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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER RALPH GINZBURG
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Publisher of Moneysworth


Less than two months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court passed an edict allowing the police to raid the files of newspaper offices in search of information relating to a crime. "If they came here, I'd stand at the entrance and block their way," says Ralph Ginzburg, gazing out the window at his suite of offices near Columbus Circle. "I don't care if they arrest me," he adds in his thick Brooklyn accent.

The owlish-looking Ginzburg means what he says. He's the publisher of Moneysworth, which is mailed each month to 1.2 million subscribers. It is the most successful item he has ever published, but there is no doubt that he would risk losing it and going to jail, because Ginzburg has done so already. In a flamboyant career marked by much notoriety, he has emerged as one of the most important figures of his generation in expanding the freedom of the press.

Of the six magazines and newspapers that Ginzburg has founded, none has caused such a stir as his first one, Eros, which lasted from 1962 to 1963. "It was the first really classy magazine on love and sex in American history," he says. "I signed up 100,000 subscribers right away, at $50 a year. Many leading American artists contributed to it. The big difference is that it was sold entirely through the mails. Our promotion of subscriptions through the mail got a lot of complaints."

About 35,000 complaints, in fact — more than the U.S. Post Office had ever received up to that time. Ralph Ginzburg was charged with sending obscene material through the mails, and Eros was forced to suspend publication while the debate went on. Most Washington lawyers, after examining the magazine, concluded that it was not obscene. But the case became a political issue, and in 1972, 10 years after the so-called crime had taken place, Ginzburg was ordered to serve an eight-month term at the federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. His imprisonment led to a nationwide outcry by intellectuals and public officials.

Not long after the demise of Eros, Ginzburg started another magazine called Fact. It, too, ended over a lawsuit. This time the plaintiff was U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater. He sued the magazine for $2 million on the charge of libel, and was awarded $65,000 in damages. "It was a compromise, as jury decisions frequently are," remarks Ginzburg. "Unfortunately I didn't have very much money back then............
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