May 11 2009
Today, Mavety Media Group pulled the buttplug on all of their gay magazines—charmingly referred to as "sophisticates" in old-school publishing parlance. Puns aside, I wonder if people will notice what a major development this is in publishing, in gay history and in the porn industry.
The titles affected include Mandate, Torso, Honcho, Inches (and all of its ethnic permutations) and Playguy. The oldest, Mandate, has been continuously published since April of 1975—just over 34 years. It was published originally by George Mavety, an apparently heterosexual man (I say "apparently" only because having known him, I wouldn't put much past him sexually—but his obsession with women is well documented) who was a former Sunday school teacher.
Imagine this: A straight dude from Canada peddling the first monthly gay-porn entertainment magazine (after his own, short-lived Dilettante) from the trunk of his car. Mr. Mavety was tenacious in his belief that there was a big market for big penises, and he was never one to discriminate when there was money to be made. He because an expert on distribution and launched dozens more magazines in his day, including perverted-household names like Juggs and Leg Show (titles that live on, but for how long?).
The gay titles were highly successful at times. Don't most gay men under 50 or so remember picking up one of those magazines and finding out something about ourselves, or about a vast, invisible community we were just beginning to realize existed?
Mr. Mavety's earliest publications mixed arts and entertainment (sometimes ridiculously) with nude photography (some of it ridiculous in its own right), but over time that gave way to most pornographic nudes peppered with "socially redeeming" articles to avoid obscenity prosecutions (they were only briefly hardcore) and finally to pure, 100% bare-naked men.
The photography went from great to terrible and back to highly professional once GT Wallace inherited the reins, took the titles seriously and did everything possible to make the magazines slick and able to do the trick.
The people who worked there were far more interesting and eccentric than the vanilla vagabonds who stripped for the publications' pages—the gruff-sounding gentle giant with the "DO NOT RESUSCITATE" sign on his desk (eventually, they didn't), the pigment-challenged spinster who kept her eye on everything but the dirty pictures, the Christian soldiers were morally opposed to the industry the employed them (including the ad lady who never sold an ad and swore a "wet shot" meant a picture of somebody in the shower).
Unfortunately, even though the quality of the magazines improved remarkably under the direction of Wallace and the world of pornography grew exponentially, the need for a printed magazine became lesser and lesser in the age of the Internet, where every fantasy is a click away. Mr. Mavety told me he couldn't grasp the appeal of online porn. "I want to hold a magazine in my hand while I masturbate—who would want to have one hand on a keyboard while you're doing that?"
As we can all attest, the keyboard isn't such a hindrance, and the limited number of images in a magazine became one. Things are tough all over.
I have a lot more to say on this topic, but I'm not sure when that will happen. But for now, I have to say I will miss the magazines in the same way I will also be missing all magazines when they finally disappear in the next few years. I also miss Mr. Mavety, who died unexpectedly on August 19, 2000, while playing tennis at one of his homes. Also surprising, his various mistresses didn't seem to know about each other, his will was out of date (vexing if you're one of his children, love- or otherwise) and he had Charlie Rangel at his funeral.
"Man Is A Many Splendored Thing" is the purple prose of the past of which I speak. But the guy was still hot, right?
He could be cruel, he could be petty (as when he would commandeer the intercom and demand that employees clear the lines of personal calls or stop hovering at the water cooler), but he was often quite gracious and engaging and cultured. He was an original and was a lot like the early incarnations of his gay titles—places where smut and popular culture met and mingled, where the banal and the shocking shared pages.
Now, just like Mr. Mavety himself, some of his earliest and best publications are suddenly history.