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Watch Out, Hugh, There's Someone After Your Title

August 30, 2000|BOOTH MOORE

Buffed out in a black muscle tee and track pants, with tattoos on his forearms, Michael Davis isn't your typical publisher. Then again, this is L.A., and the 31-year-old millionaire has dreams of becoming the Hugh Hefner for the millennium.

Davis is a local boy, who graduated from Beverly Hills High and dropped out of USC, before wiling away the hours at Gold's Gym in Venice and the clubs on Sunset Strip. He took over his family's real estate development company, Davis Group Inc., seven years ago. While managing commercial properties in 12 states, he has accumulated exotic cars, a chunky gold watch and a home atop Mulholland Drive with a state-of-the-art gym. But what really interests him, he says, is publishing--and pretty women.

In 1996, he attempted to launch Centerfold, a "men's sophisticate magazine" (read: nudie mag). But his hopes of becoming the patriarch of porn for Gen X, complete with Angels to match Hef's Playmates, were squashed when Playboy sued him over the rights to the word "centerfold." The legal battle, he says, "wasn't worth it."

There won't be any nudity in Bold, he says of the free magazine about L.A. entertainment, politics, fashion and music that is scheduled for a Sept. 30 release with 100,000 copies and local advertising.

"The media today is too apologetic and behind the times," he says between bites of Caesar salad at lunch at Spago the other day. But he has a hard time articulating Bold's vision, relying instead on talking about specific stories, such as a profile of "L.A.'s toughest cop," which will appear in the premiere issue. "You'd think it would be some guy on the SWAT team, but it happens to be a lady," he says. "It sends a message that women don't have to take second to a man."

Not that hot babes aren't also part of the package. One prototype cover features a busty cover photo of Carmen Electra, another a shot of "Baywatch" beauty Gena Lee Nolin. Still, Davis doesn't want the magazine to be perceived as objectifying women, so he hired former Playgirl editor Rhonda Wilson to edit Bold, which is headquartered in Sherman Oaks and has a staff of 16. "I thought she could help smooth that out," he explains.

Suddenly, his eyes shoot a sideward glance at two female acquaintances approaching the table. "Where did you guys come from?" he says, grinning at a top-heavy "model" dressed in a short skirt and a brunet in a zebra-print fringed dress slit to the thigh.

Davis invites the women to dinner and out "to party." Then he changes his mind. "Why don't you come back in 30 minutes?"

In 25 minutes, they are back. When Davis offers to give them a private tour of his Bentley out front, our interview is clearly over. But not before one last question: Is the magazine just a ploy to meet beautiful women? Davis scoffs, "Nah, I've got that already."

*

Booth Moore is at booth.moore@latimes.com.

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