committed cannibalism. It includes already infamous murderers like Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer as well as lesser known ones like Juan Corona and Patrick Kearney. Fans of true crime will get a lot out of this.
The murder theme continues in “Ho Chi Minh’s Revenge” which chronicles the rise of Vietnamese gangs in America. Jim Goad gives an overview of the surge of Vietnamese immigrants after the Vietnam War and shows how many first-generation immigrants have formed their own gangs. He notes how distinct they are in that they rarely engage in turf wars. They are, however, extremely deadly to anyone who crosses them, regardless of affiliation.
The final article is ¡Muerte! Mexican Murder Mags Let it Bleed. Here, the Goads take a look at Mexican exploitation tabloids. The tabloids include extremely graphic photos of victims of murder and accidents, bringing to mind a pre-internet version of shock sites, as well as sexy pinups, luchadores, and celebrity gossip. Much like ANSWER Me!, these tabloids embodied what a magazine should have been. I say “been” because, of course, we have the internet for all that now.
Like the previous issues, this one ends with a two-page spread called “Filler.” This time it contains two prank calls by Debbie, one to several clowns-for-hire and the other to various exorcists and “deprogrammers” claiming that she’s possessed by Satan. These are so funny you start to wonder why they don’t do full articles based on these.
The next issue, the “Suicide” issue, does just that. It opens with a prank call to Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian. Kevorkian was an advocate of assisted suicide and even created a special machine for ensuring a painless death for terminal patients. Debbie prank calls Kevorkian, saying that she’s dying from ovarian cancer and seeking his help to quickly and painlessly end her life. This article is difficult to find funny in hindsight. In 2000, Debbie Goad actually would die of ovarian cancer.
To balance out the interview with David Duke from the last issue, we have an interview with Al Sharpton titled “The Overweight Agitator.” Despite that title, as well as the Nick Bougas portrait of Sharpton sitting on a very uncomfortable Klansman while enjoying a plate of soul food, Jim is very fair to him and Sharpton comes across as charming and articulate.
Less charitable to its subject is “Thank Heaven for Little Boys.” Here, Jim Goad interviews a representative of NAMBLA. Yes, the North American Man/Boy Love Association is real and not something made up by South Park. Jim notes that the representative had an extremely thick Italian accent and the written interview keeps in all his flubs and weird syntax. Jim obviously found little reason to take this man seriously. He asks him at one point if he ever “had sex with a child while it was still in the womb.”
There’s less emphasis on music or film than the previous issues. Here, one of the articles focuses on The Kids of Widney High, a group of special ed music students who wrote and recorded their own music. The comparisons to Wesley Willis are almost too obvious. There’s also an interview with industrial music pioneer Boyd Rice, who gives his opinions on the various issues of the day.
Debbie has five of her hateful rants in this issue. The lessened emphasis on music in this issue is made more apparent from her piece “Music Blows.”
“Music calms the savage idiot. Calling oneself a ‘musician’ is like stamping the word ‘STUPID’ on your forehead. Musicians are the dumbest people I’ve ever met. Yet they shimmy through Hollywood’s streets like anointed beings. They won’t act so smug when I ram their guitar halfway up their ass and flip on the power switch.”
Despite the funniest title being on the piece “The Homeless Can Eat Shit,” my favorite of these tirades is “I Hate Being a Jew,” where Debbie turns her hatred inward. She bashes her Jewish family, talks about her miserable upbringing, and talks about how it made her the lovable hateful misanthrope who writes articles like these.
“I wish there was perfume I could sprinkle on myself to mask the Hebraic stench. I even have a name for it; Final Solution. But the oppressive smell won’t go away until I’m stone-cold dead, a lifeless Jewess in my own private Auschwitz.”
Since that last issue focused on murder, the next logical step is suicide. The centerpiece here is “Killing Me Softly,” which lists one hundred suicides as well as several “honorable mentions.” Like the murder listicle, this one lists famous suicides like Budd Dwyer and Ernest Hemingway and some odd unknowns. One of the more haunting entries talks about people who documented their death after ingesting poison.
The Goads haven’t left murder behind altogether. For example, “Shoot First, Live Free” Jim talks about the pro-gun movement, about purchasing his and Debbie’s first guns, and the thrill of shooting at the range. “Andrei Chikatilo: Impotent Superman” talks about the Russian serial killer. This slack-jawed murderer of 52 people suffered from impotence his whole life. The only way he was able to get an erection was by killing. One wonders if ever tried Viagra. There’s also “My Bloody Palette” which presents artwork from serial killers including Henry Lee Lucas, John Wayne Gacy, and Richard Ramirez.
Probably my favorite article in this issue is “Pederastic Park?” by guest writer Adam Parfey, best known as editor of the controversial publishing outfit Feral House. Here, Parfrey deftly parodies both the child abuse hysteria of the early 90s and the films of Stephen Spielberg by suggesting that the cloying sentimentality of his movies are a sublimation of his pedophilia.
“On the crest of the child-abuse wave, Spielberg’s Peter Pan project was transformed into Hook, whose ad campaign abandoned the traditional flying fairies in lieu of a stark visual of the prosthetic steel claw gleaming against a black background. The gruesome hieroglyphic was a perfect mnemonic device—see hook, think Hook—but more importantly, it transferred any possible pedophilic overtones from Spielberg himself (the auteur hero) to the classically pederastic fantasy figure of Captain James Hook, the fiend who spirits children away to a Neverland where Cabbage Patch foundlings enliven the sodomitical lives of Village People pirates.”
The issue ends with another prank call, this time to a suicide hotline. Debbie pretends to be a suicidal woman named Jenny and fucks with a hotline worker claiming that she’s been rejected by everyone and that her husband died of a heart attack during sex. During the conversation, it becomes obvious this worker wouldn’t be much help to an actual suicidal person. She gives Debbie dry, interview-like questions throughout the whole thing as well as half-assed suggestions like “do volunteer work.”
Now on to the fourth and final issue, the infamous “Rape”. Hoo-boy, this issue. When this thing was first released, it had obscenity charges brought against two of the sellers that carried it in Washington state in 1994. The cover art shows a waitress with a black eye holding a hot dog with the word “RAPE!” written in mustard on it and a name tag that reads “HI! I ASKED FOR IT!.” That should be enough of a warning for you.
This issue wastes no time punching the reader in the face with the first article, “My Sick Mommy.” Jim Goad recounts the mental and physical abuse heaped upon him by his mother. He ends with a graphic revenge fantasy of murdering her. This is made all the more disturbing by the pictures of old women with injuries and deformities accompanying this article.
“You used to say I’m not smart anymore. Smart enough to find you, wasn’t I? How much you sicken me. How very stupid you are. How much you embody everything I hate. These memories have been eating me alive, mommy. It’s me or you. If I don’t wipe you out, I’ll die inside. It feels better to abuse than to be abused. It’s a simple, universal law. I posit myself as more important than you. That’s the essence of all history, all power, all struggle, all rape.”
The self-hatred expressed by Debbie Goad in the following article, “I’m a Piece of Shit,” is almost a relief.
Debbie breaks the hymen on the rape theme with “He Tried to Fuck Me.” She recounts how, as an eight-year-old, one of her friend’s teenage brother pinned her to a bed and molested her. She managed to break free and run away before he took it any further, but the memory of Mark Levine the molester keeps following her.
“It’s a world full of Mark Levines. They’re not going away. They’re all over the street. They’re coming at me. Wherever I go, walking cum-sacs accost me. Brainless, deformed losers throw themselves at me. Ugly, fat, hairy, smelly douchebags come right up to my face and ask me how I’m feeling. I’m feeling like ending your life.”
This doesn’t stop her from, in her later article “Chicks Make Me Nervous,” revisiting her hatred of other women and suggesting that rape would make them more tolerable.
One of the interviews in this issue is with serial killer Richard Ramirez, here dubbed by the Goads as “The Nice Stalker.” Written in the style of a Tiger Beat profile, Ramirez describes his likes, dislikes, and what he looks for in a girl
“If you like a girl, how do you get her to notice you?
I pull out my gun.”
In “The Punk Who Wouldn’t Shut Up,” Jim Goad speaks with prison reform activist Stephen Donaldson aka Donny the Punk. Donny was arrested and thrown in jail during a Vietnam War protest. When he refused to pay his bail, he was assigned to same wing of the prison as rapists and murders. He was very quickly gang raped. Donny recounts his experiences as a “jail punk,” his life in and out of prison, and his exposure of these kinds of jail conditions. He was one of the first activists to expose to the press how rape and the threat of rape is used to punish and control prisoners.
In another interview, the Goads conduct a mail interview with death row prisoner “Rob Steele.” Rob wrote to the Goads detailing the rapes and murders that he’s on death row for. Interested in his perspective, they ask him about his life, his mindset when he committed his crimes, and his experiences in prison. However, they soon learn he’s not being completely honest with them.
One of the contributions is a comic by erotica artist Molly Kiely called “I Was a Teenage Victim of Anal Date Rape!” Kiely tells a story of how an ex-boyfriend wanted to try anal sex, but she wasn’t keen on the idea. He decides to fuck her up the ass anyway. While she’s mortified at first, she finds herself getting over it rather quickly. She even forgives him when he calls her years later. Her artwork is excellent and she tells the story with a dark sense of humor.
“I guess time heals all wounds, even a wrecked rectum!”
Then there’s Jim Goad’s “Let’s Hear it for Violence Toward Women!” where Jim parodies much of the conversation around domestic violence in his usual style.
“The female gender’s biggest flaw is their notion that women are somehow more moral, noble, and sacred than men. You aren’t sacred. You’re scared. You’re our disposable playthings. When we don’t want you anymore, we pop you with a pin. You aren’t the only girl for sale.”
This article was used as evidence against Jim when he was later charged and imprisoned for beating up a woman who had been stalking, assaulting, and threatening him for several months. The man has never had the best luck.
This issue features more contributing writers than the previous ones. I’ve already mentioned Molly Kiely. We also have contributions from Boyd Rice with “Revolt Against Penis Envy,” editor of the zine FUCK Randall Phillips with “The Promotion of Vice, the Justification for Oppression, and the Encouragement of Rape,” and founder of parody religion the Partridge Family Temple Shaun Partridge’s “Rape is Love.” Each one of them is just as offensive as the titles suggest.
Adam Parfrey returns again in this issue with his contribution “Fucking Andrea Dworkin.” Parfrey discusses radical feminist Andrea Dworkin and her theories surrounding rape. He mocks her conception of intercourse itself as a form of violence on women and the censorous tendencies of her and Catherine MacKinnon.
“Those who most treasure Dworkin’s hysteria aren’t mainstream feminists but prohibitionist paper-pushers and the fundamentalist right. I’ve envisioned a scene fit for Jodorowsky movie in which Richard Viguerie and Jesse Helms go down on Dworkin and MacKinnon on a bed of severed penises.”
The most disturbing piece in this issue is easily the short story “Quality Time” by Peter Sotos. This story is about the kidnapping, rape, and torture of a ten-year-old girl from the perspective of the kidnapper.
“I’m really gonna make you cry. You’re going to cry so much more, you’ll think your eyes are going to melt. Those crybaby tears are going to burst open your eyes and rip deep red streaks straight through your face. You are absolutely doomed, my sweet thing. I’m gonna hurt you so much.”
I had read this before, it’s the opening chapter to Sotos’s novella Tool., and it was still a profoundly disquieting piece. The equally disturbing art by Trevor Brown makes this even worse. Keep in mind, there are some things you can’t unread.
Much like the previous two issues, this one also has a centerpiece focusing on instances of the crime of the issue’s theme. This time it’s called “Rapeworld.” In the introduction, “It’s a Rape, Rape, Rape, Rape, Rape, Rape World”, Jim Goad argues against the feminist view that rape is purely a crime of power and has little to do with sex. Rather, he says, power is mostly a means of seizing sex for one reason or another. Often from an inability to get it normal ways.
“If rape isn’t about sex, there are an awful lot of penises and vaginas that need explaining.”
For example, contra feminist writer’s Susan Brownmiller’s claim that rape does not occur in any animal but humans, he shows that nearly every kind of animal from lions, to bees, to chimpanzees will engage in rape in lieu of normal mating rituals. This, he says, shows that rape is not just the result of “cultural signals” among humans.
Unlike the previous two issues, the instances of rape are not a listicle of one hundred entries. Instead, each instance is categorized by circumstances (such as rapes during war and on college campuses), by perpetrators (such as cops and athletes), and by victims (such as underage girls and boys and nuns).
Finally leaving the subject of rape behind, the issue shifts its focus with “Amputation Nation.” Jim takes a look at amputees as well as the advances in prosthetics which, he speculates, may make amputees superhumans some day. Then in “Policemen Are Our Friends,” he proceeds to mock both police and people who hate the police.
“FREEZE! Cops are the only people standing between you and them. You’re too weakened by civilization to defend yourself. You want someone else to do your dirty work, just as you expect Ronald McDonald to slaughter your cattle and chicken before you eat them. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of cheap, spoiled meat on the streets these days. Does that statement make you defensive? Perhaps I’m talking about you.”
And since ANSWER Me! needs to hit every taboo possible, we go back to the subject of racism in “It’s the Segregation Hit Parade!!!” which takes a look at explicitly racist, and I do mean explicit, country and western music. You may have heard of Johnny Rebel from the parody of him on a Boondocks episode. Once again, he did really exist (he died in 2016) and was not an invention of that show. And he really did record songs like “Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way)” and “Nigger-Hatin’ Me.” The article also looks at other artists such as Happy Fats and Odis Cochran who recorded songs like “Vote Wallace ’72” and “Ship Those Niggers Back.”
The issue ends on “Chocolate Impostor.” Frustrated by the hate and negative reviews they faced from the zine community at large, Jim and Debbie created a hoax zine called Chocolate Impulse. They pretended to be an interracial lesbian couple living in a small Kentucky town. The zine was intentionally poorly put together and featured goofy, prurient, and improbable stories about the fictional couple’s lives. It also included a screed against the Goads and ANSWER Me!. They sent it to many of the other zines that gave ANSWER Me! bad reviews. Of course, as Jim points out in this article, every one of those zines loved it. The lurid stories and tales about persecution at the hands of those Kentucky rednecks appealed to them. Jim relishes mocking them for falling for it.
I can think of far too many other similar hoaxes that were eagerly swallowed because it appealed to people’s stupid-ass moral sensibilities. How the fuck do you rubes keep falling for it? This issue would be the last of ANSWER Me!, but at least the Goads got to shit on the collective face of a bunch of self-righteous jackasses before they went.
“Fuck all of you. I hate you more than you could ever hate me. And that’s for REAL.”
It’s safe to say that a lot of people will hate this collection. A lot of people hated ANSWER Me! when it first came out. You can say a lot of things about Jim and the now-deceased Debbie, but I’m calling you bullshitter if you say they’re bad writers. This collection is hilarious, fascinating, exciting, and one of the most offensive things ever written in the English language.