Our Columnist Finds Out Why 'Jack' Won't Be Just Another Men's Mag

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Are the laddie boys turning into lady boys? Are Maxim, Stuff and FHM so bursting with babes they are beginning to stink of cheap perfume? Is the new men's category now as dumb as Cosmo, or worse, as out of touch as Playboy? Where's the original acid wit? Pig roasts, stuffed animals on vacation in Japan and scads of Winona Ryder jokes? Has the irreverence turned into moronic drivel?

Yes, says Jack, unequivocally.

Who is Jack, you ask? He's a new waggish men's magazine-its first monthly issue hit the newstands in the U.K. last week-that puts sex in its proper place (on a few pages, not all) while ramping up coverage of serious stuff like war and the great outdoors. Jack is small, published in size A5, a portable format that might be best described as a supersized paperback. (U.K. Glamour came out in A5 two years ago to phenomenal success.)

"We ditched girls in panties who are trying to be famous and we ditched fighting for interviews with David Bowie and Robbie Williams," says James Brown, editor in chief of Jack. "I'm trying to reinvent National Geographic and Readers Digest. ... I want a men's magazine that's as successful as those magazines."

After two introductory issues that appeared in April and August, with combined sales of over 100,000 copies and 1,200 subscriptions-not so bad for the smaller British market-Jack has just been nominated for launch of the year by the British Society of Magazine Editors. The new title is owned by I Feel Good, Ltd., a small publisher partially owned by Dennis Publishing's Felix Dennis, who is chairman. But the auteur behind Jack is Mr. Brown, who is IFG's CEO and editor in chief and is famous for having created one of the first, and some say the best of the laddies: Loaded, owned by AOL Time Warner's IPC Media.

"My personal interests now are less focused on being self-destructive, on living a drugs-and-drink lifestyle, which is very hedonistic and nightclub based," James says. "I've become more living-room based. I spend more time looking at screens. I spend a lot of time watching History, Biography, Discovery, and National Geographic channels. Watching programs about sharks, the Second World War, hurricanes, typhoons and icebergs. And all this natural stuff, and I thought, I'll put all this in a magazine. That for me has replaced endless celebrity and endless sex. We've got more time to explore things we are genuinely interested in, rather than things the market demands you have."

The title Jack was originally one name out of many for the project, including Tom, Dick and Harry. James then met Jack Nicholson at a party in London. In the cab ride home afterwards, James and a mate exulted: "We got to call it Jack now!" James says he plans to launch the magazine in the U.S. in 2004, most likely through the U.S. offices of Dennis, which owns Maxim and Stuff. Otherwise, there is no distribution here. Jack can be bought at

Love that dirty water

Last week, Tiger Woods got whited out. Mark Heckman, a commercial artist who also creates billboards for worthy causes in his spare time, put up six billboards-with his own money-outside Detroit and other cities in Michigan, that showed the Wood man slurping down a bottle of polluted H2O. The ad promoted Proposition 2, a local clean-water act. "I just associated the term `water hazard' in golf and used Tiger, because he's so well known," Mark says. Tiger's people demanded he pull the billboards down. Mark whited out Tiger instead. But Tiger's lawyers are relentless. "Now they want me to put up a billboard saying I apologize for using his likeness," Mark says. "They just want me to spend money. That's what they want."

Tipster: Jean Halliday

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