So what do men think about men’s magazines? The Media asked one time Playboy SA editor, Jeremy Gordin, his opinion.
“Hello Jeremy, the editor of magazine, , Peta Krost Maunder, wrote in her inimitable style, “I was hoping you might write a piece on lad mags. What’s the concept? Do they still work? Have they changed over the years? Mellowed? What is it that men love about them and is there any skaam in buying them?”
“Listen, Peta,” I replied (in my inimitable style), “whaddya mean ‘What is the concept’? We men love the nookie, sister, we love the nookie. What part of that concept don’t you grasp?”
Maybe I was a trifle acerbic (and defensive) because I hate that euphemism ‘lad mags’. On the other hand, what I think such mags should really be called can’t be written in a respectable magazine such as The Media, can it now?
Krost Maunder had written to me because about 20 years ago I was the launch editor of our first locally-produced Playboy magazine. As it turned out, however, I was actually the editor for the first three editions only. But for some reason my name has remained stuck to Playboy SA.
Another problem: I turn 60 years’ old in September. I’m an old codger – without, or so my wife says, the skills of either President Jacob Zuma or Hugh Hefner.
Probably worse is that I don’t really read or even look at ‘lad mags’ much any more, if at all. But, hey, seemed like a good idea to go out and buy some 20 years later.
So off I went to one of the few remaining CNAs – one of the last of the Mohicans in one of the last of the Mohican encampments – buying Playboy, FHM, GQ, and Men’s Health. Very expensive these days, but then so is everything so I’ll stop whining immediately.
I thought the woman who rang up the mags looked at me a trifle oddly. Maybe it was the colour (grey) of my beard. Anyway, I did feel a bit skaam. But wasn’t it Woody Allen – or someone else equally as smart – who said that if sex and things (such as magazines) connected with it stop being ‘dirty’ (his word – I prefer ‘naughty’ or ‘sinful’), then what’s the point of the whole glum shooting match?
If you make the naughty stuff in life antiseptic, if you try to perfume the whiff of the illicit or forbidden, it takes away the fun. The human race’s basic founding myth, the Garden of Eden, is about being naughty and feeling skaam (a talking snake is also involved, but that’s another matter).
In short, we love the nookie and like to feel naughty about loving it because it might not do much for our bank accounts but it gives us a special frisson. Suck it up.
Anyway, I think Playboy still has the best nookie, which is how it ought to be; that GQ is still, all these years later, more oriented towards the prettier boys (suits, fashion accessories, blah de woof), which is tough on us ugly fellows, but so it goes; that FHM remains a very classy act, notwithstanding its local owners, Media24, who aren’t always so classy; and that Men’s Health is still (for me) painfully narcissistic.
I thought maybe Men’s Health might be partially aimed (as is GQ, despite local protestations to the contrary) at the gay market. But my gay Pilates instructor tells me that it isn’t. “Yeah,” he said, showing off his six-pack, “there’re plenty of six-packs to look at, but there’s also too much of that boring heterosexual sex advice, so tedious. How to get her fired up after dinner and all that.”
But health rather than sex seems to be where it’s at these days – eish, the younger generation, so I would not knock Men’s Health from a sales point-of-view.
I was, however, surprised at how little all of these magazines have changed during the past 20 years. They certainly haven’t mellowed, nor are they vulgar or loud either. Quite stylish actually.
Well, I suppose if it ain’t broke, no need to fix it. But there was one aspect of all the magazines, especially Playboy, that troubled me as a journalist and former editor of a lad mag (though I have been told that Playboy is not referred to as a lad mag but rather as a porn mag. If you think Playboy’s porn, try the internet sometime).
The one thing that seems to have disappeared is readable, interesting and groundbreaking journalism. In my time at Playboy, we ran a couple of stories that were followed up (believe it or not) by the mighty Sunday Times. Didn’t come across anything like those stories this time around…
Still – presuming that circulations are pretty much holding up in these tough times – lad mags still seem to be catering for their target markets.
To another 20 years, fellows – and ladies! L’hayyim (a toast to life)!
This story was first published in The Media magazine.