Call us biased, but we were pretty happy when we first saw the cover of this week’s issue of New York showing Obama and McCain exchanging a cordial fist bump, a gesture that’s more and more beginning to resemble the futuristic greeting of some perfect society. What wit! What timeliness! We beamed in the direction of our art department. But when we ran into George Lois last night at the premiere of Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson the legendary adman behind Esquire’s classic covers — the subject of a recent MoMA survey — he could not resist registering a complaint. “I would have liked it better if Obama was fisting him and McCain was kind of doing it begrudgingly,” he said. We wondered if we should tell him “fisting” actually meant something else nowadays, then decided it would be too awkward. He’s 77 years old! And what were we, 12? Lois went on: “Because what happens now is they’re two happy comedians, it works, but they’re two guys fisting and…I would have done it that Obama was sitting and he said, ‘Put it there,’ and McCain said, ‘Nah, I shouldn’t be doing this.’”
We somehow managed to regain our composure.
Lois, who said he still receives advance copies of several major magazines on Sundays (including this one) as a kind of tribute to his influence on the business, still takes the odd cover job here and there. “Nobody knows this, but I am going to be doing a couple of covers for the Harvard alumni magazine, 02138,” he said. “They called me up and said, ‘Do what you want,’ which nobody else would say. I’ve had every magazine, every magazine in America, for 40 years saying…Time magazine, ‘Oh, we want you to do the covers.’ But of course when you do, you have to come in and talk to a group of us and then anything edgy gets killed.” Since Lois and Hunter Thompson both had such an outsize impact on journalism in the sixties, we asked if the two had known each other. “Yeah, I ran into him five or six times, I never hung out with him. I was a family man.” Lois said. “He was a fan of the Esquire covers. I met him and he said, ’“Oh my God — we hit a little girl!”’ You were the cocksucker, you put that on that cover, right?’” Hello, language. Maybe this guy did know what fisting means…before we could get up the gumption to ask him, he was gone. —Andrew Goldstein