To conjure the archetype of the Vogue man, Men’s Vogue editor Jay Fielden turned to literature. His new magazine, he had been saying, will be guided by the concept of “things that are real, things that are authentic, things that endure.”
So forget Marc or Calvin for the moment. “I was reading this obituary about Saul Bellow when he died, in The Times, and they had this quote in there, and it said-and I’ll read it to you-I’ve got it here,” Mr. Fielden said, on the phone from his office in the Condé Nast tower.
Mr. Fielden read: “He admired and befriended Chicago’s deal-makers and real-estate men, and he dressed like one of them in bespoke suits and Turnbull and Asser shirts. He was a devoted, self-taught cook, as well as a gardener, a violinist and a sports fan.”
An octogenarian Nobel laureate as lifestyle muse? Mr. Sammler’s Sommelier?
“It’s about breadth,” the 35-year-old Mr. Fielden said, “rather than narrowing a magazine based on the expectations on what fashion or style make you have to conform to.”
There are two separate sets of expectations for Mr. Fielden’s project. Financially, Men’s Vogue is shaping up as a straightforward big-ticket Condé Nast launch: 300,000 copies are planned for its Sept. 6 debut, with an ad-page count somewhere over 100. Vogue publisher Tom Florio said he suspects Men’s Vogue will outpace April’s company-record 106-ad-page launch of Domino.
Conceptually, however, Men’s Vogue is a more mysterious proposition. Vogue has already produced one successful American spin-off, Teen Vogue, in 2003. It’s one thing, though, to create a version of an iconic women’s magazine pitched to girls. It’s another to make one pitched to men.
“Clearly, this is a brand extension,” Mr. Fielden said. But as macho brand names go, doesn’t Men’s Vogue sound more or less like Men’s Ladies’ Home Journal?
“I understand the skepticism some may have about whether a brand that means women’s fashion to so many people can be made into something men feel comfortable reading,” Mr. Fielden said.
Mr. Fielden said that the magazine is not aiming for the service-oriented, you-can-do-this tone that most men’s magazines use to woo fashion-phobic consumers. It will assume that the Men’s Vogue reader already possesses a confident, educated eye-an eye not unlike that of Anna Wintour.
The Vogue editor is “around the corner whenever I need to consult with her,” Mr. Fielden said. “She’s ready to give advice whenever she feels like she needs to give it, and whenever she feels she can improve upon what it is we’ve already done to make it better.”
At 4 Times Square, Mr. Fielden-Ms. Wintour’s arts editor for six years-is currently shuttling between Vogue’s 12th-floor offices and his own space on the sixth floor. That lower level holds a 12-member staff (nine of them men, if anyone’s counting). Many of the magazine’s contributors, however, are Vogue staff. And Ms. W. is a short elevator ride away.
“She’s the guiding hand in the way that you would expect someone with the title of editorial-whatever her title is-of a magazine, in the Condé Nast tradition of [Alexander] Liberman.”
Ms. Wintour’s title at the new magazine is “editorial director.” That was the rank the legendary Liberman held at Condé Nast as a whole-outranking, among others, the editor of Vogue. But Mr. Liberman’s lineal descendant, Condé Nast editorial director Thomas Wallace, does not directly oversee Vogue. With the men’s and teen titles, then, Ms. Wintour is in the process of building her own corporate fiefdom.
Ms. Wintour’s newest property would appear to encroach on the turf of existing Condé Nast men’s magazines GQ and Cargo-as well as Details and Vitals, two titles published by Fairchild (like Condé Nast, a subsidiary of Advance Publications). Mr. Florio declined to name the advertisers that had signed on for Men’s Vogue’s debut (they will include companies offering yachts, planes and financial services, among others, he said), but he dismissed the notion that the magazine will be competing with the other titles.
“The majority [of Men's Vogue advertisers] are niche luxury brands that don’t advertise at Condé Nast at all,” Mr. Florio said. “It’s a whole new mix of businesses we’ve brought in.”
Mr. Fielden said that the idea for Men’s Vogue originated with S.I. Newhouse, who approached Ms. Wintour with the notion back in September. Men’s editions of Vogue have been published in Italy since 1968 and in France since 1975.
In March, Mr. Fielden shared a prototype with what he described as “lawyer/banker types” in focus-group sessions in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The research convinced Condé Nast to greenlight a one-issue launch, with 100,000 copies on newsstands and 200,000 more being mailed to select consumers in Condé Nast’s database: men over 35, with incomes north of $100,000. If sales go as anticipated, Mr. Florio said, Men’s Vogue will follow up with four more issues in 2006.
“The overwhelming connotation that Vogue had as a brand among these guys was of taste, worldliness, intelligence and authority,” Mr. Fielden said. “And that’s an incredible thing to capitalize on and to go out there with.”
“The idea for Men’s Vogue,” Mr. Florio said, “when we looked out there, we felt the high end of the luxury market, as magazines [for men] were concerned, had been abandoned. That men’s magazines all went younger over the last five years or so. Everything was about youth, youth, youth. Yet, clearly there’s a guy out there on the arm of the women at the Met Ball. You know, who is he?”
A: Saul Bellow!
“This is not a reader who is interested to know about the latest purple sandals to come down the runway,” Mr. Fielden said. “This is a guy who is much more tuned into what a good suit can convey. And a good coat. And solid shoes. And you know, there’s a recognition on our part as editors that being well-dressed can get you through the door, but to go beyond that requires polish of a more lasting kind.”
That means no fitness tips and no diagrams of how to tie a Windsor knot. Both Mr. Florio and Mr. Fielden made efforts to distance their magazines from GQ and the stable of men’s magazines currently on the market.
“There will be no abs, no beer,” Mr. Fielden said. “There will be women, but they won’t be young starlets. They’ll be treated in a completely different way.”
David Zinczenko, editorial director of Best Life and editor in chief of Men’s Health, defended the value of how-to journalism for the over-35 demographic. “At Best Life, we’re in the business of making better men, not just clothing them,” he said. ” … They can make the guy in the suit look better; we can make them be better.”
Mr. Fielden also said that celebrities will be handled judiciously and “one at a time” under his stewardship.
That philosophy hasn’t stopped the Men’s Vogue marketing materials for advertisers from showcasing a cavalcade of celebs: Jake Gyllenhaal with a polo pony, Gael Garcia Bernal baring his chest, Bono modeling a leather coat and Lance Armstrong, splashed with water, pedaling a bike-naked.
“I’m 35. I’m married,” Mr. Fielden continued. “I worked at The New Yorker for eight years. I was the arts editor at Vogue for six years and I didn’t feel like there was a men’s magazine I could relate to.”
To that end, the debut issue of Men’s Vogue will draw on Vogue and New Yorker writers, editors and photographers. The issue will include pieces by Vogue food critic Jeffrey Steingarten, New Yorker staff writers John Seabrook and Michael Specter, Times of London food critic A.A. Gill, New Yorker Talk of the Town deputy editor Nick Paumgarten and Vogue and New Yorker contributor Tom Shone. Mr. Fielden said his photographer roster includes Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, Raymond Meier and Norman Jean Roy.
“The real goal here is to find a way to marry the great writing with the great photography,” Mr. Fielden said, “and find a way to gather together, if you will-and give us time-a kind of generation that hasn’t been gathered together within the pages of one magazine. That would be my goal as an editor, ultimately, not go big-game hunting for the global literary names-though I wouldn’t shun any-and to find the ones who are really coming up.”
Readers who think Vogue means women modeling clothes miss the point, Mr. Fielden said. “When they start to look at it, they see there is great food writing, there’s great travel writing, there’s great cultural stuff. There’s great architecture. I would expect we would take the subjects that seem appropriate from Vogue and build on them as well,” he said. “Anna realizes this is something that can become-that has to become-its own thing.”
And Ms. Wintour isn’t done building. Mr. Florio said that the Vogue editor has already created another prototype for a magazine to be called Vogue Living, dealing with “travel, home, architecture, and apparel.”
“She’s had it for some time now,” Mr. Florio said. ” … Assuming the market is positive, and we’re in a good business climate next year, 2006, we’ll certainly endeavor to get an issue out by at least the end of next year.”
Westward, hos! One group of would-be authors has heartily embraced the news that publisher Judith Regan is planning to move her ReganBooks imprint from New York to California: members of the West Coast porn business.
“Almost everyone in the adult-entertainment industry” has come after Ms. Regan with a pitch, ReganBooks spokesperson Paul Crichton said.
“Whether we’re going to do anything, that’s a whole different story,” Mr. Crichton said.
Ms. Regan’s success with last year’s Jenna Jameson’s memoir, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star-coupled with the announcement in April that she’s taking her piece of HarperCollins to the backyard of the porno industry-has apparently inspired adult-film performers to climb out of the tangled sheets and put pen to paper.
“I have been a huge fan of hers for years, because I admired the way she clawed and scratched her way up in what I considered a man’s world,” said Jody Maxwell, the star of Expose Me, Lovely and The Devil Inside Her, among others. “I admire her gutsiness …. I think that she is tough and strong and she came up through the ranks.”
Ms. Maxwell recently self-published My Private Calls, an account of 12 years she spent with a company she described as “the Rolls-Royce of phone sex.” She kept notes on every call she ever took, she said-60 notebooks’ worth.
And Ms. Maxwell has several more books in her, she said, including her memoirs. At this month’s BookExpo America in New York, she managed to corner Ms. Regan for a lengthy conversation.
“She has an aura about her,” gushed Ms. Maxwell. “I think it’s an aura of self-confidence and success. I think she found me a little bit interesting. Before I got into porn, I was a Republican. I’ve been a guest at the White House. Plus now I teach school. She thought I was kind of fascinating.”
“Women in porno now see Judith Regan as their friend and as an idol,” said Dian Hanson, the sexy-book editor at L.A.-based Taschen Books. Ms. Hanson spent years editing “men’s sophisticates” magazines such as Leg Show and Juggs before getting into the book business.
Contrary to popular opinion, Ms. Hanson said, open hard-covers could often be glimpsed on many adult-film sets, and many of the actors are big readers.
“You gotta do something when you’re sitting between your scenes,” Ms. Hanson said. “You might have three, four hours from having sex with one person until you’ve got to have sex with another. Everyone says, ‘Bring a book.’”
Several porn stars, contemplating literary growth opportunities, suggested that Ron Jeremy-the featured talent in Anal Jeopardy, Frankenpenis and other classics-was long overdue to write his life story.
Awakened by a phone call after a late night on a film set, a bleary-sounding Mr. Jeremy said he had in fact just signed a deal with HarperCollins (though not with ReganBooks) to produce his memoirs.
“There’s a lot about me that people don’t know,” Mr. Jeremy said, adding that he’d been approached many times before by publishers, but that he “always hung up the phone on them.”
This time, he said, with Josh Behar as his acquiring editor-Mr. Behar having previously published a book by Traci Lords-it finally felt right.
Mr. Jeremy added that he wouldn’t be doing much of the actual writing himself, because he was too busy. As for his advance, Mr. Jeremy said, “I got a little less than Jenna Jameson, and that bugged me. They told me that the reason is she’s a girl.”
- Sheelah Kolhatkar
New York Times pundit standings, June 14-20
1. Paul Krugman, score 20.0 [rank last week: 3rd]
2. Thomas L. Friedman, 18.0 [1st]
3. Nicholas D. Kristof, 12.0 [4th]
4. David Brooks, 8.0 [tie-5th]
5. Stacy Schiff, 5.0 [no rank]
6. Bob Herbert, 3.5 [tie-5th]
7. Frank Rich, 2.0 [2nd]
8. John Tierney, 0.0 [tie-5th]
So much for the notion that good news sells: Nicholas D. Kristof’s June 14 column about the Pakistani government’s imprisonment and mistreatment of gang-rape victim Mukhtaran Bibi grabbed the No. 2 overall spot on the week’s Most E-Mailed list; Mr. Kristof’s June 19 follow-up column about Ms. Bibi’s release failed to make the chart at all. Such is the price of making the world a better place. Still, Mr. Kristof’s overall performance was good enough for third place. In another blow to entrenched patriarchal structures, guest columnist Stacy Schiff raised The Times’ female-pundit-to-male-pundit ratio from 0.0 to 0.14-and out-pointed three of the men in the process.
Follow Gabriel Sherman via RSS.