The AutoTech exchange
After working at VW&Porsche magazine both as a free-lancer and staffer for a couple of years, I returned to the office after vacation to find that my editor, the now-famous C. Van Tune , had been in talks with LFP Publishing about starting a new car magazine of our own. My understanding was that Larry Flynt wanted to sell LFP Publishing, and thought that diversifying the portfolio would help in that endeavor. If I remember correctly, LFP had already spun up BBW magazine and one niche publication, so we were the third non-skin magazine in the fold.
Running a car magazine is much different than running a skin magazine, as you might expect, but one of the unexpected differences was that we traveled, had expense accounts, and were entitled to other perks that the staffs of the skin magazines had never seen before. This led to a bit of jealousy on their part.
Because it was basically Van and me running everything on the content end, photo shoots often included one or both of us in whole or in part. After we had a couple of issues under our belts, a couple of the guys who put together some of the skin magazines from an office across the hall noted this in a memo calling attention to what they called our self-aggrandizement. A portion of this memo — which I no longer have — listed by issue and page number where Van and I had “self-aggrandized” ourselves in the photos.
My first response — which has also been lost in the sands of time — included other instances that they had overlooked.
This provoked a response from them, which led to the following response from me, and the final capitulation from them:
The room across the hall
Let the Department of Self-Aggrandizment clear some things up for you. First, the ratings themselves are a cumulative effort (there is no “Minister”) and great care is taken Ln its production. We have sweated the details, chosen the nicknames, and been smugly pleased with our piercing wit. Do not expect to find an all-powerful despot in charge of these ratings. As for your more specific charges, we find them petty at best. A hand? That is hardly a glorious appearence in a magazine where editors freely flaunt their torsos and preening faces next to their favorite new wasteful automobile. We are willing to include mere outlines of the subject if obscured behind a windshield, but sorry, no unattached limbs will suffice. You don’t have to own a magazine in order to shove a protuberance in front of the camera as a picture is being taken.
But do not despair. Your diligence will not go unrewarded. In the face of these new developements, we are starting a new file for self-aggrandizing memos. We hope you will be as prolific here as you are elsewhere.
Department of Self-Aggrandizement
Room beyond Hagën-Däz
Because it seems that a simple apology is not within your ken, I will have you know that from now on, all memos addressed to me shall use my full title: Doctor Gregory Raven, LLD, MD, PhD, LRP, BVD, LSD, SOS, Conqueror of the British Empire and Africa in General and Uganda in Specific. Alternatively, you may refer to me as His Excellency President for Life Field Marshall Al-Hadji Raven.
I shall let pass for now the thinly veiled jealousy over my boyish figure (“… mere outlines of the subject …”) evident in your last memo to deal with a far more important matter: that of your refusal to give credit where credit is due to C. Van Tune for the portrait of his own hand on page 14 of the May 1988 Autotech Magazine.
You claim to “have sweated the details,” but have you, really? I refer to the above-mentioned photograph on page 14 of the above-mentioned May 1988 Autotech Magazine for good reason. You will note that there is only one hand holding the wheel. You will further note that given the angle from which this photo was taken, the camera must have been blocking the line- of-sight of the driver of the vehicle. You will further notice that the speedometer reads almost 260 kph (161 mph). Lastly, you will notice from the traffic clearly visible through the windshield (!) that this is a public street that is habitually travelled by others.
Lest you miss the point of this exposition, allow me to amplify further. Thrusting one’s limbs “in front of a camera as a picture is being taken” in this way results in a photograph that is attention-getting enough to find its way into any magazine, whether or not you yourself work on that magazine.
However, the level of self-aggrandizement inherent in us Autotech staffers should by now be quite clear. Not only are we willing to risk a horrible, flaming death for the sake of flourishing blurred photographs of fragments of body parts in a magazine (which should in itself count toward self-aggrandizement), we are cautious to reproduce such photographs only in Autotech Magazine, where we hope to get credit for same on the Self-Aggrandizement list. What could be more self-serving?
By the way, not having met formally, you haven’t had the opportunity to hear of my wonderous escapades on press functions. I know this doesn’t count towards the Self-Aggrandizement total, but I have been talking about Van Tune so long that now I feel it is my turn for a little horn-blowing.
I remember one time in Austria. We were there ostensibly to test the then-new Volkswagen Jetta 16V, and had just returned from a side-junket to the Vanagon Syncro test track outside of the Steyr-Daimler-Puch factory, when at our rest stop I noticed a May Pole standing, still with a bottle of liquor at the top. Although I was among the first to return to the rest stop, I waited until all the other journalists and Volkswagen staff personnel returned from the mountain before making my play. Stripping out of my shirt and shoes, I climbed the May Pole, euphoric with the sound of the release of shutters in cameras belonging to members of the motoring press around the world. As you might expect from someone of my wonderfulness, I scaled the May Pole and gained the bottle of liquor, which I later used while forcing my attentions upon a young Austrian maiden. Did I mention I have many wives and many children?
Then, of course, there was that time in Chad when I was competing in the Paris-Dakar rally. Due to gearbox trouble, my team had fallen well back in the pack. Realizing that nearly all hope for media coverage had fled, I sought out a nearby village and ran over a child with the monstrous, overpowered brute of a car I was piloting. Sadly, the Paris-Dakar rally is not widely popular in this country, so word of my notorious act was confined to Europe, Asia, South America, Central America, Canada, the Middle East, Australia, and Africa.
We should get together sometime soon, so that I may share with you many other stories about myself. I am the best swimmer, I am the best warrior, I am the best lover, I am the best king, I am the best driver, and I am the wisest person of them all.
True, you “don’t have to own a magazine” to aggressively pursue self- aggrandizement, but it sure makes things a lot easier.
The room across the hall
At first, the task of ridiculing your excessively self-indulgent three-page tribute to your own brand of rambling prose was even too much for our cynical minds to undertake, but at the risk of feeding the monster that is your self-perpetuating megalomania, allow us to humbly comment on one remarkable aspect of your otherwise meaningless missive. We were intimidated, even awed, by the wonderously high-tech, post-modern graphics that highlighted the piece. Seeing “Greg” in so many grayish tones and smart twists even took the winds out of our usually full-blown sails. Indeed, after eyeing the heading we knew we had been licked — so much so that we sensed there was no reason to read the accompanying text, a feeling that was vindicated when we unwisely ignored our instincts and did read it. Nonsensical drivel though it was, you masterfully peppered it with original, highly creative printing styles — the emboldened “Autotech,” the italicised “Magazine” — that our usually lucid skulls were left swirling, almost to the point of nausea. And finding a way — lame though it was — to use the words Haagen Daz just to rub our faces in the fact that your printer produces umlauts? Nice touch! We submit to the dominance of your computer embellishments — please accept the white flag, For now we’ll modestly retire to our old IBM Selectrics and pray that someday we too can say so little in so many words, and with so much style!