August 13, 1997

Letter From the Hunk

By MAUREEN DOWD

George Magazine

October 1997

Editor's Letter

TOO SEXY FOR MY VIEWS

I've learned a lot about posing nude recently. But that doesn't make me desire to do it any less. If anything, to be reminded of the possible perils of succumbing to what's stupid only makes it more alluring.

I know my last editor's letter, swiping at my loser cousins and showing off my incredibly defined torso, made waves. It was my first venture into serious commentary. And now everyone is gathering, like urchins at a hanging, to wonder if I'm all cage, no bird.

I don't get it. I mean, no one has seen a piece of cotton anywhere near my pecs in 17 years, and now they start griping about bad taste? I have simply refined the role of glossy magazines. Why put out a magazine to show other people's skin when you can put out one to show your own? Ask not what others' skin can do for you . . .

Everyone missed the artistic rationale for my nude scene. The issue featured Fascinating Women in Politics. We had women like Ann Coulter, another one of those leggy right-wing blondes who become instant pundits because they are leggy right-wing blondes. She said some really thought-provoking stuff, about feminism being nothing more than anger at men ''when they don't call the next day,'' and about how it was ''really male inventions -- vacuum cleaners, washing machines -- that have freed women up'' to work outside the home. Wow! And we had Ellen DeGeneres's lover, Anne Heche, who doesn't have anything to do with politics but was kind enough to pose in a see-through black teddy with her hand way below her heart.

We put Kate Moss naked on the cover as Eve with a snake. And then I posed naked as Adam with an apple dangling above my head, in really cool Caravaggio lighting with baby spots on my biceps. Adam and Eve? Archetypal image? I can't believe I have to connect these dots. It's chiaroscuro, pantloads.

Is there any other magazine editor in America who would dare do what I just did? I put my muscles where my money is.

My cousins are furious that I called them poster boys for bad behavior. They think I'm such a narcissist that I can't stand it when anyone else gets attention. They say my parents hogged all the attention and now I'm doing the same thing. They even accused me of telling my wife to keep her eyes cast down in front of the cameras and to wear Prada shmattes so she doesn't get more glamour shots than me. That is so silly. I have a whole magazine that exists for no other reason than to publicize me.

They think I broke the Kennedy code of omerta. Joe dismissed me as ''a newspaperman.'' Me, a newspaperman? You must be kidding. They don't understand that disloyalty improves the circulation -- I mean, circulation. Celebrity trumps politics every time. Buzz is thicker than blood.

I took some heat for writing that my cousin Michael dated his baby sitter as ''a hedge against mortality.'' O.K., maybe reaching for immortality was too flowery a way to describe statutory rape -- though he will be remembered for a long time. But I resent everyone saying I should have addressed the issue of family scandals in a deeper way. Don't they understand that deep is out?

Carolyn got mad about my musings on temptation. She wanted to know what I meant when I said I was playing Hamlet with my will power, when I asked should I or shouldn't I?

Look, I am John-John, prince regent of a nation that worships celebrity, and a lot of temptations come my way. I've been tempted to go to George editorial meetings and put some content into this magazine, but I've resisted. That would cut into the time I need for my three workouts a day. I've been tempted to read a book or newspaper and see what the big fuss is about policy, but I've resisted. That would cut into my evening activities. I've been tempted to do something more meaningful with my magic aura than persuading Barbra Streisand to truss herself up like Betsy Ross and Drew Barrymore to pose as Marilyn Monroe singing ''Happy Birthday'' to my dad.

I've heard about substance abuse, and I'm staying away from substance. To whom much is given, much is expected, right? Cheers.

John Kennedy