News of the demise of Fab, Toronto's gay male lifestyle magazine, came as no surprise to me. While I haven't been a regular reader for many years, whenever I came upon a copy, the declining volume of advertising in its glossy pages was startling.
As a former Fab columnist and editor and associate publisher from 1998 to 2002, its longest-serving editor, I'm naturally disappointed to learn of its passing.
But the Fab that was purchased in 2008 by Pink Triangle Press, owners of Xtra, is nothing like the publication my team put out. Our magazine recognized that gay guys are interested in the same pop culture and issues as the rest of society.
We were highlighted on the front pages of national newspapers and on the supper-hour news shows for our exclusive stories about figures like Stockwell Day, Mark Tewksbury and Julian Fantino. We accepted community awards. We sponsored dozens of community events, charitable organizations and sports groups. We published interviews with everyone from Phyllis Diller to Pet Shop Boys and showcased Canadian artists to a valuable market.
Our broad format attracted more readers and more advertisers than at any other time in Fab's life. Mainstream advertisers like Evian, Jaguar, AGF Mutual Funds, Tide, Dominion and the big beer companies helped us build Fab into a credible and somewhat profitable magazine.
People contributed content to Fab for a few dollars or for nothing at all. We endured attacks (and threats of assault) from a vocal minority within the gay community who were either jealous or committed to bringing us down for not toeing the line.
In its final years, though, Fab became focused on sex and the shallow aspects of gay culture, which made it hard to attract advertisers and alienated the majority of gay men who don't hit the dance clubs while on ecstasy. A mag that was once a staple of coffee tables in gay households became one you read in a darkened bar, and then discarded.
The buzz diminished because the magazine ceased to bring anything new to the table or to reflect a community that has moved on. Gay men are spending more time at Crate & Barrel and less at Church Street bars.
Interestingly, Xtra has just announced it is introducing another print publication, Xtra Living, a consumer-focused offering due in May.
Whatever comes of this, Fab deserves a place in the history of Canadian publishing. It was a survivor. It was the breeding ground for dozens of writers, editors, photographers and designers who went on to positions at big media companies, corporations and government.
Full credit goes to Michael Schwarz and his business partner, Keir MacRae, who got Fab off the ground in 1994 and spent a lot of their own money keeping it from going into the ground.
I will always be fiercely proud that I was a part of the project, and I'm sad it is gone. But I can't say I will miss it. And therein lies the problem. Fab ended its time as a guilty pleasure instead of a must-read. It became irrelevant.