Marty Turkel Memorial Service

Thursday morning I skip my three hours of Alexander Technique class and drive east on I-10, east on the 60, north on the 605, east on the 210 to White’s Funeral Home in Azusa and gather with dying members of a dying industry to remember our friend.

David Sullivan writes for AVN:

Industry veteran Marty Turkel died Monday evening at San Dimas hospital of a heart attack, following a prolonged series of health setbacks. He was 75.

"He was my best friend, and a legend in the industry," said Ed Kail, who shared an office with Turkel at VCA Pictures for more than 20 years. "Everybody knew his name, and they knew he was not only a dynamite salesperson but a wonderful human being. He was loved by everyone in this industry. I loved him like a brother, and I’m going to miss him very much."

Born in Brooklyn, New York on Dec. 18, 1933, Turkel served with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was wounded and briefly held as a POW.

"Marty had been in frail health for three years," an emotional Kail told AVN. "He suffered multiple strokes and heart attacks. He had at least ten operations, and at the end, he had very little quality of life."

Ed Kail’s daughter, Bonnie, spoke to AVN about her enduring affection for Turkel.

"I loved Marty so much," she said. "Because he and my dad were like brothers, I called him Uncle Marty. The two of them together were like Heckle and Jeckyl. Marty was just so funny, so hilarious. I’m going to miss him so much."

Turkel is survived by his wife of 51 1/2 years, Lynn; his son Larry and daughter Nikki; his brother Allie; his daughter-in-law, Pam, and son-in-law Jack; and his grandchildren, Bryce, Jackie, and J.P.; and his great-grandson, Desmond.

"I’m going to miss him," Ed Kail said. "I love Marty as I love a brother, and I always will."

Turkel will be cremated according to his wishes. A memorial service will be held Thursday, March 5 at 10:30 a.m. at White’s Funeral Home at 404 East Foothill Blvd. in Azusa, Calif.

I arrive at 10 am and find Rob Spallone in sunglasses holding forth to a small group about his reality show. We shake hands. He looks at me and asks, "What happened? You became a rabbi?"

I smile.

Rob turns back to the group. "Anyway, they said they would edit it. It’s easier to show it to a network and tell them, ‘We could take this out’ than to say, ‘We can add this.’ These guys think it could go on regular television… These people are from Hollywood. They shot me for 18 hours and they were fighting with each other. They couldn’t hold the camera they were laughing so hard. Everything that could go wrong on a shoot went wrong. First girl didn’t show up. Second girl called to say that she didn’t want to work with the guy because he does gay movies. The first scene was done on a car and the windshield broke. It was perfect. I was out of my mind."

Bloke: "All my friends are celebrities now."

Woman: "You saw Dennis on TV?"

"I can’t stand Dennis."

Rob: "I was at dinner with Joey Buttafuoco and Paris Hilton was at the next table. And she sat there like a little angel because she was with grandma and grandpa, mom and dad."

"I took my car in to Joey’s place and there was something I didn’t like, so I took scissors from his table and carved Xs in the car."

I talk to Rob.

Rob: "Is this the new look? Do you have to have this? You look a lot better without it."

Luke to Rob: "Where are you living now?"

Rob: "I’m moving to the Valley this week. I’ve slept on [his ex-wife] Helena’s couch the past five weeks."

Luke: "Is Helena gonna be in the…?"

Rob: "Yep. They love her."

Luke: "I thought you were out of the business?"

Rob: "I’m seeing what happens with this."

Luke: "What happened to your ice cream store?"

Rob: "I’ve got to find the right spot."

Mara Epstein walks up and hugs everyone in sight. She doesn’t recognize me.

Luke: "No hug for me?"

Mara stares at me. "Oh God," she says and hugs me.

Times are tough in her industry. She lost her health insurance. For the past decadae, she’s had a sick husband to look after.

"I always thought that if you devote yourself to doing good things for people, good things will happen to you," reflects Mara.

Our friend Gloria Leonard is moving from Hawaii to Florida.

Rob says: "His wife don’t talk to me. I had to whisper."’

Luke: "Why don’t she talk to you?"

Rob: "We were at the Rainbow about a month ago and I was drunk and I asked her to scratch my balls."

Luke: "She took offense at that?"

Rob: "She got mad."

Rob goes back to talking about his reality show. "So this woman called from this Judge Judy type show. I said to her, call me tomorrow. She calls back the next day. I say, ‘Tell me you love me.’ She says what? I said, ‘Tell me you love me.’ So she says, I love you.

"I say, I’m going to make your show. I’m suing Joey Buttafuoco. We go down to the stage. Joey’s comes in first with his witness. They tell me not to use the f-word. The taping starts. I say to Joey, ‘F— you.’ He tells me to shut up.

"When we walk out, I lunge at him. I spit on him.

"Afterward, I got to meet with the producers. This was two months ago. I brought in Helena. I brought in Jerry the limo driver."

AVN publisher Paul Fishbein walks up. He stares at me, shakes my hand, and says to Rob, "He looks Amish!"

Rob: "That’s what I said."

"So it starts out with me in the business. I’m loaded. Then the business crashes and I’m dying. They repossess my Mercedes and my sports car. I end up living on my ex-wife’s couch."

"They said that the next time I come in, they’ll have a contract for me. I told them to have someone read it to me. I can’t read."

Luke: "You could read my website."

Rob: "If somebody calls me up and says that I’m on it."

I go inside and sit alone. Then Rob joins me. We sit behind Howard Levine (his brother is a Conservative rabbi), who’s blinged out with a couple of silver bracelets, Peter Reynolds and a sales guy from Devil’s Films.

There’s a basket with cheap black plastic yarmulkes. Only a handful of guys put them on even though the crowd is majority Jewish.

Marty was not an observant Jew nor were any of his friends in the industry.

Howard talks about "the crew."

"Is that a Mafia term?" I ask.

My friend Paul Buch runs the service (for the 60 or so people in the chapel, I think Seka is the only talent to show). He’s the cantor at the Reform synagogue Temple Beth Israel of Pomona. With over 400 member families, it is the largest Jewish institution between Pasadena and Las Vegas.

Paul: "Shalom friends. Please turn off your cell phones, pagers. Or at least set them to vibrate.

"I’ve been asked by Marty’s family to officiate. We’ve gathered here to say goodbye.

"The Hebrew word for funeral is levaya. It comes from the Hebrew word levavot, which means to accompany or escort. Our tradition teaches us that when a person dies, it is only the body that dies. The soul does not die. It can’t die. As the body begins its return to the dust from which it came, the soul is being restored to God. Those of us who are left behind, it is now our task to escort Marty to the borders of this life to God’s embrace that awaits him in the world to come."

I talked to Marty about religion a few times. He was fascinated by my journey but said he was not a religious man.

I’m thrilled this Reform cantor is talking about the eternality of the soul. Too often non-Orthodox clergy wrongly assert that Judaism does not believe in an Afterlife. It does. It always has. It just doesn’t talk about it much. Unique among the world religions, Judaism focuses us on this life.

Paul: "We do this through not only the words of our sacred text, but through our melodies and in that spirit I ask you to join me in Psalm 121…"

Paul reads: "I will lift my eyes to the mountains. My help will come from Adonai…"

We recite: "The Lord is my shepherd. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."

Paul delivers the eulogy. "Marty made an indelible impact on all who knew him."

"Because he was the oldest, he was often called upon to be a caregiver to his younger siblings."

"When he was 22, his cousin Gail introduced Marty to her 16 year old friend from Bensonhurst, Lynette. At first Lynette didn’t think that much of Marty. He was certainly too old for her. Surely he wouldn’t think much of a high school kid like her. She was just a baby after all. But three months later, they were engaged.

"As his son Larry says, his father was the hardest worker he’s ever known. While Marty was a successful at almost anything he tried, he was a natural born salesman."

"Marty and Lynette were committed to building a more secure life for their three children than they had, and the family eventually moved into a beautiful home on Long Island.

"Throughout their entire childhood, Marty would always make it a point to spend quality time with his kids, especially on Sundays when he would wake them early in the morning, first to go out to breakfast, and then to some activity like horseback riding or to the beach… As long as they were together.

"Marty was always generous with other family members and friends, offering them a place to stay. These demonstrations of chesed — the Jewish value of compassion — continued up until recently when Marty gave away Lynette’s old car to a plumber who came to work on the house so his daughter could have her own wheels.

"Shortly after their son Bruce passed away, Marty and his family moved to California where Marty found his true professional calling in sales and distribution for VCA Pictures where he worked for over 20 years. If there was one message I heard over and over again yesterday when I met with Marty’s family and friends it was how much Marty loved his job and his industry. He found great satisfaction participating in the activities of its trade association, the Free Speech Coalition. He had great affection and respect for his coworkers, colleagues and clients…

"Marty also loved to play golf, though his friends say he didn’t do it very well. Along with his friend Ed [Kail], he was known to get into a little acting now and again [The Sopornos]. He had a great sense of humor. He was a bit sarcastic at times…

"Marty always seemed to care more about you than about himself…

"Nicky shared yesterday, how ironic that a man with such a big heart was taken from us when his own heart failed.

"Marty Turkel, Z"L. May his memory be a blessing."

Marty’s younger brother speaks. Bonnie Kail speaks. Other family and friends speak.

Howard Levine shares a life lesson he learned from Marty. "If you are in Las Vegas and you win $2,000, you immediately call your wife and tell her you are up $300 and half of it is hers."

This gets the biggest laugh of the day.

A few persons later, I speak briefly. "My name is Luke Ford. I wrote about the industry for 12 years. During those 12 years, Marty was the only person who was always glad to see me. I remember Marty as a man with a smile and a personality that would light up the room and make everybody feel good and feel happy."

After the service, I shake hands with Ed Kail.

"I almost didn’t recognize you," he says. "You look like a rabbi."

"I’m undercover," I say.

Marty and Ed always thought I was undercover law enforcement.

I give Lynne a hug. "Thank you for your lovely stories about Marty," she says as she releases me.

I take a strong final look at her before walking away. She’s disturbingly beautiful.

I walk outside into the sunshine and stand near Rob Spallone.

"Your psoriasis is better," I say.

"No," he responds. "It’s worse than ever. Only on my face [is it better].

I want to shake hands with Russ Hampshire, who was like a father to me during my first years blogging on his industry.

Russ walks up to me: "Luke!"

"How are you?"

"Are you a rabbi now?"

"Not quite. How are you? You look well."

"What are you doing now?"

"I’m just writing a bunch of blogs, mainly on Jewish life."

"Your area has changed. Good."

"I quit writing on the adult industry about 18 months ago."


"I just couldn’t take it anymore. What are you doing? Still playing golf?"

"Yes. I was supposed to play today but I wanted to be here."

Paul Fishbein walks out of the chapel. "I can’t hang around smokers," he says.

Almost everyone on the lawn, including Russ, is smoking.

"If we were drinking wine [you’d stay]," someone says.

"Yeah, that’s because that’s healthy," says Paul. "Sorry. How long have I been preaching? I used to yell at Marty. What are you doing? He’d say, ‘Ahh, I’m enjoying it.’ I’m sure. That part we know."

Paul asks Howard if he’s going to any shows. Paul says he’s going to a concert 10 days before his 50th birthday.

It’s the first time I’ve seen Paul looking his age.

I drive home west on the 210, passing a billboard for 100.3 FM that reads: "A deeper way to rock."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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