Imagine my surprise, then, when I wandered into my new super-favorite magazine store and found a copy of Hooters on its shelves. Reverting to good-ole-boy form, my reaction went something like this: "Whoo! They done did it! They did done it! Whoo!" Had I a gun in my ever-present holster, I would've emptied its contents into the ceiling.
Resembling an occasionally sincere FHM or Maxim for slow-blinking southern guys, Hooters is everything you'd expect and then some. It features a section named "Wingman," shout-outs to the bass masters and Dale Jr., and plenty of gals in short-shorts. It highlights the chain's charitable endeavors and brand extensions (Las Vegas now counts Hooters Casino Hotel among its destinations) and earnestly salutes its Georgia roots ("Georgia is a big ol' state... and every inch is worthy of exploration").
But whereas other semi-bawdy men's titles boast high production values and a degree of sophistication in their humor (full disclosure: I write Maxim Online's baseball column), Hooters mostly comes across as the print equivalent of the moron in the back row of remedial algebra: all spitballs and grunts and witless wisecracks. Clearly there's a place for this in magazineland--I remind you once anew that magazines are intended to keep you company while you're on the toilet, not elevate humankind through high-aiming intellectual discourse --but Hooters ranks among the least professionally assembled publications I've ever encountered.
More succinctly: I don't dislike the mag because it's dumb. I dislike it because of its sloppiness and profound lack of imagination.
A July/August issue Q&A with actress Gilliam Vigman (of ABC's legitimately riotous "Sons and Daughters"--buy this when it comes out on DVD, please) includes non-spell-checked nods to "Jodi Foster" and "Mickey Donns (Dolenz, maybe?) of the Monkees." The mag substitutes "barcolounger" for "barcalounger" and presents sentence construction along the lines of "it will be in stores, September/October."
Design-wise, a picture from the chain's "Earth Day Birthday" celebration depicts a gal flinging a T-shirt into a crowd, just as Thoreau once envisioned. While I'm not one to rail against waitresses in camouflage/star-spangled bikinis--this is the "Military Appreciation Issue," after all--everything from the makeup to the bland backdrops feels second-class. Plus each of the models seems to have learned the art of the pout from repeated viewings of "Poison Ivy II." Which I've totally never seen.
It doesn't help that Hooters drains the ever-forbidding moat separating ads and editorial content. Yes, I'm the suspicious sort when it comes to stuff like this--but a letter from a sniper team stationed in Iraq oddly and obtrusively name-drops Miller Lite, which happens to have an ad on the opposing page. Similarly, the "High Spirits" liquor column barely pretends to be anything other than a four-page plug for Jose Cuervo, devoting four of its six "Trivia I Heard in Mexico" items to the brand. What annoys me is the shamelessness of it all: almost every publisher pulls stunts like this, but at least other titles do their best to disguise it.
Is there anything redeeming here? Sure. I found more cool tchotchkes in the July/August Hooters than I ever have in an issue of Cargo--go ahead, just try and stop me from buying the marshmallow machine gun. The "Cool Jobs" piece on a Ford vehicle dynamics supervisor strikes the right tonal chord, as do the quickie tips relayed by "The Bachelor Guy."
Truth is, my interests probably align more with the content found in Hooters than they do with the material in an average issue of The New Yorker. I like wings, beer, sports, and what Flannery O'Connor once called "chicks with big honkin' gazumbas"; I believe that farts are funny and that Adam Sandler has contributed more to our cultural dialogue than Gore Vidal and PBS combined. That said, Hooters does the impossible: it drains the fun out of such topics. I'd no sooner recommend it to even my most Neanderthal pal than I would order the sirloin at one of the chain's establishments.