This article first appeared in Alt Variety in September 2012.
By Tony Sokol
Gonzo journalism is not dead. At least not in the sense of getting high on chasing stories, or in Altvariety magazine’s case, getting high and chasing stories. While the media frenzied around the dangers of zombification that surrounded bath salts, Altvariety’s resident chemist Lex Pelger wrote a sober piece on Cathinone’s real effects, sensibly refuting the overreaction of the mainstream press, while high on bath salts. While newspapers and programs underwhelmed America in the GOP nominee race, Altvariety broke 30 Rock funnyman Judah Friedlander’s jumps into the presidential waters. Tommy Chong may have broken the news of his prostate cancer on Pierce Morgan, but he talked about shoving hash oil up his ass to Altvariety. The New York Post won’t give advice on how straight guys can win a gay BFF. You won’t find interviews with midget dancers or fat porn stars in the New York Times. You won’t find a kilo of pure heroin for a million-two in the Daily News’ Classifieds. And you won’t find aggregate news in Altvariety. Lee Wong, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief wants to call out lazy journalists. Lazy journalists won’t borrow a cab and pick up Robin Williams from LaGuardia Airport to get an interview.
Using only semaphore flags, I probed the belligerent publisher about the magazine’s beginnings. “Alt Variety has always been. There’s a history you know, dating back to before the time of Jeziz H. McChrist. Didn’t you read alt History?” Wong was referring to the early days of the internet, when an “alt” prefix, such as before a term like sex (alt.sex), could be affixed web addresses to redirect the user to “illicit forums where they could post pornographic blurbs or even find a hooker. Alt Variety is a continuation of that, but with the addition of Variety for more queers and perverts in one location.” In other words, “We started in April 2012. “
Altvariety grew out of “a previous and now defunct enterprise called UglyPervert.com, which was a social network for perverts, freaks, weirdoes, queers, outsiders and artists. It was an instant success, but I broke a lot of rigid terms of the contract with my developers. Apparently there was an anti-menstruation-porn-clause in the contract. I was given an ultimatum: Remove the graphic content or face immediate cessation. I thought surely they were bluffing, the tremendous amount of traffic and endless possibilities for revenue were simply too good to just scrap over something as trivial as pornography and naughty language, so I called their bluff. I told them in plain language how disappointed I was with their threats, to fuck themselves, and shit came to an immediate head. They shut us down and there was no going back. I absolutely refuse to compromise over censorship.”
Wong finds his writers at “dungeons, crack dens and whore houses of course. Tony Sokol, didn’t I find you somewhere in a Chinatown back alley?” Indeed, he did. In writers, he looks for “Talent. That’s it. I don’t give a shit about resumes or even prior experience. I too am a writer and during my career I had to do a lot of whoring to make a living. The real problem with this industry is that it’s so closed off and so fueled by ego and nepotism. It’s an elitists club for friends of friends,” said my friend. “Uber-cronyism. Ask Mr. Owl how many cocks you have to suck to get to the tootsie roll center of a writing career. He’ll tell you, exactly 47. If I can facilitate in the acceleration of building careers and voices without the strife I went through then I’m a winner.”
Wong is drawn to “anything weird unusual, queer and or bizarre. I’ve always felt like an outsider, you’d never know it. People who meet me think I was the captain of the football team, but it wasn’t. I have a kinship with freaks and weirdoes and I think it’s my duty to show the world that not all perversion is of a sexual nature. Perversion is a way of thinking. It’s abstract thinking and it’s what has made America great. Sure, sex is perverted too, but that’s another story. The more shocking and vulgar the subject, the better. My goal is to subvert mainstream society with an anti-censorship agenda.”
Altvariety’s audience is “Perverts, subverts, freaks, weirdoes, queers and outsiders. Oh and hipsters too. They love the irony and nostalgia of gritty counter culture publications.”