One of the stops on my rounds when I worked for Uni-Filter in Los Angeles circa 1971 were the palatial offices of Dirt Bike Magazine. Rick "Super Hunky" Siemon was the editor-in-infamy then and again later in the '70s. I recall that one of the early chopper oriented magazines, maybe it was Hot Bike, shared the same general offices, both being part of Hi-Torque Publications. I walked into the very small office lobby one day to find Hot Bike guys with a large roll of seamless background paper and a chopper squeezed between the stairs and the elevator, shooting a cover for Hot Bike. I wonder how many Dirt Bike covers were shot there?
Rick was some place past Cook Nielson at Cycle Magazine in irreverence and general disdain for the corporate motorcycle world and maybe the world in general. I think in time it cost Rick his job but I don't recall hearing that he ever backed down from the fight. Once when reviewing Yamaha's super new SC500 motocross bike the lead for the Dirt Bike article read (working from memory here) "It's Gray and Black, so is a turkey. Yamaha's 500cc ground gobbler." You got the impression right off it was not going to be a glowing review of Yamaha's latest effort. How I would love to see that sort of pointed humor in a review today but I believe the shadow of the gallows on which Super Hunky was corporately dispatched might cast a shadow over the magazine world even now. Worse, advertising brings in big dollars and those cannot be allowed to be risked by writers running rich on candor and humor. Now days it seems to be ok to "Be funny but not too funny, be tough but gentle." Preferably, just distract the modern reader with bright pictures and maybe a babe shot or vaguely crude expression or double entendre.
Back then going to the Dirt Bike offices was not exactly like visiting the Cycle Magazine offices. The differences in editorial style are probably best illustrated by the fact that Cycle was doing articles about Ducati and BMW and tech articles by guru of all things mechanical, Gordon Jennings. Dirt Bike did an article entitled "How to be a pit tootsie" even as they savaged the poor Ground Gobbler. Definitely a difference in perspective and neither one incorrect, just different like Husqvarna and Bultaco.
At the Cycle Magazine offices people were polite, professional, busy, and scathingly funny in a civilized way. At Dirt Bike, Rick seemed to hold loud sway over everything that went on. The Dirt Bike Magazine front desk honey was a flirt and figured out right off that I flustered easily and Rick seemed to delight in challenging me about anything and everything I might say about bikes. Under a barrage of razor edged Siemon questioning about Uni's air filters, plastic control levers, or my Bultaco 125, I easily wilted (and probably would today). Rick was never mean spirited about any of it though, he just appeared to be driven always forward by a curious mind expressed through a brutal edged wit and an impatience with anyone who could not keep up with him.
On my first visit to the palatial Dirt Bike offices I dumped a bunch free Uni junk on Rick and he responded by saying "Well, crap, now I guess I have to give YOU something." He gave me a Dirt Bike T-shirt or at least I thought he gave it to me. Fast-forward to a few years back when I posted him a message on offroad.com reminding him that we'd crossed paths 30 or so years before. He replied that he indeed remembered me and I still owed him $1.50 plus interest for the T-shirt I picked up in his office.
What humor that you do read in today's magazines, the slight degree of irreverence that there is, I think is directly traceable to Rick Simon's editorial style and also to the slightly more civilized Cook Nielson.
Rick "Super Hunky" Sieman can be found at Off-road.com. Approach with caution.