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This week we’re looking at Man’s Magazine, one of my favorite in the archive’s collection. Man’s ran from 1952 to 1976. In the 60s, the magazine was well known for its hand-painted covers that resembled pulp novels of the day, which reflected the contents well – we’ve got sex, we’ve got dames, we’ve got violence and sin and vice! For the knuckle-dragging he-man contingent, we’ve got boobs! Muscles! Leopards! Sharks! Shoes! Girl fights! Tattoos! For the thinking man who likes words almost as much as he likes boobs, there’s stories to accompany those leopards and girl fights, and classifieds that are almost 100% psuedoscience and/or pyramid schemes.
Never able to rival the literary prestige or readership of Playboy, or even lesser girlie magazines like Rogue or Cavalier, Man’s Magazine kept up the good fight until the early 70s, when it degraded from pulp fiction and painterly cheesecake pinups to increasingly explicit photographed pinups and then finally it became just another sleazy skin mag desperate for whatever would sell before shutting down in 1976.
It really doesn’t get better than this, does it? It looks like something that Archie Bunker would keep in his bathroom to read on the toilet. I would never have believed that a magazine this ham-fisted in its mid century machismo was real if I didn’t have it literally in front of me.
Women, are you tired of not feeling up to sex after cleaning the house and cooking and doing errands and running after the kids all day? psst: men! Are you also completely exhausted all the time from trying to live up to the crushing expectations of society, but the social constraints of contemporary masculinity won’t allow you to admit it to anyone out loud? Or even yourself? It’s ok – we’ve placed 99% of the blame on your wife instead Here’s a pill made of liver and vitamin C!
My favorite part is the disclaimer that the woman is a model posing in a dramatization – which is a relief, because otherwise I would have just thought that an attractive woman was looking pensive in the wild. Fear not, concerned public, this woman is just a talented model and may or may not actually be suffering from TIRED LOVE.
Looking over this month’s talent we have William Saroyan of course, who earned his name on the cover with a reprint of “Love”, a short story he wrote that shows up often in the sleazier magazines. Even in his lesser works, Saroyan never wrote anything particularly salacious (he does have a really really weird rant about his dead father’s balls in one of his later nonfiction books, but I digress), but magazines would always take this one and make the illustration or headline extra trashy to compensate for its relative tameness. The other author of note featured in this month is Jules Archer, who made a career out of writing about political conspiracies.
A big part of the ad space was taken up by the start your own business/work from home/learn a trade by correspondence racket. I would hazard a guess that these ads were really targeting the men who had lost their sense of purpose after coming back from the Korean War and were looking for a career – or at least something to make them seem like they were working towards a career. I wonder if our girl Melba Ogle from last week’s Playboy was posing to pay her way through Meat Cutting School?
Now, this is what you came here for! SEXMANSHIP, the greatest made-up word that somehow never made it into our regular lexicon. The first few paragraphs read like Jules Archer’s Pete Campbell slash fiction, what with all the soft moaning going down on Madison Avenue. For those who don’t like words, there’s also pictures of ladies in their bras to ogle. The article is surprisingly uncritical of women for once and mostly wags the finger at sleazy ad men using male insecurity to drive ad campaigns, which is a little weird when you consider that this very magazine runs ads like:
But hey, what do I know, I’m just a woman.
You must have been thinking by now that this magazine was living well up to its sexism quota, but the 1959 racism standards weren’t being met. Well, here you go. My quick googling of “Indian Wrestling” tells me that it is basically like arm wrestling, but done laying on your back hip-to-hip and with your legs instead. To be only attempted by the very young or the very drunk.
“Europe – once the dole – is now strictly on the droll” – ughhh.
The nihilist in me actually kinda likes the acrobatic suicide comic on the far left.
Quality well-researched writing.
Judging by how much space is taken up by the helicopter and the dangling man, I don’t think the artist was very confident in his own ability to draw a shark.
“Break out the fire-water, Jack! Big Hat is back in town!”
She’s no lady – she’s a private eye!
This month’s babe is Cathy Crosby – daughter of Bob, niece of Bing, aunt of Denise. The Crosby genetics were very kind to her and she’s working a Russ Meyer vixen look here. Cathy was a z-list actress and singer through the late 70s before seeming to disappear completely off the map.
Nothing manlier than a corset!
A delightful read, I’m sure, but mostly I’m wondering what they could mean by “Pictorial story of woman’s SAFE days”.
Note the “Approved for Korean Veterans” on the coupon.
Classifieds and crazy pseudo-science. Modern advertising has made so much retroactive use of this graphics style that it doesn’t even look real, but it is. Also I really wish that doing yoga gave me ancient superpowers like this ad promises, but all I get out of it is easier breathing and better flexibility so I must be doing it wrong.
And finally, as promised on the cover, The Manly Art of Tattooing.
“When the cave man tired of painting the walls of his grotto, he took to decorating his own hide and started a vocation that antedates prostitution by a couple of thousand years”. Absolutely nothing in that sentence is anywhere near close to factually accurate. But the article does name-drop Sutherland MacDonald, who was a genuinely cool Victorian/Edwardian pioneer tattoo artist and there really should be a movie about him.
Thanks for reading another week, apologies for this being a day late, and I hope you’ve all learned some insights on being manly in 1959! Last week’s comment thread had a spirited discussion about The Beatles, so next week I will be reviewing the August 8, 1964 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, featuring these obscure British hooligans: