Forget taste. This is Duke

by Steve Watson in January 2010
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One of the most overused words on this blog is ‘beautiful’. But it’s hard to avoid when I’m writing about the steady flow of magazines that fall through my letterbox. With their lovely photography, smart design, distinctive typefaces and innovative illustration, they all lead back to the ‘b’ word.

But I had no such trouble when Duke arrived last week. Made in Australia by ‘dictators’ Raquel Welch and Emily Hunt, at first glance it’s a nasty mess of a magazine. Pages are crowded with tiny, tightly packed type, photography includes giant penises, a burns victim and a disabled child (and that’s just in the first few pages) and the general tone of the articles is a knowing, sarcastic disdain.

But I read it from cover to cover. Some of the sarcasm is too fatuously self-indulgent and in places it’s just lazily offensive (that burns victim was a soldier with 70 per cent burns, photographed on his wedding day) but elsewhere it’s funny, inventive and completely fascinating.

There are spoof adverts, celebrity baiting panels, some great fashion shoots and a really wonderful story on David Bowie fan art, which gathers drawings of the man himself from all over the world and asks the artists what they find so fascinating about him. At its best Duke is an utterly independent oddball, and it’s telling that its two long, in depth and very interesting interviews are with Harmony Korine and John Waters, while a feature on Ed Wood makes it a hat trick of famous cinematic outsiders.

Track down a copy if you can – I’d be really interested to hear what other readers think to it. Just don’t let your mum find it.

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