Wenner's Men's Journal is not for couch potatoes

April 14, 1992|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Staff Writer

Pecs and paddles, rocks, blood, cars that go vrooooom! Gretzky, deep sea fishing and hot chili peppers. Bellowing a Robert Bly "Ho!" in your face, Men's Journal, a brainchild of Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone and US magazines, premieres on the stands today.

The magazine is a travelogue of extremes, a Hemingway-esque celebration of men bonding with men through nearly every athletic activity except rubbing two sticks together. It is also a high-tech extravaganza, touting the top of the line in sports gear.

The latest product from Straight Arrow Publishers is targeted to well-heeled men in theirs 20s, 30s and 40s "who are interested in adventure, participatory sports, travel and fitness," according to promotional literature.

John Rasmus, editor of Men's Journal, says the magazine "maybe fits into the underlying concerns of the men's movement, but it's not directly related. It's just under the larger heading of 'What am I doing with my life?' "

The men's magazine category "is one that a lot of publications have tried to crack without much success in the last couple of years," says Scott Donaton, a reporter who covers magazines for the trade publication Advertising Age. If Men's Journal succeeds, it will be in large part because of its specialized focus, he says. "There doesn't seem to be much need for another general interest men's magazine like Esquire."

The premiere issue is ultra slick and fat with 83 pages of paid advertising, a sign that Mr. Wenner and his product have credibility among advertisers, Mr. Donaton says.

The closest competition to Men's Journal is Outside magazine, a publication with a large male readership that was started and later sold by Mr. Wenner. "He wants to see if he can have the same success from a little bit of the same approach," Mr. Donaton says. Mr. Rasmus came to Men's Journal after 11 years as managing editor and editor of Outside.

Men's Journal is billed as a "brother" publication to the biweekly Rolling Stone, and several of its writers -- including P. J. O'Rourke and Tim Cahill -- are regular contributors to the 25-year-old music and pop culture biweekly.

Making the most of leisure time is Men's Journal's raison d'etre -- although leisure time is increasingly hard to come by in a world in which work, family and household responsibilities prevail. That's all to the magazine's advantage, its editor says.

"We're trying to inspire and enrich and allow readers to think in terms of a respite instead of escape. No one escapes," Mr. Rasmus says.

"Men's Journal" is available locally at Crown Books, Greetings and Readings, Revco drug stores, selected Rite Aid Discount Pharmacies, the gift shop at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Waldenbooks, Encore books, the BWI Airport newsstand, all News Centers and Marriott travel plazas. The cover price is $4.

A second issue is due out in the fall, and the magazine is scheduled to be published bimonthly in 1993.

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