Torgoff, Martin 1952-

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Torgoff, Martin 1952-

PERSONAL:

Born November 29, 1952, in New York, NY; son of Irving (an athlete; in business) and Bess (in business) Torgoff; married; children: one son. Education: University of Neuchatel, certificate, 1973; State University of New York College at Cortland, B.A., 1974. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Jewish.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY. E-mail—[email protected].net.

CAREER:

Instructor in visual and performing arts at elementary school in Bayville, NY, 1970-74; Brentano's, Manhasset, NY, manager of paperback department, 1974-75; Grosset & Dunlap, Inc., New York, NY, associate editor in Adult Trade Division, 1975-78; writer, 1978—. Substitute high school teacher in New York, 1974-75. CNN Worldbeat, producer, 1999-2001.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Deems Taylor Award, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, for American Fool: The Roots and Improbable Rise of John Cougar Mellencamp.

WRITINGS:

NONFICTION

(Editor) Bert Sugar, The Thrill of Victory, Hawthorn (New York, NY), 1977.

(Editor) Reggie Jackson's Scrapbook, Dutton (New York, NY), 1978.

(Editor) Burt Avedon, Ah, Men, A&W Publishers (New York, NY), 1978.

Elvis: We Love You Tender, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1980.

(Editor and contributor) The Complete Elvis, Putnam (New York, NY), 1982.

American Fool: The Roots and Improbable Rise of John Cougar Mellencamp, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.

Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.

Writer of documentary films Elvis '56, 1987, and The Making of Pump, 1991, and television special Non Stop, 1988. Writer and consulting producer for VH1 documentary miniseries The Drug Years (based on Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000), 2006, and Sex: The Revolution and Lords of the Revolution, both 2008. Writer, director, and producer of other performance and documentary pieces for film and television. Consulting producer and narrator for Sundance Channel series, Sex: The Revolution. Contributor to The Compleat Beatles, two volumes, Putnam. Contributor to periodicals, including Us. Contributing editor of Interview.

SIDELIGHTS:

Martin Torgoff has written much on rock music and other aspects of popular culture. In Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000, he deals with the use of illegal drugs in that era, covering marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and others. He tells his story largely from the viewpoint of drug users—he was one himself. Taking his title from the rock song by Blind Faith, he explores drug use among rock musicians, plus jazz artists and other entertainers. He notes the role drugs played in the deaths of such celebrities as Jimi Hendrix, John Belushi, and Kurt Cobain. He interviews survivors of the 1960s drug heyday, too, including Grace Slick, David Crosby, and Oliver Stone, and drug-culture pioneers Timothy Leary and Herbert Huncke. While acknowledging the harm done by some recreational drugs, especially heroin and cocaine, Torgoff makes the case that arresting and jailing users does harm as well, and he endorses decriminalization, along with alternative means of addressing addiction.

Some critics thought Can't Find My Way Home a lively, detailed history of the drug culture. "Torgoff's book is an exuberant chronicle of ecstatic inebriation, delusional utopianism, wretched excess and chastened nostalgia for lost highs," observed Hal Epsen in the New York Times Book Review. Along with "sometimes tedious" repetition of well-known anecdotes, there are new tales that provide "bright shards of archaeological lore," Epsen related. Booklist contributor Keir Graff described the work as "useful and absorbing," and Library Journal Duncan Stewart critic pronounced it "highly recommended."

A Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed the book excessively focused on the famous. While Torgoff is a talented interviewer and recounts many entertaining stories, the reviewer continued, he largely neglects drugs' effect on the general population. "Torgoff creates compelling juxtapositions … but he hasn't truly broken new ground," the critic concluded. Historian commentator David Farber also thought Torgoff concentrated too much on "iconic figures," but Farber still called the book "the best single history of drug use in modern America," adding the qualifier: "That is not saying as much as it should."

Farber noted that the work "is not a transparent brief for drug use," and several other critics found it refreshing that Torgoff seeks a middle path in public policy toward drugs. With all the controversy surrounding the topic, Graff remarked, the author's "belief in straight talk and informed decision making is a tonic."

Torgoff once told CA: "I intend to establish myself as an important, versatile writer on subjects of personal interest—the arts, politics, sports, pop culture, business, fashion, and the mass media. I also intend to write fiction and screenplays."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 1982, review of The Complete Elvis, p. 1215; January 15, 1986, review of American Fool: The Roots and Improbable Rise of John Cougar Mellencamp, p. 725; May 1, 2004, Keir Graff, review of Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000, p. 1531.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, January, 2005, D.O. Cullen, review of Can't Find My Way Home, p. 919.

Historian, March 22, 2006, David Farber, review of Can't Find My Way Home, p. 169.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of Can't Find My Way Home, p. 320.

Library Journal, January 15, 1980, Paul G. Feehan, review of Elvis: We Love You Tender, p. 207; May 15, 1982, Paul G. Feehan, review of The Complete Elvis, p. 996; May 1, 2004, Duncan Stewart, "Dope: A Troubled Love Story," p. 126.

New Statesman, September 24, 1982, review of The Complete Elvis, p. 21.

New York Times Book Review, June 6, 2004, Hal Epsen, "Higher and Higher," p. 8.

Penthouse, May, 1980, Nick Tosches, review of Elvis, p. 56.

Publishers Weekly, November 12, 1979, review of Elvis, p. 52; March 8, 2004, review of Can't Find My Way Home, p. 61.

Rolling Stone, August 5, 2004, Richard Abowitz, "The High Life," p. 117.

School Library Journal, May, 1980, Priscilla Johnson, review of Elvis, p. 93.

Stereo Review, June, 1982, Steve Simels, review of The Complete Elvis, p. 74.

Washington Post Book World, May 23, 2004, Nick Gillespie, "Long Strange Trip," p. 8.

ONLINE

Greater Talent Network Speakers Bureau Web site,http://www.greatertalent.com/ (May 13, 2008), brief biography.

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (May 13, 2008), film and television credits.

Martin Torgoff Home Page,http://www.martintorgoff.net (May 13, 2008).