What’s the ugliest part of your body?
Some say your nose,
Some say your toes
But I think it’s your mind…
-Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
I was not yet in High School in the summer of 1968. It was one year after the so-called “Summer of Love”, but my friends and I were largely oblivious to such social events. Instead, we were busy enjoying the last of the innocent fun that we sensed to be fast slipping through our young, collective fingers. We were long past the awkward days of puberty, but were just on the cusp of that Big Scary and Exciting Thing called Adulthood. This feeling, of course, made “adult stuff” all the more exciting. We still reveled in “spazzing around” -- a term we used often that would disappear from the lexicon of a bygone age and has since been long locked up in the hallowed Vaults of the Politically Correct – and were content in our never-ending quest for cheap fun and a good laugh.
The flower children were in full bloom and their music was as heavily sweet and seductive as the herby scent of patchouli. We seemed to be a little more interested in the kooky stuff, however. Dr. Demento would soon be in full tilt and busy unearthing crazy tunes from the past (once you’ve heard it, who can forget Benny Bell’s “Shaving Cream”?), DJ Nevada Smith would be playing “Boobs A Lot” by the Holy Modal Rounders from her call letters KPPC in Pasadena, CA, and Cheech and Chong would be supplying their own unique brand of stoned humor, albeit sans music. Who needed music; anyway, when you were so busy laughing?
All these zany shenanigans had their roots and could be traced back to one seminal, genius loci . . . Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
I was first asked if I was “hung up” and introduced to Suzy Creamcheese by way of my cousin while on vacation in the summer of ’66, not long after the double LP FREAK OUT, by a crazy guy by the name of Frank Zappa, had been released. It was 60 minutes of pure mind warp mixed with ‘50s Rock ‘n Roll. It was strange, but I loved it!
Followed by album titles such as WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY, HOT RATS, and LUMPY GRAVY, I soon learned about such imperatives as mud sharks, the perils of eating yellow snow, and what the ugliest part of my body was (no, you’re wrong, ‘Bro . . . it’s your mind).
One of these records (and I need to remind you that “records” is what we called ‘em – and still do) stood out from the rest (if that was possible!) with the stark and shocking title of WEASLES RIPPED MY FLESH! Man, we cracked up over that one, I tell ya. However, it wasn’t until many years later that I learned the title had originated from an even more bizarre source – a men’s magazine!
I won’t fill space here by listing the myriad and sundry terms that are used for “these types of magazines.” Suffice it to say that the term “men’s adventure magazine” for me does well in capturing the essence of this one-time, extremely popular form of men’s entertainment.
Much like their ink-relative, the “pulp magazine”, titles like STAG, BLUEBOOK, MAN’S WORLD, SOUTH SEA STORIES, and EXOTIC ADVENTURES were printed every month on cheap paper and delivered by the truckload to newsstands, drugstores, and liquor stores, for 20 years. While generally not relegated to being held “under the counter” like the girlie mags, they were many times tucked underneath the top rack of the magazine stand. At the Anchor Liquor store where my neighbor (the one who introduced me to monster magazines) bought his FAMOUS MONSTERS, MAD MONSTERS, and Tarzan paperbacks, they were sold this way.
These ‘zines were read by thousands of men (and I’m sure some – but not very many – women, too), then cast off into the trash . . . which is where a lot of people (mostly wives, I’d surmise) thought they ought to have gone in the first place. It is estimated that about only 1% of men’s adventure magazines, from the 50s through the 70s, remain.
The covers, again much like the earlier pulps, were painted in the bold, lurid colors of their predecessors, and depicted such titillating tableaux as G.I.’s in do-or-die action, headhunters chasing down their next victim, and half-naked girls being tortured by crazed Nazi scientists.
A common theme used by many titles – was that of a man, a woman, or both – being menaced by such unsavory things as river monsters, flying reptiles, blood-thirsty amphibians, and a host of other nasty critters, all hatched by Mother Nature, all hungry for human flesh . . . and, yes, all purported to be true! These cover images became widely available during the advent of the Internet. Web sites began to pop up that featured cover scans and some interiors (rarely the entire article or issue). One of these images that I came across stopped me in my tracks when I saw it; here was a man, waist deep in water, warding off a slew of pissed off-looking furry rodents. The title on the bottom right of the cover read: “Weasels Ripped My Flesh!”
WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH: Two-Fisted Stories from Men’s Adventure Magazines of the 1950s, ‘60s, & ‘70s
Edited by Robert Deis, with Josh Alan Friedman & Wyatt Doyle
New Texture, 2012
Trade Paperback, $19.95
Now, thanks to the editors of the brand new publication of the book from New Texture, WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH: TWO-FISTED STORIES FROM MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES OF THE 1950s, ‘60s, & 70s, I was finally able to read the story after all these years. My anticipation was boundless, of course, as this tale, first appearing in the September 1956 issue of MAN'S LIFE, has come to be adopted by many as the cornerstone of the cycle of themes and ideas that run through the heart and soul of these obscure gems.
Messrs. Robert Deis, Josh Alan Friedman, and Wyatt Doyle have managed to collect a group of stories and articles that fairly epitomize the typical content of these magazines.
The story itself turns out to be a manic, nerve-wracking journey into one man’s nightmare, as the reader is immediately thrown into the middle of a tale about a horde of nocturnal weasels bent on killing, maiming, or otherwise destroying the poor narrator’s entire stock of breeding ducks (!). Told in the first person, he describes his fruitless attempts at fending off wave after wave of the horde, and is torn to shreds in the process. His “duck house” is eventually destroyed and our hapless victim must suffer the additional indignity of plastic surgery to reconstruct his ripped up face to the point of it being turned into an entirely different visage.
Talk about a horror story! This is low-brow, flash fiction at its fiercest, and the collection here is a satisfying cross-section of the pleasantly politically incorrect, and of the types of stories and articles that a reader back in the day would likely come across on any given month in any given title.
Make no mistake, any resemblance to high art here is purely unintentional, if indeed, any exists at all. More interesting is the fact that an alarming number of noted and popular authors had their literary teeth cut in the blood and sweat-soaked pages of the men’s adventure magazines. Hey, you gotta make a living, right? Well, apparently people like Lawrence Block, Mario Puzo, Harlan Ellison, and Robert Silverberg did, as all of them contributed at one time or other to ‘zines with titles like MALE, FOR MEN ONLY, and PERIL.
Still, the stories and articles found in this generous serving all have a brusque sort of charm and I found myself reading from one to the next with effortless ease. They may be relegated to the legacy of trashy pulp pabulum, but they are a rare sort of treat, nonetheless – the kind that you really shouldn’t eat, but enjoy anyway. I will be anxiously waiting for the second volume.
Here is the press release from New Texture:
Below are examples of just some of the predicaments of man vs. beast depicted on the cover of men’s adventure magazines:
If you're hungry for still more men's adventure mania, check out the "Men's Adventure Mags" blog. Just follow link found towards the bottom of the sidebar of this post.