Free Magazine Review: Montgomery RSVP (July/Aug 2009)

It’s time for yet another review of free periodicals that are littered around the town. To look at all of the installments of this regular Lost in Montgomery feature, go over to the side bar under “categories” and click on “Free Magazine Review.” You can get a look at all of our thoughts about the state of free magazine journalism here in the River Region area.

Today’s episode concerns a magazine we have already reviewed an issue of: Montgomery RSVP. Previously, we took a gander at the March-April edition and were so excited to see the July-August issue that we just had to pick it up. Besides, the cover is pink, yellow and purple and features six young ladies doing the Heisman trophy pose to promote some musical called “Beehive.” Who wouldn’t pick that up?

What’s it called? Montgomery RSVP. And yes, we do still find it hilarious that the RSVP stands for “Rental Space Vogue Parties.” This is actually key because RSVP is some sort of party-planning company in addition to being a crappy magazine producing company and their party-planning adventures (speed dating, wine tastings, birthday parties) feature prominently in the pages of their magazine.

What is it? It’s the River Region Guide for All Things Social.

Where’d we find it? We think we got this one at El Rey, a favorite burrito place of ours. But we aren’t sure. These things are sort of like mushrooms — they turn up everywhere. We always make sure to grab one when we see it.

What’s the deal? As we noted in the previous review, this is a sort of high end social publication about events and parties and Ladies That Lunch. We won’t rehash all of what was said in that review, but since writing that one, we have discovered Montgomery Living (reviewed here) which appears to cater to the sort of rich white people demographic as Montgomery RSVP. Now, the ladies who publish the latter would likely say that they offer some sort of niche not met by the former, but both magazines are made by ladies, seem targeted at ladies, and have ads from all of the same places. At most, RSVP seems to cater to a younger set and focus more on “social events,” whereas Living seems to attempt to have articles about, say, why it’s important to get good sleep and how you can make a tasty meatloaf for your husband’s college football viewing pleasure.

What sections do they have? Actually, this has undergone some revisions since we last checked in with RSVP. They still have the Singled Out dating column and Connections: Reasons to Gather. But they’ve started pimping their event planning in a new section called Socially Seen. There’s a feature cover story and they held onto one of our favorite sections from the past issue called The List: A Who’s Who of Young Leaders. More on this in a moment. They kept Look, Listen and Lounge, but added Now Hear This (a look a local bands) and Venue 411 (a look at local bars/venues).

Who advertises? Pretty much the same as last time. Full page ad from the Alley Bar, which is written up in the same issue, again blurring the line between “review of a place” and “added ad space for the thing we will promote uncritically.” More on the Alley Bar in a moment. But the rest are the usual suspects: jewelry places featuring attractive white ladies flashing bling, a photographer who evidently specializes in well-groomed white teens, yoga studio, spa, salon, Persian imports, limo rental, a tapas joint.

What’s interesting in this issue? If attractive white ladies in flower print dresses are your thing, this is the magazine for you. Writing-wise, you might marvel at the fact that it took two people to write an article explaining to you how to buy a purse. Or maybe you’re so used to the women’s magazines that mix “writing” with advertising, that the copy will just wash right over you as a tidal wave of colorful products available for you to purchase. Maybe you don’t mind when people unironically use the term “hobo bag” to refer to a “crescent shaped purse known for a slouchy posture.” And maybe you don’t wince when purses are called “arm candy.” If that’s the case, these 200 word “articles” might be great for you.

I’d say that the highlight of this issue is a piece on page 16 called “Flying Solo” by Amanda Morrison. It’s sort of about taking a vacation alone and shows a photo of a woman sitting in an airline seat with nobody next to her, looking out the window pensively. The article appears to freely intersperse paragraphs about how to fly on an airplane like a grown-up (“travel light”) and relationship advice about jettisoning your emotional baggage. The piece really must be seen to be believed.

There are some recipes which they downloaded from the Internet and printed. There is a page listing some things that you might want to do for fun in the summer: Have a barbecue! Have a garden party! Don’t neglect your children!

Then you’ve got the self-promotion, where RSVP takes pictures of the events they’ve planned/hosted. They had a wine tasting in Cloverdale. They helped sponsor the Pub Crawl (which we didn’t attend, but heard was awful). And they do a two-page spread on some girl’s Sweet 16 birthday party that they held on the riverboat. Let’s just say that, “Dakin’s dream of an unforgettable night came into full blossom on the decks of the Harriott II.” You see, they ate a bunch of candy. And a “fantastic local songsmith” made teen hearts swoon on Deck 2. And up top, they tested their dance moves because something called Fontaine Entertainment was playing. What is Fontaine Entertainment? Some DJ from Wetumpka. Woooooo! By the way, Dakin had a nice time and there’s an ice sculpture shaped like a Hershey’s kiss. Classy!

The cover story is a skippable affair about a musical featuring the most harmless music of the 1960s that was being performed at the increasingly-awful Alabama Shakespeare Festival. The sad decline of that particular institution is a blog post for another day. But one reason to pick up RSVP every time you see one is The List.

Yes, we’re talking about the hilariously-posed gathering of “the young professionals and business leaders who bring culture and energy to our area.” There are ten of them in this issue. Two are black and four are ladies. One guy is rocking a leather wrist cuff and works for the Conservation Department. He teaches a hiking class called “Being an Outdoor Woman.” And he paints pictures of nature and stuff. And loves Christ. Then, we’ve got the program director for BONDS. That’s a good program. It deserves a feature article. She has some dogs. And there’s some lawyer who is a former beauty pageant queen and a member of the Junior League. So, um, yeah. She’s a lawyer.

The next page features a guy who specializes in “outside the box decorative finishes.” Huh. OK. I think what they mean, but don’t say, is he runs a company that does decorative plaster work. No shame in that. But it’s absurd to hype it up like this dude is revolutionizing our town. Then there’s a lady who does dance fitness training, a lady who does PR for Hyundai, and a dude who runs a construction company. Young people with jobs!

The last batch features the lady who does the weather on TV (She went to Penn State!), a guy who sells insurance (he “puts God # 1!”), and a guy who does sculpting and woodwork (He has a degree in marketing from Auburn!)

Look, we’re not making fun of these people or trying to debate who does or doesn’t belong on The List. That sort of begs the question. Some of these people do important work (the woman who works for BONDS) and others are surely upstanding citizens who haven’t been arrested and hold down jobs and pay taxes and are therefore members of the community. Fine and good. But doesn’t it seem kind of desperate?

The final bit of note in this issue is the write up about the Alley Bar. Now, you may remember that this was also the cover story of Montgomery Living back in August. And it’s the talk of the town. A bar! Downtown! Amazing! It’s sort of the centerpiece of a downtown redevelopment strategy designed to create synergy with the Biscuits and the riverboat and the RSA’s Renaissance Hotel. And this is pretty major given that without those things, downtown Montgomery after dark is an abandoned wasteland of closed up and boarded up shops. So a lot of people are pretty justifiably invested in making some sort of nightlife into an economically viable option.

Is any of this mentioned in the writeup? No. It mentions that the guy who opened the Alley Bar is named Mike Watson. He’s an architect. And there are multiple ads from his properties in this publication. So don’t think too much about objective reporting as to whether this is a place you’d like to hang out. Also don’t think too much about good editing, since there are misplaced apostrophes and other errors sprinkled throughout.

What do we learn? Well, there’s a bar. And they have shots. And food. And TVs. Just like bars have! It’s in a historic area (building built in 1881) and Watson likes adaptive re-use, which we also like. But instead of discussing gentrification or the economics and politics surrounding downtown redevelopment, we get an actual photo of the machines in the restrooms that you can use to dry your hands. Seriously.

The rest of the issue is pretty much a social calendar of events that might appeal to the core demographic of RSVP’s readership. In other words, a slew of highly-skippable events that are given the 8 point font treatment. It’s clear from the inclusion of such  things as a Steely Dan concert in Atlanta that this list of events can be pretty much expanded to fill space as needed.

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7 responses to “Free Magazine Review: Montgomery RSVP (July/Aug 2009)

  1. I will say that, in RSVP’s defense, the hand drying machines in the Alley Bar bathrooms are pretty amazing.

  2. Kate, they better have fancy hand-drying machines. I wouldn’t be surprised if that ugly water tower leaks!

    Is the July/August issue of this magazine the most recent?

  3. No, we’re just working our way through the big pile in our house. More to come. Soon we might even be caught up!

  4. Once again your review of RSVP is killing me.
    I gotta send this link to some of my friends you mentioned in review, they will get a kick out of it.
    Hey if you all ever review a newer issue be sure to mention how my entertainment reviews of ASF and MPAC shows (advertisers of course) are always positive.
    See ya,
    Eddieographer

  5. Pingback: Free Magazine Review: RSVP (Sept/Oct 2010) | Lost in Montgomery

  6. I greatly appreciate the reality of your review, and for doing the dirty work-one question still remains every week I scan through RSVP email:
    Is another source available that will send a weekly email listing all the venues (mainly bars around town) where musicians play? Basically looking for a digitized list of who plays and on what of the week? I enjoy scanning to look for certain names worth it: The zigtones, Michael Thorton, Jon Tew, Andrew Lewis, Mac Cone, etc.
    Thanks!

  7. Sadly, we’re not aware of a unified calendar for city events and bands. The Advertiser’s calendar is full of weird “events” including like sales, family reunions, AA meetings; it is also poorly designed and basically unusable. The RSVP calendar obviously lists their events and little else. The Emerge calendar barely has their meetings, let alone other stuff, and there’s no good band listings we know of. Maybe that Advertiser section Go Play has one, but we don’t get the print paper, so we’re not sure. Anyway, thanks for reading!

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