Albert Goldman; Biographer of Presley, Lennon

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

Albert Goldman, whose pitiless biographies of Elvis Presley and John Lennon infuriated their fans, is dead of a heart attack at 66.

Goldman, who lived in New York, died Monday as he traveled from Miami to London.

“My books are a cold dose of reality,” he said in 1988.

In “Elvis,” published in 1981, Goldman depicted Presley as a drugged, perverted, gluttonous man of questionable talent, leaving Presley fans livid.


Goldman also wrote unflattering appraisals of Lenny Bruce and John Lennon.

The biography of the comedian, who died in 1966, was published in 1974, so libel against the dead man was out of the question. But Bruce’s daughter, Kitty, sued Goldman and others, claiming that the author appropriated Bruce’s name and likeness for profit.

“The Lives of John Lennon,” published in 1988, suggested that the former Beatle committed a murder in his youth and depicted him as anorexic, bisexual, drug-addicted, paranoid and near-psychotic.

That book received mostly negative reviews with its picture of “a once brilliant, rebellious, virile young rocker whom success had puffed up into a fat clown.”

A native of Dormont, Pa., Goldman attended Carnegie Institute of Technology. He left without a degree to serve in the Navy in 1945 and 1946. Goldman later earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in English from Columbia University.

Goldman taught at the City University of New York and at Columbia. In the early 1970s, he was pop music columnist for Life magazine.

His other books were “Carnival at Rio” in 1978, “Grass Roots: Marijuana in America Today” and “Disco,” both in 1979, and “Sound Bites” in 1992.