A So-Called ‘Life’

Looking back at a little magazine from long ago [This story first ran in V Life's February '06 issue.]

February, 2056 — Back in the day when they actually printed words and pictures — usually on printing presses in the Mennonite backwaters of Pennsylvania — Variety experimented with something that it called V Life. It was a glossy magazine, focusing on the off-work pursuits of directors, agents and executives, whether it be politics or sex or Ultimate Frisbee. The idea was to reveal to the world that the denizens of entertainment, dubbed “industryites,” actually had real lives.

As the editors quickly found out, that premise proved a bit optimistic. It was tough to prove that showbizzers were actually, well, interesting, even if the handsome publication with top-notch photography and layout proved a must-look. So V Life quickly resorted to stunts. Features on torrid topiary. Michael Ovitz’s X-ray machine. Hollywood art forgeries. Publishing nude photographs of Betty White. Giving guest editorship to director Brett Ratner, who recently completed “Rush Hour 12.” Heck, they even brought in Harlan Ellison (whose home is now the National Museum of the Gargoyle) to write about the pervasive nature of celebrity worship: “Their ascendancy signals a kind of shambling, slime-dripping Lovecraft-ian monster that has swallowed our society.” Yes, when goosed a little, industryites could be interesting.

Today V Life’s legacy can be found in the dozen or so latter-day imitators like “Helmer” magazine, which made headlines in 2012 when it ran a cover shot of Vincent Gallo fellating himself. And then there was “Industryite” magazine, the uber-stylish coffee-table publication, which refused to print words or pictures at all. Rather each page simply reflected the reader in glorious, mirrored Mylar. And the list goes on and on …

The editors, having long retired from subsequent careers in hologrammic media, are known to sometimes wax nostalgic about V Life, usually during bouts of insomnia or during assisted-living field trips to The Grill. Amazingly, all that remains of V Life is a full set of bound volumes, gathering dust and packed away in a storage bin in Shanghai, China, where its parent company, Reed Elsevier, currently owned by the 124-year-old Rupert Murdoch, has long been based.

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