Mark Cromer Interview
I had lunch with journalist Mark Cromer at The Continental (Gale and Wilshire Blvd, a block east of Larry Flynt Publications) Friday, June 17, at noon.
Mark runs his tape recorder along with mine.
Mark: "The reason I wanted to talk to you is this: Over the past seven months, on several occasions, I've had to deal with people asking me questions about my departure from Larry Flynt Publications and Hustler magazine [where Mark served as features editor for five months under Editor Bruce David] based on the information that Bruce David and some of his associates on the tenth floor [LFP corporate headquarters, the editorial staff works on the third floor] have put out. Specifically on your site and Mike Albo's site. A couple of week's ago, I was at a media party..."
Waiter: "Do you want to order?"
Luke: "I'll get the Mediterranean Vegetable Salad."
Mark: "Being the carnivore that I am, I'll have the French Dip."
Waiter: "Fries or salad?"
Mark: "Nothing. Just fries."
Waiter: "Do you want Swiss cheese on it?"
"So I was at this media party in Hollywood a few weeks ago. And several people in the course of the evening, a couple of whom I didn't even know, came up to me and basically said, "Yeah, I heard you heard resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct." It is very frustrating, to say the least, to have to weather that sort of thing for seven months, you know, because it is not true. None of it is. And I've remained silent about it since last fall, as my lawyer has been trying to work it out with Flynt's lawyers. During this time, they have put out false and demeaning allegations which have resulted in moments like what happened the other night, so I am just not going to sit here and take it any longer. I did not resign, I was forced out by Bruce David. There was never any instance and not a single incident of "sexual misconduct"-whatever that means-on my part with another LFP employee or anyone else for that matter.
"To the contrary, as my employee file reflects, I had received nothing but glowing evaluations.
"What did happen is simply this: Bruce David, along with another editor named Tom Farrell, spread a rumor around the staff that I was intimately involved with Alaina F-orante, who worked down the hall on Flynt's websites. The rumor wasn't true at all. I was a work-friend of Alaina and we talked a lot, but that's all it was. But the fact is that Bruce despised Alaina because she had previously filed a formal complaint with Human Resources against Bruce after he told her he wouldn't hire a woman (and specifically her) for an editing job that was open. That got him into major hot water with Human Resources. So when I became friends with Alaina, against Bruce's dire warnings that I had better not associate with her, he ended-up spreading a lie about us. "I confronted Bruce and Tom about it and Alaina and I filed a complaint with Human Resources. Bruce warned me if I went to HR he would, in his words, 'destroy' me in the company. I think he was terrified that if we complained to HR he might be fired himself for spreading such rumors. But Bruce still carries the cache of being Larry Flynt's close friend, so he is rather untouchable in that building, clearly operating above the guidelines that LFP states in its 'Employee Handbook,' which does not apply to Bruce David. He operates with impunity. Anyway, he was true to his word, as he coerced, threatened, browbeat and ultimately fired me. It all went down rather quickly."
On October 31, 2004, I got a phone call from someone close to LFP saying that Mark Cromer had been fired for reasons of "sexual misconduct."
I emailed Bruce David about Mark Cromer: "Why was he fired?"
Bruce replied November 2, 2004: "He resigned. I would like to tell you the whole story but company policy prohibits that. You can talk to Cromer if you like but his version of events is likely to be inaccurate. I don't really think he knows what happened even though he, no doubt, believes he does. It was with deep regret that I felt compelled to accept his resignation. For me, it's not just the end of a professional relationship but the end of a friendship as well."
Mark tells me over lunch June 17, 2005: "I realized that I had been patient trying to let the process work itself out with my lawyer dealing with their lawyers... I hope that process proves conclusive. It's been seven months. I can't continue to be in a situation where I'm asked these questions. I think it's unfair that [the sexual misconduct charge has been put out] and I've never answered it."
Mark: "My association with Larry Flynt goes back to 1992. I was a daily news reporter a chain of newspapers [Whittier Daily News, Pasadena Star News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune] covering crime in South-East Los Angeles County. I was also freelancing for The Los Angeles Times. I started freelancing for Hustler Erotic Video Guide. Scott Mallory was my editor. I worked under the pen name Elliott Heathcoat. I wasn't doing porn reviews. I did essays on the politics of porn.
"In 1997, I was doing an LA Weekly piece on Larry Flynt's magazine Rage, which had just folded. That's how I met Bruce David. We bonded quickly as friends. We stayed in touch. We corresponded about politics and journalism. I showed Bruce some copies of Low. a college magazine I had been publishing for almost ten years that had grown to eight universities with a circulation of about 20,000.
"One day, Bruce said this magazine would be a great thing for Larry to buy. At that time, LFP was aggressively acquiring titles. We pitched it to them. We went through a couple of months of negotiations. At the end, Jim [Kohls, then LFP president] took a pass, and they acquired instead Backswing, a golf magazine brought in by Lonn Friend and Dweezle Zappa. That ended up as a stillbirth.
"As a result of that, I got to know the executives in the LFP corporate structure.
"In 1998, I did a piece for Wired magazine about a guy who ran a website called Jail Babes. We pitched that to Jim Kohls. He bought it on the spot. He made me editor. That became Jail Babes magazine, website and video line. It was the first cross-platform product LFP owned entirely.
"At that time, Jim and Larry had licensed out the Hustler name to Vivid. That's why it couldn't be called Hustler Video. It was called "Larry Flynt Presents..." I went to work in the tower [located on Wilshire and La Cienega Blvds] until the Fall of 1999, when they folded the magazine. We continued to produce the video series through 2002.
"I had continued my journalism career throughout, freelancing for various publications like the LA Weekly and in 2003 I was the Orange County news bureau reporter in Santa Ana for the Los Angeles Daily Journal [a legal daily].
"At the end of 2003, I sold my house and moved to Flagstaff, where I was working on a book, following a stint working with Danni Ashe on her aborted auto-biography.
"In the summer of 2004, Bruce David asked me (with Jim Kohls' blessing) to become features editor of Hustler. I started on July 6.
"The back story of what happened to me in late October is this:
"Bruce and I were essentially best-friends and had been for years. Bruce's star at Hustler has shined to varying degrees of luminescence depending on the currents on the tenth floor. For instance, his magazine Brown Sugar was folded the day before Jail Babes. Within two weeks, they brought Bruce back into the company doing Hustler Comix, I think. Then they folded that. Then he was an editor at Hustler under Allan MacDonnell. Larry has always found a job for Bruce. If Bruce had a friend closer than me, it was probably Larry, though it was more of a historical friendship. It wasn't like Bruce was hanging out with Larry on a regular basis, but they certainly had a tight historical bond.
"Bruce is sworn enemies with Allan MacDonnell, the editor who took Bruce's place at Hustler. You can't overstate the animosity that flows between those two guys."
Luke: "Why do Bruce and Allan hate each other? "
Mark: "Professional jealousy.
"Before Allan MacDonnell was fired, Bruce was actively working to get him fired, verbally shanking him at every opportunity. It was really death by a thousand cuts. Ultimately Bruce succeeded. I participated in drafting several memos with Bruce, proofing them and offering suggestions. These memos went directly to Larry."
Our food arrives. We keep talking as we eat.
Mark: "The memos were essentially critiques of what's wrong with Hustler.
"When Bruce became Editor, he still had to work with Allan's crew -- Tim Kenneally, Dan Kapelovitz, Kevin Wright and some others. From the get-go, Bruce wanted them out. He wanted to whack out all of them because he was certain they would conspire against him-just as he had with Allan when he was under him. It's a little bit like Ceasar's court, isn't it? Intrigue, subterfuge, betrayal. Anyway, Bruce wanted to fire them all but he knew he had to be careful how he did it. It came about in early 2004. Bruce was becoming the subject of discussion on these blogs [Mike Albo's and mine]. Bruce saw it as his opportunity to act and get these people [purportedly loyal to Allan] out. Kenneally was the first to go. I'm not sure they ever gave specific reasons when they started firing these guys. But the absolute reason was Bruce wanted them out. He felt that he couldn't trust them. Politics trumped ethical and editorial considerations."
Luke: "What do you mean by political? Internal politics or geopolitical politics?"
Mark: "That as well. I'd argue that a person could not be an open Republican on the third floor under Bruce [where the editorial staff resides], for whatever that's worth. Boiler plate Leftist politics prevail, which I suppose is his druthers and I am a Democrat, so whatever, but it can get a little tinny in an echo-chamber. After Kenneally (Hustler Managing Editor) and Kamila Kowalczyk (Hustler Art Director), Bruce fired a few more staffers like Dan Kapelovitz [Features Editor, were fired by Bruce], the Erotic Entertainment editor whose name escapes me and finally Mike Allen (Bits & Pieces Editor). It was surreal. I knew they were going to be fired weeks and, in some instances, months before they were. Bruce felt they had to be fired so they would not gossip about him online and so he could cement his control.
"I was freelancing for Hustler at the time as well as for other publications such as LA Weekly.
"They brought me in as features editor with a base salary of $50,000 annually and another $20,000 guaranteed freelance. At the time, Bruce was making $85,000 which was a little more than half of what Allan was making when he left. But Bruce gets built-in freelance as well, so he's probably over $100,000 by now."
Cromer's predecessor was Dan Kapelovitz who made $35,000 annually (with bumps for freelance work). "They were paying more to get me. Bruce had to do some dancing to get that. He scrambled the numbers and found a way to make it work.
"I had recommended Keith Valcourt. He's a sitcom bit-player. He was brought in at a lower salary to replace Mike Allen. Also, Tom Farrell, the erotic entertainment editor.
"Prior to me getting there, Bruce had fired [four editorial staffers including Tim Kenneally, Randy, Camilla, the art director].
"I moved to this block in Beverly Hills [down the street from LFP]. Almost immediately, we [Bruce and Mark] started getting hammered online [on my site (but not by me but by those emailing me) and Mike Albo's]. It was on Albo's site every day. This sent Bruce into the stratosphere. He'd just fired these people but someone still in the organization was leaking information that was getting online. Bruce's paranoia increased exponentially. I can't begin to tell you how freaked out he was, how enraged he became.
"My first two months on the job, half of my workday was spent in meetings regarding these issues. It was surreal. Bruce had particular animosity for Barely Legal editor Lisa Jenio. He hates her with a passion he usually reserves for hard-line Feminists. Bruce described mockingly how she was crying in the hallway the day Allan was let go. She apparently had told Jim Kohls or LFP Vice President Donna Hahner that she could not work with Bruce David, which was ballsy for Lisa to do, considering they could've fired her. But she was successful. She essentially had autonomy. Bruce's classification is LFP Editorial Director. He's not just Editor of Hustler. Technically, he has control over all the publications. But not really Barely Legal. That was Lisa's magazine.
"Consequently, Bruce resented her extremely. A. She was a friend of Allan's. B. She remained loyal to Allan. C. He felt he couldn't trust her as a result of that. D. She would not work with him, which galled him to no end.
"He had every intent to fire her. But he had to take his time as to who he was going to fire and when. When the s--- started to hit the fan on these various websites, Lisa Jenio was immediately suspected of being a conduit of this information as was Alaina F-orante (editorial assistant). When a position came open, Alaina applied for it. Bruce David made the mistake of openly telling her, 'I don't want a woman in that position. I want a man. This is Hustler and that's a man's job.'
"Well, Alaina went immediately to Human Resources and reported this. That's illegal. Consequently, Alaina was taken out of Bruce David's bailiwick and given another job (at Flynt Digital). Alaina is persona non grata in Bruce's world and a suspect for leaking information.
"The level of paranoia pervading that third floor office when I walked in last year was enormous. It was oppressive. It starts to take on the hue of Absurdist Theater, like a Beckett play, very surreal. And it's very, very L.A., in that everyone loves you until the moment they don't.
"As the online posts escalated, Bruce demands and gets a company-wide investigation into who's leaking this information."
Luke: "Why didn't you guys squash Albo earlier [so that he couldn't write derogatory things about Bruce David and LFP]?"
Mark: "I'm the one who figured out that Dennis Hof owned that site [AdultStarsNews]. When I gave that information to Bruce, he was on the phone to Dennis in a heartbeat. That's how that was resolved. Some of it was harmless. A lot of it was distracting.
"Albo's site was just a conduit for information that enraged Bruce. I was certainly pissed off. It didn't consume me to the extent it consumed Bruce.
"I was brought in specifically, along with Tom Farrell, and my recommendation to hire Keith, to form a firewall around Bruce to allow Bruce to pursue his editorial vision without the fear of being conspired against. The mistake I made was that his paranoia never ended. I don't know it ever will. I don't know how many people will be fired before they figure that out.
"Sean Carney had been Bruce's research director. He became Hustler Video's head of promotions. Carney was also on Bruce's firing squad. He wanted Lisa Jenio's editorial assistant Matt Brand fired. And Kevin Wright, another holdover from MacDonnell. All of them, he wanted them gone. In some instances, like Matt Brand, it was strictly a matter of his association with Lisa. I mean, that's all it was. Matt's a good guy, he was always at his desk early, he put in the hours and he was sharp. But Bruce wanted to fire him because he worked for Lisa. That's how Nixonian it got. Paranoid, petty and power-driven.
"Lynn Heller (LFP VP of Human Resources) held a meeting in the ninth floor conference room attended essentially by the LFP editorial staff, Bruce, yours truly, the whole crew, in which Lynn read from the Human Resources policy book about gossip. The policy states that if you gossip, you can be disciplined up to being fired.
"Something popped up in a blog right after the meeting. This is the email Bruce sent (7/26/04) Lynn Heller. He copied it over to me:"
Mark: "Nothing came of the investigation. But as a result of this hoopla, Bruce was more determined than ever to finish clearing the decks.
"In the meantime, I had become friends with Alaina F-orante and was friendly with Lisa Jenio, you know, would casually chat with her in the hallway sometimes. This was very disturbing to Bruce. One time Bruce saw the three of us, me, Alaina and Lisa walking back from the Coffee Bean together, he was outside having a cigarette, and later on, in his office, he went off about how I was "cavorting with those snakes." If it wasn't so pathetic it would be funny.
"I'd go out and have lunch with Alaina. It was strictly professional. [No sexual contact.] We'd talk about life. Bruce warned me about this on several occasions. 'You will not hang out with this snake.'" He made these horrible remarks about her looks, her appearance. I told him I thought she was a cool hippie chick and he just mocked me. His vitriol was intense.
Luke: "Where is Scott Fayner in all this?"
Mark: "He was just a cool dude. He was drifting around. He seemed amicably out of it. We gave him a couple of assignments. One he botched. One he came in with -- taking a porn star home to mom. Bruce didn't trust Fayner but he harbored no animosity towards Fayner.
"Bruce and I were very good friends. We trusted each other. I don't regret the friendship. You know, I spent the better part of a decade figuratively at the guy's side, and whatever happens now doesn't erase that fact. I'm not much one for revisionism, you know, the whole "Well I never really did like the guy…" kind of thing. I really loved Bruce as a friend. He was a mentor of sorts. A colleague. I suppose this is a sad end to that friendship, but it doesn't negate what was.
"After six weeks [as Hustler Features editor], I was tired of trying to find out who was saying what online, tired of who was trying to figure out who was conspiring with who. We had a magazine to put out. While Bruce was the figurehead, I was in the trenches with everyone else. I was working twelve-hour days. It was immense and intense. That's why what was going out on the web was a distraction, particularly for me, because I had work to do. Bruce could spend time on manipulating this and doing working out a judo flip so he could turn it around on his remaining "enemies" in the editorial structure.
"Ultimately, Bruce sees his opening to fire Lisa Jenio. Bruce managed to get Larry's permission to fire Lisa. It was related to me by Bruce that Larry said he was impressed with what we were doing with Hustler and he wanted Bruce to take a more active role on Barely Legal (magazine). Perhaps the numbers were slipping. I know Jim Kohls and Larry claimed they were slipping on the video. Clive McLean and I had many a conversation about that. Anyway, Bruce used that opportunity to remind Larry that he had not been allowed to work directly on Barely Legal the magazine because Lisa did not want to work with him. Larry gave the green light to Bruce to replace her.
"Bruce told me he intended to promote Hustler editorial assistant Hans Feuersinger to editor of Barely Legal. Hans was on 'our team.'"
Luke: "Is it coincidental that all the people on Bruce's team were men?"
Mark: Mark: "No. Nor is it coincidental that they are almost exclusively white.
"I thought it was a good idea to promote Hans. He's young, vibrant, likes his work, and believes in the product. Early on after my arrival I had advocated that Bruce give Hans an office, a raise, and business cards. It was all about 'building our team,' and my view was that's how you do it. You reward. You include.
"I later heard that after Hans got some of these perks that Lisa Jenio went to Bruce, or maybe it was Donna Hahner who then asked Bruce, and requested the same thing for Lisa's assistant Matt Brand. Bruce said 'no.' Of course, he was also hoping to fire Matt as well, as a result of the online gossip debacle.
"I had no problem with Lisa but there was nothing I could do for Lisa. Bruce was deadset on firing her.
"So, I took Hans out on a Friday (October 8, 2004) here to the Continental. We had a couple of drinks. Bruce had asked me not to say anything about his plans to Hans. I decided it would be good to sound Hans out on if he was ready to go from Editorial Assistant to Editor of the second biggest title in porn title at LFP (Barely Legal). Hans was ready to move on if he wasn't bumped up.
"I told Hans that good news was around the corner. My advice to you is to take it. I told him I couldn't tell him what it was. I was cagey. I honored Bruce's request."
My water glass is empty. I look around for the waitress. I don't want to say anything. Mark says, "I'll grab her when she comes back." He does.
Mark: "I worked almost every weekend. I sent Bruce an email and told him about my drinks with Hans and that I had asked him if he was ready to jump up to the big leagues, if given the opportunity.
"Bruce hit the roof because Bruce decided over the weekend to give [the Editor of Barely Legal position] to Monique Raphael High (a Hustler contributor). She's a great writer. She's published best-selling books. She has her own writing company. Hands down, as a writer, Hans is not even in the same galaxy as Monique. By the way, her husband Ben Pesta is Bruce David's lawyer.
"But Monique was a bad fit for Barely Legal, even if she wanted it, which she ultimately didn't.
"Most magazines award editorship based on resume, experience, talent, persona, etc. At LFP, you enter a netherwold. It's completely political. It seemed that way under Allan, though I never worked under him, but it certainly was under Bruce. That's not to say there aren't very talented people there, because there are, but under Bruce office politics trumps all other considerations. Period."
On Sunday, October 10, 2004, Mark Cromer emailed Bruce David:
Mark: "Wednesday (October 14), Hans and I come over here for a quick one. Hans says, I heard you're having sex with 'Miss X' [a female staffer at LFP]. I said, it's not true.
"Hans said that Tom Farrell had told this rumor over lunch in front of six other LFP staffers. I was just shellshocked.
"I went home that night and explained the situation over the phone to Bruce David. Bruce was silent. Then he said, well, that's disturbing. I'll take care of it in the morning.
"But I knew right then that Bruce David had a hand in this because Bruce David gives Tom Farrell a ride home every night. Tom doesn't own a car.
"The next day, I came in to work around 8:45 a.m.[starting time is 9 a.m. at Hustler], Bruce usually arrives between 10 and 10:30 a.m. But on this day he was in before me. Tom was in his office with the door shut. I believe they were getting their story straight.
"Bruce talks to me later and says it was taken care of. That Tom was 'chastened.'
"To cover my bases, I wrote a memo to Bruce that if that wasn't taken care of, I'd go to Human Resources.
"That comment laid the beginning of my end.
"Then in short order, I see Tom go back into Bruce's office. Tom leaves Bruce's office. Then Morgan Hagen comes into the office. Then Morgan leaves. Then Hans Feuersinger goes into Bruce's office. Then Hans leaves. Then Keith Valcourt goes into Bruce's office. Then Keith leaves. All at ten-minute intervals, Bruce had called them all in, one at a time. I knew something was up.
"That night, Morgan and I, who were traditionally the last staffers out of the building, came over here for a quick drink. Morgan drinks iced tea. We had a pizza.
"I said, 'I hope this is over. There was a rumor going on that I was involved with Miss X. I hope Bruce put an end to it.' Morgan said, 'Yeah, I never imagined you were sleeping with Alaina F-orante.'
"I said, 'What?' Morgan said, Bruce told me that he heard you were having an affair with Alaina F-orante.
"I said 'I heard that Tom Farrell was saying I was having an affair with Miss X [another LFP staffer, not Alaina].'
"Morgan said, no, Bruce asked us about Alaina.
"The next day, I went to Keith and Hans and they [confirmed] that Bruce felt you were having an affair with Alaina.
"I go into Bruce's office and say, I can't believe you're doing this. I'm going to HR. It's stressful enough working here. I can't go on every other day being falsely accused of carrying on sexual affairs with various women in the office.
"Bruce said 'I'll destroy you. Alaina is a snake. I brought you back into the fold. You betrayed me by associating with her and being friendly with Lisa Jenio. You cannot go to HR. He was adamant and visceral.
"It was around this time that Monique had met with Lynn Heller. They were discussing salary [if Monique was to become Editor of Barely Legal]. Everyone on the executive branch had signed off on firing Lisa. I was in Bruce's office during conference calls with Lynn Heller and Donna Hahner in which it was discussed. They just wanted the replacement ready to go. They planned to fire Lisa on a Friday. The usual: call her up to the 9th Floor at around 3 p.m., to Lynn Heller's office. The LFP death march.
"It was weird because Lisa was going about her business not knowing. The same thing had happened to Tim Kenneally and Dan Kapelovitz. We freelancers had worked with editors we knew had been fired, before they even knew it.
"Monday (October 19) rolls around. Bruce David took the day off. I told Alaina what was happening. She had been in the dark until this time. I felt I had to tell her, as it involved her. Alaina hit the roof. She said, we have to go to HR. I was very blunt with her that doing so would cost me my job, I explained what Bruce had been threatening me with. Alaina, rather naively I feel, remarked 'He can't touch you, you haven't done anything wrong.' Well, famous last words.
"Alaina said she wanted to go to HR. So we went up to HR and met with Lynn Heller. We laid it out for her. Outside of Alaina's presence I also explained Tom Farrell's earlier smear that I was involved with 'Miss X' in the building. I did so to protect 'Miss X.'
"This comes months after Bruce said, if you violate the gossip policy, you should be terminated.
"Lynn promised an investigation.
"The next morning, I told Bruce [about going to HR]. He just looked at me and said, 'You're dead.' I took that metaphorically, not literally.
"He went upstairs to see Lynn. When he came back down, his face was cherry tomato red.
"I walked into his office. He looked at me and said, 'I warned you. I have nothing to say to you. Get out of my office.'
"Half an hour later, he went downstairs to have a cigarette. I tried to talk to him. The same thing."That night, Morgan Hagen and Dave Cogan, a great journalist and dear friend I brought into Hustler, and I met over here. I'd fallen into a very deep funk. I'd come into this pressure cooker in July. Online we're getting attacked every day. I didn't sign up for this. The venom was directed at Bruce and I was catching flak because of my association with Bruce, the bad lieutenant. I was putting in twelve hours while Bruce kept less than banker hours. After weeks of threats and coercion, I'd had it.
"After a few drinks here, I went home, got online, and wrote Bruce a letter of resignation (about 3:30am). It was entirely a product of too many drinks and deep depression. I gave two weeks notice.
"I saw the friendship crumbling. I couldn't believe I had left the snowy paradise of Flagstaff just to run my ass off for Bruce and, in the end, be smeared by the guy. It was like a bad dream that had taken on a life of its own. It seemed the more I tried to placate him, the worse it got. But, it was clear I had signed my own death warrant at Hustler when I went to HR with Alaina.
"Suffice to say, I woke up at 9am, jumped in the shower and went to work. I was mad as hell. I was much more clear. Bruce comes into my office. He says, I got your email. Why don't we go downstairs and talk about it?
"I said sure. So I told him ' I want you to know I'm not resigning. You know where that letter came from. It was product of the last three weeks.'
"He was much calmer at first. He said, 'I didn't take it as a letter of resignation.'
"I proceeded to say, 'Look, you've been yelling and screaming at me, jabbing your finger at me. Every time I try to talk to you, it gets worse. I've done nothing wrong. The rumors aren't true. You've taken part in spreading them. Loyalty is a two-way street.'
"And then he just freaked. He yelled, 'You betrayed me by being involved with Alaina. I accept your resignation! I accept your resignation! I accept your resignation! You're outta here.'
"We go back inside the building and take the same elevator up. He said, I'm going to Donna Hahner's office and you're going to have a tough time explaining you didn't resign. I said, that's not all I'm going to explain, Bruce.
"He stepped out of the elevator and screamed, 'You're threatening me. Quit threatening me.' He was clearly trying to make a scene. It was a freak show.
"I ask you to imagine what it is like to work under these conditions. People are coming into my office and asking what is going on. Try editing under those circumstances. Try writing. It's like Kryptonite tied around your neck. You can't focus.
"I sent Bruce an email at work reaffirming that I had not resigned.
"When I got home that night, Bruce sent me an email to my home account saying that he had formally accepted my resignation.
"The next day, I get an email from Bruce asking for all outstanding writing assignments. Where they are at... At that point, I realized that was it.
"I called colleagues at the Daily Journal and asked for whoever they thought was one of the best employment lawyers in town. They suggested Nancy Gray, over in Century City. I called her up and ran down what was happening. She dictated a memo for me to write. I took it up to Donna Hahner and Lynn Heller and asked for permission to leave my desk. [Note: Dates are approximate. I believe Cromer's last day at work was October 20. He was paid through November 5.]
"Shortly before I left, Bruce had been calling the staff in one by one. He'd told them that I was leaving and that they weren't to talk to me. I became Dead Man Walking on the third floor.
"Over the weekend, I went in and cleared out my office of everything I'd need in the event I wasn't allowed back in. I took memos and files. I have a significant amount of material pertinent to my situation.
"I came back in on Monday (October 25) with Lynn. Donna Hahner is sitting there. It was a 15-minute meeting. I thought we were there to talk about what had been happening and work out a resolution. I was wrong. Donna is sitting there stone-faced. She doesn't say one word.
"Lynn asked me to briefly recapitulate what had happened with Bruce. I did. She said, you know we have an open-door policy here. You can come to Human Resources any time, no matter what your supervisor says. I explained that may be a nice line in the employee handbook, but that has no bearing on the reality of Bruce David's position and actions on the third floor. None whatsoever. And they know this. Lynn then said 'Well, it doesn't matter, because you quit.' I said, 'No, I didn't. That letter was the result of too many drinks after being browbeaten and coerced continuously for the last two-and-a-half weeks. I retracted it before it was accepted. I never resigned.
"She said, 'It doesn't matter. We're going to have to ask you to leave now. Don't be alarmed. But we do have security waiting for you in the hallway.' I said, 'Is this standard procedure to have security waiting for people who have quit?' She said, 'I have nothing else to say to you.'
"Security walked me to the elevator and made sure I left the building."
The news broke on my website Sunday, October 31st, that a source close to LFP said Mark Cromer was fired for sexual misconduct.
Mark: "I filed for unemployment. They fought it. They've lost three times now. I only received a few months of unemployment benefits, which have long since ended. But they fought it tooth and nail because their entire position is that I just suddenly resigned. That dog don't hunt. Lynn Heller testified under oath that she wasn't sure of Bruce David's title in the company, or how long Bruce David had worked for LFP, and couldn't describe his relationship with Larry Flynt.
"It's beyond the pale that a VP of Human Resources would not be aware of the above. The fact is, she is fully aware that there is an employee handbook for most employees, and a completely different set of unwritten rules for Bruce David and a couple other higher-ups. That's the reality of it.
"The bottom line is that Bruce David is untouchable in that company. I never resigned. I was forced out."
Cromer hasn't yet sued LFP for wrongful termination. "Bruce and I had a licensing agreement for a video we shot -- Real College Girls Out Of Control. I haven't received a penny. If we can't resolve this very soon, then I will have to proceed. The funny thing about lawyers is they like to end letters with a line about "amicable resolution." I understand the niceties of it I suppose, but let's be real: there is nothing amicable about any of this. There was nothing amicable about being forced out of my job, which cost me tens of thousands of dollars. There was nothing amicable about smearing me with rumors about something I never did. It was a ruthless experience and a very damaging one to me. There was nothing amicable about any of what Bruce David did, and there is nothing amicable about it now. So, we can close it up and move on with our respective lives, yes, and I suspect that's what's best for all concerned. But I am no longer going to sit back and get dumped on for seven months and remain silent about it. 'Amicable' or not.
"Look, after I was fired, Bruce stripped my name from the masthead even though I had stories for three more issues of Hustler I had edited in the can. I had freelance work that they only paid partially for. Bruce took my name off interviews I did with him that ran in the book. After he fired me, he ran a parody ad that I developed but was never paid for and never credited with. No, he has set the tone and it is not amicable.
"My lawyer fired off a letter to their lawyer and my name popped back in for one issue.
"It's just despicable, petty, vindictive actions on his part to, as he put it, 'destroy' me.
"Carolyn Sinclair, a young [24?] and talented contributor to Hustler, became the new Features Editor. She shows promise as a writer, but she was named to that position for one reason: because Bruce feels he can control her. That's the quintessential requirement for being on the third floor today.
"Carolyn, I have been told, has participated in some of what's come out of Bruce's office since I was forced out. Hustler contributors have told me that she has told them: 'I can't really say why he is gone, but you know I'll be easier to work with than Mark was. We just couldn't work with him anymore.' I am sure at Bruce's instruction she has intimated that I had done something wrong.
"I have also been told by contributors that Bruce has told them personally that he couldn't 'help me anymore, that he couldn't protect me anymore,' that's why I left. Intimating that I had a problem. That's a smear by a vague insinuation. It's calculated and damaging and it's meant as such. It's like when he rushed out to comment on this very blog, after he forced me out, to say he couldn't comment about it, yet he then proceeds to comment about it.
"The irony is that because Bruce fired me, he couldn't fire Lisa Jenio as he had planned. I was forced out and the very next week Monique took a pass because of the money they offered her. Hans apparently never got a bump up, as I think he is still an editorial assistant.
"I'm not going to remain quiet about it anymore. I want to set the record straight. If it gets even less amicable than it already has been, so be it. I certainly don't desire that, but I am not going to take it anymore.
"If LFP wants to conclude this, that's great. And if they don't, that's fine too."
I emailed Bruce David for comment. He replied: "I'm passing the interview on to my attorney for possible legal action."
5PM I sit in the sun beside the pool with Matt Labash, Mark Cromer, the LA Weekly journalist working on their forthcoming porn-HIV cover story, Bruce David of Larry Flynt Publications and Al Goldstein, publisher of Screw weekly.
Luke: "What did you think of Screwed, the  movie?"
Al: "It was a piece of s---. The guys who made the movie were a bunch of retarded adolescent punks who did not know how to make a good movie. They had a great subject."
Bruce David, self described LFP's official gopher, says it was surface, shallow and a big disappointment. "I've known Al for 30 years. I know the depth and the issues and they just treated him like he was a pussy eater."
Bruce David now writes Hustler comics.
He was a starving journalist in New York in the late '60s. Then he started a sex paper to make some money. As he dropped it off at newsstands, he was followed by Mafia in trucks trying to intimidate him. The mob controlled newsstand distribution. Then Bruce folded his paper and joined Screw. He started Al's cable TV show Midnight Blue. In 1974 he reviewed the first edition of Hustler, congratulating it for edging out Refrigerator Monthly as the most boring publication in America. Larry Flynt phoned him and hired him in 1975 to edit Hustler.
"I understood what Larry was trying to do and I knew that magazine was going to be successful. I knew that I could show him the way to do it. I bought in good writers and artists.
"I was an absolute slut. After work, I'd go down to Harry's Bar in Century City and drink until I picked someone up."
Bored, Bruce left in 1982 to write for TV (Family Ties, Alf ). In 1983, he became introspective and started meditating. Bruce married in 1985. He had kids. Needing a steady pay check, he returned to LFP in 1996.
"I thought the Larry Flynt movie was great, and very accurate. Everything in it was true. You might argue about some of the stuff left out. But if I were writing my movie, I would not necessarily include the negative things."
Mark: "I just ran into Vanessa Del Rio buying cigarettes. I wanted to tell her that I've always admired the size of her clit, but it didn't seem to be the place to do it."
The Bruce David character in the movie is portrayed by Crispin Glover, the guy with the lazy eye. "He was going to be the editor but we had our lawyer send a cease and desist order.
"People attracted to work in the porn industry tend to be damaged people. They're making a calculated gamble. Nobody is forcing them. We're all free to choose our own path to self destruction.
"Pornography has no power over me. Working at LFP, I see naked women all the time, but it's rare that I see a photo set that is a turn-on.
"I can't comment on Hustler magazine. Allan MacDonell and I don't get along. We don't communicate. Larry does not ask me for my views on Hustler."
Scott Schalin interview.
Q: "What's the story with Allan [MacDonnell] leaving LFP?"
Scott: "I'm good friends with Alan. I think he's one of the smartest, most talented writers in the adult industry. The magazine industry is suffering from erosion from the internet and DVDs.
"As a result, Larry was looking to make an editorial change. He wanted to make it more political again, like it used to be.
"Look at the first two Bruce David [new editor of Hustler] issues. They're super-political again.
"Allan's take was that people don't want politics with their porn. I agree with that. I liked the Allan-version of Hustler. It was porn and smutty and gossipy and inside-the-industry. If you whack off, do you really want to read about what happened in Iraq?
"Allan is writing screenplays now."
Speculating On Future Of Hustler Editor Bruce David
Mike Albo writes 5/13/04:
Change At Asshole Of The Month
Mike Albo writes 5/17/04:
FAYNER BANNED FROM HUSTLER PARTY
Mike Albo writes 7/9/04:
A Brief Chat With Bruce David, Mark Cromer
Bruce David is the Editor-In-Chief of Hustler Magazine and the Editorial Director for Larry Flynt Publications. Mark Cromer (with credits in The Los Angeles Times, Nation Magazine, etc) is his Features Editor.
Bruce appears prominently in Larry Flynt's autobiography and is part of a composite role in the movie made about Larry. David has known Flynt since about 1975.
I've heard that Larry removed the previous Hustler editor Allan MacDonnell in 2003 because of derogatory remarks Allan made about Larry at a Friars' roast. Allan is now finishing off a memoir of his LFP days to be published next year by Feral House.
I first met Bruce David and Mark Cromer at the pool of the Universal Hilton during the World Pornography Conference on August 6, 1998. It was late on a Friday afternoon. We sat with Al Goldstein, publisher of Screw, and his girlfriend Rose Robbins, his corporate counsel. We all had a long good chat.
I'd heard Mark hated me and I was defensive. The first thing I said to him was, 'I heard you hate me.' He was amused. He was also jazzed about meeting Vanessa Del Rio in the gift shop. He wanted to compliment her on her enormous clit but he didn't think it was appropriate and so he said nothing on that score.
Mark did a 1998 cover story for LA Weekly called "The Last Ride" about the industry's HIV problem (five tested positive that year). Max Hardcore was on the cover. Mark later did a story for the Weekly on Tony Montana's testing HIV positive. Then, in 2001, he did a long piece for the Nation magazine (an intellectual weekly on the Left) on the Bush administration's planned war on porn and the Cambria List response.
We did a conference call late Tuesday afternoon. I called Bruce first. I wondered why all negative references to them on the Mike Albo-written site Adult Stars News.com suddenly disappeared today.
Bruce and Mark called me back. They said they couldn't say much about Albo.
I wanted to know why Bruce and Mark didn't move against Mike a lot earlier. He'd been bagging on them for months.
Bruce: "We'd like to talk to you but we don't want to say anything right now other than, more to come."
Mark: "In the immortal words of Pierre Trudeau (former prime minister of Canada) when he declared marshall law and destroyed his opposition [he did?], and was asked, how far are you prepared to go? He said, watch me!"
Luke: "You guys have been taking a pounding for a long time."
Mark: "I was unaware of it until recently. I guess that was the case."
Bruce: "Once we became aware of this, we started..."
Mark: "To do what was necessary."
Luke: "I was amazed it only happened today."
Bruce: "We weren't aware of it for a significant amount of time because nobody reads Albo's site. It was juvenile prattle."
Mark: "When I went through it, I can't say I was horrified. It was Mark on Gilligan's Island. It was like something that could've been done in seventh or eighth grade."
Luke: "It was going on a camping trip and seeing 'Bruce David is a retard' carved into a tree."
Bruce: "I didn't see that one."
Mark: "We did what we had to do and we have other things pending."
Luke: "How's everything with Hustler Magazine?"
Bruce: "It's a vast improvement over what the previous editor was doing. It now has material you might want to read after you finish jerking off. It has a lot more journalism and I hope it is a lot more entertaining and a lot more fun.
"The magazine my predecessor did was boring and predictable, everything from art direction to editorial content. There were two articles in every issue. Now we have five or six."
Mark: "The reason you are going to have a lot more journalism in the book is because Bruce is at the helm now."
Bruce: "Mark is my lieutenant. He has extensive contacts in the journalist community."
Luke: "Mark, why did you come on board as features editor?"
Mark: "Because the opportunity to work with my friend Bruce David was not something I wanted to pass up. He's got Greg Palast in the book now. He's got interviews with Chris Hitchens. Hustler is going back to its journalistic roots when it had a certain cachet."
Former Hustler features editor David Buchbinder, last I knew, was reporting from Afghanistan for such outlets as the Christian Science Monitor.
Luke: "What are some stories we can look for in forthcoming issues of Hustler?"
Mark: "We have an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning author David K. Johnston. Also, an expose of the last year of Wu-Tang Clan [hip hop group that reshaped the genre]. Their last album is due out this year."
Bruce: "We're adding a lot of fun sex stuff. We have an artist named Gourd who ties women to cars. That will be a photo feature in an upcoming issue. The whole idea is to surprise and entertain and engage the reader."
Luke: "Any reaction in newsstand sales yet?"
Bruce: "When my predecessor was running things, sales were sinking. They were sinking so rapidly that Larry felt he had to terminate him. Now sales have levelled off and we're seeing an uptick. It took a while but you have to signal people that things have changed. The previous editor poisoned the well. It took a while to signal the readers to come back."
I remember a false report in the New York Post about six months ago that Bruce was going to be fired from Hustler.
Hustler's Bruce David Declares War On KPFK Host Aura Bogado
Jamie Lee, organizer, L.A. Not In Our Name, writes:
Hustler features editor Mark Cromer replies:
Scott Fayner says: "Then Allan [MacDonnell] got fired. Bruce [David] took over. I like Bruce but Allan pushed me a lot. I'd hand him in stuff and I'd have to redo it. With Bruce, not as much."
Hustler Fires Features Editor Mark Cromer
10/31/04: LFP sources allege a sexual impropriety. Behavior unbecoming a pornographer.
Bruce David, Hustler Editor, replies 11/2/04 to my email of inquiry: "He resigned. I would like to tell you the whole story but company policy prohibits that. You can talk to Cromer if you like but his version of events is likely to be inaccurate. I don't really think he knows what happened even though he, no doubt, believes he does. It was with deep regret that I felt compelled to accept his resignation. For me, it's not just the end of a professional relationship but the end of a friendship as well."
A Statement From Mark Cromer's Lawyer
Los Angeles, CA November 3, 2004
Trevor, a porn source who knows both men, writes: "Bruce David has tanked Hustler sales...while bloating the budget. Circulation's down about 100,000 copies. I would bet cash that Cromer's version is going to be more accurate than Bruce David's."
War Declared On Hustler Editor Bruce David
Tiger Lilly writes 1/5/05:
Mark Cromer writes me March 27, 2005:
Inside info on LFP/Hustler
I sent this letter Wednesday night to Hustler magazine Editor Bruce David, Caroline Sinclair, and various sources at LFP as well as former employees of LFP. To the best of my knowledge, the substance of the below is accurate.
The Hustler Tattler writes:
Mark Cromer responds:
I hear from LFP employees that they are getting satirical emails almost daily (probably from ex-LFP employees).