By Peter Landau

In the beginning there was sex and man's instinctual desire to have it . . . even with himself. Okay, especially with himself. And it was good. Cave drawings and primitive rock sculptures of hot fertility idols made prehistoric men slap their monkeys and jumpstart evolution. All technological advancements are driven by man's urge to spill his seed; for every Gutenberg Bible there are a dozen one-sheets produced for decidedly less pious service.

As long as man is tempted by visions of lascivious women there will be another man who will find some way of producing those images in mass quantities for public consumption. That is the genesis of the pornographer, and Dian Hanson's The History of Men's Magazines (Taschen) is his story told in graphic color over six volumes of 400-plus hardback pages, the first two volumes on sale now. And it is very good.

If there is anybody living today who is skilled, experienced, and crazy enough to tell that story it's Dian Hanson, herself a pornographer of extraordinary talent. She created Puritan in 1976, a Hustler rip-off that managed to out-filth its inspiration. After working for two years at Puritan and producing the first two issues of the most decadent men's magazine to befoul newsstands, Hanson bounced around the New York publishing cesspool before landing the defining job of her career. As editor of Leg Show and Juggs she took two minor niche titles and turned them into the world's best-selling fetish mags.

Now working for the art-book publisher Taschen, where she has edited such tomes on photographers as Roy Stuart: The Fourth Body and Terryworld, about Terry Richardson, she was given the Sisyphusian task of compiling a pictorial account of men's magazines. "I was taken with a fit of the shakes," Hanson laughs.

Despite a quarter century in the business, Hanson was not a collector nor did she know collectors. "I started with my good old friend eBay," She says. Within three months she had over fifteen hundred titles. After a year's research she was ready to wrangle the beast.

The story of men's magazines is divided chronologically. Volume one begins with the turn of the last century and ends just after World War II. "The government was subsidizing magazines before World War II for the troops," she says. "There was a huge pin-up effort to keep the boys happy. Keep the boys from straying out into the brothels of Paris as they did in World War I." While the history of men's magazines predates the nineteenth century, Hanson felt 1900 was a solid place to begin her overview.

As with all things sexy, Paris was the place to start this prurient journey. "France was a major influence around the world, not just fashion and food, but erotic interests," says Hanson. "They were the major producers of erotic magazines before the war and everyone went for that same body type, young, high-breasted, and symmetrical."

But American humor magazines, Berlin's lustful Weimar Republic, artist model publications, the corrupted cartoons of Tijuana Bibles, pulp fiction book jackets, and even detective magazines all feature some form of lurid entertainment that is included within the first volume of the series. That begs the question, how wide was Hansen's net?

"I'm coming from a pornographer's stance," she states, "so as a pornographer I know that the real base, when you get down to the bottom, is did men regularly use it for masturbatory pleasure." But she drew the line at catalogues such as Frederick's of Hollywood. "I knew Mr. Frederick back in the late '70s," Hanson says, "I'm going to say he didn't intend it. He really was rather high-minded with his designs. He thought he was saving the American family by making housewives sexy."

But Hanson admits, "Detective magazines were a tricky one." According to forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz, detective magazines are porno for sadists and he tried to ban the periodicals in the '80s. "If we allow that sadists do have sex lives, this is going to be far more interesting to them as masturbatory material, and certainly was through the '70s, than any of the men's magazines out there," Hanson adds, explaining its inclusion.

Volume two stretches from post-war to the dawn of the '60s. "Everything was moved along really by legal cases," notes Hanson. "The second volume ends with 1957 because there was a landmark legal case then that opened up the world for a proliferation of more explicit magazines, if you can call showing bare breasts openly explicit."

From celebrity scandal sheets to John Willie's fetish title Bizarre, things were heating up in the Atomic Age. It also marked the rise of the star cover girl, such as nudist Diane Webber, June Wilkinson (dubbed "The Bosom"), the extroverted talent of Jayne Mansfield, the iconic Bettie Page, and naturally Marilyn Monroe. By 1953 a then twenty-seven-year-old Hugh Hefner raised $8,000 from friends and family to publish the first issue of Playboy, the big bang in men's magazines.

"I think a lot of Americans believe it all started in 1953 with Playboy," Hanson says. "And they'll say wondrously, 'You mean, there were magazines beforePlayboy?'"

Oh, yes, Virginia, there is a grand history of men's magazines before Hef and after. The illustrated tale will continue in June with the release of the next two volumes covering the swinging '60s.

"What you had emerging in the '60s was over-the-counter and under-the-counter," says Hanson. "When the laws loosened up a little we got a whole new group of men's magazines that were not making it onto the newsstand, that were not following Playboy, not lifestyle magazines. So I divided the volumes as this: what was sold openly and what was sold clandestinely. As you move into the '60s and into the '70s you'll find that there were more sold clandestinely, so that volume six will be the biggest of all, if we're allowed to make it bigger."

Some of those underground titles have names such as Surrender to the Beaver, Warm Wet War Whore, and Famous Anus. "Pornographers never lacked for a sense of humor," observes Hanson.

The final two volumes on the '70s, which are currently being designed, are closest to Hanson's heart. "I can say the '70s is probably my favorite," she says. "It's pretty before that, it's esthetically pleasing: you had fabulous artwork and great cover designs. You had people putting in so much effort. I came up in the '70s, and just like any porn lover, it's that first stuff I saw that took my porn virginity, which really gets me still."Hanson loves more than the envelope-bursting excess of the '70s material. "When I look at the '70s stuff I'm awash with nostalgia was well," she says. "I can remember when I got in the business in 1976. I love the adult bookstore magazines. The really raunchy dirty ones that were at first just experimenting with pushing the limits. But also the newsstand stuff, to go back and remember these people, to open up a Hustler from 1976, to open up a Cheri magazine and see all my old friends and see the things that shocked and delighted us at the time. It's pulling on the old heartstrings. . . ."

Don't expect Hanson to rest on her laurels after finishing this sexual opus. She's working with Taschen on producing a multimedia extravaganza on porn star Vanessa Del Rio, a book and DVD compilation of her best hardcore scenes with original interviews. She's also working on The Big Book of Breast, something Hanson's well suited for after harnessing the bountiful pleasures of Juggs magazine for fifteen years.

But what of her beloved men's magazines; is there a future for the suffering industry with the Internet and sites like Mr. Skin offering immediate and private entertainment?

"I see [men's magazines] going into a very dark age," she says, "but the magazines themselves are not going to die out. There were always men who bought their sex magazines, looked at them, and threw them in an empty field because otherwise how would young men learn about men's magazines? At the same time, every time an old man dies someone finds a big box of his horded, beloved sex magazines in the attic. The Internet is not meeting our hording needs. As technology moves on, only something as simple and crude as paper and a real graven image is going to allow us that kind of collector's joy. I think that we will see magazines creeping back."

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