No coke or hookers, but we're effing hot!
Covers sell (or don’t sell) consumer magazines. Except for “O,” in which case fear seems to compel sales. But we digress.
Thanks to their myopic focus on the wine trade and wine hobbyist (read: your rich great-uncle), traditional wine rags repeatedly run inane close-ups of grapes on their covers. Wine X on the other hand, in order to reach 99.99 percent of potential wine drinkers, cannot. We have to present cover images that seduce the majority of our target audience. (Sadly, this doesn’t mean we can run a tattooed stomach on every cover.)
Granted, we’ve made a few mistakes along the way. Dr. Ruth? Okay, our bad. But we’ve maintained a pretty good track record over our nine years - lots of interesting actors, musicians, athletes, and actor-musician-athletes (hey, we’re in California). Because we get a fair number of questions regarding our covers (i.e., Why pick him? How’d ya get her naked? How’d ya get him naked? How much wine is at these shoots?), we thought we’d share some of our cover models’ quotes and a little inside scoop on how/why they ended up in Wine X.
But before we get to that, allow us, if you will, to share a few anecdotes about covers not featured in the following pages. For example, our “appalling” first cover sent shock waves throughout the geriatric, white-winged wine trade. (Bared, inked stomachs! Fetch my nitro!) Ron Loutherback of Wine Club, and honorary mayor of the geezers, took it upon himself to speak on behalf of his contemporaries:
“The appearance of the new magazine, Wine X, frankly shocked the hell out of me and, worse, shocked many of Wine Club’s customers who received the magazine. I think the magazine went way too far out of line for its own good and, thereby, missed the very audience they wanted to reach. Specifically, the entire feel of the magazine is that it went overboard for the ‘youth’ market and in doing so brought up a lot of negatives. For example, the egregious cover. It looked immature and teen-age-ish.”
Mission accomplished. (We later learned that the “many” in “many of Wine Club’s customers...” was, in fact, just two. Seriously, there are even four teletubbies.)
Our sixth cover, one of our favorites, featured a beautiful African American model. This issue was the first to feature a fashion spread, which was shot in a seedy hotel in San Francisco for juxtaposition. (Okay, the nice hotels wouldn’t let us in.)
After fending off the “locals” in an all-day shoot, we figured the fight was over. Until we got the call from a Napa Valley winery that, after receiving the issue, wanted to cease selling the magazine in its tasting room because the cover featured a “Black Bimbo.” (She was actually a pre-med student working her way through school, but that wasn’t the time nor the place for trivialities.)
Now, you’d think we’d have learned a lesson (White Bimbos = Good, Bimbos of Color = Bad?), but on the cover of Vol. 5.4 we dove right back in, featuring a drop-dead hottie African American couple. You know where this is going, don’t you? Once again, a winery (outside Napa this time) called to cancel its retail sales due to the “nature” of our cover.
God bless America.
Our next three covers featured the Pillsbury Dough Boy, Pat Robertson and Miss Teen USA, and every one of them was dipped in Clorox before the shoot. Dough Boy, R.I.P.
We kid, we kid!
Our ugliest cover ever graced Vol. 2.5. We were so desperate for anything that we ended up with “nothing” (exciting). Still, it was only our fifth cover, so most everyone forgave us. “Most” being the key word. Loutherback, sweetie, ya still with us?
We really started to hit our stride with Vol. 3.2, the Tori Amos issue. Except for a few minor slip-ups (did we mention Dr. Ruth?), we’ve scored a compelling array of celebs. It’s been our goal, and will continue to be our goal, to present and represent the ethnically diverse demographic that we’re a part of and strive so diligently to reach. In our vigil, we invite everyone - not just the old, rich white guy standing in a vineyard, looking for the right bunch o’ grapes for his next cover - to join us for a glass of wine and a good time.
An hour before Abra Moore’s performance at the first WineRave (1997), a car plowed into a PG&E pole down the street from the venue, wiping out electricity for a square mile. For the next three hours we served wine and food to ticket holders in the parking lot, since fire regulations prohibited anyone from entering or leaving the building. (Don’t ask how we got back into the building.) With all hopes for a successful evening just about dashed, and as Abra’s crew ripped up the stage, the power came back on. Those who toughed it outside were treated to a fantastic 45-minute set by Ms. Moore.
“I hear the wine. It’s like a structure. I see it as a piece. I hear it before I taste it. It’s calling me. And then I start to hear it when I’m tasting it. Not that I put crystal suppositories up my ass...I’m not new age...That’s not my scene. Hearing the wine is really a mathematical thing. I hear the lower end of the wine like the bottom end in the bass. I see it in stages. Like in sheet music, you know, there’s the left hand, there’s what my thumbs are playing, and then there’s what my right hand is playing.” - Tori Amos (NOTE: this is the most quoted blurb ever from Wine X Magazine.)
“In the summertime as kids, we’d raft in the rivers. My mom would save the foil pouches from the inside of the wine boxes, and we’d blow ‘em up, tape ‘em together and make big rafts. A wine raft. How resourceful is that! - Molly Culver
The interview with Laurie Holden started our infamous “Dinner with Bob” format, in which cover celebs were invited to Bob Blumer’s house in the Hollywood hills for dinner and a chat. We supplied the wine, Mr. Blumer supplied the entertainment. Sometimes it worked well. Other times, well, not so much. (See Bellows, Gil.) Mostly we take credit for when it works; blame Blumer when it doesn’t. ‘Cause he’s in LA and we’re in San Francisco. And we’re brave like that.
We quickly learned with Gil Bellows that scheduling the photo shoot after “Dinner with Bob” was a very baaaaad idea. If you think his bloodshot eyes look bad on the cover, you should’ve seen them before PhotoShop. The interview, however, was very enlightening. We’ll take credit for that.
Jason Priestley loved the interview with Wine X so much he bought the company. Well, okay, not the whole company. But Mr. Priestley is a minority shareholder in our parent company, X Publishing Inc. (We’re still waiting for the autographed head shots.) He did invite us to his wedding, though... NOT!
Jonny Moseley was the typical young guy who was interested in wine but knew nothing about it. So we indulged him. After shoveling out fermentation tanks, learning how sparkling wine is made and consuming vast amounts of alcohol, Jonny may not have been able to remember any of his “education,” but we’re sure he would’ve been the next Bode Miller, if only...
Dr. Ruth. Yes, the cover everyone here at Wine X hated. Despised. Threatened to quit over. Our poor photographer was only given 30 minutes total to get images for both cover and inside. To boot, Dr. Ruth would only strike two poses. Yet, and there’s a big lesson to be learned here, this cover, believe it or not, was our best-selling issue ever off newsstands. Hey, who says sex doesn’t sell!
“The atmosphere right now in the U.S. surrounding alcohol sales to youth is so tense, yet you have a Republican Congress which feels that when you’re born you should be handed your own gun. There’s this one politician, Strom Thurmond - who’s 90,000 years old or something - who’s very anti-alcohol, although he’s from one of the tobacco states and he has no problem with tobacco. America, it’s the land of great contradictions.” - Steven Page, Barenaked Ladies
Here was the problem: we had the chance to interview Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls. Score, right? But she wouldn’t let anyone near her remote cabin secluded somewhere near...somewhere. So intrepid reporter Bob Blumer came up with the answer: phone sex. No, wait, telephone interview. So, we shipped both of them the same set of wines. They drank them together throughout the interview while Bob did his thing. The resulting moans of slurping pleasure sounded better than most 900 lines we’ve inadvertently listened in on. (This interview was Bob’s fault. And we don’t call sex lines anymore, not since we got In-Demand.) Don’t know if whoever Emily had tied up in her cabin ever got out, but we got one hell of an interview.
Esai Morales. For all of our straight female and gay male readers (and all of our transitioning friends in SF), this was the “we-didn’t-forget-about-you” cover that we had to do before Jenny. Yes before ‘cause we’d already shot Jenny Thompson prior to this cover. It was really hard, looking at all of those pictures of hunky, half-naked Esai Morales. Really. I’m certain this is exactly what Hell is like. Too bad I’m Indian and don’t believe in Hell. - Angelina Malhotra-Singh, EIC.
“When I was discussing cover ideas [for Jenny Thompson] with our photographer Tony [Donaldson], I jokingly mentioned ‘Get her naked in the hot tub and you’re my cover photographer forever. And if you do, call me. I’m on the next plane down.’ Well, he did. Bastard never called me.” - Darryl Roberts, Publisher.
What can we say about KaDee Strickland. Really, what can we say? We gots no stories. No dirt. No foaming-at-the-mouth PR witch (that’s the next issue). KaDee was perfection at the photo shoot. She replied to our “10 Questions” within a day. Her PR firm (Sharp & Associates) gave us everything we needed on time. And KaDee even signed 10 of her covers, which we donated to worthy charities for auction. God! We hate it when everything goes right.
Working with Moby’s PR firm (Siren PR) was a nightmare. We’re surprised that Allison [point gal] found her way to work every day. At the photo shoot she hounded our photographer so bad that he couldn’t shoot what we planned. On the other end, Allison couldn’t seem to remember to schedule the interview with Moby. It went like this: we’d leave five voice mails, then five emails, then she’d call and say, “I never got them.” Uh-huh. So, outta time, outta patience and outta our frickin’ heads, we scrambled and instead ran a review of his Teany shop. (Did we mention it’s now closed?)
Minae Noji. After a rather prim (though lovely) KaDee, and the recalcitrant Moby episode, it was a breath of fresh air to shoot and talk with Minae Noji, who was forthcoming and fun to a fault. Hello, treasure hunt? And any Asian woman who can work a cheongsam with a pair o’ boxers is our kinda chick. Move over Lucy Liu. We’ve got a new office poster girl.