Yours Truly

John-Calendo

I wasn’t always a whore, you know. I started my career writing film reviews for Andy Warhol’s Interview and celebrity profiles for L.A. Fashion Weekly.

My byline appeared in Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Los Angeles Magazine. I covered the rise and fall of Anita Bryant saving all the children of South Florida from those tireless homosexual recruiters. I turned my volunteer work on the AIDS floor of a hospital in Hell’s Kitchen into a three-parter for the New York Observer. I had a play produced in Chicago.

It was a punk thing, that play, with music, starring a local celebrity in a mohawk and involved a finale where the star and his drag queen accomplice, both wired to the teeth as human bombs, went into the audience, climbed up on tables (it was a theater that subbed as a dance club), inevitably toppling drinks and trampling egos, high heels clumping down on fingers, resulting in a…um glowing review from a livid Chicago Tribune critic and at least one scurrilous lawsuit. By the Sex Pistols Anarchy in the U.K. standards of the day, the play was a smash.

Every Skin Mag in Creation, From Playboy to Playgirl

But for all that, the fact is I spent most of my career in what we gamely call “adult publications.” During the 70s, when people were intoxicated with the idea that we were in the midst of a “sexual revolution,” and men’s magazines were in a fevered arms race to go pinker, soft core was kinda hip.

For the next two decades, I wrote for or edited every skin mag in creation, from Playboy to Playgirl, from the crudely hetero Hustler to the effetely homo Blueboy. Actually, I no longer think of Hustler as part of my writing career. I think of it as the time I ran away and joined the circus. For a few breathless months, I was the executive editor riding the bull in that particular barnyard ro-day-yo. Hee haw.

And did I mention I was discovered by Andy Warhol when I was a go-go boy at a dive at the far end of the meat packing district? I was an NYU student and lucked into this weekend go-go gig (the pay was minimum but the tips weren’t!) because the mafiosa at the door took a shine to me. Anyway, I was taken up by the Warhol set and brought to the Factory. One thing led to another (as I like to put it) and I soon joined Andy’s team of ambitious young editors on his newly launched Interview Magazine.

My off-beat profiles of movie stars got me further work at OUI, Playboy’s start-up aimed at the younger man, as well as Penthouse, Gallery and Esquire. Within a year, I was invited to join the staff of OUI as an associate editor. And so began my long tour of America, courtesy of men’s magazines. I was brought out to Chicago to work at the Playboy building (OUI), then to Hollywood (Hustler), Miami (Blueboy), Las Vegas (Stroke), and San Francisco (Drummer).

Hollywood in the Disco Years

I eventually spent the remainder of the disco years in Hollywood. I had been brought out there in that magical first year of my career to help doctor a script. Now I was trying to sell my own spec scripts, all the while keeping myself intact with magazine freelance. Eventually I needed a real job, with a salary at the end of it, and so I took over a sleepy twink publication named In Touch, sparked it up with humor and a dash of gay rights and managed to turn it into a culty gay magazine that still fetches a very pretty dollar on eBay.

At the time nobody thought you could put funny copy, smart insights and naked men in the same room. The niche gay market was a humorless brigade of doggy-eyed urban models, in and out of Tom Selleck flannel shirts, trying to look anything but nelly in bushy mustaches. This, interspersed with someone’s idea of pop culture that consisted of auntyish opera reviews and vapid photo essays, filled with sand dunes and amber sunsets, from someone’s pointless comment-free vacation. My out-of-nowhere In Touch, it turned out, was the only gay magazine on the market with an actual gay sensibility. It easily outsold its competitors and so began… And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee.

Oh sha sha, what a long strange trip it’s been!

I now live in New Jersey and have three books in the works.

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