Parting Shot

Almost 25 years ago, graphics man Alan Berrent took Hustler "into the pink." Before he dies, he wants to make amends.

Berrent had allowed his catalog business to die on the vine, and he didn't have money to revive it. All he really wanted to do was what he had been doing. Deeply in love with porn, he went back to New York, a different man.

Not until he was well established did Berrent call for his family. Since he was rarely home anyway, his absence was little more evident than before. By then, his wife and children had few illusions about him.

Berrent had never realized how much there was to do in New York. Or perhaps he had simply never been inclined to do it. In any case, with his parents dead and not there to see him, Berrent sunk eagerly into the world of porn.

He found freelance work on the magazines Cheri and High Society. Eventually, he also began handling photos and production for three magazines in Canada. One of these was called Rustler, and more or less, they were all Hustler imitators. High Society's conceit was to be just as pink as Hustler but to do so with high-class girls. Berrent wound up on the masthead there as production and photo coordinator. He never saw a class distinction between the girls. Some of them had rashes on their asses, and at any rate, they were all naked.

More exciting, Berrent got involved with making porn movies. He tried acting in one ("a dismal failure," he said, without explaining why) but found his place behind a camera, snapping still shots of the action, which he made into books and sold.

He was on the set of Double Your Pleasure -- no, he stopped, that was the twins, so it must have been on the set of Pleasure Palace that he became captivated by the top porn queen in the country. He grew certain that, in a previous life, he and Samantha Fox were lovers in ancient Egypt. She became one of three lovely bisexuals who sometimes occupied his apartment.

A born-again aerobics teacher now, more right-wing than anyone except Linda Lovelace, Samantha Fox confirmed this. She said Alan Berrent was a man with a kind heart, and she confessed she had the same feeling about him and ancient Egypt. But she thinks it was the drugs.

Porn movies led to swinging, and swinging led to drugs. Berrent did cocaine to stay awake to have sex. He was a member of Plato's Retreat, one of the first on-site swing clubs in the country. It was for couples only, but you could take a prostitute and swap her for a charming wife. The wildest woman Berrent ever knew was someone he called Marian the Librarian.

Then there was the orgy where he tried freebasing for the first time. It became a thousand-dollar-a-day habit. He lost his mind, his jobs, his apartment. Without an income, he lost his wife. She threw out his Hustlers, threw out everything, threw him out in 1983. Alan Berrent became a homeless man.

He slept with friends and on benches. Mainly, he slept on the subway. He couldn't afford freebasing, so he got into crack, and did whatever was required to get it. All his connections in porn could only get him a winter job at Show World, the live-sex theater. It kept him warm.

He went into treatment, began to recover, lost his teeth in a mugging, got mugged some more and then began dialing the only son still interested in him, and sobbing into the phone. In 1986, he had a heart attack and lay on the street two hours without attracting attention. After that, his son opened his door to the father who never came home. Berrent left New York on a bus for Houston.

A dozen years later, sitting in JoJo's on South Braeswood, he tells the waitress he has diabetes and so can't eat the pancakes. He'll have sausage, hash browns, "and do you have the fake eggs?"

Life is not as fun as it used to be. Just to stay alive, he takes 18 pills a day, most of them for his heart. His heart makes sex an impossibility, which isn't to say he can't please a woman. He can, he says. The bisexuals taught him how. But that's another story....

"I want to do something good before I die," he says. "I'm trying to do something my kids can be proud of. I don't want my legacy to be dirty magazines and porno movies."

It took three months after he arrived to thoroughly detoxify. When his head cleared, he slowly began realizing his isolation, the fact that he had never in his life formed a lasting bond. He went to work as a telemarketer, selling vinyl siding, pest control, home security. And then, while driving a cab, he fell in with a group of strippers.

Going inside the topless bars didn't interest him, but he would park his cab outside and wait to take the strippers home. It wasn't a sexual thing, he says. To this day, he simply prefers the company of strippers. Straight people spend their lives concealing and playing games, but strippers have nothing to hide. Berrent finds them open and direct, and he says strippers see him as "a nice little old man." He was soon sharing a trailer with three of them.

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