In a world where a show like Logo’s ‘The A-List’ is presented to us as the template for the modern, successful gay male, and the clone-like productions of most Top-40 pop princesses rule our nightclub dance-floors, some may say that the golden age of a diverse and visible ‘gay cool’ has breathed it’s last breath.
“So much of the gay media focuses on the same people, the same ideas, the same tropes, over and over that our ‘culture’ looks more narrow, and defined by less than ever before, when in fact it’s probably more diverse than ever.” says EastVillageBoys.com co-editor and publisher Weston Bingham. “There have always been, and will always be new and challenging people and ideas emerging from the culture. Though, like anything, the mainstream and less challenging aspects—the clichés and stereotypes—always seem to overshadow everything else. It’s no wonder that our ‘culture’ is seen as superficial. It’s that unfortunate condition that led us to start EVB.”
Since launching in 2008, Weston, along with co-founder, editor, and publisher Richard Welch, have run their online magazine, which aims to feature content of an alternative mindset and provide a different destination to the uniform scene. “Many gay guys do not connect with the representation of gay culture both within gay and mainstream media, if anything it’s something that disconnects them further. We wanted to expose the huge array of diverse talent that is out there.” says Welch. Their site provides interviews with different creatives from around the globe (not exclusive to NYC’s East Village), and follows in place with the age-old, but surprisingly little-known idea that being gay doesn’t define everything about you. That you’re not constrained by sexuality, and that you may actually have interests that extend beyond a Britney or a Ke$ha.
“There were plenty of people I thought were cool growing up, but they tended to exist within my own locale.” says Welch. Born and raised in the English countryside, Welch moved from completing college in Liverpool to DJing in nightclubs and on radio to starting his own music and marketing agency in London. His clients included acts like Femi Kuti, Air, Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx and Fabric. So who does Welch find himself interested in listening to these days? “There is so much great music out there. Nico Muhly continues to amaze me, he’s a huge talent. From the electronic sphere of things, I’m listening to Joy Orbison, James Woon, Nicolas Jarr, Ramadanman, Appleblim. They are all creating challenging, and enjoyable music.”
In addition to the musicians, artists, and fashion-related talent showcased on their website, East Village Boys also features a bevy of nude photographs of attractive, natural, fuzzy, scruffy, and non-primped men (sometimes even readers themselves). Bingham says this can commonly be misinterpreted as the magazine’s sole purpose … “Some people think we’re an ‘adult’ site or that we’re a porn site. We were even called ‘art-porn’ in one article! I think that actually points to a larger social problem around the misperception that if it’s a ‘gay’ publication then it must be pornographic.”
Still, I can’t help but be intrigued, and push farther into topic by asking the boys who their dream pictorials would be, dead or alive. ”Alive? I’d love to shoot Anna Wintour with Karl Lagerfeld, styled by Nicola Formichetti. For the ‘dead shoot’, I’d have to say a young Marlon Brando.” answers Welch. Bingham, seemingly more undecided says, “I think I’d have to be true to my roots and go with River Phoenix, but for people who are still alive, maybe Cole Mohr or Ash Stymest, though. They’re practically naked all the time so I wouldn’t really be getting my money’s worth. Oh I know! — Japanese rocker Miyavi!”
While the site may show a lot skin, and regardless of how people may perceive it, the format has worked before. One could say magazines like Playboy were founded on the idea of “I came for the pictures, but stayed for the articles”, and that it makes for a more dynamic read. “My dream interview would be Helmut Lang.” says Bingham. “I imagine he’d be one of the most interesting people to talk to. He’s done it, been through it, and doing it all over again.” “I’d like to interview the Pope, for God’s sake!” says Welch.
East Village Boys has also extended its hand into producing parties and events that cater to their readership. Both established and up-and-coming musical guests tend to perform, as well as go-go boys who reflect the type of guys you might find on their website. “Do you have a certain type?” I ask. “Oh, I wouldn’t dare answer that.” answers Bingham. “Real men.” says Welch. The pair has taken to collaborating with other like-minded artists and brands in the past, working with the likes of artist Gio Black Peter, photographer Jessica Yatrofsky, and fashion label Cottweiler. Recently they partnered with San Francisco’s Nice Collective to create a limited edition collection of hand-drawn silkscreen hankies as an homage and nod to the 1970s gay hankie code. They plan on releasing their second hankie collection just in time for the holiday season.
So I ask, what would you say is the best thing that the mainstream gay culture does has going for itself today? “Visibility.” says Bingham. “Gay abandon!” answers Welch.