An Australian Bookman in Hollywood

Noel Hart Came All The Way From The Land Down Under to Spend Years Working for the Most Eccentric Bookseller Since the Founding of Ancient Rome:  Eli Goodman of Cosmopolitan Book Shop, a Rabbit Hole of Chaos that Even Alice Would Not Dare Go Down.

by Paul Hunt

Cosmopolitan Book Shop

I admit it, I was wrong.  When Arnold Herr wrote his epic book The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Bookseller, I said that it would be the last book ever written about Cosmopolitan Bookshop.  Arnold Herr’s book is now out of print, and copies are selling for around $100 if you can find one.  But just in time, Noel Hart, another poor soul who suffered for years as an employee and then manager at the book shop, has written a large tome chronicling his years of Melrose madness.  The only catch is that the book is not published in the U.S. and is only available through the author in Australia.

I thought that most of the old time employees were gone to the bookseller’s party in the land of fluffy clouds and ladies playing harps.  I had forgotten about Noel Hart, who had fled Los Angeles and returned to Australia to regain his sanity and sainthood.  Although I had known Eli Goodman for some 20 years, I only had the honor of working at the shop for the last couple years of it’s existence, along with a dear friend by the name of “Five”, and of course, an energetic Arnold Herr who stayed until the end as Store Manager.  Folks in Los Angeles will remember Five during the years that he worked at Bodhi Tree Books in West Hollywood.  He was a writer, a podcaster host of a fun show called Token and Talkin’, an actor, comedian, and great guy.  He has since sadly passed, but I’ll put in a few links to some of his work at the end of this screed.

So, was I surprised to hear that Noel had written a book of over 400 pages about Eli Goodman and Cosmopolitan?  Yeah, shocked that someone was even loonier than me or Arnold Herr, and not only had worked at the shop for 10 years but then spent another number of years mulling it over and actually daring to reveal his experiences to a lethargic public, most of whom have never set foot in a book shop in their entire miserable lives.

I remember once when Arnold Herr and I were having lunch at a landmark coffee shop in Burbank when the waitress asked us what we did for a living.  My first thought was that she was trying to assess just how much service she was going to waste her time on us, or whether her two diners, bearded and shabbily dressed, with books and papers piled on her table, were so suspicious looking that she might dial 9-11 before even giving us a menu.  I piped up that we were booksellers.

“What does that mean, “bookseller”? she said.

“We work in a book shop,” said Arnold.

She smiled and proudly announced that since graduating from high school, she had never read even one book, and I noticed that she was pushing late 50s.  I was trying to calculate roughly how many years that was, between the High School graduation and the current year, how many decades of not reading a book.  My mind locked up at that moment, the silence broken by Arnold.

“That’s OK honey, we won’t hold it against you.  You have that whole stack of menus to read every day.  That’s an ordeal enough for anyone.”

My thought is that all those think tanks pondering the great decline of American education, all the books published trying to determine why our country is behind Peru in reading and Samoa in mathematics.  All the chatter about the declining levels.  My message to all those eggheads is stop gnashing your teeth about it.  Just join Arnold and me for lunch once and you will understand the situation entirely.

And yeah, we still left the old gal a tip.  It wasn’t her fault.  It’s the system. And what difference does it make?  There’s hardly any used book stores left in any big city in America.  And there’s hardly anyone left alive who’s actually worked in one.  Which takes us back to the subject at hand, Noel Hart’s new book.  I’m waiting for my copy to arrive, at which time I’ll have a few more words to say.  A picture of the back cover and the lengthy blurb gives us a preview.  And Noel said he is working on volume 2, which will include a lot of photos.

The back cover.

Contains over 400 pages crammed with intensity from the trenches of the used book business in Los Angeles. SIGNEDLIMITED EDITION, which includes a piece of the bookshop tipped in! This is unique to each copy, a portion of a page printed in 1753, sourced from Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Hollywood (see photographs). SIGNED in full by Australian author Noel Hart in black ink on title page. Introductory note by Arnold M. Herr. Cover artwork by Rom Anthonis. This is a NON-FICTION book. Rear cover blurb: “Melrose Avenue, Hollywood. Around the turn of the millennium. A classic secondhand bookshop, dusty and dirty, shabby with age and happenstance, packed tight with decades of stagnant accumulation. So messy it resembles the aftermath of a major earthquake. Bring a shovel, dig for treasures! Crackly radio jazz can be heard emanating from somewhere. Michael Jackson browses porn in one aisle; a homeless man sleeps on the floor in another; a transvestite hooker works the trade in a secluded corner behind a stack of boxes; a serious collector collates rare seventeenth-century antiquarian volumes near the front counter; a frenetic movie set decorator rents books throughout. All the while at the center of the maelstrom sits 80-year-old owner Eli Goodman, a ruminative, philosophical, New York-born Jew, intelligent and funny, an obsessive hoarder to the extreme, a caricature character who distinctly resembles Woody Allen dropped into a Marx Brothers movie, and who happens to live in a decrepit hovel at the back of the bookshop. For fifty years Eli has presided over the famous and infamous, the bibliophiles, researchers, collectors, decorators, actors, models, musicians, hipsters, the scholarly, shady, and insane, all congealed into a conglomerate crush at Cosmopolitan Bookshop. Longtime store manager Noel Hart, an Australian, captures it all, stuff s it into a mind-blender, then spills it out onto the page. NOTE: What began as a talk given to the Australian Book Collectors’ Society in 2018, then subsequently published verbatim in their journal in 2019, has now been expanded into a book-length narrative by Noel Hart, who managed Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Los Angeles for ten years.” Printed in Australia. Published in 2023 by Bookwood Press, Melbourne. A Blurb Production. Bound in publisher’s original pictorial wraps. A LIKE NEW very nice clean tight solid softcover copy. Uncommon Signed Limited Edition.

Click here to see the actual website of Cosmopolitan Book Shop.

Click Here to see the video I shot during the final days of Cosmopolitan, featuring Captain Jack LeVan and Julie Webster.

Click Here to read RIP Eli Goodman by Paul Hunt and Arnold Herr.

Click Here to read Eli Goodman laid to rest, with photos of Eli, by Paul Hunt.

“Five” catching up on his reading at Book Soup.

Click Here to read “Swami Anaconda Bananarama Answers the Question Who Are We?” (Written by Five, in full costume). Thanks to CartoonBazooka.com.

Click Here to watch the video Swami Anaconda Bananarama Meditation in Griffith Park.

Click Here to read We The Sheeple by Five.  Thanks to CartoonBazooka.

Click Here to read Breakfast With Jesus Freaks.  Thanks CartoonBazooka.

AND FINALLY  Click Here to order the book And That Was Only The Front Counter on Abebooks.com

 

 

Before He Was A Bookseller, Arnold Herr and Steve Gibson Re-Invented 3-D Adult Movies

The Saga of 2 Men, A 3-D Camera Rig, And Big Screen Sex Stories

Famous Hollywood Bookseller Arnold Herr, author of “The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Bookseller”, has a new book out.  It is the story of his life before books:  Arnold was in the adult film business, churning out porn films, but with a kicker, his films were in 3-D.  (His memoir on Hollywood bookselling is currently out of print, with copies going for about $100 if you could find one.)

Arnold Herr’s new book “Skinflick” is important for two reasons.  The first is the “deep dive” into his years of work in the field of 3-D photography and his experiences in working and producing 3-D sex films.  The second, equally important reason, although not stated in the book, shows how outsiders can affect an entire industry by thinking outside the box, in this case outside the camera, and use their inventiveness and creativity to explore unknown territory.

When Mr. Herr began to be interested in film in the late 1960s, he must have looked at the established ladder of cinematic success, and experienced a sinking feeling.  The ladder running up from the USC, UCLA, and New York film schools was packed with thousands of young folks from rich and well-off families who had absolutely jammed the rungs of the ladder.  Even a monkey couldn’t find a hand hold.

So Arnold Herr began his career by going in the opposite direction, down the ladder through a few layers of our tawdry civilization to find a starting point that wasn’t so crowded with the offspring of the well-to-do.  He took a film class at L.A. City College, a well-worn series of buildings in an edgy part of Los Angeles.  To supplement his income, he got a low-paying job as a projectionist in a porn theater.  He later jumped into porn filmmaking finding an even lower paying job with a local porn film company.  He was on his way.

“Skinflick” charts his journey not just into the production of erotic films, but into the world of 3-D filmmaking with his partner, 3-D pioneer and inventor Steve Gibson.  You will enjoy reading how they developed techniques of setting up specialized 3-D cameras, lenses, and special effects.  There is a lot of inside information here.  And because 3-D needed glasses, Mr. Gibson became the king of them, filling a warehouse with millions of pairs that he had manufactured. (He still has a few hundred thousand if you know someone who could use them.)

The secret lesson of this story is that Mr. Herr and Mr. Gibson together invented new techniques and explored new areas of movie making that 99% of the graduates of the expensive film schools have failed to do.  This is not directly mentioned in the story, but is a lesson that will be evident in absorbing it.  Sometimes coming up in an industry the hard way, from the bottom, gives a person a perspective that can’t be purchased by being pegged in near the top.  The hardships of start-up entrepreneurs puts pressure on the creative section of their brain, if they have one, to come up with solutions to vexing problems.

Although not discussed in the book, Mr. Herr and Mr. Gibson went on to film a 3-D horror film that won awards in 3-D festivals, but has still not seen release several years afterwards, a real shame.  As the Movie Theater business has been slammed by many factors like the Covid Lockdowns, big finance buyouts, and competition from streaming and internet, many movie theater chains are either in bankruptcy or looking at it.  Maybe a 3-D film revival will bring some crowds back to the theaters.  It’s tough to have a home set-up for a 3-D film, but certainly a lot of fun to experience it in a movie theater.

“Skinflick” is a fun read, but is also informative for those interested in filmmaking.  It also appeals to those who have an interest in some of the guys and gals in the “adult” film industry, quite a few of them are present in the book, including Bill Margold, (RIP), actor, writer, and Hollywood Press film critic with the great adult film reviews; Serena, John Holmes and many more.

Old Book Cart in Florence, Italy

Los Angeles Could Use a Few of These

by Paul Hunt

This Photo taken by Bookseller Arnold Herr:  He writes: >>  I looked through Bookstore Memories the other evening and saw your article on book carts in Europe and your request for other pictures.  Here’s one I took in May 1987 in Florence, Italy.  It stood outside the Medici Palace and was just down the street from a penzione I was staying at while in town.  Feel free to use it.

Thanks much, Arnold, we love the book carts.  Pre-Pandemic (seems like a different lifetime) I was occasionally stopping by the Goodwill Outlet store near DTLA.  They had carts similar to the ones in London, basically just a giant drawer on wheels.  Most of the carts were full of clothing, a couple with other junk, and maybe 10 filled with books.  It was madness, the clerks would push out a cart and everyone would have to stand back about 3 feet.  Then the clerk would yell out “OK” or “Go for it”  and the mob would attack the cart, stuff flying everywhere.  The book scouts who were looking for textbooks were the worst, they would just fling  books around.  Many books were shredded by this insanity, spines broken, dust jackets torn.  Picture a pack of Jackals in Africa, plunging into a lame antelope, biting and snarling at one another, occasionally nipping off a piece of meat, the poor antelope giving a final cry and then dying of fear.  That was the Outlet store at its finest hour. Minor injuries were common. Yelling at jerks very common.

I did occasionally find a nice pamphlet or book, but it was not always worth the physical abuse and the evil thoughts of what the fate should be to the reckless bozos throwing textbooks at each other.  The price was right, 75 cents a pound.  Back in the good old days of the early 1970s I used to go to the warehouse of one of the Thrift chains and buy books and magazines by the pound.  Magazines were 10 cents a pound and books were 25 cents a pound, and there was a staggering amount to plow through every day.

So a couple weeks ago I stopped by the Outlet to check the book scene, it was open, although there was a line to get in, and masks were required.  I waited about a half an hour, which isn’t so bad because all the libraries are closed and many of the few remaining bookstores are shuttered.  I got in and there was only one cart with books, an abysmal selection of junk, I couldn’t even make a mercy buy.  So much for the good old days of book mayhem. Social distancing has put an end to the mob of vultures.  At least back then you could get a few things. The carts of literacy are just more victims of the declared pandemic. Our culture may not be far behind them, rolling toward oblivion on broken wheels.

Florida Radio Show Features Arnold Herr

Bucks on the Bookshelf Show Interviews Arnold About His New Book Wild Ride of a Hollywood Bookdealer

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Steve Eisenstein, host of Florida Radio show “Bucks on the Shelf”, recently interviewed Arnold Herr about his life in the book business and talked about his entertaining book on working for Eli Goodman at Cosmopolitan Books in Hollywood.  To download the interview to listen to, click here.

To hear the show, check out the information below.  Also, you can follow Steve on Facebook, click here.

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Check Out The Video Promo for “Wild Ride of a Hollywood Bookdealer”

The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Bookdealer

Arnold Herr’s Screamingly Funny New Book Chronicles His Years Working at Cosmopolitan Bookshop in Hollywood

by Paul Hunt

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Arnold worked for years at the old Cosmopolitan Book Shop in Hollywood, owned by one of the oddest, most eccentric individuals in the history of the galaxy, Mr. Eli Goodman. I also worked at Cosmo, but only part time the last two years of its existence, until its demise a couple years ago.  But Arnold was there for around 20 years when Eli was personally running the biblio madhouse, and luckily for us, he kept his head down and his notebook handy. He originally wrote about the goings on at Cosmo  using a pseudonym for Eli.  His articles were published in the ABAA newsletter, later on BookstoreMemories.com, Stephen Gertz’s Booktryst.com and finally gathered together with new chapters, Arnold’s own illustrations, and a whole lot more funny stuff.

Arnold and I have both owned our own shops.  I knew Eli for many years before I worked there. I heard a lot of the stories first-hand as they were happening, and saw some flashing moments pass by at the speed of light.  Eli, although a complete eccentric, was also a brilliant man.  He had a great memory, was as well read as any university professor of literature, and was a kind man, although he didn’t suffer fools. Well, once in a while just to break the monotony.  He had the longest run of any of the individual Los Angeles bookstore owners, in great part because he had an inner toughness due to his growing up under difficult circumstances and living in the shadow of the Great Depression. You can glean some more about Eli, with some photos elsewhere on this website.

Eli Wallowing in Books. Photo by Paul Hunt

Eli Wallowing in Books. Just as I snapped this, Eli, almost dozing, jerked alive, blurring the photo, due to a customer pointing out a pile of cash laying on the counter. Photo by Paul Hunt

If you’ve ever wondered what really goes on behind the scenes in a creaky, dusty bookshop crammed to the rafters with books, and run by Los Angeles’ number one champion tightwad, catering to an assortment of university professors, literary high steppers, book collectors, and the sweepings of Hollywood crackpots, then here it is.  Arnold’s story is bold, screamingly hilarious.  His pen pops with laughter.  If you don’t get the hoot of your life reading this, then please check into the morgue immediately, ’cause you’re part of the walking dead.

You can order this book from the publisher, Poltroon Press (click here to order)

Eli Goodman Laid To Rest

Goodman Interred at Riverside National Cemetary

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Goodman was interred on April 21, 2016 at the Riverside National Cemetery.  He qualified for resting there by his service in World War 2.  I found a few more photos of Eli, which I am posting here.

 

Eli Goodman, 2009

Eli Goodman, 2009, photo by Paul Hunt

 

Eli Goodman with Price Guide to the Occult. Photo by Arnold Herr

Author Eli Goodman with Price Guide to the Occult.  Photo by Paul Hunt

Eli Wallowing in Books. Photo by Paul Hunt

Eli Wallowing in Books. Photo by Paul Hunt   A customer was pointing to some cash left on the counter, jerking Eli from his slumber and into immediate action, and in the process blurring the shot.

Eli getting ready to close for the day. Around 2009. Photo by Paul Hunt

Eli getting ready to close for the day, around 2009. Photo by Paul Hunt

Breaking news:  Arnold Herr’s hilarious fictional account of his many years of adventure at Cosmopolitan, uh, I mean “Megalopolis Books”, is being readied for publication.  Stay tuned for further news, especially if you are interested in obtaining a limited edition.

Cartoon site puts up Fever Dreams

Cartoon Bazooka?

A humor website/blog with the unusual name of “Cartoon Bazooka” has posted Arnold Herr’s hilarious story of his years as a bookseller.  This is the same story that is on Bookstore Memories, but is a testament to the quality and humor of Arnold’s story that other sites are picking it up.  Although now retired, Arnold is still puttering around in old book shops, and we hope he will write some more stories.  The cartoon site is here:  www.cartoonbazooka.com