MEDIA PROFILE: Gene Simmons' Tongue sticks out by keeping things clean

Tongue talks to, not at, its 18-40 male audience. However, finds Anita Chabria, while it shuns impudence and welcomes PR pitches, its famous publisher will give a mouthful to uncooperative publicists.

Tongue talks to, not at, its 18-40 male audience. However, finds Anita Chabria, while it shuns impudence and welcomes PR pitches, its famous publisher will give a mouthful to uncooperative publicists.

It's not hard to spot Gene Simmons' Tongue magazine on the news rack. The cover model invariably has his or her tongue sticking out, mimicking the oral antics of the Kiss bassist who launched the title after conquering legions of rock fans for more than 30 years as his made-up alter ego, The Demon. If the cover doesn't clue you in, the magazine has an in-your-face sensibility aimed at male readers. But don't make the mistake of grouping it with the lad magazines that go for tongue-in-cheek personas. Simmons' goal is far more sincere. "It's very much an unapologetic sex and rock aesthetic," says new editor-in-chief Dee McLaughlin. "I don't want to judge American males. The main difference between us and the FHMs and Maxims of this world is that we don't talk down to our readers," she points out, citing the snarky and often belittling comments to readers' letters found in those books. "Our magazine isn't about that. It's about talking to the reader, not at them. It's making them feel that they too can have this rock-star lifestyle." The magazine is also trying to appeal to a larger age range, men anywhere from "18 to 40," says McLaughlin. That helps it to target the Kiss Army, the scores of loyal fans who have supported everything related to Simmons' band since the '70s. So where a lad magazine might be likely to run an article on a new beer, Tongue wouldn't mind a scotch. The magazine launched in early 2002 as a quarterly, but is hoping to go bi-monthly next year. Hugh Hefner, armed with two playmates, represented that rock and roll lifestyle on the first cover. (Hugh got to keep his tongue in, but one playmate is attacking his ear with hers.) Inside, features included a piece on the Adult Video News Expo, and interviews with Tommy Lee, Baywatch star Donna D'Errico, and the band Weezer. The current issue, the fourth to hit stands, has porn star and entrepreneur Jenna Jameson on the cover. Inside, features include interviews (by Simmons, who handles many of the high-profile pieces himself) of Virgin Atlantic billionaire Richard Branson, Carson Daly, and boxer Laila Ali, along with an article about the "10 most outrageous fetishes." "Gene is very hands-on," McLaughlin says of Simmons' many journalistic endeavors. "He will occasionally even write the cover lines." But before you start pitching X-rated clients to the man who claims to have slept with more than 4,000 women, take a closer look at the magazine. While porn stars may occasionally grace the pages, it's usually with a more mainstream angle. For Jameson, the article focuses on her business assets. In fact, porn is one of the few areas the magazine tries to avoid. "Just keep it out of the gutter," says McLaughlin of pitches. "There is a misconception because of Gene that there is a porn element. I have had a hundred pitches on porn." Other than that, McLaughlin says she's open to anything - or anyone. "The people that we feature don't necessarily have to have a record coming out. They just have to be people that we find particularly interesting," explains McLaughlin. "They stand out, they take risks, they're sexy" or they "just did something weird, wacky, cool, rock-and-roll wild." An upcoming interview with country star Travis Tritt, the "Rebel of Nashville," is an example of the diversity that finds its way onto the pages of Tongue. The magazine is also interested in true crime and investigative pieces, and makes a point to always include one article related to Kiss. "We have a piece going in on a guy who was a big roller in Atlantic City," says McLaughlin, citing an example of the hard-hitting ideas that interest her. "How he got involved in that whole world, the rise and fall. It's definitely an investigative piece into the casinos." For now, Tongue is running with a limited, part-time staff that works out of Los Angeles. That may change when the magazine begins to publish more frequently. But all story ideas should be sent directly to McLaughlin, a former staffer at Raygun and Bikini magazines. "Everything goes through me," she says. But if a PR person doesn't return her calls, she's not above turning the matter over to Simmons, who is known for his abrasive style. "Gene will pick up the phone in a second if the publicist hasn't called me back," promises McLaughlin. "He will can anybody." So be warned. If you fail to follow up, The Demon may track you down. ------------ Contact list Tongue Address 3518 Ellsworth Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026 Phone (323) 904-6129 Editor-in-chief Dee McLaughlin E-mail:

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