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The LGBT website Yagg.com published the news on Wednesday, March 1: Pierre Guénin died at the age of 90. An author, journalist, editor and activist, Guénin is familiar to several generations of gays through the many magazines he launched between the ’60s and ’90s. A figure of the gay French scene, he was an admirer of naked men who never hesitated to be risqué on a magazine cover, despite the risk of being censured.
Born in Etampes, France, in 1927, his father ran a hairdressing salon and was Guénin’s self-professed idol. He claims the fact that his mother left while he was only a child “left a void” from which he never fully recovered.
As a journalist, Pierre Guénin first worked at Cinémonde, a magazine for movie fans. Then, in 1966, he launched his first magazine, Eden, which he presented as follows: “I initially did not want to do a magazine exclusively for homosexuals, so I launched Eden, a so-called bisexual magazine, with as many women as men. I could thus avoid censorship. If the magazine had presented only men, things would have been less easy.”
In 1968, he launched Olympe, which also presented men and women. It was around until 1978.
In parallel to Olympe, Guénin published Hommes, which was more clearly homo. “Hommes was more clearly targeting gays … [It was] increasingly hot because of the competition of the American reviews put on the market by David Girard. I lost interest in this magazine in the late ’80s to devote myself to painting.”
In, “the magazine of underground arts and shows,” was on stands from 1970 to 1979, with covers showing nude celebrities like singer Patrick Juvet, Marie France and porn actor Peter from Berlin. “This title has done a lot better than the others because many women read it, too,” Guénin said. “Each issue devoted several pages to dance, and many homosexual readers asked me why I gave dance such a space.”
At the end of the ’70s, two other magazines were born. One was Jean-Paul, the magazine of the liberated man. “At first very soft and naturist, in 1988 the magazine would deal with subjects related to gay porn, then in full swing,” Guénin said.
Off, also initially published in 1979, was more soft. It’s this magazine that gave its name to the “Prize Off” for the year’s best gay film, a precursor of current LGBT film festivals in France.
“My magazines have allowed the diffusion of a gay aesthetic,” Guénin said. “My ambition is to show everything that was not too well known and a little erotic in all the artistic fields. What we were doing was the Off-Paris, we were exploring everything, we had to be aware of everything. It was both exhausting and exciting. … What I can say is that we could never count on advertising. We had been to see Cardin or Saint-Laurent without success, and with advertising we could have made very different magazines. I regret that.”
2009 saw the launch of the Pierre Guénin Award against Homophobia, which rewarded initiatives against homophobia.
With his companion André Dessent, Guénin booked one of the last two concessions in the Parisian cemetery of Père Lachaise, the place where Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison among many other celebrities are buried. It is that cemetery where he will rest forever, alongside André, who died back in 1985.