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A Magazine for Guys Who Just Want to Be Guys

May 17, 1999|IRENE LACHER

What's really inside a guy's head?

Girls, the latest video games, girls, sex toys, underwater diving without a tank, beer, girls, more girls and something even better than girls--bugs "as big as a baby's head."

We've had a glimpse into what guys really think about, and we're here to report, it isn't pretty. Except for Shannen Doherty, who is very pretty.

Our evidence? The June issue of Maxim magazine, the upstart men's title that has managed to sail past most of its competitors in its mere two years on the planet. Maxim is so hot in the magazine world that its last editor, Mark Golin, was recently lured away by Conde Nast to replace former Los Angeles magazine editor Michael Caruso at the helm of Details magazine.

So when we sat down to lunch the other day at Hugo's in West Hollywood with the head of Maxim's masthead, the two co-editors, Stephen Perrine and Jim Kaminsky, had been on the job only three weeks. Which made them old-timers compared to the editor in chief, Mike Soutar, who had four whole days under his belt.

But the boyish Soutar is hardly a babe in the woods. He probably deserves much of the credit--or blame--for the excited state of young men's magazines. Soutar used to be the editor of FHM ("For Him Magazine"), one of the saucy titles that cropped up in the U.K. in the mid-'90s and goosed their sluggish counterparts on this side of the pond.

Call them men's magazines lite, which is a polite way of saying they're dumbing down the field--something a number of successful women's magazines have always done, by the way. To their highbrow critics at Esquire and GQ, the men of Maxim say, in essence, you can kiss my circulation (over 700,000 at last count).

"A lot of magazines tend to write for each other," Kaminsky says. "We don't really care about that. We really are catering to what our readers are looking for, which is guys being guys and talking to each other the way guys talk to each other. But in a slightly elevated way."

That just means printable.

"A good Maxim article is one that wears its intellect lightly on its sleeve," Soutar says.

As we peer into the jaws of the millennium, what does a guy want?

Guy power!

"I think that for a long time in the U.S.," says Perrine, "men have been looking for permission to be themselves."

No kidding. Who have they been being?

"In some cases," says Kaminsky, "what other people wanted them to be. Guys are guys and they don't have to make apologies for it."

Perrine adds, "There are a lot of cultural messages that say men are to be made fun of. Take any sitcom or TV commercial--the female is always competent. The man is always a goofball."

Really? We thought that was the news.

"From cold remedies to any kind of commercials at all," Perrine says, "the women are never portrayed as the goofball and the guy competent because that would be sexist. But if the man's a goofball, we can all laugh at the man."

Hey, girls, guys have feelings too!

"What is it that differentiates this magazine from any other men's magazine?" says Soutar. "The phrase we came up with is, 'Maxim is the magazine that says it's OK to be a guy.' "

Hey, we're all for guys being guys. Consider the alternative.

Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2. She can be reached by e-mail at

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