I went to the ’battle of Rome’ with Wnek Tours (see Diary, back
page) armed only with the first James Brown-edited GQ and my belt. I
emerged beltless with a few illusions shattered both about Italy and
It seemed appropriate to read GQ on the trip. England vs Italy in Rome
for a vital World Cup qualifier is lad heaven on a par with a desert
island with Pammy, Melinda, Joanne Guest and a crate of lager. The
luring of Brown to GQ from Loaded symbolised the triumph of the lad in
publishing, when even a quality operation like Conde Nast found itself
unable to ignore any longer the soaring circulations of Loaded and FHM.
But, we were reassured, Brown had grown up and was not to be
underestimated; he had other strings to his bow in addition to laddism.
Against my natural inclinations, I fell for it, largely because I view
the managing director of Conde Nast, Nicholas Coleridge, as the
classiest man in British magazine publishing (see this week’s insert for
So, when I took the jam-packed-with-ads copy out on the plane and saw
the ultimate lad, Paul Weller, was the first cover, I was sanguine. Then
my eye fell towards the bottom of the page: ’Twelve pages of sexy chicks
in pants.’ I’d make a crap editor of GQ because I thought the headline
for that feature, ’Save the whalebone’, was a bit lame, and its
standfirst, ’Phew! What an Orca!’, vaguely desperate.
I also failed to see the post-modern humour of the sexy chicks in pants
bending over or faking masturbation with either their hands or a javelin
between their thighs. It was all a bit sad really, as were the
gratuitous shots of willies etc in a real-life ER spread, and the
Loaded/FHM-style new letters page. But, what do I know? My favourite bit
in it was a cracking GQ&A: Lee Hurst and Arthur Scargill, and that’s an
old GQ feature. (Martin Deeson going on a grouseshoot was good stuff,
There have been innumerable rumours about Brown and his team and
ructions at Conde Nast. I can’t comment, save to say that the company
knew the nature of the beast it was hiring. An interesting question is
how genuinely a Coleridge appointment it was, and what role the Newhouse
family played. Either way, to claim the new-look magazine has not gone
all lad is to make words meaningless.
Whatever, the lads on the trip will have enjoyed the new tone. It left
me to lament my chances of now ever getting a job at Conde Nast, and to
ponder the link between the dominant tone of laddism and the attitude of
the small minority of fans in Rome who thought the police beating they
received was all part of a laddish, heroic battle, and not one of the
saddest nights of their sporting lives.