Who’s a man’s man?

Who's Humphrey Bogart?

At one time I considered using this shot on the front cover of MAN UP. The idea was that Humphrey Bogart represented a decidedly 20th century notion of manliness, a subtle way of suggesting that the book was about moving on, leaving the past in a puff of smoke, encouraging men to embrace the new century. I showed a cover mock-up to a number of men and women whose opinions I value, and the feedback was interesting. The two most common themes were, “who’s he?,” and “why would you want to feature a photo of some old dude smoking on the cover of a book that’s (presumably) about helping men better themselves?”

Let me tackle the latter point first. My thought was that Bogie smoking clearly evoked a bygone era when a smoldering cigarette was a potent sex symbol, especially in the hands (and mouth) of a rough, tough cream puff like Bogart. That was so clearly then, I thought it might convey the (apparently counter-intuitive) message to potential readers that this is definitely now, a time when men are coming to grips with addictions and other afflictions that on balance screw up their lives more than enhance them. Most of my esteemed reviewers disagreed. So much for having a little fun with the past.

As for the “who the hell is he?” critique, that one is unassailable — you either know who the man is, or you don’t, and the fact is an ever-increasing number of men neither do, nor care. Which on one level is too bad, because in Bogart we have a man with some considerable virtues. He was short, and several notches below good looking. He had bad hair on a good day, and talked funny. Yet he managed to become one of the biggest box office stars of his generation, was wildly popular with women, and men generally admired him. He was a formidable leading, man holding his own amongst the likes of the vastly more sophisticated Cary Grant, or the considerably more virile Gary Cooper. Which just goes to show, what’s inside does, in fact, count for something.

So here’s lookin’ at you, Bogie. You didn’t quite make the cover, but here you are on my website, and that ain’t half bad.

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