Some Suggestions For The Brand-New Esquire Network

In an age when television is trying to figure out how to compete with the Internet, and print is struggling to survive at all, you have to love the idea to expand your magazine into a TV channel. Nevertheless, men’s lifestyle publicationEsquire has taken over the Style Network to give you reality shows from Anthony Bourdain and Ryan Seacrest—because you definitely aren’t sick of those guys, right? (It’s actually kind of unfortunate they’re not co-hosting something where contestants have to sing pop songs while preparing crème brûlée.)

Of course, the real mark of Esquire’s success in this venture won’t be programming that features established stars. They’ll need a dash of originality to establish a loyal fan base. To that end, here are a few ideas: what about a show about pants? It’s just that I’ve noticed every man on the cover of Esquire is wearing very nice pants, and it’s made me realize I don’t know much about pants at all—let alone where you get the nice ones. I’d also appreciate a fashion series about attaining the perfect stubble. You know, like Ben Affleck has when he’s not in a movie set in the 1970s.

We’re going to need some babes in there as well: do you really think men’s periodicals are anything but softcore pornography deemed appropriate for the doctor’s waiting room? Maybe an all-nude, all-female revamp of American Gladiators is in order. Or something where they get infrared footage of Kanye West having sex with that one Kardashian lady. But where the network could really shine is in importing those endlessly amusing magazine quizzes. Which NFL All-Star am I? What sort of pick-up artist persona do I have? Give me a meaningless multiple-choice test you take via remote control and I may just have to un-cancel my cable.

Lena Dunham Stops by Howard Stern’s Show to Respond to His Fat Jokes

After taking home two Golden Globes on Sunday for her show Girls, Lena Dunham has every reason to have all the confidence in the world—even in the face of ongoing repulsive and sexist comments about her body. Last week we were all mutually nauseated by Howard Stern’s remarks towards Dunham: “Good for her. It’s hard for little fat chicks to get anything going.” The following night, while on Late Night With David Letterman, Dunham proudly joked, “I wanna get it on my gravestone where he said, ‘Congrats to her (Dunham). It’s so hard for little fat chicks to get anything going these days.” And since then, Stern has openly apologized for his harsh words of judgement, paving the way for an appearance from Dunham herself his program today.

The pair had quite the conversation, and made nice during the interview.

What he had to say:

  • “I realize: not only am I addicted, but I totally get you. I’m in love with you and your character.”
  • “It’s not about apologizing, although I want to say I’m a fan of yours … I love you and I think you’re terrific.”

What she had to say:

  • “I’m a big fan of your particular brand of free speech.”
  • “Howard Stern says I’m ‘not obese or anything’ … I appreciate it and I appreciate your effort to rectify [this], but whether you’d done that or not, I’d have remained a [Howard Stern] enthusiast.
  • “I’m not super thin, but I’m thin for, like, Detroit.”

Now hold up just one second. This reminds me of that delightful line from that absurdist piece of humor that was Esquire‘s Megan Fox cover story, reading: “Women no longer need to be beautiful in order to express their talent. Lena Dunham and Adele and Lady Gaga and Amy Adams are all perfectly plain, and they are all at the top of their field.” What’s that sound, you say? Oh nothing, just me slamming my plainly average body against the wall. Are you kidding me? What world are these assholes living in where a woman should have to justify her body weight as per city-specified expectations? But okay, Dunham isn’t taking this too seriously, and it feels silly to get worked up when the subject of the discussion is strong enough to shake off this sort of thing. However, it does reflect that fact that, yes, a bold and talented 26-year old woman just won two Golden Globes against American staples of comedy, but you’re right, we really should be discussing those extra few pounds.

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Linkage: Megan Fox’s Face is Unreal, Victor Garber’s BF is Sexy, and Screech’s Younger Wife

Esquire’s cover story about Megan Fox begins as follows: “The symmetry of her face, up close, is genuinely shocking. The lip on the left curves exactly the same way as the lip on the right. The eyes match exactly. The brow is in perfect balance, like a problem of logic, like a visual labyrinth. It’s not really even that beautiful. It’s closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly. What she is is flawless. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her.” It’s like an advertorial for plastic surgery! [Esquire]

Dustin Diamond, forever known to us all as Screech, gives an interesting interview in which he reveals the other reason older men enjoy the company of younger women: “One of the great things for me is I’ve got a trophy wife. She’s twenty-five and I’m thirty-six. So she’s an entire generation younger, and because of that, there’s stuff I missed that I can go back and appreciate now with her introducing it to me.” (Also, the sex is probably good.) [Splitsider]

Is the music industry too focused on ephemera? That’s what TLC’s T-Boz thinks. “The record business sucks!” she tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Great music, timeless music is hard to come by, but there are some that are like that… Those kind of songs last—your “Waterfalls" or “Unpretty”—but there’s a lot of this "just for the times" music out now, but they don’t last and then everybody’s on the next thing. So I don’t think it will ever be the same, but great music and great musicians still exist.” [THR]

Facebook is gunning to beat Google at the search engine business with the rollout of the new Graph Search, which “offers a massively expanded new way to explore your web social life.” Basically, it means you will never have to ask anyone for anything again, because Facebook will do it for you. It’s good news for those of us who have no intention of leaving our houses. (Heads up, Christine McVie.) [Gizmodo]

Victor Garber is gay, which I admit was NEWS TO ME, and it turns out he looks kinda like a forty-something Williamsburg loft-dweller. But hotter. So good on you, Victor Garber! Keep that shit right up! [Gawker]

There is a group of people now dubbed Male-ennials, they’re sharing “emotional stuff” with each other, they consider Google to be a father figure, and it’s safe to say that I hate all of them. [MTV Insights]

I’m not sure I’m 100% behind the second season of Girls, but I’m 100000% behind Texts From Shoshanna. [Vulture]

Getting the body you’ve always wanted is pretty easy, although there may be some light groundskeeping involved. [The Hairpin]

Lance Armstrong, rug abuser. [Hypervocal]

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Mad Men, Artists, and Designers Finally Get Their Day

Today, when advertisements, logos, and layouts shout from a variety of shiny boxes and nearly every surface, it is easy to tune out the visual noise. In fact, it might be necessary. But that would be to discount the formidable and perhaps capital artistic achievement of the industrial revolution. Phaidon’s handsome new book—technically a box—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design takes a catholic curatorial approach not just to advertising but to all sorts of graphic design.

The box contains 500 12 1/2” x 9 1/2” index cards. On each, the reader is greeted with the images that seek to convince us to eat, drink, buy or, at least, to think. Ben Franklin’s cut–up snake, what many consider the first political cartoon, is here next to Milton Avery’s I NY and George Lois’s Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian 1968 Esquire cover. Among the wide selection are deep cuts—a Binaca ad from 1941 is particularly edifying—but the real pleasure here is the recontextualization. The images that are so often meant as tools are finally themselves the end. The © from 1909 is here. Ironically, its designer is unknown. The YSL logo, once segregated from clothes, takes on a graphic heft hitherto ignored.

But perhaps the singular charm of this mass of images is the free–form filing system. Though Dewey would churn, the cards can be filed by name, designer, date, or whatever taxonomy makes personal peculiar sense. The Borzoi dog can bark at the RCA pup staring at a phonograph next to the album art for God Save the Queen and the logo for the Victoria & Albert museum.

Though blindness is the only bulwark against constant image influx, the Phaidon archive, at least, allows you to see the images with brand new eyes.

Photo by Joshua Scott

Levi’s Photo Workshop: An Evening with Bruce Davidson

It’s kind of funny to see Bruce Davidson, photo, and shop in the same sentence. Davidson, a man who created a legacy off of real life photography, doesn’t even use a digital camera. His career has been made on exclusively silver film and dedicated to everything real, beautiful, and sometimes disturbing. Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Levi’s Photo Workshop discussion with Davidson, who one audience member described best as “disarmingly innocent.” Incredible for a man who has photographed and seen so much. He has shot everyone from homeless people to Marilyn Monroe. Davidson spoke to the crowd as a movie screen-sized slideshow of his work, spanning some 50 years, played to a standing room-only crowd. It was incredible to hear the story behind each photograph from Bruce firsthand. Many of the most famous images were taken right here in New York City. His series from Spanish Harlem in the ’60s was especially moving. People were so taken aback, the crowd was almost completely silent during the whole presentation. Despite images of dilapidated neighborhoods, homelessness, and unimaginable poverty, Bruce was able to capture a form of beauty.

Davidson described taking great risks to shoot his subjects, including climbing atop bridges, walking through rough neighborhoods, and getting mugged several times while shooting his subway series. The most incredible part is that he chose to do real life/documentary photography over the glitz and glamor of fashion photography. By the ’60s he was in high-demand as a fashion photographer and he gave it up because he simply, “Wanted to shoot the South,” he said, referring to his photos shot in Alabama and South Carolina during the Civil Rights Movement.

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In the 1964 he was hired by Esquire Magazine to shoot Los Angeles. They assumed he would shoot it as the glamorous image the city portrayed. Instead he shot real people doing real things—like eating and working out. The images wouldn’t be published for many years because, as Bruce said, “Esquire didn’t get it at the time…but the Beastie Boys did.” They famously used one of his Esquire rejects for the cover of their triple-platinum album Ill Communication. The slideshow presentation ended with a photo of a palm tree-lined beach in Santa Monica, CA. A perfect ending, as Davidson described his current interest as “palm trees. I’m obsessed with palm trees right now.” He plans to return to Los Angeles in January or February 2011 to shoot, where he will have plenty of subjects to fulfill his current tall and skinny muse—the palm tree. At the end of the discussion one audience member asked, “What has been the scariest thing you’ve done in your career? Are you ever really scared?” Davidson’s response, “Every minute.”

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How Do Glossies Solve a Problem Like Tina Fey?

Tina Fey is a very pretty woman. She is corrosively funny and intelligent. Her irreverent, topical impressions are spot-on. In short, she deserves every magazine cover she lands. The best part about Saturday Night Live when she was still on that show, Fey has since invaded mainstream America as the creator and star of TV’s 30 Rock, and through films such as Mean Girls and this month’s Date Night. The latter film’s poster has even taken over an apartment building on Houston Street, replacing a stale holiday campaign for American Eagle Outfitters. But still, it seems magazine editors can’t quite figure out what to do with her.

Fey straddles the liminal space between Hollywood bombshell and geeky antihero. She’s no schlub, but she’s also no Megan Fox, and in a desperate time for print magazines, the idea that sex sells is more pervasive than ever. This might help explain why Tina Fey, a comedian, has gone from quirky, personality-driven magazine covers to, well, the cover of Esquire, in which she and her cleavage and her tousled sex-hair appear handcuffed to an unidentified cop. How did she get to this point? Is this the evolution of Fey or a men’s magazine misstep? A chronology:

Bust, Spring 2004. It’s called Bust, and Fey is wearing a skimpy dress, but the magazine underscores the humor inherent in the tarting up of America’s funniest woman by choosing this image, in which her expression and her typewriter complement the goofy headline: “Geek Chic.” image

Parade, March 2008. She’s happy and she’s tired, and she’s on an old-timey bicycle in rain-boots on a sunny day. This one ain’t about glamour. image

Entertainment Weekly, April 2008. The magazine’s cover lines read: “Is it hot in here—or is it just her career?” Although embryonic, Fey is now blossoming into a full-on star, and this is her coming out party: she is quirky, yes, but she can pull off old Hollywood charm without seeming wooden or phony. It’s charming, this one. image

Marie Claire, May 2008. Enter the “edgy” cover. This one, a month late to the Fey-as-geek-goddess game, puts her in a trench coat and spiky, metallic armband. I’d imagine this was the conversation at that shoot: Tina: “I don’t know about the shiny torture device on my wrist.” MC: “You’re a sexy tiger. Work it, X-Tina, work it!” image

Rolling Stone, September 2008. A comedy issue is the perfect reprieve for readers hungry for the goofy, self-deprecating Fey they know and love from their TV stories. This cover doesn’t disappoint, but it also doesn’t ham her up, instead allowing her to see her cover mates—the glasses are back!—while keeping her in heels and a nice dress. Bonus points for the slapstick threesome. image

Vanity Fair, January 2009. Graydon’s monolithic monthly reigns supreme when it comes to concept covers. And Fey conquers this one, holding the American flag while standing on top of the world. Sure, she’s wearing the discarded costume of a patriotic stripper, but her knowing grin and this pull quote—”Annie’s going to photograph my soul, right?”—signal the emergence of an oddball A-lister. image

Harper’s Bazaar, November 2009. Never mind the wind machine. Thankfully, Glenda Bailey and co. decided not to overdo the fashion with their Fey cover. Her eyes say it all: “How the fuck did I land this thing?” And although they placed Fey very specifically to mask the scar on her face, they didn’t kill her spirit with Photoshop. image

Vogue, March 2010. They killed her spirit with Photoshop! And the wind machine. And the glow of the New York skyline. And the carefully placed shoulders. Also, I don’t care how winning Fey is. If I were Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, I would not want my name nestled into Liz Lemon’s armpit. Tyra would complain she isn’t “smeyesing,” and she’d be right. image

Esquire, April 2010. And this is where we ended up. Tina Fey, the woman who would normally take jabs at these kind of covers, has officially “gone wild.” She has gone sexy. She has gone as far from “Geek Chic” as she can get. I wonder where she’ll go next. image

Esquire’s Profile on Roger Ebert: Two Thumbs Way Up

Esquire had the brilliant idea of publishing an in-depth profile of Roger Ebert, and it’s a must-read. In the last four years, the Pulitzer-winning film critic has gone through unimaginable physical turmoil–including the removal of his lower jaw–all excruciatingly detailed in the piece. He hasn’t spoken a word in almost four years. For watchers of his now defunct show, who remember him as passionate and witty, it’s harrowing stuff. Ebert has made a serious living (his Chicago townhouse is five floors with a gym and movie theater, of course) writing for himself and about himself. Anything we know about him, is because he’s chosen to share it. It’s jarring to see him as the focus of someone else’s writing, the revelations coming from a pen that’s not his own.

Those revelations include: -Ebert almost bled to death in his hospital room “when his carotid artery, invisibly damaged by the earlier radiation and the most recent jaw surgery, burst.” -He uses an iPhone, we imagine, for texting and Foursquare. -Besides writing things down, Ebert communicates using a generic voice generator on his laptop. But a Scottish company called CereProc is mining through five of his DVD commentaries and his countless hours on TV to create an artificial voice that will approximate his own. That’s just badass. -Ebert’s personal nurse Millie wakes up in the middle of the night screaming from night terrors. In Ebert’s dreams, he can speak again. -Disney has no soul. The company owns the right to Ebert’s old show, and will remove videos of it that Ebert embeds on his own site. They also threw his old set–once destined for the Smithsonian–in a dumpster -His wife is a saint. Throughout the article, Chaz Ebert comes off the ultimate companion and friend. You end up thanking God he has her. -Surprisingly, the article makes no mention of Ebert’s voracious tweeting, which we can imagine is a godsend for a consummate communicator like Roger Ebert.

‘Esquire’ Endorses Obama

imageFor the first time in its 75-year-old history, gentlemanly lit-and-fashion mag Esquire will endorse a presidential candidate. In the coming November issue, hitting stands two weeks before election day, the editors endorse Barack Obama. The mag heralds Obama as “the only possible choice to lead the country.” The endorsement also slams John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Bush Administration, saying McCain’s campaign is “cheap” and “dishonorable,” Palin is “stunningly unqualified,” and that “Bushism must be ripped out, root and branch, everywhere it has been established, or else the presidential election of 2008 is a worthless exercise in futility … a continuation of the Bush era is simply unthinkable.”

Esquire’s relationship with Obama stems from a photo shoot last spring for June’s cover. “We thought this election would be a serious fight over the future of this country,” reads the subhed. “But only one candidate showed up.” Vibe, The New Yorker, and Rolling Stone have also endorsed Obama.