15 fab years

fab has never been shy about celebrating itself, even calling for a party after only “two years of fun, frivolity, fierceness, fashion, flops and fuck-ups.” But even after 15 years fab’s formula for a smart and sassy guide to Toronto’s gay scene still seems to work. As an editor emeritus and long-time fab contributor, Scott Dagostino happily gathered memories from the people who helped make it all happen...

fab's venerable columnists Paul Bellini and Rolyn Chambers

[originally printed in fab issue 383 – October 14, 2009]

Michael Schwarz, creator and former publisher
I was working in New York City and saw Next Magazine. So after my job and I fell apart, I came back to Toronto and started fab. I made a mockup and went around and sold advertising, did deliveries, did everything. I did enjoy dropping copies off at Woody’s and the businesses next door and hearing the gay boys squeal, “I made fab this week!”

We were all real amateurs but we had fun. We had so much good luck and help along the way and I’m especially indebted to Keir MacRae who was my housemate and then came to help out at the mag to give it a better business sense.

Oh and [infamous gossip columnist] Anne Slanders was David Morley, a flight attendant for Air Canada. When [later editor] John Kennedy fired him, I swear Morley was going to kill me. I was afraid of him.

Jim Armstrong, former editor
Working at fab was great fun. Back then we were more of a nightlife/local gossip rag. I loved a job where having a hangover at work was encouraged. The editorial budget of $0 never fluctuated but we were lucky to get great support from the community and somehow Michael Schwarz seemed to keep us afloat. I never asked any questions as long as I still had a desk to sit at and a party to go to.

Michael Rowe, journalist
What I’ve always loved about fab is that, in its determination not to take itself too seriously as anything other than what it is, it has, over the years, made room for some very insightful articles on contemporary gay life in Canada that were neither shrill or overly didactic. I’m proudest of the fact that the humour essay I wrote with Ron Oliver, “In Praise of Straight Men,” for Fab National was the first-ever (and I believe, only) piece in a gay magazine to be a finalist for the Canadian National Magazine Awards, a total boundary break for gay journalism in Canada.

Jeremy Parkes, teacher and former writer
I would be in the same place as I am now without fab, but I would be slightly less cool. I loved working with exceptionally talented people and a very cool community but I was a very bad writer with little to say.

Darren Cooney, executive assistant at Queen’s Park and former columnist
Hands down, my favourite experience writing for fab was profiling the inimitable George Hislop. I never saw his home as he insisted on being interviewed in a towel, in his favourite stomping ground, the Spa on Maitland.

John Kennedy, former editor
I am proud of being the longest-serving editor in the history of fab and it’s satisfying to see my little touches like fab guy and the logo I helped create still around. I was blessed to be able to work with an exceptional team of talented and dedicated people and I felt bad every day that we weren’t able to pay them what they were worth. I have heard many, many predictions of the death of fab over the years but here it is today celebrating 15 years and looking better than ever.

Justin Stayshyn, graphic designer and activist
I was working as the art director at fab during one of the most significant editorial shifts in the magazine’s history: the end of the embargo on hairy-chested men (aka John “fab boy” Kennedy to Mitchel “fab guy” Raphael). My most vivid memory is that working there never got me laid. I think it actually turned guys off. The kickass retooling (and the addition of Canada’s best columnist Nina Arsenault) changed that, I’m sure, but not until years later.

Maha Rishi, stylist
fab has made me a celebrity in gay bars from here to Newmarket (Up that circulation! I need to get laid!). Once I was featured next to Sofonda and a porn model’s bare ass. The caption read “Sofonda and two asses.” At first I was mortified, but then I realized it was only a fab caption. What better to wipe my bare ass with than toilet paper? Kisses to 15 more years.

David Hawe, photographer
One of the best things about fab is that centre spread Deep Dish. People love to see themselves and say, “Who’s that guy?” But one of the worst things they’ve done is give a false sense of entitlement to fab-made local celebrities, like that Maha.

Rolyn Chambers, columnist
My column, Deep Dish, is going on seven years. Eeek. Yes, in my early days at fab, I got to have lots of sex because of my position. I even slept with two out of the four past Twink columnists and a couple of interns (I have since calmed down). Before working for fab, I published my own little zine called YumEee! I poked fun at fab. What people don’t realize is no matter how well I know them, I always print the truth. If their party was shit, their party was shit.

Todd Klinck, co-owner of Goodhandy’s and former columnist
When Mitchel Raphael told me he was taking over the magazine, he assured me of his vision — high editorial standards, quality feature writers, all sandwiched between enough fluff and shirtless guys to keep people’s attention — and then he let me write about pretty much whatever I wanted to for three and a half years.

People still come up to me today and mention my column, “Reaching Deep for the Peas,” about my sex-worker relationship and experiences with a morbidly obese client. The chilling Polaroid of the guy, naked with gangrenous legs on his hospital bed with a pillow hiding his face, is a haunting memory from my youth.

Lindsay Lozon, photographer
My favourite thing about working on the magazine is no doubt and without question shooting the covers and all those sexy hunky boys for the past 15 years, so many I’ve lost count. I started shooting fab covers so far back, since present associate editor Matt Thomas was 10 and just discovering his sexuality. They don’t pay me enough but I do it anyway.

Daniel Paquette, columnist
It’s a hard job sometimes being the music columnist because everyone has a diva they love most and when I bitchslap their divas, I hear about it.

Michael Pihach, video reporter and former columnist
I’ve interviewed more than 80 queer couples, 60 of which appeared in my Together column (56 if you exclude a threesome relationship, a man and his dog, a man and his cat and a twink and his butt plug). Today I wonder how many are still together, buttplug and twink excluded. The one I remember most was the 40ish bear couple who led me to their bedroom so they could show me their massive dildo collection. I had just turned 21. I wanted to shoot something cute but instead I spent the afternoon taking pictures of them shoving toys up their bums. The photos never ran but the experience made for great dinner conversation.

Anthony Collins, former associate editor
I walked in as a shy 21-year-old and left three years later on a first-name basis with artists and drag queens, thoroughly schooled in everything gay in Toronto and with a clutch of new friends. I also had the address and phone number of every bar, club and bathhouse committed to memory (the result of untold hours spent poring over event listings).

Nina Arsenault, actress and former columnist
I remember getting into heated fights with Mitchel Raphael about changing a single word as I chose each word very carefully. Lindsay Lozon tried to tell me how to pose for a cover shoot and then got frustrated when I wouldn’t listen to him. Was he honestly surprised by me controlling my own image? As a gaylebrity, I felt like I was a target for every wannabe-famous party twink and angry activist with no sense of humour or irony. I’m proud though that so many people I never would have spoken with came up to talk to me because they read my column and I like that I took some of the stories from my column and made a play out of them: The Silicone Diaries, at Buddies in November.

Stephan Gregoire, photographer
fab helped me establish myself as a freelance photographer and gave me the opportunity to meet and shag some hot boys from around the world.

Mitchel Raphael, former editor
Whether it was politics or an underwear issue, we stood for quality journalism. My time at fab was really the last time an alternative publication had publishers who would give their editors free rein. When big stories hit, we were able to pull the whole team together, like when Ontario legalized gay marriage, we were able to put out the first-ever gay bridal issue that ended up featured on the front page of the Sunday New York Times. The fab way is to be provocative, smart, entertaining and well-designed. I’m proud of our George Hislop cover. We really did him justice. I was heavily criticized for putting Julian Fantano on the cover and [regarding fab’s Pride cover with mayor David Miller], I told everyone at the time, “Whenever there’ll be a retrospective of David Miller, this is one of the five images they’ll pull out.”

David Miller, mayor of Toronto
It was a great cover and I loved that it came out just before Pride. Our office was swamped with people wanting a copy of it, oddly mostly women. I loved the sensibility of the magazine, smart with a sense of fun and whimsy, but I am upset that I didn’t get to keep the leather.

Julian Fantino, Ontario Provincial Police commissioner
I don’t have a problem with my cover. My relationship, rapport and respect for members of the gay community has grown over the years; all of which is the end result of a mutually respectful relationship that I diligently worked towards during my tenure as Toronto Police chief.

Paul Bellini, columnist and comedy writer
After seven years of never missing an issue, it’s clear that I love my column and I would never give it up. I’ve been able to interview a lot of celebrities, mostly by phone, and meet all the big names in the local gay community. I always have a laugh with my most frequent photographer Tony Fong. Tony gets me. One of my favourite articles ever was the one I wrote from the point of view of Enza’s new implants. By far the most difficult column I ever had to write was my tribute to my friend Harley Walker, murdered by a trick at the age of 72. I hated that so many people regarded this incident as a cautionary tale. We all go home with strangers. My column also allowed me to delve deep into the world of gay porn. But I was upset when Gus Mattox, who I adored, scolded me in print for getting some facts wrong. I haven’t been able to jerk off to him since.

Donnarama, drag performer and writer
fab captures the spirit and diversity of the scene and the people who are in it, all the wondrous eccentricities, oddities and norms. I remember Mitchel sending Steven Bereznai and I out into the city for a shopping article and I was in full drag a bra with four-inch spikes all over it. In the daylight. I somehow ended up at the Goodwill in a shopping cart (what else is new) and the employees were so shocked and confused. I don’t think poor Steven knew what he had gotten himself into.

Steven Bereznai, author and former editor
When I was deputy editor, I photographed lensman Stephan Gregoire snowboarding naked down Whistler mountain. I loved that we could go to the office, talk about our lives and loves, and then call it work. Aside from the computer crashes on production weekend, they were good times. I’m proudest of the “Dark Cupid” love issue [fab, #313]. It was a cool cover, with fun and also serious content, from Hollywood classics recast as gay love stories to the story about sexless relationships. I still love it.

Jamieson Eakin, singer/ songwriter and “Dark Cupid”
Being on fab’s Valentines cover allowed me to give my loved ones the best Valentine’s gift ever, the gift of me. I would snatch 30 copies from the fab box and shove them in my bag and walk away all nonchalant-like. My boyfriend at the time told me I should be ashamed of myself. Jealous much?

Jesse Stong, promoter
When I became a Twink columnist for fab, I was 19 years old, had no journalism experience and was basically running on nothing but the ambition to be a gay Carrie Bradshaw. I was introduced to a queer world of politics, history and social action that I had never known about in my closet-case suburban days. The future of fab? I hope they keep the fun and do not succumb to pressure to be overly-political and less naked. I hope they do more articles about Elephant Man until somebody shoots him. I hope they create a comic strip of Stephen Harper being anal-raped.

Keith Cole, enfant terrible
I know people have come out to see my performances because they “saw it in fab.” The Toronto Star or Globe and Mail are not going to tell our stories or celebrate our community but fab does this and does it well. I really love the Together column, it just blows my mind. It is always such a weird yet lovely read. Like a car accident, you don’t want to look but you just can’t help yourself, you have to look.

Drew Rowsome, associate editor
When the satire issue [fab #264] hit the stands I happened to be drinking at Woody’s (being an intern/writer at that time rather than an editor left time for afternoon libations). For the first time I saw guys picking up the new edition and reading and laughing or shaking their heads in disbelief. It was very gratifying to see that we were actually getting a reaction. Poor Steve Buczek was even getting phone calls to see if he had been denuded of his glorious fur by a vengeful twink. You just never know who is going to read fab and how they are going to react.


About Scott Dagostino

An arts & culture journalist who's the bastard love child of Van Morrison and Jessica Mitford
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