Mike Todd: The Mystery Man Behind the Magazine – An interview with The Publisher of “Get Out! Magazine

Strangely enough, after knowing Mike Todd for over three years and working closely together via text, email and voice on a daily basis for over a year, the illustrious publisher of the finest and most prestigious gay magazine in New York and the East Coast, “Get Out!” magazine, remained an enigma. Surrounded by an air of mystery, I knew that he was kind, humble and genuine. I also knew he came from Indiana, but that’s where it ended. When it came to talking about himself, he was painfully quiet and shy in a mystifying fashion.   Finally having him trapped and confined within his car, while he drove throughout the traffic-ridden streets of Manhattan on a beautiful prelude to a summer’s day, I turned on my digital voice recorder and decided it was time for the world to meet the man behind it all: Mike Todd.

Mike Todd: I’m honored by this interview. Now when you give people who ask the stats of your vast array of personalities that you’ve spoken with, you can say, “I’ve done everyone from Mike Todd to such well known personalities and artists ranging from Oscar and Grammy winners Mo’nique, Annie Lennox and Jennifer Hudson!

Eileen Shapiro: What motivated you to create “Get Out!” magazine?
I felt that there was a need for a gay magazine in New York City, and more recently across the East Coast, that the community could be proud, be involved in and be entertained by.

Why are you so mysterious?
No, I’m not. I’m really super shy. I’m usually just spinning around in circles going around looking for ads, working on small themes while working and driving around in many cities. I never have enough time.

Mike, what was it like growing up in Indiana?
It was fun. I had so much freedom, and I even worked at three places when I was 17: the hospital in the cafeteria, the bank as a teller and in a convenience store.

Why was it so much fun?
Because I did whatever I wanted to do. I really did not care for school, so I got that over with as quick as possible. I graduated in mid-term after only taking a teacher’s aide class for the athletic department for my senior year, because I had missed the early grad deadline.

Did you grow up near cornfields or was it like a city?
It was a college town. We had cornfields, but I didn’t really hang around them. I did work in a cornfield one time, for a few days. I think I lasted two days. That was right up there with the military among the things I don’t plan on doing again.

Did you drive a tractor?
I have, but just for fun—on the farm for a moment or two.

Where did you go to school?
Bloomington South.

Mike, you are known for helping people in their industry, kind of giving them a push—for example, Niki Darling and Ryan Skyy, Ricky Jarman and so many others. Why do you do that?
I guess because I didn’t help anybody when I was growing up. People do change after a while. I didn’t help charities when I was growing up. I always focused on me having fun and doing what I wanted to do. So now I see that I’m getting a little older now, and I look back. I see how many people help other people, and I just have never been one to do that. So now I started doing it. It would be nice to hear a thank you once in a while though! I understand that though, because I used to be the same way. I used to appreciate what people did so much, but I just didn’t say thank you. Now I start seeing people doing that to me and it actually bothers me at times.

What personal enjoyment do you get out of doing the magazine?
Basically I can be anywhere I want to be, whenever I want to be. It doesn’t get in the way of my personal life, because it is my personal life as well.

Why do you personally deliver the magazine?
It’s about 12 hours or so of going through every neighborhood and seeing the way different people live, work and react in each area of a small island. It’s so fascinating to have time to do that. I have the time to explore and make it a part of what I like to do.

What do you say to people when they question your motives for delivering your own magazines personally
Every other magazine has their own delivery people, but with me doing it, I know it gets done correctly. I also visualize in the future that more and more people will be working from home and doing more of the work themselves, so I feel like I am getting a taste of the future.

Any down side to delivering the magazine?
Only when the president comes to the city or when it rains. Usually on Tuesdays, when the magazine is delivered every week, 90% of the time it rains. Paper and rain don’t seem to mix well.

Do you like people?
Yes, I do like people. Every person is different. Everyone has a different mindset. There aren’t two people who think exactly the same. When I was in charge of running 10 retail stores at a former day job I had, I was the boss of everyone, so I had to learn to get along with 300 different people every single day. I had to adapt to each individual personality. Thirty years ago, when I started in retail at my first assistant manager’s job, I began not knowing anything. I was taught how to run a store, and I finally learned how to adapt, to open up your own self and learn how to deal with each type of individual and each different personality. You can’t just get upset with them and walk away. You work with these people every day. You have to find a way to fix the problems every day so you can face them the next day.

Where do you hope to see the magazine in 10 years?
I know what I should say, but I never looked at myself 10 years ago and thought about where I’d be now. I would have never guessed I would be doing what I am doing now. I’ve never done that before. I’ve always lived my life where I can up and go anywhere I wanted, anytime in my life. They must look and say, “This guy’s not a stable person,” but I am stable. I just don’t like to be held down to something. I don’t do contracts. The only time I’ve signed a contract was to buy a car. I’m OK with that, because I can just move with the car. I didn’t have a bad childhood where I was held captive or anything, either. I just like freeing free.

It’s time for some of my non-industry questions. You’re wearing a warning label. What does it say?
Two labels: “It could go either way—yes or no” and “You never know what’s going to come out of this guy’s mouth or mind.”

So you’re on the beach waiting for someone: A) a big Latino power bottom B) an African American who’s a 10-inch top or C) a blond-haired, blue-eyed German boy with a lot of money?
I couldn’t say, because it has to be that particular person to come up to me. I have to see that particular person. Eileen, you could ask me what type of guy I like, and I can’t answer that unless the person is standing in front of me. I can go up and down the street and say, “No, no, no, no.” I find myself saying no 999 times out of 1000. I don’t know why; it’s just a look that I’m looking for.

If you were cremated, where would you want your ashes to wind up?
I was thinking about that recently. I don’t know. I never saw myself being cremated before. Now I see cremations happening more often. My dad was cremated, actually, and I couldn’t understand where that came from. I was so shocked when I found out. I don’t know. I think I would want them by a beach, but I’d have to see that particular beach.

Oh no, even your ashes are non-committing.
Everything changes all the time with me.

If we were to look into your heart what would we find right now?
Emptiness right now, because I’m starting over again, and I always expect things to happen faster than they do. I forget I have to be patient. I’m the most impatient person you probably will ever meet – ever, ever. I’m probably more impatient than Madonna.

What’s your worst quality?

Your best quality?
Keeping my word!

What’s your passion?
I used to love music a lot. I could never get enough music. Now I’m not really finding the music that I enjoy so much.

What was your favorite interview ever in Get Out?
I think it’s going to have to be either Jennifer Hudson or Mo’Nique. I think that those were the two most successful people we had as Oscar winners, but I enjoy Pam Ann and Bianca Del Rio for the laughs.

What was your favorite cover?
I have a few, but as all of the singers you interview say about their songs, “They are like my children—I can’t pick a favorite one!”

What brought you to NYC?
I just came here for a weekend trip, because I never really wanted to come here before. There’s a little story actually. I was invited by two friends. I went out to Splash. I thought that place was so cool. I thought I could actually live here. I went back home and thought, I had so much fun. I lived in Fort Lauderdale for 10 years, so it wasn’t like it was boring there. People in New York were coming out like four in the afternoon. In Lauderdale you had to wait until 8, 9 o’clock at night to go out. When I got back to Florida, I thought that maybe I should try and get a job in New York. While I was in New York I kept seeing a store called Strawberry at every single corner. I knew I could work in any retail store I wanted to. I picked up the New York Times that Sunday morning, and the first job I saw on the classifieds was Strawberry. I sent out my resume on Monday morning. By noon that Monday, the PR VP from Strawberry called me. She asked me when I could come for an interview. I arranged to come back to New York for the interview the following week. However, when I was supposed to fly out, there was a blizzard in New York, and all the airports were shut down. Then they decided that perhaps they were going to get my flight into New York. This was like 11 p.m. at night when we flew out. We landed like 1:30 in the morning. They told me that there were only two flights that landed the whole day. Mine was one of them.

Weren’t you scared to fly in a blizzard?
No, I like danger in the sky. The bumpier the flights, the more I like them. So the next morning, I put my suit on and go to her office. She couldn’t believe that I had arrived, especially in a blizzard. I was only wearing a suit. She asked me where my coat was. I was thinking, OMG, I came to see my mom. She was talking with another lady, and I heard them say that they should just hire me on the spot. It just seemed like everything went well from the beginning. I kept seeing that store in New York, my flight landed in a blizzard when only one other flight did, not to mention when I picked up the New York Times there was a job posted for Strawberry. So I started the day after Valentine’s Day 15 years ago.

Is your glass half full or half empty? Be honest.
Mine is half empty, but I know how to keep filling it up.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
I’m gonna say Jennifer Lopez and Madonna. Do you know why?

Why?Because they both work as hard as I work and take pride in their work.

What’s the best thing since sliced bread?
Text messaging. I first discovered text messaging when traveling to London in the early ‘90s. It’s just the fastest and easiest way to communicate.

If you could trade places with anyone for a week, who would you be and why?
I would love to be mayor and in charge of road planning, so I can fix the traffic congestion and the street regulation signs so that they would be easy for people to understand. A city-wide format is needed so as not to hurt the local businesses as much as it does. Allowing no parking on city streets in Chelsea and other areas overnight does not make any sense to me, nor do daytime restrictions. Let them drive and park to support the businesses that are needing to pay the high rents.

Where do you like to eat in the city?
I don’t care for fancy restaurants, and I’m picky about my food and my guys. I like burgers, pizza and tacos, but basically a steak and potatoes kinda guy.

Do you have a dream or a goal that you would wish to accomplish?
Yes, I do. Since I was 21 years old I’ve wanted to put together a huge, massive concert at an arena and include my very favorite artists. It would be the concert of a lifetime, and it would include Paula Abdul, Sade, Vanessa Williams, Karyn White, Pebbles, Lisa Stansfield, Taylor Dayne, Janet Jackson, Amber, Gloria Estefan, Jody Watley, Deborah Cox, Toni Braxton and Pink. I guess as I get older I’ve grown to admire Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, so let’s add them, and I guess at this point Madonna would still headline the event. I am thinking this could be very possible. It would just need a big promoter to make it happen.

Get Out! magazine is fun, entertaining and colorful; however, many magazines are done online only now. Why do you print Get Out! as well as publish it on the Web?
I don’t think magazines in print will ever disappear. Too many people, like myself, struggle pulling up an article on their phone, for example, and zooming in and out on a cell phone screen to read. Also, magazines are for people with an interest in reading or looking for something to do or an event to go to. Once you get someone to pick up a magazine, you have captured the customer’s attention, which is what one sets out to do. There are so many social media postings that I myself miss about 90% of the posts or pay them no mind. They prove to be a distraction for what I’m actually trying to find. Most promoters and businesses use social media, because there’s really no expense involved except for running the site or posting the flyers. But they do not realize they are only capturing the same circle of people around them. They are not reaching to the vast majority that you get with print.

I believe Get Out! is an extremely attractive magazine, and I’m glad it’s in print. It gives someone something to hold, something to keep, unlike a download. What do you do with your one hour a day of free time?
I usually hang with my friends.

What do you enjoy for fun?
What I would consider to be a day of fun is driving around Hollywood Hills in a convertible or driving to a beach in that convertible with music blasting loudly. Or vacationing.

What makes you angry or upsets you?
People who can’t make a quick decision.

Tell me a few things about you I don’t know.
I don’t like to listen much, and I’m just an overgrown kid.

Are you excited about the upcoming Get Out! Awards?
Yeah, I am.

Putting on the awards is a lot of work. Why do you do it?
Because many people think it’s needed in the community. They feel that as a magazine, it should be part of the magazine, so I started doing it. Events are costly, and in order to do them, you need volunteers—many of them. One thing I really have trouble doing is asking anyone for help or favors. I really have a serious problem with that. And this is one time that I must ask. The awards promote the entertainers, the bars, the clubs and the community. It’s not to promote the magazine. We have plenty of people picking up the magazine. If we had more people picking it up then we then would have to print more, which costs more and lays out more costs. The advertising rates are calculated in the distribution. Many people don’t realize it costs money to print and to distribute. The paper, ink and staff cost lots of money to maintain to make it happen.

So you’re really just doing it for the community and the artists and the bars that you have it in?
People probably think I’m making so much money off these awards, when in reality it costs a lot of money to create. We don’t charge a cover. The awards costs money, and the preparation takes hours upon hours, which in turn costs money. That’s why it’s disappointing to see a few venues not take any interest in it. But then the reward of it is going into the bars that do appreciate it and see the awards hanging over the bar or in the offices. That feels good to me when I see those. That said, I want to thank all in the community who support us every week and show an interest in the magazine, as well as all the readers, writers, entertainers, all of the bars and clubs and their staff, for letting us be a part of their life. A very special Thank you to Carlos at Pulsar Studio, and Christopher, Dawn and Eileen for all their efforts, hard work and advice. Finally, thanks to Wilsonmodels, Jason Russo, Rick Stockwell, Andrew Werner and Frankie C for always being there.

Mike Todd
(646) 761-3325

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