I can’t decide if I love Beth Ditto or I hate her. I am not alone in this. Every time she is mentioned anywhere, there are those declaring their love for her and their hatred. The argument seems to center around whether she is a genuinely alt person who has received a gratifying amount of media attention or if she is just a shameless self-promoter who will do (or claim to do) anything to get her name mentioned.
Beth Ditto is a Southern Fried BBW frontwoman for a sort of punk Portland band The Gossip and she takes her clothes off occasionally and gets a surprising amount of mainstream attention in England for someone who doesn’t shave her armpits and dates a transgendered person. This week, Love magazine debuted their first issue with Beth Ditto on the cover. Love is a new magazine from, believe it or not, mainstream corporate publishing giant Condenast. Condenast also publishes Vogue, Glamour, Brides, Allure, Golf Digest, and Wired. In 2006, when NME, in a departure for them, ran a nude (hairy armpitted) photo of Beth Ditto on its cover, it declared her the “coolest person in rock” for their yearly countdown. Last year, Spike (men’s television) declared Beth Ditto one of the seven “baddest women in rock” and Condenast’s Glamour declared her the International Artist of the Year for 2008. Supposedly Beth Ditto first took her clothes off with her transman lover for the lesbian magazine On Our Backs, but I bought what I thought was a complete collection of On Our Backs at a garage sale a while back and I can’t seem to find her pictorial. If anyone has that issue, it is supposed to have come out in 2003 and you can contact me care of AltPorn.net and I’d really like to see her spread.
In the media kit for Love magazine, Condenast tells prospective advertisers that the concept of the mag, with its one and a half million dollar launch promo budget, is to cover areas of music and art which influence fashion. This sort of makes sense of putting someone fairly alternative on the cover. Love is also planned to be distributed primarily in England and in cities important to the fashion industry. The problematic issue for me in these situations is that I know so many people who have some of the characteristics of a Beth Ditto who never ever ever get mentioned in mainstream press. Condenast might think an unashamed, sexually adventurous, fat woman with hairy armpits is radical, but don’t you know more than one of those? This makes me wonder what is different about her.
I do have to admit that I distrust the alt cred of anything out of Portland claiming to be cool these days and that is really not Beth Ditto’s fault. I think we all know who is to blame for making everything supposedly altcool from Portland of questionable credibility. Love Beth Ditto or hate Beth Ditto, think working for Condenast is punk subversive or sell-out loser, the cover of the first issue of Love magazine is pretty hot.