CHICKENS, TOAST AND PEANUT BUTTER: Here’s a surefire way for a new editor in chief to send the message that the old formula is kaput: Scrap the letters page. Along with the table of contents, it’s the one feature that’s found in just about every monthly, from the Atlantic to XXL, but according to Jimmy Jellinek, who took over Stuff in May, reader mail is “so last century, so noninteractive. Let’s face it: The only people who write letters to magazines are prisoners and Canadians.”
In December, therefore, Stuff will replace its letters page with a new section, Stuff Live. It still will consist of reader-generated content, just not letters. “They can’t just write in anymore to say ‘Sofia Vergara is hot,'” explained Jellinek, who previously edited Complex. “Instead, they could make a portrait of her out of toast.”
Stuff Live also will include several opportunities to win money and merchandise. The Wheel of Shame will offer prizes to guys willing to endure various humiliations (like winning a wedding ring if you’re willing to get married in drag), while the Stuff Endowment will bankroll readers’ best ideas. “Say a guy wants to raise a chicken for fighting,” said Jellinek. “We’ll sponsor your chicken.” (Okay, so who cares that chicken fights are illegal in most states.)
It’s all part of an extensive remaking of the magazine that will include the demise of the long-running Asylum and Sex Spy sections, the addition of an adventure travel section and lots more gadget, fashion and car coverage. Jellinek uses terms such as “lifestyle one-upmanship” and “professional consumption writ large” to describe the new direction. But the most visible change may be on the cover, where, starting with the September issue, the requisite babes will be shot in more natural settings by higher-caliber photographers using better clothes and styling. “The way we shoot women will be vastly different,” promised Jellinek, acknowledging that “cheesy” photography has helped make A-list actresses reluctant to pose for lad magazines. In a bid to woo them back, he has hired In Style veteran Lisa Simpson as entertainment director in charge of booking covers. Just don’t expect the girls to start appearing fully clothed. “The way I look at it is, when you give a dog a pill, you have to hide it in some peanut butter,” said Jellinek. “For us, the sex is the peanut butter.”
CROSS COUNTRY: Like Sauron in “The Lord of the Rings,” American Media chief David Pecker continues to gather his minions to him. On Tuesday, AMI announced the transfer of its circulation department from Woodland Hills, Calif., to New York. The art and production departments of Shape magazine will make the same move. In all, 20 people will be affected; the company is offering to assist them in moving or try to find them new jobs in its Woodland Hills office, according to a spokesman. Shape also is getting a new creative director, Dimity Jones. She was founding design director of Lucky and worked with AMI editorial director Bonnie Fuller on Living Room, a shelter magazine developed by Meredith Corp.