Industry News

From Pornography To Petroluem – The Ivan Lerner Story

There was an “Ivan Lerner” at Sunday’s news conference at Mondo Video. I thought I had heard that name before. Tuesday morning, I Googled it and found this by Colin Brayton:

The story of Ivan Lerner and his mid-career self-reinvention is replete with cheap irony—if you omit the human element, that is. First, it’s a dead-on parody of the ‘spiritually adventurous investment banker chucks it all to start llama farm’ genre of popular job-market journalism. Second, since porn is just another business—so runs a specious bar-room enthymeme I will admit to having indulged in myself—all business is therefore essentially pornographic, catering to such peculiar fetishes of the market as its obscure lust for gallium arsenide, a rare earth used in next-generation microprocessors that’s one of Lerner’s current reportorial beats.

Stet the human element, however, and the story boils down to this: Despite having willfully ignored every single tenet of rational career planning, Lerner’s working, and you may well not be. How come? What’s his secret?

The answer? The answer, grasshopper, according to Lerner, is that there is no answer, except to hang on to your sense of professional pride no matter what and learn simply to shrug your shoulders at the mysterious spasms of the chaosmos.

‘I had this editor at this crappy college paper I worked on who insisted that just because we were writing for a rag that people only picked up for the pizza coupons didn’t mean that we could just print any old crap,’ Lerner offers. ‘Somehow, that stuck with me through all the weirdness.’

In an article for the New York webzine Plasmotica, for example, titled ‘The Rewrite Stuff: Making Silk Purses Out of Sows’ Ears in the Land of Smut,’ Lerner describes long hours of unpaid overtime spent redacting reader-submitted erotica that’s subliterate but has a decent ‘dramatic’ premise (the graveyard shift pathologist and the emergency room nurse, with an unmentionable implement, on the autopsy table, in the morgue) into a publishable, if not Pulitzer-grade, item.

It was a ‘personal best’ issue. I pushed myself because I wanted the magazine to live up to my standards. It was my first regular professional editorial job, and I wanted to prove myself … I knew it all boiled down to trash anyway, but that just plugged into my aesthetic even more.

As to the aforementioned ‘weirdness,’ well, let’s just say that it started in the mid-80s as a low-budget remake of Bright Lights, Big City, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Lerner as a hip, angry young independent filmmaker, working at New York television studio Broadcast Arts by day and perhaps a little more than dabbling by night in the deadly romance of a controlled substance popular in the artistic circles of the period. Complications ensued.

The great Selwyn Harris aka Mike McPadden also worked at Chemical Market Reporter before he returned to his calling at MrSkin.

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