Remember the notorious '90s? The fascination with serial killers, obscene sex acts and gruesome crime photos? It seems like a million years ago, but the decade that kept blowing smoke in your prissy little face is back with the publication of the early issues of ANSWER Me!, Jim and Debbie Goad's notorious zine.
Starting in 1991, from their roost in Los Angeles, the duo used their publication to smirk at disturbing issues, with dead body photos, images of deformities and tasteless rants years before glossies like Bizarre were plumbing those depths. Drawings and pictures of them as gun-wielding badasses abound in these pages. And the Goads had a knack for inviting trouble, as you were never sure if they were being facetious or psychotic. By the time they got to issue No. 4 (not included in this volume), they had incurred the wrath of the state. That number, subtitled, "The Rape Issue," was an in-depth and controversial look at sexual assault, in their own inimitable style. The issue, on sale at a bookstore, offended the delicate sensibilities of a Bellingham University coed, who passed it on to the authorities. The bookseller was charged with trafficking in obscenity, but was acquitted after a prolonged battle in court.
For a couple so obsessed with public discussion of the dark and disturbing, the day of reckoning was grim. After Debbie came down with cancer, Jim divorced her and ran off with an unhinged young zinester named Sky Ryan. Within a year, the rebound romance took a dump: Goad took out a restraining order against Ryan after she left several death threats on his answering machine. After a major meltdown, Goad pummeled Ryan, who managed to land a scratch or two herself. Goad was arrested for the crime, and, faced with a trial during which an ambitious prosecutor intended to introduce ANSWER Me! as evidence, Goad pleaded guilty and agreed to serve a prison term. The ordeal became the subject of an in-depth feature story in Spin, which sported a photo of Ryan's scarred and battered face. Goad was released in October 2000, a few months after Debbie died of ovarian cancer.
Though Jim has written some books since going to prison, including a new title (The Gigantic Book of Sex) scheduled for release next month, he never regained the momentum he had in the mid-'90s, and has languished as a minor cultural icon. But you can still break out your flannels and flip through this tome, recalling a time when some things were still shocking.Michael Jackman is a Metro Times copy editor and writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.