Catching Up With 'Butt' Magazine's Gert Jonkers
By Adam Rathe
It’s not exactly the end of Butt, but it’s the end of Butt as we know it.
Today, the final issue of Butt, the 10-year-old quarterly self-proclaimed “magazine for homosexuals” hits newsstands around the world. And while the magazine will continue on at buttmagazine.com, we can’t help but be a little sad that the offbeat, smart, sexy little magazine won’t be around anymore.
Gert Jonkers, who founded the magazine in 2001 with Jop van Bennekom, says it was born because ‘there wasn’t a magazine talking about the things we were interested in, which were realistic and normal conversations with homosexual men.”
Jonkers was looking for “fun” conversations, “the way that people talk to each other in bars,” he says. And that’s what Butt delivered.
From a 2002 Casey Spooner interview where he dishes on dating Michael Stipe to a 2010 feature (and nude photo shoot) with Marc Jacobs’ then-beau Lorenzo Martone, the magazine has trafficked in fun, interesting and eccentric stories and photography.
We spoke to Jonkers about what Butt has meant, how the web version will be different and dudes who pretend to be disabled in order to get laid.
Ten years is a pretty long time to run a magazine. What made you start Butt in the first place?
We started it in 2001, so long ago that I can hardly remember what was going through our minds. There was something that we wanted to say. We felt at the time, I started and still make with Jop van Bennekom, there wasn’t a magazine talking about the things we were interested in, which were realistic and normal conversations with homosexual men—in a fun way. We were thinking why don’t we know a magazine that has conversations the way that people talk to each other in bars. Having said that, maybe the conversations we have in Butt are not the conversations that you have on a train with people around you.
And you achieved that goal, for sure. What do you see as Butt’s legacy?
I do think we’ve inspired other publications and I do think that we’ve inspired people with a certain direct tone of voice and the other thing we’ve seen is that… we felt there wasn’t a platform for us and with making Butt, there is now that platform and a way of meeting likeminded homosexuals around the world who are interested in the things we’re interested in.
Ten years ago, we felt there was a void and it feels less so these days, in part because we exist and in part because the world is changing and different voices can be heard in the gay scene.
So why close up shop?
Obviously it’s an incredible hassle to publish and distribute an independent magazine now and that’s what the Internet is fabulous for. So, in recent years it didn’t always feel so logical to do or say the things we wanted on paper because you were putting up a barrier that didn’t need to be there anymore as it’s easy to communicate with likeminded people around the world on the Internet.
I do love paper and printed magazines, but it felt like it was too complicated for the purpose of what we were trying to say.
All right. What’s been your favorite Butt content over the years?
I was actually flipping through all the issues this morning, I just happened to do it, and God, there have been so many. There was one amazing interview with did with this guy in Amsterdam I’ve never met who is this homosexual who hasn’t washed for 18 years or so. He’s a bum called Dirty Danny and it was the weirdest interview. Another interview, our friend Cesar Padilla did with someone who fetishes disabled people and it’s his biggest dream to be disabled himself so he goes to meetings in a wheelchair and finds out he’s not the only one. There have been crazy stories. I interviewed Gore Vidal, which was very exciting. We did 10 stories an issue for 30 issues, so there were a lot of stories.
How’s the web-only version of Butt going to differ from the print version?
We’re going to be publishing more regularly. It’s not that we want to do much more. The direct effect of going online is that the work changes in that we always loved really, really long interviews in the printed issue and I’m not so sure if those work so well online. Our scope will change in that sense and the online thing also is much more about community and a dialogue with people and getting instant reactions, whereas we used to have to wait for a letter to come in.
One of the reasons we thought it was a good moment to stop the magazine being printed is that it feels like we’ve asked many things we always wanted to ask and sometimes we’re done with questions. We would love the concept again and try other things. If you see the magazine as a research project, we’re both happy with the insight it gave us. There was the option of continuing the magazine forever, but one of its powers is that it never changed. It was about open and honest conversations with gay men, but at some point you feel like you should change something. We didn’t want to change the magazine as it was in its printed form, so we thought, let’s just change the form.