Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Viva was an adult woman's magazine published from 1973 until 1979. Launched by Bob Guccione Sr., the founder of Penthouse magazine, in January 1973 as a female counterpart to Penthouse, Viva debuted with an allegedly political purpose, a splashy, decadent design, and a print run of one million copies. The magazine was touted as "The International Magazine for Women" and edited by Guccione’s wife, former model Kathy Keeton. The premise was “a new generation of magazine for a new generation of women.”
Nude men were a hot idea in 1973; competitors Playgirl and Foxylady also launched that year. But what separated Viva from the pack (and makes it interesting today) was its art direction and, yes, the articles. Viva knew just how much prurience and how much flash to borrow from its more kinkier older brother, and yet it was class all the way—gauzy elegance with a hint of disco decadence bubbling underneath. The magazine’s art-deco logo—which predated Studio 54’s by four years—seemed to throb off the page. The layouts were as good as any of the era, and often innovative: in one, a couple romped in a clear glass bathtub filled with blue water; a spread called “Apartment Life” posed a nude, muscular couple, Helmut Newton-style, within slick, wide-lensed interiors.
In March 1976, Viva dropped nudity and repositioned itself as a more traditional competitor to Cosmo. (A young Anna Wintour soon joined the staff as fashion director.) The magazine promptly lost almost all of its male readers (“twenty-five percent of its circulation,” claimed the New York Times, somewhat conservatively) and Guccione pulled the plug in January 1979. A postmortem in the Times called Viva “slick and graphically striking” and declared it “a pioneer in the publishing of pictures of male nudes.” The magazine never made money.