Harlequin needs REAL men!

Many, many people have written to us about Harlequin’s search for real men for the covers of their novels.

“Some of the heroes are captains of industry, billionaires,” said Deborah Peterson, a Harlequin creative designer and a judge at the audition. “A lot of the models were too young, men in their twenties … and our audience likes men a little bit older, a bit bigger, than the runway models.”

Look, I’m all for accurate depictions of characters in the books. At the very least, I’d like their hair colors to match, y’know? But accurate depictions of what billionaires look like? Why don’t they ask real-life billionaires to model for them?

Bill Gates

Donald Trump

Mukesh Ambani

Rupert Murdoch

I’m just sayin’.

I’m also going to reveal myself to be an utterly humorless bitch and say right out that this bit of rhetoric bothers me quite a bit:

“We want real men … exactly what you think in your mind when you’re fantasizing or imagining that ideal man.”

Well, y’know, the guys who make my ovaries growl tend to be skinny, on the pretty side of androgynous and kinda goofy. Not unlike Damian Kulash:

Damian Kulash

Bonus points for dudes who aren’t afraid to put on make-up and/or a skirt when the occasion calls for it, and extra super bonus points for the ones who can talk about quantum entanglement intelligently, or explain the differences between a dactyl, a spondee and a trochee, or switch between arguing with me about Kant’s categorical imperative and the best way to brine a turkey without missing a beat. And those guys? Every bit as real as the middle-aged pumped-up gym monkeys Harlequin is apparently searching for. At least, I’d hope so. A few of my friends would be distressingly incorporeal, in that case.

But then I’ve ranted about the issue of girly men and gender rhetoric in the romance community before, so I won’t repeat myself.

All of this did bring to mind a totally awesome picture reader Elizabeth M. forwarded to me today, though:


But perhaps they should see if Günther is available for a modeling gig. He does, after all, want you to touch his tra-la-la (and also, his ding ding dong), and his manly mullet is quite in line with any number of romance novel covers we’ve seen.

(Warning: For those of you who haven’t seen this yet, it’s not quite work safe.)

(Thanks to Emily B. for reminding me of the existence of this video.)

Also, pretend I’ve said a goodly number of cutting things about the condescending tone of the article in general. It’s late, I’m kinda tired and loopy, and really, both Sarah and I have hopped all over this issue in the past.


The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. Nora Roberts says:

    I want them. I want all of those hunky real-life billionaires—potentially at the same time. Then I want to see Trump touch Gunther’s tra-la-la. Right before I put my own eyes out with a rusty nail.

  2. Oh My says:

    Damian Kulash.  Mmmmmmm.

  3. Charlene says:

    That video is supposedly from ebaumsworld.com. Eric Bauman steals (generally poor or student) artists’ works, removes their signatures, adds his own, and profits from it through massive amounts of advertising. If you ask for your created product to be removed, he laughs at you and may even have his forum goons viciously harass you – sometimes even in person if you have a female pseudonym. Well, unless you’re Sega or CBS, in which case he runs away like a scared puppy.

    He’s a thief, a cheat, and a scumbag, and no writer or creative type should use anything with his logo on it – he didn’t create it and is using it to make money for himself without the artist’s permission.

    And by money I mean *millions* of dollars. He has fifteen employees.

  4. Teddy Pig says:

    Oh, we all know where they will end up…

    Golds Gym in San Francisco.

    We prefer you don’t talk.

    As you hold her picture Jake Gyllenhaal yeah he just said “I wish I knew ho to quit you Ennis”

    Now kiss him… I mean her! *flash*

  5. Kerry Allen says:

    I’m a John Cusack type of girl, myself. Cute, funny, and he looks smart. I desperately want The Donald, though, so I can do something about his damn “hair.” Who the hell is responsible for letting him leave the house like that?

    All this androgynous talk brought Sanjaya screaming to the forefront of my mind. I don’t even watch American Idol, and I can’t get away from that… guy? Please, please, don’t make me go back to that place…

    Here’s a thought: Instead of hitting up modeling agencies for 20-year-old mulletheads, send some women out on the street to grab men who look sexy and offer them the opportunity to be ogled by thousands of horny women. Not all of them will have a shred of self-respect, so they might get one or two respectable billionaires out of the bunch.

  6. That’s not Gunther—that’s one of the Village People! Do you think he really likes the way his mouth moves when he says tra la la?

  7. A quote from a science article in Newsweek on sexual attraction:

    “…and they have consistently found that women favor signs of ‘earning capacity’ over good looks.  For sheer sex appeal, a doughy bald guy in a blue blazer and a Rolex will outscore a stud in a Burger King uniform almost every time.  Power, it seems, really is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

    I keep that quote on my fridge.

    Signed, the lady married for 31 years to a doughy bald guy in a blue blazer and a Rolex.

  8. AJArend says:

    Not that there’s anything wrong with “girly men,” but give me Hugh Jackman with his hairy chest and enormous mantitties any day.

    …On the other hand…Hugh can play a gay man well, can really belt out a Broadway tune, and isn’t a bad dancer.

    Hm. Maybe I like “girly men” more than I thought…

  9. AnimeJune says:

    Oooh, yes, Hugh Jackman! I don’t care if he’s in X-men black leather or Peter Allan’s shiny silver pants!

    As for androgynous – I find Cillian Murphy very attractive – which made it interesting to see how incredibly well he can impersonate a woman in Breakfast on Pluto.

    I tend to like skinny weird guys, too – I mean, objectively, Tobey Maguire’s not really a looker, but put him in a Spider-Man outfit…rrowr!

  10. Miri says:

    I wonder if I could get my contractor to pose for HQ? He’s a real guy, and C.U.T.E. Envy me? Sure you do, I get to take him a nice cold glass of lemonade (DaisyDukes and tight t-shirt required) while he puts in my new bathroom.
    (SLAP)  Oh Ok i’m sorry what were we talking about…

  11. Candy says:

    Charlene: The video is lifted from YouTube, and presumably it was filched from Ebaumsworld and posted there, so it doesn’t in any way link back to Ebaumsworld, which, I agree, is a pretty unsavory operation. But I looked for a different version and posted that instead.

    Darlene: I’m always somewhat skeptical of those studies, because they’re testing two extremes, and the Burger King uniform, besides being a signifier of not having money, is also a signifier of social class, poor education and a whole host of cultural baggage. If they’d tested using signifiers of poverty that aren’t quite as laden with baggage, e.g., dress the young stud up like a starving artist or a college student or a hippie boy, I’m willing to bet the doughy guy’s ratings would start falling pretty quick. I know that for me, the young stud in a Burger King uniform would rate lower with me not because I want to schtupp old dudes with fat middles and fatter wallets, but because I the old dudes signify “I’ve done interesting things in life, and probably have interesting things to say.”

  12. Candy says:

    Also: Burger King uniforms are horrendously unflattering. Expensive suits tend to be more flattering and hide a number of flaws—they tend to minimize overhanging guts, for example.

  13. dl says:

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…Harlequin is sooo loser, yesterday, your grandmas romance.  So cutting edge, I swear some of their authors have been churning out drivil for over 30 years. Then, they dumped Bombshell and trashed Luna.  Harlequin has become the Wal-mart of romance…cheap, available, & so very boring.

    Candy, you can choose my cover models anytime. Men comfortable with their own sexuality are hot.  Had my hair cut one year on staff Halloween costume day.  The buff employee at the next station over (not gay) had a tatoo around his bicep, and looked totally comfortable wearing a pink satin minidress, and a long blonde wig…I wanted to take him home, yum.  And at $60/hr. qualifies as a good provider also. Hey, I’d share make-up with the right man.  Seen pics of Anderson Dornelles or Ryan Lebar? If I was a smart cookie, I’d know how to add links.

    This video needed a make-up budget, that man’s shiny face is creepy.  My 14 yr. old wandered thru…but he’s still recovering from “what, what”…so he couldn’t watch.

  14. dl says:

    Candy, I’m going to agree with you on the probable bias/flaws of that study.

  15. Candy—>>signify “I’ve
    done interesting things in life, and probably have interesting things to


    Very good point.  Most of the middle aged men I know prefer women close to their own age rather than glittery young eye candy for the same reason—they can have decent conversations with them.

  16. Heather says:

    Did you ever see the reality TV show Mr. Romance on Oxygen a few years back?  Fabio hosted, but the real genius of the show was in the men casted to be the next cover model.  Dear LORD they were dumb!  There were two smart ones that made fun of the rest the entire time.  TOO funny!  The show is a must see for anyone involved in the romance industry.  Well, except for authors, probably….


  17. Jonquil says:

    Sergey and Larry aren’t half bad—and socially conscious to boot!

  18. I like a geeky guy who is really smart and wears hiking boots all the time.  Very hot, let me tell you.

  19. Stella says:

    Oh you found Günther, that’s hilarious! He’s not actually called Günther you know, he’s a Swedish dude with a fake German accent and a very very ironic mullet and moustache. Either that, or that’s just another cover for a drag king, which is my theory…

    Anyway, you don’t have to worry about copyright intrusion – all the videos are freely available on his website, here: http://www.gunthernet.com/spindex.htm
    “Touch me” features Samantha Fox and “Tuttifrutti Summerlove” features female bikers giving a ride to boys in white swimming trunks and the line “It’s a no-no, but you like it…”

    I’d love to see Günther on a romance cover! I bet he’d love it too, since he’s allegedly “spreading the message of love” to change the world!

  20. Yvonne says:

    I have to be honest, smart guys are much more interesting, dumb guys leave me cold. They don’t HAVE to be formally educated either, but they can be difficult to spot. Look for a sense of humor.

    If all that is attached to dreamy hazel eyes, silky black hair, and a butt to die for, I don’t care how much money they have!

    Ha, my word is million89! Funny!

  21. Chicklet says:

    I got to this part and thought Desperate ploy for publicity:

    Until now, the publisher relied on modeling agencies to supply bodies for its concupiscent covers. But the readership—predominantly female and averaging 42 years of age—was upset when slight, young cover models clashed with the brawny, mature heroes described within.

    Because there has to be at least one modeling agency in Toronto with middle-aged sexorly models on its roster. These guys are all over the department-store circulars in the Sunday paper, modeling business suits and dress shirts. Bitch, please.

  22. Okay, so we authors at Kensington do not get to pick our cover art, but the people on the cover of my latest release MOON SHADOW contacted me saying how happy they were to be on my cover. (I actually like the cover of MOON SHADOW.) The couple sent me the link to his website. He’s a professional model and has done a number of Aphrodisia covers. So I was checking out his site, and…he was on that show with Fabio!


    What I find amazing is how different he looks in some of the photos…

  23. belmanoir says:

    wow, you have described my ideal man!  who is this damian kulash and WHY have i never seen him before?

  24. Little Miss Spy says:

    AHHHHH! Tralala!!! i am peeing my pants this is so funny!

  25. rebyj says:

    I can’t help but picture the ” real men” I’ve been in love with. (and I saw them naked!!)
    Please don’t ruin my romances with men like that LOL

  26. utsusemi says:

    Wow, that’s a surprisingly cute picture of Bill Gates.

    …I can’t believe I just said that.  Or even thought it.  But.

  27. Madd says:

    Günther cracks me the hell up! I have the ding dong song on iTunes. I just love it, don’t ask me why.

    I don’t mind looking at hunky muscle fellows on book covers, but honestly? I’ve never been really attracted to anyone based solely on looks. I can see a guy, or, if I’m being totally honest, a girl, and say that they are hot, but I feel no sexual attraction. They have to turn me on mentally before they can turn me on physically. I’m also very eclectic with what I find attractive. I don’t have a type. I find the hyper macho guys hot, the andro guys hot, the geek guys hot, etc. When I met my husband he was really buff, ex-Navy, tatted up, and wearing a tank top and jeans. No one would have ever pegged him as a computer geek, but it was his geek qualities that really drew me to him. 10 years later he’s put on a few pounds, he’s balding and most often found in his khaki geek uniform, but I still find him as hot as ever.

  28. Amy E says:

    I’m pretty sure Samwell wouldn’t touch Mr Mullet’s tra la la or his ding ding dong with an eight foot phallic blimp.  But the shots of the two chicks making out?  Kinda hot, actually, until I saw the teal eye shadow and spoiled the mood by thinking, “Wonder if these chicks model for historical covers on the side?”

  29. rascoagogo says:

    Embarassing confession time: I have that Gunther album from last summer! It’s so funny. It’s mixed in on a summer drinking poolside mix with so much other really bubblegum Eurodance. Did you know his message is something stupid like “Sex. Money. Respect.”? Yeah…

    I’d totally settle for haircolors that match the characters and hairstyles that are either updated or historically appropriate. I’m not sure how to convey both smart and hot, since I know some guys that are super smart and have minor mantitty. I want a cadre of handsome genius billionaires with moderate mantitty. Nobody would ever ever question your decision to live in decorous sin. Even just one little old billionaire hottie would do.

  30. Marty says:

    Hmm if they are going to put real guys, then let’s compile a list of comedians: Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Bobby Lee, Orlando Jones, and Rob Schneider.  Nothing is sexier than a man with a sense of humor.

  31. Emily says:

    I don’t ordinarily stick my head up here, but oh my god – I had to comment!

    I had no idea where my fiance got that ridiculous “oooh, touch my tra-la-la!” line he throws my way, in an outrageously silly voice, all the time!

    I have nothing to contribute beyond that. I’m laughing too hard.

    Back to intelligent discourse, thanks for letting me interrupt.

  32. Jeri says:

    Wow, at first I thought Gunther was really Weird Al with a haircut and a coating of olive oil.  That thought was less scary than the truth.

    AnimeJune, I second the Cillian Murphy/Tobey Maguire drool, especially the former.  28 Days?  “In a heartbeat.”

  33. bungluna says:

    Real men is what you want for everyday living.  Fantasy guys are something else.

    Eye candy for me is Dennis Quaid.  I love those foreheady guys with liven-in faces.  As to what I want to live with, personality and character become so much more important than looks then.

    Still, keep your real men;  give me a hunk for my fantasy live any day…

  34. Catherine J. says:

    Damn! I need to stop reading this site with a soda in hand; cleaning that screen is going to be a real headache.

    Is that video real? I, too, thought it was Weird Al doing a parody; those aviator glasses just seemed too over-the-top to be real. And the green glitter eyeshadow on the blonde may actually not be a sign of the Apocalypse, but I’m not taking any chances.

    Switching topics: I’m very much on the not-fond-of-the-steroid-monkeys bandwagon. My ideal man is David Tennant: geekish charm, unruly hair that you just want to ruffle, sense of humor, thin as a whip in an oversized suit, and glasses. *fans self* “Doctor Who” is my new religion. Or as an alternative, Nathan Fillion in “Firefly” for the no-nonsense guy who gets things done—proof positive that suspenders and work boots can be devastatingly sexy. Cover artists don’t seem to realize that attractive masculinity is not measured on a basis of poundage.

    Publishers should let the authors choose their own cover models. Don’t they have a better idea than anybody of what Hero MacProtagonist should look like?

  35. Summer says:

    That video had me ROFLMAO.  Thanks for posting it… I must not be plugged in or something but I had never seen it and never heard of him.  And as far as what I think is attractive, I must say that many things contrubute to it.  There are some guys that are OMGHOT to look at but they are total asswipes or are dumber then a box of rocks.  Give me a super-smart and super-nice average looking guy.  YEAH!

  36. Ishie says:

    “Hmm if they are going to put real guys, then let’s compile a list of comedians: Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, Bobby Lee, Orlando Jones, and Rob Schneider.  Nothing is sexier than a man with a sense of humor.”

    Oh, A-freaking-men!  I’m 26 and brainless betitted gym jockeys leave me cold… but Jon Stewart can wear an open shirt tucked into his pants and tear a pastel frock off me any day.  How I adore the furry funny little man. sigh…

  37. Xandra says:

    Gunther=teh_lurrve! For you g33k lovers out there, take a gander at this version “filmed” in an MMORPG (and then check out their vid version of Green Leaves’ “Yatta”—It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet and the main course is 3D rendered mantitty – has to be seen to be believed).

    I’m into smart-looking guys.  If they have the brains to back up the looks, I’m gone.  But in my novel covers, I like to see men with a bit more androgyny than I tune into in real life.  Not Ziggy Stardust androgyny (although if you do have a cover with Ziggy on it, I will so buy that book no matter what), but…pretty men.  Odd, innit?

  38. From LA says:

    I went to elementry school with Damian Kulash.  The thought of him as a sex-symbol makes me giggle.  Though I do love the dancing members of OK GO.

  39. lushlyme says:

    Oh my f’ing god… Colbert just did his own covers… I think I pee’d laughing.

  40. Victoria Dahl says:

    Steven Colbert was AWESOME as the pirate. Eye-patch and all. I loved the way he jerked the woman back into a strange and uncomfortable embrace. Spot on!

    (Reruns should be on Friday afternoon!)

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