By Steven M. Housman
reFRESH Magazine Invigorates Gay America!An In-Depth Interview With The Editor Of An International Success!
A few months ago I was browsing my local Barnes & Noble, as I do at least three times a week, and low and behold, there was a new gay lifestyle magazine I hadn’t come across before. I was baffled. Me, not know of every gay magazine that’s on the market? To be honest, the impressive photograph of the gorgeous model is what first caught my eye. Then I went on to read the headlines on the cover, and became intrigued at the versatility of the magazine’s contents. It ranged from my first passion music - to celebrity interviews to travel to topical gay issues. For a lifestyle magazine, there wasn’t anything left out. Even more impressive was the coffee table book appeal, along with the stunning photography and wonderfully written pieces. After scouring this magazine cover to cover in one sitting, I knew I had to speak to the editor; a proper Englishman named David Tickner, and found out how he put together such a fabulous work of art for the gay community. We spoke via telephone from his London headquarters and it turned into a great interview. He’s such a great inspiration to the gay community that I felt I had to share it with you. I found him to be witty and charming with a wonderful sense of humor. I could go on and on about our fascinating conversation, but better yet, I’ll let you read the interview.
reFRESH is being touted as the gay man’s Vogue. Any comment?
I’m very flattered to be having a direct comparison to the market’s leading fashion magazine because they have quite a long pedigree. I’m not completely sure whether or not I would be direct enough to step foot into Anna Wintour’s shoes, but I’d probably give it a pretty good job. I can see where the analogy comes from because we’ve set out to develop a magazine that focuses on fashion, trend, style, grooming and accessories in terms of what’s in and what’s out. It would be nice to say we’ll still be here in fifty years’ time being the fashion trendsetter and entertainment magazine for gay men.
When did reFRESH commence publishing?
We’ve been running for three years, just beginning our fourth, and we’re just at a point where the phone is really starting to ring. We’ve been building up our writing base, we’ve been getting some really good photographers on board, and we are beginning to be what we want to be. It’s taken us a period of evolution to get to a point where we now feel this is the right signature which is obviously the fashion, the style, the celebrity, the international travel, the entertainment, and I’m pleased we’ve gotten to the point where everyone has started to recognize us.
How did you become involved with the magazine?
When you get to a certain age, as a gay man, the magazines that are available to you when you are in your formative years are great for the clubbing and where to go, where to be seen, how to look sexy, how to steal men (Laughing), which is great. I’ve burned the candle at both ends, but you get to that point where you realize that I now look more grotesque than sexy squeezing myself into some tight fitting outfit and going out on the town and hoping to find someone half my age. I’m not 33 anymore and I realize that the marketplace has always been geared towards youth and age. But this magazine needed to be something with a bit more substance and might, so that’s where the root of my rationale for starting this publication began. This whole magazine was my idea, I say modestly.
Why have you decided to bring the magazine to the U.S.?
I have a lot of writers and friends and contacts who are dotted all over the globe and we deliberately went out of our way with the very first issue to say we want something that’s going to have an international flavor, and the rationale behind building it to an international audience was always part of my plan. I have always been internationally minded in my outlook on the gay community. I think I always felt that although geographically the world is a big place, in terms of a community aspect, it’s actually very small. Gay men today have so much more disposable income, they can travel around and they do travel around. You constantly find people that are back and forth between New York and Paris and L.A. and London, so there’s sort of a global gay community concept. As each issue has progressed we’ve had more and more people emailing me from the U.S.A. We’ve had a lot of feedback from the States. The marketplace is fantastic. It’s also a challenge and I love a challenge!
Music is a big part of your magazine. How do you decide which musical artist will be featured each month?
What we’ve done with a lot of our issues recently is “themed” them. We’ve had a music issue and we’ve had a club issue, etc. But it is very difficult because we get so much and I’ve already changed the content of the September issue at least eighteen times. But you have to finally make a decision what musical acts you want to feature and wrap it up. I have so many artists to choose from, and after going over all of them, I really depend on my gut instinct.
What if a musical artist isn’t gay - Will you feature that artist?
Of course! I am not of the mindset that they have to be gay. I have always thought that just because someone happens to be gay does not mean that they are: A) Automatically a good interview or B) Have priority over someone far more interesting. I mean we have gone out of our way to throw the net out to a wide cross-section of personalities who are interesting to read about. That’s the key thing, the read, the person and the life experiences and what they have to offer make an interesting interview. Yes, the sexuality is important because we are a gay magazine, but if the person who has appeal to the gay audience exceeds the person who is gay, I’ll take the person people are more interested in reading about.
Who is the next big recording artist you’ll be featuring?
If memory serves me correct, we’ve got Bananarama in our August issue. I don’t know how big they were in the States, but they are together again and in the process of launching a new album. They will be featured along with Goldie Hawn; she was here recently promoting her new book, and a new musical group that’s making a big name over here called “Texas.” We also have Joan Rivers who’s giving us a celebrity point of view. Junior Vasquez is in the pipeline for a future issue. We also have a club issue coming where we look at parties and international parties; we had involvement with the Miami White Party, which we’ve been supporting for the past three years.
Do you ever feature female celebrities on the cover?
If Paris Hilton said, I want the gay marketplace, I would think we’d have the right person for the cover. The difficulty is picking someone who has the fashion and style plus the camp appeal to the gay community as well. I would certainly not be opposed to placing strong females on the cover. Gay men are very interested in strong women. Obviously if Madonna said ‘Oh yes, I’ll be on your cover,’ you don’t say “No” to that. But as fabulous as she may be, she has had so many front covers over her career, and no doubt will have many, many more. But she has a lot of fans that would buy the magazine.
Does your magazine ever stray into the news arena?
We have done some and we would never rule that out. If there was a topical story that needed to be addressed, we would cover it in a way that’s appropriate to our magazine.
I know it’s difficult to be topical because you print your monthly issues so far in advance.
It is difficult. Since we started, we have covered stories on such topics as homosexuality and religion, through pedophilia to gay parenting. All of the hotly debated topics that people talk about, which obviously magazines such as The Advocate cover in much more regular detail. Interesting though, our August issue is dealing with gay weddings. We take a look at civil partnerships that will become law in the United Kingdom on December 5, and the first ceremony is penciled in for December 21. There will be everything from the legal implications of partnerships to planning a gay wedding. I think we’re the first magazine to cover the prospect of gay divorce, because obviously with marriage and partnership also comes divorce. We’ve spoken to a legal firm who has a particular presence in the gay community over here. So we’re still covering all of those areas on a topical level.
What’s your idea of the perfect man?
Oh My God! How do I answer that? (Laughing). Well, well, there is a question! There are so many people around me in my office that are in earshot! (Background laughter).
Okay, how about this - What’s your idea of the perfect man for your magazine?
I think if you look at any of our front covers - I would have no problem meeting any of them in a bar. I think it would have to be someone that has a great personality, intelligent conversation and sparkling eyes. Was that a good answer for you?
As long as you’re honest, all of your answers are good enough for me! What’s your idea of the perfect magazine?
I’ll answer that in a different way by saying the magazine that I would buy on a monthly basis… I do subscribe to Vogue. Not because I’m a transvestite in the making (Laughing)! I just think it’s so important to keep up with the fashion trends and they are the industry leader. I also buy Vanity Fair, which I think is a great magazine. The ideal magazine to me is one that looks fantastic and reads fantastic. That’s the perfect combination. You are as good as your designers, your photographers and your writers. It’s a team effort and we’re lucky to have a very good team!
© 2005 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.