Wednesday, 21 April 2010

From typescripts to Janus: the 1970s

Monitor was a small circulation sex magazine that took advantage of 1960s liberalism to publish a spanking special. The issue sold out, leading one of the people involved with the magazine to utter the immortal line: "Every issue has to be a spanking special." The magazine only ran as Monitor for a total of four issues, but then had to change its name in a hurry owing to a legal threat from another magazine with the same title. Brainstorming ideas for a new name, someone came up with the idea of the Roman god of the home and hearth, a two-headed being who looks backward and forward at the same time. His name is Janus.

Unusually, and for reasons that are still unclear to this writer, Janus was run by spanking aficionados rather than the usual collection of drunken hacks who normally oversee a pornographer's output. The owner was a typical Soho hard man, but so long as the magazine was raking it in he was happy to leave the staff to their own devices. The money did roll in as by the early 1970s, with no real competition around, Janus had a monthly circulation of about 10,000 copies.

It was also cordially loathed by most of the hack writers in Britain. The problem was that Janus had its circle of writers and breaking into that rarefied group was next to impossible - especially for someone from the provinces. The Janus group would sit around and have pseudo philosophical discussions about the meaning of their particular perv which struck me as a faintly silly way to spend an afternoon. The meaning was and is quite simple: we want to make money out of something that gives us a hard-on.

It is pleasant to report that following the death of the editor of Janus, an attempt was made at a coup by the magazine's writers. George Harrison Marks was brought in as a stop-gap editor and he had little interest in the fladge. The writers flounced off to set up a magazine of their own, but what they had not reckoned with was the fact that in the late 1970s an awful lot of capital was needed to buy a printing press because most of the regular print shops wouldn't touch adult material with a proverbial bargepole. The few printers who would had no desire to offend a major Soho porn merchant, so the precious souls were left with their dicks in their hands and no way of getting their incredibly pretentious drivel to a wider audience.

The owner of Janus managed to keep his title, but it was touch and go for a time. Harrison Marks brought out about half a dozen issues of what he called New Janus which he filled with his photographs and whatever unpublished stories were hanging around the office. He was famous for his pornographic films and photographs, but once he realised just how profitable the fladge game was he scampered off to start Kane, his own competitor to Janus, which by then had reverted back to its old name.

Even if all this had not happened Janus was going to face competition sooner or later. The advantage that it had over its rivals is that most of them were poorly produced, small circulation efforts that paid their writers a pittance. Breaking the Janus monopoly meant that lots of new titles began to appear and for the writers the Golden Age of the 1980s was about to dawn.


Bibliophile said...

(1) The first four issues were called Mentor, not Monitor.

(2) The title page of the Mentor issues carried the same facsimile of the two-headed Janus coin that appears on all subsequent covers and title pages, so the name change must have been planned from the very beginning rather than a last-minute inspiration.

(3) I think an editorial in the first issue of Phoenix magazine identified it as the work of disaffected Janus staff, and that title ran for a number of years.

Uncle Nick said...

You are quite right about Mentor being the title; the error is all mine.

I am dubious about your claim that the plan all along was to change the magazine's name as that makes no sense.

I don't remember Phoenix claiming to be via the Janus rebels, but agree that the name is suggestive of that.

Bibliophile said...

The very first title page states: "Mentor, Published monthly by Janus Publications at 187 Victoria Street, London, S.W.1." So paradoxically both the Janus brand and coin logo were in place well before the issue 5 name-change, for which I have no explanation.

None of the Mentor issues was billed as a spanking special. But a year later, at the beginning of 1973, Janus released three large-format "Special numbers" simultaneously: one on bondage, one on spanking and one on underwear fetishism. The second of these is the one that sold like hotcakes, leading to two further Spanking Specials in quick succession.

The only copy of Phoenix I have is number 21, copyright 1984. Text content and style are indistinguishable from those of original Janus. At one issue per month it would have launched in 1982 or early 1983, consistent with the timeline of events.

Uncle Nick said...

So the spanking special came after the name had changed. Thanks for that heads-up. I just assumed that it had happened earlier, but admit that I never bothered to check the details.

Bibliophile said...

Having read the new web page "A brief history of Janus" on the Janus Worldwide site, it occurs to me that the disgruntled editorial mentioned above may well have appeared in the 1981 inaugural number of New Derriere, "Produced by the same editorial staff and team who devised Janus," which reportedly only lasted for six issues. I still suspect - but cannot prove - that Phoenix was the work of Janus veterans.

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