March 1992

The kind of person who lives a “cool,” “now” life<hyphen>style is always aware of which trends to actually follow. They’re the ones dressed in just the right kind of fashionable clothes, with carefully-selected social habits. And of course I can’t think of an example just here – due, no doubt, to my failing to belong to this group.

Except today. Arnold Schwarzenegger enjoys even higher curiosity value than ever as I write this, so obviously Ten Years Ago in Spy would choose this month to review the issue in which he appears n00d.

Or is pictured n00d, I should say. And that’s not even the embarrassing part.

Well, the all-CSS redesign of this site (so simple a 19-year-old did it, and here I am an author on Web development) elicited comments from, if memory serves, the only living Spy art directors – Alex Isley and Christiaan Kuypers.

I keep trying to find a way to properly cover the fact that vaguely-talented gay graphic designers are so ridiculously rare that when one dies, as B.W. Honeycutt did, people remember it for decades. I should really write an article. What’s gonna happen when Roger Black and Chip Kidd kick off?

Since we are in the 1990s by now, our type size would not be out of place on the roof of a hangar.

In a further unwelcome concession to overregularization and convention, this month we witness a “Contributors” column.

Charles Fleming, who writes in this issue about Arnold Schwarzenegger and is not Celia Brady,

being of course the presumed pseudonym used by the in-house Hollywood gossipeuse.

Our letters this month aren’t witty or amusing, but they read well.

Devout readers will recall the mention of Tony Hendra’s “The Joy of – Screech! Thud! – Cooking.” Spy, God love it or indeed them, was hardly in a position to lecture about vegetarianism, but here we go again.

Sadly, though, he states that “every species... survives by eating other species”; he should purchase a dictionary containing words such as herbivore and ruminant. Further, vegetarians don’t say animals are capable of “human” emotions – the point is that animals can feel pain.

...The world’s meat habit is precisely why people are still starving at all. If used for human rather than bovine consumption, the grain and water necessary to produce one steak would feed 16 people.

  1. Meat-eating is not “precisely why people are starving.” The world has plenty of food – so much that we pay our farmers not to grow it; people starve because of selfishness, and political and logistical problems that prevent the food from getting to those who need it.
  2. For crying out loud, herbivore and ruminant refer to creatures that subsist on plant species!
  3. That animals suffer when they are slaughtered is undeniable, but somehow that hasn’t stopped wolves and hawks from killing innocent mammals. We are meat-eaters by nature, too, and to say we should act differently from other carnivores because we are better than they seems highly speciesist indeed.

Except what we actually contend is that humans can reason, reflect on history, predict the future, and talk to each other, and with those gifts, we should know better than to inflict suffering on animals by eating them. We’re in a more advantageous position because we are different.

Well, just a minitidbitette of interest this month: I have a pile o’ Sassy (and Dirt, but not Might) along with my pile o’ Spy.

Sara Cormeny of Waltham, Massachusetts wrote in response to the apparent controversy surrounding the age of Sassy magazine’s Sassiest Boy in America, Ian Svenonius, as mentioned in our November issue.... the practically-all-female staff announced it was conducting a “nationwide search for the most perfect [sic] boyfriend material a girl could ask for... he must be a total babe.” Six months later the malnourished, mousse-drenched art-school student and Nation of Ulysses bandmember Ian Svenonius was announced as the winner.

Dischord Records, come on down! How amusingly retro, how early-’90s. I used to be on the Dischord distro and couldn’t figure out their boy bands at all – certainly not Nation of Ulysses, whose excellent name was, improbably, trumped by their album title, Thirteen-Point Program to Destroy America.

A front-of-book ad uses oddball handtooled or “open” typefaces to advertise a night of “humo[u]rists from Spy magazine”: Alford, Collins, Hodgman, Malanowski, Queenan.

The headline? “Looking Back with Terror.”

Or ahead to, perhaps.

Swatch ad What is this, 1988-style magenta and teal? Why were Swatch ads so very tacky?

Oddly, a long-interred memory was stirred by this issue, whose card-insert subscription advertisement was aimed at Canadians. “One thing all Canadians can agree upon!” it cries.

Subscribe today for just $19.75 Canadian (GST included).... Call us toll-free at (800) 766-9455 to subscribe today. (Yes, it works from Canada!)

And on the actual perforated card: “Canadian cheques welcome! [...] Spy’s Canadian cover price is $3.95.” (They spelled cheques thus.)

It appears, then, that Spy produced a split run for Canada in its middle years. (My, what a tumult that term raised in the Canadian magazine demimonde!)

Why, then, does the cover list its price as “$2.95  Can. $3.95”?

It’s even funner to read, two pages later, an ad for the competition: Movieline. “Sexy. Smart. And extra-superficial. We’re never, ever serious. Who can possibly be serious about Hollywood? We live here, so we know. Isn’t it time you had a good laugh at Tinseltown’s expense?”

I am unable to care, 11 years later, about the slur Spy registered en passant against “the QSound debacle... an impractical 3D sound system developed by a huckster company.”

Whereas I can muster quite a bit of enthusiasm for Spy’s “Ask Camille Paglia”–esque column “Meet the Nobelists!” “This month’s question: Is rock & roll dead?”

Well, all right, one part of that last story wasn’t dull:

Real Rebel Faux Rebel
Overthrow fascist régime Punch paparazzi
Take unpopular stand Do Playboy interview [who?], attack ex-wife
Fight Lincoln Drive Lincoln
Detonate bomb in diplomat’s BMW Wreck hotel room
Go on hunger strike Don’t wash hair
Flout convention Go on Arsenio and keep sunglasses on
Risk life Risk stunt double’s life

Party Poop

Well, is the article apparently entitled “Uh-Oh” by Charles Fleming actually about “Arnold’s propaganda machine,” as the cover claims, or is it a grand metascheme to run an embarrassing n00d photograph of Arnold Schwarzenegger?

I didn’t find it embarrassing then and I don’t now, either.

‘Uh-oh’ layout The Spy article gives one much fodder for review and commentary. The layout couldn’t be less subtle, with gigantic Metro capital letters, large Garamond type even by late-Spy standards, and a huge lipstick callout encircling an off-skew medium-format transparency. UH-OH screams the page-high backdrop type.

Anyone who’s read Little Big Men is familiar with the psychology of bodybuilders. They feel small and inferior, have uneasy or disturbed relationships with their fathers, and, while usually not queer, find that they have placed themselves in a world that is structurally homosexualist. An easy way to earn money is to turn tricks or pose n00d. (It is thus even today: Read Dan Savage’s Skipping Towards Gomorrah.) Both activities, while contrary to the straight bodybuilder’s nature, appeal to his nurture: They reinforce what he wants to be (gigantic and adored) even if they contradict the urges of his former tiny self.

Combine those tendencies with the flat-out careerism of Schwarzenegger, well documented in Pumping Iron, and why in the world would anyone be surprised he’d posed n00d? (“I am like coming all the time” was, if I recall correctly, the “money quote” from that documentary. When was he coming all the time? Whenever he pumped iron.)

What else do you do with a body like that? (Indeed, that has been my question for overbuilt fags for the last 15 years.)

I am, however, being a bit unfair to Fleming about his story.

Spy had exactly the same experience with [publicist Charlotte] Parker. Last spring, when she discovered that Spy was going to put a photo of Arnold on its cover, she called the editors of the magazine. Her anger and bewilderment were palpable – A magazine putting Arnold on the cover without talking to me first! In reporting this piece, we asked Parker about Spy’s Arnold cover (June 1991), and she said, “We participated in that story” – a bizarre delusion....

[I]f Arnold were in the middle of a political campaign and were honoured by a Holocaust philanthropy, some intrepid reporter would be digging into his past associations and comments faster than you can say “Donna Rice.” Or, as they would put it on Entertainment Tonight, if Arnold does indeed go into electoral politics, his relationship with the press will change from The Silence of the Lambs to Dances with Wolves.

I guess not, given recent press supplication.

The triumph of this thin issue of Spy, however, is “The most embarrassing photo of Arnold we could find: Taken for a California magazine. The outfit, the ‘Goin’ my way?’ grin – why wasn’t this suppressed?”


You are here: fawny.orgTen Years Ago in SPYArchives → March 1992

Posted: 2003.09.11 ¶ Updated: 2003.09.14, 18

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