Ten Years Ago in ‘Spy’
Reliving one’s formative years of logrolling, short-fingered vulgarians and Separations at Birth

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December 1990

What is up this month? I should have known from the model on the cover: Yes, it’s Joan Rivers in the Phillie Phanatic costume, which we are expected to understand is some kind of sports mascot.

Which prompts greater dyspepsia, the head she’s holding or the one her neck is holding up?

A total borefest of an issue. You know you’re in trouble when the only good stuff is the Letters section.

As in:

I enjoy your features on the peculiar ways of foreigners for the benefit of Americans traveling abroad. But you tend to ignore the smaller countries, whose languages tend not to be taught in American high schools and whose habits thus often remain a mystery. With this in mind, I humbly offer up a Swedish supplement to your “Pronunciation Gazetteer for the World Traveler” [“Pardonnez-moi, où est un Parisien avec humanité ou compassion?”]. [It resides in an issue I never saw let alone bought.]

Look at all the concrete!
TIT-ah so MUU-kay bay-TONG!
You conceal your raging inner pain remarkably well.
NEE er SHICK-lig poh aht YOEM-mah er RAHS-and-eh IN-reh ONG-est.
Darren Spagnolly
Oakland, California

Then this humdinger. Chronicle of the Cusacks Foretold?

How rude! Sitting down to a plate of moo shu and steamed dumplings, I dug into the August SPY with vigour, gusto, and delicious anticipation, only to come across an ad picturing three totally gelatinized naked women standing at a bar. If Café Luxembourg skimps on advertising by hiring third-rate models who clearly, long ago, lost their battles with gravity, I shudder to think what they must do to keep food costs down. SPY must also be reprimanded for forfeiting readers’ trust. If I were a more typical personal-injury lawyer, and if I weren’t so smitten with SPY, I might pursue compensation for the trauma suffered upon viewing that horrifying photo.

George Tonelli Jr.
North Brunswick, New Jersey

Kudos and appreciation to Café Luxembourg and SPY for their ad. The stylish photo’s stunning artistic value aside, the ad conveys a positive message to all women: Inner beauty, confidence, and femininity beget physical beauty. Put more simply, you don’t have to be model-thin to be beautiful. It’s about time the media and their sponsors started depicting women truthfully, and not as the distorted adolescent fantasies of stunted male minds.

Debra Stone-Tonelli
North Brunswick, New Jersey

We’re thinking sitcom, Tonellis.

Yes. The Captain and Tonellis?

Get your facts straight, AIDS murderers!

Who else wrote in this month? You’ll never guess.

It was not “the editor of OutWeek” who was arrested [at “a gay antiviolence march”] but rather an editor of OutWeek – the features editor, to be precise. Though OutWeek editor-in-chief Gabriel Rotello is certainly a committed activist, it can safely be said that he fancies himself more of an academic than a street rabble-rouser, troublemaker, and all-around hothead [paisan?].

Also, the aforementioned features editor, who admittedly becomes quite excessive at times, was not arrested for “disorderly conduct after arguing with cops about the incident” but instead – and perhaps even more appropriate for SPY’s documenting of life’s little ironies – for forcefully punching an antigay heckler square in the head and sending the slimebag tumbling down the subway steps.

Michelangelo Signorile
Features editor

Yup. Pete Williams–outing Michelangelo Signorile, whom I only ever met once.

You know I wrote tons of stories for OutWeek late in the previous century, yes? I was not unacquainted with the Manhattan homosexualist A-list for a while – New Year’s Eve at Larry Kramer’s, attending actual ACT UP meetings, being mistaken for an actual New Yorker.

Meanwhile, the only advertisement of note this month comes from Restaurant Florent and is somewhat well-known.

“Bonjour! Welcome to the recession!
Table for four?”

The ad carries on from there. Its ostensible purpose is to sell new prix-fixe dinners, with the standard nod to local charities (God’s Love We Deliver and the Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen). The ad, which is entirely hand-lettered and is rather impressive typographically (I need a scanner), is a full-pager, too – extravagant by Florent standards.

It is known, of course, that Tibor Kalman assembled Florent’s hipster æsthetic through clip art of pistols, clocks, stools and suchlike, a look that SPY itself appropriated. I wonder if this advert, which I read about each time another recession comes around (how can you tell?), is indeed another kalmanism.

Well, anyway, back to the velvet goldmine of the Letters section.

Am I the only reader getting tired of the anagram fanaticism that has infected the Letters column lately? It seems to me you waste a lot of space every month on some clam who’s seen Rosemary’s Baby and has a sack of Scrabble tiles. There must be other, more challenging bits of SPY for your correspondents to try their hands at, no? “Name That Tune, Mr. Spock,” for example. That was golden! Mind if I get that spherical object into a state of motion?

There is a total lack of vaccine or similar relief for the feeling or ennui engendered by the period of the annum characterized by warmer overall temperatures.

I resisted the body of legislative constraints upon behaviour, and those same constraints emerged victorious.

Joe Masset
Hollywood, California

And that is it. Merry Xmas from SPY.

You are here: fawny.orgTen Years Ago in SPYArchives → December 1990

Updated: 2001.10.06

See also: Interview with Alex Isley, former SPY art director