September 27, 2019
Introduction to the issue 3 porn odyssey
On Holloway Road in north London is the black door of Ram Books, a smut emporium with over 100,000 vintage titles. This astonishing place became A Void magazine’s power centre when we upscaled our priorities to cater for obscene tastes.
As much a museum as it is a shop, the most peculiar thing about Ram Books, stacked floor to ceiling with all kinds of erotica and porn over two floors, is their way of acquiring the stock. They advertise themselves as “house clearance specialists” with a website inspired a famous second-hand car dealership, webuyanyporn.com. In recent years they have become legendary for buying and selling dead people’s porn.
“We really do buy any porn within reason,” the owner Dave told us, driving along South Circular as we joined him on a pickup. “I’m not saying we’re a public service, but we get a lot of people calling us who just don’t know what to do. Say a grandparent’s died, and they find this huge stash, and they’re at a loss to do with it.”
Dave hasn’t always traded in material that smells of death. Before paying for explicit imagery became a specialist interest concern, running a sex shop was a family business. Dave’s uncle owned Super Mags in Soho and two other sex shops. “I had a falling out with my uncle in the late 1970s and went to work for Ram Books, which was owned by Tommy Harris, the West End guy, a bit of a gangster, an enforcer for the Krays and Richardsons. They produced a magazine called Roue, a spanking magazine.”
Fast forwarding through the history of Soho sex shops, Dave ended up with the rights to Roué and a shop that sold black rubber clothing to punks. This led to him publishing a rubber magazine, Zeitgeist, and another called Fetish World. For selling porn magazines, he claims to have been raided over a hundred times under the Obscene Publications Act, and won’t say if or how many times he was convicted.
The following is an edited conversation with A Void’s editor that took place while on a job in May 2018:
I’m surprised you’re in a car, not a van.
I rent a van when I need to, but the majority of the pickups are not huge. You missed out on the Hastings one. I’m going to do that in two trips.
You said that was going to be a bit sensitive.
It wasn’t as sensitive as I thought, but it was dirty. The house was derelict. The person had been taken into care three months previous. But he was one of those hoarders like you see on TV, where there’s piles of newspapers, rat droppings, that kind of stuff.
Has anything ever disgusted or alarmed you?
Not really. How people live may surprise you, it doesn’t disgust me.
Has any of the material ever disgusted you, made you think, I’m not touching that?
No. I’ve done a couple of clearances where I’ve gone through stuff and I found something we deem illegal. We just destroy it.
You were never deterred by the police bother. Is it because you’re obsessed, or you have a belief in free expression?
People including yourself have taken great personal risks to ensure the distribution of this material.
Yes, well I’ve been a publisher, in print and on film, and morally I don’t think it’s wrong. Morally I don’t think a lot of things are wrong. There is my own line that I won’t go over, not that I think it’s obscene, it’s just that I don’t get it, don’t like it, and don’t fancy selling it. If they said today that a certain prohibited thing was now legal, I probably still wouldn’t sell it. But each to their own.
So what motivated you?
I think there’s two or three reasons. Obviously the main reason was monetary. People took risk for the potential of great rewards, although I’m telling you now there’s no great rewards in pornography. A few selective people earn a lot of money. Then there are the people who think they should publish it because people need to see it. Everybody else is in the middle.
David Sullivan, before he owned the Daily Sport, kept publishing just to spite the police, although it wasn’t for freedom of expression, he was doing it for money right from the start. On his Lovebirds and Playbirds magazines, he used a plastic coating on the cover, and that wasn’t to make it look better, it was done because the police were taking so many magazines away and incinerating them, he was told if he put this covering on there, it would melt and clog up the incinerators.
Have you ever starred in front of the camera?
No, never. Being in the porn business—when you work in a sweet shop, you don’t look at the sweets too much.
Have you become desensitised?
I wouldn’t say desensitised. Maybe because I’ve seen most things and it’s not my bag. When I see a Rodox or something, I don’t go ooh, look at that, a cock in a fanny. I still think looking at a Playboy or a Mayfair with a woman half-dressed is better. Each to their own. But I was never into pornography as such.
Do you have any special interests—in rubber, for example—or is it purely economic?
When we had the rubber shop, we published Zeitgeist magazine [an excellent, professional publication – ed.] It was just another interest. I taught myself the mechanical side of it, and I just liked the idea of doing a magazine. The same as when I got all the rights to these spanking videos, for the time they were filmed okay, but I looked at it and thought, I could do better than that. Same as if it’s a guy painting the house, and I think, I can do better than that. Same as when I was playing guitar. I taught myself because I thought I could be better than the people I saw. And that’s life, isn’t it? You get an interest and you go and do it, and you do it the best you can.
Issue 2 is available for free download: https://morbidbooks.b-cdn.net/a-void-issue-2.pdf
Issue 1 is available for free download: https://morbidbooks.b-cdn.net/a-void-issue-1.pdf