OUT EDITOR’S STRAIGHT TALK: How gay is the new editor of Out? Not gay enough to avoid being mistaken for a heterosexual. When Aaron Hicklin, formerly editor in chief of Black Book, took the job back in April, the move was greeted enthusiastically by Andrew Sullivan, a gay columnist and blogger, who declared, “I think it’s great that a straight guy is now heading up a gay magazine.” Sullivan quickly corrected himself, noting: “His orientation did not seem to be a factor in his being hired.” (Indeed, as WWD reported, Andrew Essex, who is straight, also was approached about the job.) But Out’s advertisers nevertheless required assurances that the magazine was not about to forsake its gay readership.

It’s not — but the incident was prophetic, in a way. While Hicklin won’t be altering Out’s sexual identity, he does plan to make it, like his own, a bit harder to pin down. “My buzzword has been, ‘Let’s be [David] Bowie gay rather than Cher gay,'” he said this week, at the end of his first month on the job.

Just as Bowie recorded concept albums, Out, said Hicklin, will publish more themed issues in hopes of stimulating the creativity of its writers and photographers. Hicklin’s first full issue as editor, September, will have a back-to-school motif, complete with a fashion shoot inspired by “Lord of the Flies.” “The fashion is where you can get all the pictures of cute, sexy boys you want, but shot in a way that’s radical and thoughtful,” he said.

But alongside the beefcake will be a beefed-up supply of serious reportage, with the goal to produce journalism that could just as easily be found in The New Yorker or Vanity Fair, said Hicklin. “The question I ask myself is, ‘What would those magazines do if they were gay?'” he said. “I’d rather have mainstream magazines with an aesthetic I admire as the competition” than other gay titles, he added. “For an editor, you create the magazine you want to read. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.”

This story first appeared in the June 8, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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