Men's magazines are having an identity crisis. Things were never the same after King of the Lads James Brown left his beloved Loaded to head up GQ last year. Unfortunately he got fired, as only true lads can, by mixing military muck with sartorial brass and praising Rommel's dress sense. You see, GQ is aiming at your classier type of lad now. One who loves his Cohibas and Nasdaq along with his nipple count. Except that no one really seems to know who he is.
At the GQ Men of the Year Awards last Tuesday the confusion was palpable. In lists compiled by the magazine's writers, Vinnie Jones and Hugh Grant were both up for best actor, Gianluca Vialli (Chelsea's manager) and Kofi Annan (General Secretary of the UN) were both possibilities for International Man of the Year, while Charles Saatchi and Liam Gallagher were both up for Most Stylish Man. There was even a Most Alluring Man section (the Chanel aftershave, Allure, sponsored the whole event).
What on earth is going on? Time to bring in an "ordinary bloke" to make sense of it all. I show the list of nominees to 33-year-old Post Office worker Guy Fischer who is about as likely to blow-dry his hair Ginola- style as fly in the air.
He can't quite believe his eyes. "What's Prince William doing in the Most Stylish Man category?" he asks, brows beetled with confusion. "I didn't think any bloke over 18 took any notice of him." Then there's the lifetime achievement nominees. "George Best!" exclaims Guy. "What has he ever achieved apart from ruining a perfectly good football career through drink? Perhaps some of these nominations are a piss-take. Bill Clinton for International Man of the Year or David Beckham as Sportsman of the year? I don't think so."
Still, perhaps everything will become clear at the ceremony itself which Guy and I are lucky enough to attend. But this is no black-tie dinner; rather it's held at Home, the new uberclub in Leicester Square, London. The celebrities - Nick Moran, Graham Norton, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson - are herded into roped-off areas, and occasionally break free to run around the club. Chris Eubank saunters past in that Charlie-Drake-meets-Muhammad- Ali look he's made all his own. So much for a Puff Daddy posse.
"Moran should win an award," says Guy, "because he looks like the kind of bloke who'd go out for a curry after a night down the pub with his mates. He shows that fame is a lottery, really, and that ordinary blokes get famous."
As the night moves on, it's obvious that the lads win hands down: Nick Moran gets most stylish man, Mark Radcliffe and Lard get best radio personality, Chris Evans wins best entrepreneur. Richard Branson gets the lifetime achievement vote. Guy is delighted. Only best sportsman David Beckham ("He's a wanker with no style") and best band The Manics ("the Dire Straits of the Nineties") get the thumbs down.
"These are British blokes who've done well," he beams, "they're lads who are ambitious but who are having a laugh." Michael Caine gets the most alluring award, which is odd because we agree he has all the charisma of a hake after a hard night. "Somehow I don't imagine Alfie or Harry Palmer wearing Chanel," says Guy. "I think GQ got the sponsorship wrong."
The music picks up again and the dancefloor becomes a breeding ground for the celebrities of the future: next year's model flirts with next year's actor/singer/whatever. Meanwhile, I'm wondering why anyone bothered with the lists in the first place. "It's a male thing," explains Guy. "Lads get together and while away ridiculous hours making them."
By now we've sneaked into the celebrity pen and we're arguing with chat show host, Graham Norton. "Women make shopping lists all the time," he counters. "Anyway, our obsession with lists is a millennium thing. Everyone's counting down." And Guy's last views on the evening? "It's been gorgeous," he says. "The club is brilliant, and I really loved the way they presented the awards." As we exit he swaggers down the red carpet after poncing a cigarette from the PR girl. It seems the GQ Man is a lad after all.
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