Magazines have always had a special place in my heart. From Fangoria (in my rebellious, kinda-gross teen years) to Surfer (though I lived in Ohio and never touched a surfboard) to Thrasher, Rock & Ice, Climbing, National Geographic, Wired, The New Yorker, Lucky Peach, the list goes on. I was always stopping in at the newsstand to pick up some glossy periodical or other. Somewhere in there, there was a very special magazine called Grand Royal. Despite having a brief six-issue run, it loomed large in my collection.
A sort of proto-hipster porn, Grand Royal was the creation of the Beastie Boys. The white punk band turned hip-hop sensation established the publication in 1993, according to this fanboy site. Style was a big part of the Beastie Boys’ success — a keen eye for the authentic, the retro, the strangely awesome they applied to themselves and everything they touched. Their short lived magazine project was in keeping with this weltanschauung. At one point I had four of the six issues, but, sadly, all I can find now is Issue Four, the Liesure Issue. Although Four’s cover isn’t my favorite (the Lee Perry Wheaties box cover of Issue Two took that honor), the contents are highly worthy of perusal. A few of the many highlights:
- Real American Badasses: Aaron Burr
- The Importance of Chill Time, by Mike D
- East Coast/West Coast Noodlz – Greg Shewchuk vs. Miho Hatori in the Ramen/Soba Debate
- Pinball Whizzer – Champ Lyman “Silk” Sheats isn’t deaf, dumb, or blind, but he rocks Member’s Only
- A Wu Tang Clan-themed “Wu Activity Page” full of puzzles and games
- And also (below) a Xerox-quality image of Burt Reynolds catching a football sans pants, with the text “For the ladies” printed to the side. On the facing page, an ad for do-it-yourself Theremin kits.
Having worked in the magazine industry, I know how easy it is for the strange, quirky, and hilariously offensive bits to get sanded off of a finished product during the editing process. Grand Royal seemed not to have this dilema, most likely because it was funded by a trio of deep-pocketed troublemakers. And though it was by no standards a runaway success, Grand Royal did brighten the lives of many thousands of readers with its bizzarre and eccentric contents. I lament the loss of such esoterica, but take heart that the Wild Wooly World Wide Web has and will continue to enable many strange productions of this sort.