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The Lad Mags: Maxim, Stuff, and FHM

It’s the summer of 1999, I’m fifteen years old, and my father has just retired from the Navy. We left our home outside of Dallas, Texas and were traveling to North Carolina, where we planned to stay with my grandmother while my father contemplated whether to accept a job in Nashville or Memphis, Tennessee.

We stopped by the Naval Base in Millington, Tennessee (oddly enough, that is where we ended up moving to) for the night. My dad knew our U-Haul would be safer on the base, plus the room was cheap.

While grabbing a few items at the Navy Exchange, I spotted a magazine featuring Shannon Doherty from Charmed and 90210. It looked a bit risqué, but not so risqué a fifteen-year-old couldn’t buy it. So, I picked it up, bought it and started flipping through it in the car.

That was my first experience with Maxim magazine, and its knockoff/sister publications Stuff and FHM. I was captivated by the idea that this was Playboyish but not quite Playboy. And while an attractive woman may have led me to purchasing the magazine, it was the content inside I grew to love.

And this is where the controversy comes in at, and why I’ve hesitated a bit on writing this. What passed as entertainment in 1999 does not pass as easily today. I’m not here to take a political stance or make debate on what is acceptable and not, but I know a lot of folks have an issue with the way the stories, jokes, and content was presented at that time. Whether it was movies, TV shows like South Park or Jerry Springer, music like Eminem, or even Maxim, there are a lot of things that just not acceptable today. I’m not here to pass judgement, and honestly, the rest of this article is going to be me talking positively about my experience with these magazines, so there’s my little warning.

There used to be this joke, “I read Playboy for the articles” which I found to actually be a true statement some years later when I picked up my first Playboy to read a Chuck Palahniuk short story. I was amazed at the quality investigations, political write ups, and storytelling Playboy had. Maxim (which I’m just using as a stand-in for Stuff and FHM) was not of that quality. But you could still find some interesting well researched articles like one breaking down the large amount of firefighters who are arsonists.

Maxim was the perfect magazine for a hormone filled teenage boy at the time. Sure, there were some nice pictures of the latest celebrity women, with absurdly sexual interviews to accompany them, but there were other fun tidbits to go along with them. Stuff like random World Records with high quality pictures (something Guiness had yet to provide in their books). There were great writes up on the top fights in sports, and I’m talking a four-page breakdown complete with photos. Monthly video reviews, music and movies were always being talked about, and the magazine just felt like it was made for me.

In that first issue I bought, there was an amazing story about a bodybuilder who got hooked on steroids and how it destroyed his digestive tract until he took a razorblade… I’ll just leave the rest to the imagination.

There were jokes, the type of jokes you’d tell with your buddies. They’d poke fun at anyone and everyone, and well… it felt authentic. It was stupid, obscene, and at times thought provoking, and I loved sitting down and going through an issue. There was nothing else like it on the newsstand.


Published in#WeblogPoMo2024

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