Razor's Hugh Hefner

Publisher details his magazine's maxim

It's September 11, 2002, but Richard J. Botto isn't at home watching the relentless CNN coverage of last year's terrorist attacks. Instead, the native New Yorker has agreed to meet me for drinks at Sapporo to talk about Razor, the national men's magazine he launched two years ago. Botto is pitching the Scottsdale-based glossy as the answer to younger, edgier guy mags like Maxim and FHM, and dated old-guy rags like GQ and Esquire. Wags have dubbed Botto "the new Hugh Hefner," a profile he boosts by appearing in each issue sporting a red-and-black smoking jacket. For our meeting, Botto is wearing civilian clothing and, in an indisputable New York accent, extolling the virtues of sexy babes and celebrity bylines.

New Times: How is Razor different from, say, Details or Maxim?

Real man of today: Razor publisher Richard J. Botto.
Kevin Scanlon
Real man of today: Razor publisher Richard J. Botto.

Richard J. Botto: I get asked this all the time. We get lumped in with Maxim and FHM because we put a woman on the cover every month. The difference between Razor and a lot of these other magazines is GQ and Esquire cater to an older crowd, and FHM and Maxim are for a younger, less sophisticated audience.

NT: And Razor?

Botto: We're after the 25-year-old who's trying to get beyond that frat-house mentality, and the thirtysomething who's just fallen in love with success and wants to have more of it. The weekend warrior type.

NT: Razor's tag line is "The Real Man's Lifestyle Magazine." Can sissies read it, too?

Botto: Yeah, they can. That whole "real man" thing is just an update on the Playboy guy of 30 years ago, the guy with the tux and the martini, and of the GQ guy of 20 years ago, who was an athlete who suddenly learned to put on expensive clothes at night. They were the magazines of those eras, but right now, there's no magazine out there that captures the real man of today.

NT: Who is the man of today?

Botto: The dot-com era spurred a lot of self-made people, and so the young man of today is more driven, you know, he aspires to be with good women. He's not the guy who's sitting on his couch on the weekend, watching Adam Sandler movies and drinking Coors Light. We're promoting a healthy, active lifestyle; life doesn't have to be about going to bars and standing in the corner, talking with your friends about which girl has the biggest boobs.

NT: Speaking of boobs, there are quite a number of them in your magazine.

Botto: Yeah, but they're clothed! I think you'll see that we present these women as women, not as objects. I know, that sounds really old and tired and '60s feminist, but I got tired of men's magazines that present an actress in a sexy pose and then interview her as if she's an idiot. She's got an Oscar, and the writer is asking her, "Have you ever been in a three-way?" We're not asking her about the last time she had sex with another woman, we're asking her about her favorite books. Listen, I'm not trying to blow smoke up your ass. I'm not gonna sit here and claim that every girl we put on our pages is a brain surgeon. But you know, at least we humanize them a little bit. At least we don't turn them into a blow-up doll. We pick women who have something going on, a little something to say, and we present them in a sexy way that doesn't depend on lingerie or a wet tee shirt. A woman in a G-string is just a cliché.

NT: What about a woman with something to say who's flat or sort of plain-looking? Flat-chested girls are not given photo spreads in men's magazines.

Botto: Yeah, but society promotes that. And women are to blame for that as much as men. Let's face it, we're a vain society. Everywhere you turn, vanity is king. But everything is cyclical in America. We went through our waif period, we went through our full-bodied period, it'll come around again. In the meantime, I don't think any plastic surgeon has to worry about losing business.

NT: Your models are known as Razor Girls.

Botto: They're cover girls who are beautiful but also self-motivated and goal-oriented. They're not on the cover because they have increased their bust size four times. I mean, everyone loves a woman in a bikini, don't get me wrong.

NT: Well, not necessarily everyone. Speaking of covers, Razor has two each month, the second one printed upside down on the back. Is that because you haven't yet sold the back cover to a major advertiser?

Botto: No. We did that so we could present two different women on the cover. We needed a personality, and this was a good way to define our magazine twice.

NT: That's an expensive gimmick.

Botto: Well, we'll sell the back cover eventually, if it's the right offer.

NT: A few years ago, there was a shift in the demographic of several men's magazines -- suddenly, they were all skewed a little younger. But the ads were still from upscale clothiers and pricey cologne manufacturers. Do younger men have the income to support those advertisers?

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