During my pre-Metro Weekly years, I would pick up an issue and go straight to Coverboy Confidential. I still read it, of course, but now with an editor's eye, making sure ''skydiving'' is being written as one word, ensuring that accent is on the end of ''Beyoncé'' and double-checking we've got the exact title of whatever iteration of Real Housewives is mentioned.
Not so long ago, I did many of the interviews myself. Some were uninspiring. A few startled me by coming into the interviews unaware of the setup, as though they'd been abducted by aliens. ''Which position do I play in the big baseball game of life? I've never even played baseball." "Where do I keep condoms? Why would you ask me that?'' Because, one, it's a standard question that predates my involvement with Coverboy Confidential and, two, in a city still rife with sex-related stigma, it's great to talk about condoms shamelessly.
Sometimes the Coverboys proved wonderfully engaging. Savvy Coverboy Ben Heisler, 2007's second runner-up for Coverboy of the Year, turned me on to the Kings of Convenience. Thanks, Ben! I've heard countless coming-out stories and some reflections on being a first-generation American. I've interviewed Coverboys of various size and shape, ethnicity and outlook.
Most of what I hear regarding Coverboy Confidential, however, comes not from the Coverboys themselves, but from old friends or new acquaintances. The feature is ageist, sexist, lookist, etc. True, not every year features a transman or a runner-up in his 40s, but there is variety. I can hide behind the fact that I don't choose Coverboys, but I can also counter that, simply, Coverboy Confidential is what it is. In the end, the Coverboy of the Year votes show two things: the collective tastes of the audience and the feature's popularity.
Considering my father started my subscription to Playboy when I was 15, the Coverboy feature is familiar territory. While I might have passed over the pictures, I always read the ''playmate'' questionnaire. Hugh Hefner was on to something. Just as it's somehow fascinating to read that the ''girl next door'' is a Gemini and plays the oboe, there's a reassuring solidarity when you read that the Coverboy – who actually might be the boy next door – is a huge fan of anime, or that he, too, was bullied in school. Gloria Steinem, say what you will about Mr. Hefner, but I think you've both made the world a better place.
The most insightful question, of course, is who a Coverboy would invite to dinner. ''John Lennon''? I have misjudged you. ''Eric Holder.'' Well, this is D.C. That question alone is worth the price of admission. I find it so provocative, spending far too much time imagining my own Coverboy supper. Benjamin Franklin. Tyler Brûlé. Whoopi Goldberg. Aung San Suu Kyi. Bayard Rustin. Conner Habib. Simone de Beauvoir. I have, at one time or another, entertained the thought of entertaining them all.
With this Coverboy of the Year 2012 issue, I personally want to thank everyone who has ever participated in the feature. As Editor-in-Chief Randy Shulman often says, it's a sociological treasure. I pray some future historian will stumble upon Coverboy interviews to her boundless delight. Until then, I am grateful for the feature in the here and now. In this city so full of righteousness, indignation and judgment, Coverboy Confidential is a much-needed dose of playful levity.
And, in case you were wondering, on a Montreal rooftop.
Will O'Bryan is Metro Weekly's managing editor. Contact him at wobryan@MetroWeekly.com.