Tag Archives: Montgomery RSVP

Rock You Like a High Energy Folk Rock Hurricane: Free Magazine Review, RSVP Mar/Apr 2017

As the soon-to-be-butchered Ghost in the Shell points out (1), human memory is particularly fickle and ephemeral. It may make us who we are; at the same time, its existence may mask a deeper epistemological conflict. We certainly don’t get to choose what sticks in our memory. As we get older, this becomes more and more frightening. We try and hold on to things like anniversary dates, first kisses, an especially significant bit of moonlight. Sometimes we find that there are things in our minds we’d rather dispense with: distasteful happenings, random detritus. And then there are the bits we love, the odds and ends that we haven’t memorized on purpose but that have stuck with you for decades, each time seeming fresh and new. Such a memory, for me, is Sideshow Bob’s remark about air shows.

What kind of country fried rube indeed? I spent my youth at air shows, the easily impressed daughter of a Navy pilot. I remember that the SR-71 Blackbird was one of my earliest ideals of beauty. I saw multi million dollar planes come close enough to touch, risking in-flight collisions with colluded grace. Their force and variety impressed me. Sometimes I even got to sit in the cabin.

Now that I’m an Alabamian (going on a decade, sans buzz cut) I ask myself what I once thought was so great about these dangerous displays of government might. I can see my childhood wonder, my love of a spectacle, the gee whiz-ness of it all. What I can’t see is appreciating them as an adult. They’re incredibly loud and extraordinarily wasteful. They’re basically in-person recruiting pitches that don’t mention the free college, citizenship and health benefits (2). That’s not even to talk about the ways that they’re basically sound bombs designed to quiesce the working class so they don’t think about troublesome things like military spending. No need to look at that 10% budget increase, people – over here these two planes that your taxes pay for doing this all the time are maybe going to crash into each other! And there will be colored smoke!

Which might as well be the cover of RSVP’s new edition – a whiff of colored smoke. That would be nicer to look at than the existing jet plane promotional picture (3). It would have the added benefit of accurate advertising for the inside matter – puffs of colored smoke, largely punctuated by the occasional brute force reminder of what counts for some people as “fun.” But it’s the 70th birthday of the U.S. Air Force, an institution created to wipe humanity off the planet with nuclear weapons, and the show’s themed “Heritage to Horizon: A Century of Airpower since WWI,” and it features both the Thunderbirds and some trick French outfit, and it’s at Maxwell next month, so that pretty much guarantees that local journalistic bastion RSVP is going to feature the event on their cover.

Once upon a time we used to write a lot of free magazine reviews (4). We’d recently moved to town and were curious about the representations made by these magazines. Who paid for their journey into our hands? Who advertised within? What stories did the advertorialists tell about Montgomery and its denizens? Over time, the endless arrays of glossies beat us into submission. There were always new profiles to read, fresh rankings of orthopedic surgeons, of the moment photo shoots of events by the Mystic Krewe of whatever having their Thing White People Like in a Renaissance conference room dressed up to look like Undersea Paradise or what have you. From the beginning, these stories did not match up with our lived experience of the place. As we stayed longer, our skepticism metastasized from giggles to eye-averting shame. There came a point where, as the kids say, we couldn’t even.

But all good things deserve to be rescued from memory’s fickle tar pits, so we’re going to give this another try. Welcome back, readers, to Lost in Montgomery’s Free Magazine Review.

What’s it called? Montgomery RSVP: The River Region Guide for All Things Social. Notice the “all” in there – a bold claim, a “look no further” attitude. If you click that link above, you’ll see that we have reviewed RSVP plenty of times, and said enough about them to ensure that we’ll never, ever make “The List.”

What is it? This is not our first rodeo (but March 16-18 could be yours, as the events calendar informs us that the 60th Annual Southeastern Livestock Exposition Rodeo is coming to town: “Grab your cowboy boots and hat”). Indeed. So we know that RSVP isn’t just a publishing house. It’s also (and largely) an event planning firm whose lady employees pose every two months for some kind of photo of them being fashion-forward. This photo is usually attached to the “from the GIRLS” column that introduces each issue. The editor’s name is Peyton Flowers, a name that somehow could not be more perfect if a thousand Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates slaved away on the matter for a thousand years on a thousand MacBook Airs. Peyton is evidently about to give birth. If you did not know this from the column, it might make you wonder why her co-workers were each touching her belly, besides to point out its impeccable drape in a bold printed tunic.

Where’d we find it? Where do you not find RSVP? Have you ever played that game Plague, Inc.? The goal is to engineer a virus that will kill all of humanity before a cure can be found. One winning strategy is to infect as close to 100% of the population before you begin to manifest deadly symptoms. This works because you (the virus) get taken for granted, just another thing to put up with, no need to worry about a cure. And then one day you (again, the virus) evolve the ability to dissolve organs through aspiration and it’s all over. Puny humans. About all we can say for sure is that RSVP Magazine has not yet evolved the ability to transmit by air.

What’s the deal? Oh, Montgomery, you’re so much more sophisticated than you seem – at least according to the folks at RSVP. Their vendors have hashtags and muted colors. Their models have no pores, and you don’t need to either, because they’re offering a 15% discount on something horrifyingly called a “chemical peel.” Sometimes their ads have an illegible black font on dark purple background, but maybe they’re just sophisticated like that. Mostly, RSVP’s advertisers are betting that their readers have pets (check), wear makeup (nope) and are looking for a home – preferably of new construction (double nope). And yet, we read. Like a moth to the flame, we read.

What sections do they have? Mostly, if we’re honest, when we read RSVP we want to see who made The List. The List is RSVP’s bi-monthly curated compendium of the intentionally integrated, “young” and well-dressed. These folks may be artists, chefs, or account executives. They may be especially well-rounded nurse practitioners. What unites people in The List is their willingness to pose in affordable-to-reach clothing against some kind of reclaimed wood or slate background. In flattering light. This month, it’s slate. And we’ve got people who are passionate about their “fur babies,” CrossFit, and God, perhaps in that order, perhaps not. Some are pretty in pink, others have a kind of Vampirella thing going on. What’s important is not who they are, but what The List says about Montgomery. It says that we’re a place with dessert menus, a choice of gyms, modern couches and upbeat positivity-drenched consumerism civic pride. And air shows.

What’s interesting in this issue? The best part of this issue is the list of coming attractions (here titled “what? when? where?” as if by some kind of dementia victim). Beginning on page 74, the listing promises that we can “BE IN THE KNOW … AND IN THE NOW” if we follow these listings and sign up online to RSVP’s own newsletter, “full of weekly SPECIALS, PROMOTIONS, LIVE MUSIC and more!” Let us leave alone for a moment, because we are feeling especially generous, the matter of the erratic all-caps behavior (see also: Facebook conversations with screaming Libertarian/racist family members). This will allow us to focus on the substance of the matter – who and what will light up our local experience across the next two months? Among what manner of delights shall we choose? However shall we plan our busy social calendar?

A surprising number of upcoming events involve cruises on the Harriott II – a vessel whose dining room our MML correspondent Jesseca Cornelson once described as “straight out of The Shining.” Then there are the ASF and Cloverdale Playhouse productions. Some seem cool – we are definitely in for The Tempest and The Crucible, the latter of which we are certain will only be about Salem and will have no bearing at all on contemporary world events. Afterward, we’re left with a number of one offs whose collective impact is to make our poor city seem about like the air show lover that it is. There’s trivia at heavy RSVP advertiser Blackfinn Ameripub. Plus side: Winner gets a $50 gift card. Minus side: You have to go to Blackfinn. Not gifted with either a knowledge of the arcane or especially defined cheekbones? Doug’s 2 has you covered with Contouring 101 ($55, March 15 & 22). Maybe if you go the first night (and don’t wash), your face will still look super-narrow when you go see a culture warrior, “Tater Salad” Ron White, perform at the MPAC the following evening.

March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, so newspapers everywhere are offering hot takes on corned beef, and bartenders everywhere are preparing for amateur night (unless they are, wisely, offering “Saint Practice’s Night” at other times). RSVP recommends that you go to “Dinner with Sugarcane Jane” at the Capitol City Club. It’s at 6:30: “Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with dinner and a show. You can expect an incredible performance with this high-energy husband-and-wife folk rock duo while enjoying a five-course meal…” The meal is $100 for non-members, $85 for members. Remember that value is not the only way to represent the worth of your soul.

If that isn’t dark enough for you, Blackfinn will reveal the winner of its “Best Leprechaun” contest at midnight. See, someday your prince will come.

But wait. There’s more. This is spring, the end of accursed Daylight Savings Time, the rebirth of Our Lord, the rolling back of the rock to expose … commodities values! That’s right, MPAC will host “The Price is Right! Stage Show” on March 24. We assume that either Drew Carey or his contractually obligated genetic clone will be there to help your peers guess the market price of a box of detergent. To attend this spectacle, you’ll pay $35 to $55. And then, of course, the piece de resistance – the arrival of the Easter Bunny. Leaving alone the weirdest of weird brand synergy between “I just died” Jesus and “I hid someone’s eggs” Bunny, can we all marvel for a minute that the rabbit’s arrival will be on ice? At the mall? With escorts from the Eastdale Mall “Teen Team?” If it seems like this is a setup for the next Friday the 13th movie, you can just put your pen away slowly – we’re wayyyy ahead of you (5).

Reader, the buffet stretches forth endlessly. You’ve got a Jamboree at Faulkner, a Troy Festival, a tennis tournament for the almost-dead … so much to look forward to, and that’s not even till the temperatures top 90. So for this and so much more, we salute RSVP. Without you, we’d never suspect exactly how banal active our beloved community could be.


(1) Save your time; the sequel isn’t really worth it, even though the animation is stunning. The characters spend a bunch of time saying quotations to each other on the order of “The ape wandering through the forest must step on many leaves.”

(2) Lest you say that we are in some way “anti-military,” consider that both of us have parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who served in the military. Also maybe consider why being anti-air show might make someone anti-military, unless that makes your brain hurt too hard. In which case, probably go ahead and delete your comment.

(3) And for those who are going to pursue writing their comment anyway, I’ll just say that the Blue Angels are better than the Thunderbirds anyway. This is dogma. I was raised to believe this in the same way that some people are raised to believe that God made the world in seven days. Neither idea may be correct, but both are largely unfalsifiable as matters of belief.

(4) Okay, maybe “a lot” is a wild overestimation. We wrote some. That’s better than most people did.

(5) Easter Bunny no longer played by Sean Spicer.

Free Magazine Review: A Trifecta

Look, we get the emails. We have been following on Twitter. We know that you want more Free Magazine Reviews. It’s our most popular feature, especially since the cancellation of “Name That Racist.”

But it’s hard to keep up with the free magazines. They’re everywhere. They’re free. It’s easy to pick them up and aimlessly leaf through them while you’re waiting for a table at a restaurant. It’s easy to see them and slide one into your backpack and/or adult diaper. And then they pile up around the house, the airline magazine in our airport city, the dentist office debris in life’s waiting room.

Soon, you have piles of magazines with outdated event updates about events you never wanted to attend, grinning rictus faces of social elites in clubs you’re not allowed in, ads for things you’ll never desire. But when will you ever break them down? Get specific? What about the categories?

Today, we’re punting the categories — not because the gimmick is broken, but just because at some point you have to get these damn magazines out of your house. As long as there’s money to burn, people will keep making them. So we’re going to process three of these bastards as quickly as possible, giving you the high points so that hopefully next time, we can delve into a single issue in depth.


What are they? Today, we’re looking at two issues from January 2013 (River Region’s Journey and River Region Living) and one issue of Montgomery RSVP from May-June 2013. For convenience, we’re going to use nicknames for the rest of this review: RSVP, RRL and RRJ.

What’s the deal? Well, all three are obviously free magazines. Duh. They make their money from ad sales. And they’re all pretty much distributed in similar places. We can’t remember exactly where we grabbed these three, but you’ve probably seen them all somewhere (assuming you leave the house in between TV shows and game/video downloads).

Covers: Only RRL lacks a sub-head. RRJ claims to be “sharing hope and building community.” RSVP purports to be “The River Region Guide for All Things Social!” I mean, they don’t use the exclamation point, but it’s pretty much implied in everything they write. RRL and RRJ went with white people standing still for the cover, but RSVP takes home the Boring Cover Art award by taking a picture of five bottles of beer. In their defense, I’ve never consumed those beers, so they are certainly interesting to the kinds of folks that would pay $15 for a six pack. Sidebar: RRL continues to clarify that their magazine used to be called Montgomery Living. This is significant because they are not only trying to rope in readers from Millbrook and Prattville, this is also a racially-coded branding thing. Also, RRL continues to put a price tag on their covers, as if people were paying $3 to read it.

Level of Religion: RRJ is clearly the heavyweight in this category. It is clubbing you over the head with Jesus on pretty much every page. Their inside cover is an ad for Frazier, the Methodist MEGA-church. The lead feature appeals to those seeking finger-wagging before getting married. The subhead for the feature on page 34 is “What to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Pray.” The people who read RRJ are the kind of folks who like to be told what to do, if you know what I mean. Page 4 is “Pastor’s Perspective,” where Montgomery’s Rev. Graves strings together a bunch of cliches wrapped around an ad for a martial arts studio.

RRL does still remind you where you are. Page 8 is a full-pager for a religious private school and the cover-story is about the head of the YMCA and “God’s invitation to follow his real calling,” which was, as you might imagine, running the YMCA.

RSVP merely worships at the altar of money, and is for the most part pretty secular.

Whiteness: They’re all Utah-level white. For a city that is (at least) half African-American, these mags are Donny Osmond by way of Downton Abbey. RSVP might be the most diverse, but only because they did this weird (no, totally incomprehensible) photo layout on pages 26-28 that had 20 black folks in it. Other than an ad with a black lady in it, pretty much every other face is white, but that one story (about something called the “I Am More Than” campaign) gives them the most diversity. RRJ (the religious one) has photos of when they visited an orphanage in Kenya, so that doesn’t really count. Most of their ads are of white kids going to private school to be away from the black kids that are stuck in public schools, but one of those schools (Evangel Christian) has a non-white little girl in it. And RRL has a one-pager on the former Montgomery cop that the SPLC just hired. He’s African-American, along with maybe 2 percent of the other faces in the magazine. And remember, these magazines are using either clip art or pictures of people standing still, so we’re talking about a lot of smiling white people posing and facing the camera. RSVP’s list (“a who’s who of young leaders”) always has like one or two black people … again, in a city that is half black.

The Selling: They’re all about the same. As noted, the super-religious RRJ is mostly a vehicle for private school ads or ads for churches themselves (“Go Anglican!”) RRJ has an ad for potential advertisers touting their readers as having “lager household incomes,” which I assume means that their readers make money brewing beer. With editing like that, my biznez is shore to suckseed!

RSVP continues their shameless practice of writing “articles” about the people that buy ads from them. “Look! There’s a hot new gym in town! It just so happened to have purchased the full back cover as a color ad!” One feature about something potentially useful (a cobbler who repairs shoes) actually ends with the sentence, “I promise you will enjoy doing business there.” That’s some hot writing there, Stephanie Hoskins.

photoRRL is the usual collection of boutiques and stuff except for this hilarious ad on page 54 from a company that makes chemicals for women to put on their hair. Fronduti’s wants to be sure you know that their company (which makes “hair products” and is therefore a “product company”) is against domestic violence. Not only are they against it (and totally don’t support domestic violence of any kind, you guys), they want you to know that those other product companies HAVE NOT YET SPOKEN OUT AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Why haven’t they? What are they hiding? Do those other product companies think that it might maybe just sometimes be okay to smack around your domestic partner if they happen to get a little “lippy?” Would a percentage of my hard-earned hair product dollar be channeled Chik-Fil-A-style to one of the Big Domestic Violence Lobbies? Because I do NOT want that shit to happen. Thank you, Fronduti’s, for having the courage to take a stand in a hideously-designed full-page ad … and for warning me about your competitors’ neglect of (nay, embrace of) this Important Social Issue.

Pics of the Makers: RRL comes strong with ol’ Darlene (who goes by Darlene Hutchinson Biehl) sitting kind of sideways in a kitchen chair in a photography studio, open-collared with blazer. (She wished you a happy new year, btw). The ladies from RSVP are, as always, sitting together next to the masthead, all six happy to be out at Hampstead, two of them holding wine glasses (one of them is empty … Oopsie!) They remind us that “summer is almost here” and let us know that they have two new interns. RRJ presents us with Jason Watson, the publisher, who we must painfully suspect is probably related somehow to editor DeAnne Watson. Suddenly the magazine’s constant exhortations that I embrace marital counseling feels especially awkward.

Bottom lines: These magazines are funny, but not hilarious. We may have glanced at them while waiting for food at some local restaurant, but were never drunk enough to properly fall onto the floor laughing. After all, once you see that they gave a Barbara Streisand movie a rating of “extreme caution” for moral acceptability (talk about a “Guilt Trip!“), you can actually start to feel sorry for the people trapped in these sorts of mental prisons. And it’s not just the “Public school atheists are out to warp your children” crowd. It’s also the watch-buying, boutique-frequenting beer snobs that are genuinely worried about hosting the perfect wedding brunch. You will always grab RSVP and smirk at The List’s tortured definitions of “young leaders,” but eventually, these magazines will start to pile up in your house. And although our city no longer participates in curbside pickup for recycling materials, you will still find a way to ensure, at least for now, that this particular trio will avoid the landfill for just a little bit longer.

Free Magazine Review: RSVP (Sept/Oct 2010)

It has indeed been a while. So many free magazines piled up around the house. Time to get to reviewing them again! It’s Lost in Montgomery’s only semi-regular feature, Free Magazine Review! Click here for past editions. Today, we just couldn’t pass up reviewing another issue of the local mag that is our go-to source for rich white people comedy.

What’s it called? Montgomery RSVP. As you may recall, RSVP is actually an acronym, standing for “Rental Space Vogue Parties.” They have a website.

Giant furries promote loyalty to higher education

What is it? Well, they claim in their subtitle to be “The River Region Guide for All Things Social,” but that obviously depends on your social scene. If you’re younger than 30, make less than $50,000 a year, or you don’t resemble Bob Costas or Martha Stewart, you may well decide that there are some “things social” that aren’t covered by the sweeping umbrella of RSVP’s claim.

Where’d we find it? Likely at one of the businesses featured in the many advertisements within the pages of the magazine. Our best guess after digging this issue out of one of our stacks of unread detritus is that this issue was grabbed at a local salon.

What’s the deal? We’ve reviewed RSVP twice before. First we looked at their March/April 2009 issue. Then we examined their July/August issue of the same year. Both were hilarious editions, but we took some time off to see if RSVP could get it together. But like awful adult contemporary singer Richard Marx sang, we just “keep coming back.”

RSVP is, after all, clearly the leading publication in the field of Montgomery’s vast and competitive free magazine landscape. You might say that it stands astride the world of free magazines like a Colossus towering over a giant pile of wasted paper.

RSVP appears to be plugging themselves into the municipal scene in a way that the somewhat-harder-to-find Montgomery Living is failing to do. Maybe it’s RSVP’s snazzy party planning business, or maybe they’ve simply got better connections. Maybe it’s because RSVP’s magazine is free, while Montgomery Living has a cover price (though we’ve never paid for one). RSVP is hooked into the young urban professional network in a way that has caused it to cross our paths several times over the past year.

What sections do they have? RSVP seems to have settled into a fairly regular set of features. They’ve got two stories under “Singled OUT,” which, we guess is about dating or something. There’s a feature story; the “socially SEEN” section; “Look, Listen, Lounge;” and the usual bunch. There’s no real reason why the sections are distinguishable. Music info could be under “Look, Listen, Lounge,” or maybe under “Now Hear This,” or as a “reason to gather” or “friends, trends, odds & ends,” or perhaps the catch-all category, “when? what? where?” Either way, the whole thing is advertising, so it’s not like there are firm editorial categories here.

Obviously, the most important section here is “the list,” which features several pages of photos and biographical information about “young leaders.” And trust us, if you have a job and are under 50, RSVP’s list considers you a “young leader.” One featured leader has been in the Air Force for 22 years.

Who advertises? The usual suspects. We’ve been through this in our previous two reviews of the mag. The first ad after the inside cover is for the Alley Bar, touting the fact that you can watch football there. Well, it says, “Game on!” and has a picture of an offensive line about to snap the ball. Wouldn’t that lead you to think you could watch Saturday morning college football games at the Alley Bar? Yet, do they show games there?

We went on a Saturday during October and they were closed. Do you think they’re open for the NFL on Sundays? Nope.

Game on!

In fact, if you’ll entertain a brief sidebar about the Alley Bar, we called their phone number on a Sunday morning and not only were they closed, they didn’t even have an outgoing voicemail explaining their hours. You get get a recorded message: “Memory full. Enter access code.”

Huh. OK. Maybe there’s info on their blog. Nope. Instead of info from the bar itself, you get posts from customers complaining about being overcharged on their credit cards.

Ah, downtown revitalization.

What’s interesting in this issue? Football! Like, totally, uh muh Gah!

Look, we love college football. More importantly, most people around here love college football. Thus, it’s a good cover choice and a defensible theme for a fall issue. There’s good fodder for a featured cover story and it’s likely to be a popular issue.

That said, it helps to have some idea of what you’re talking about before you pick something to be your cover story. Take the six ladies on the title page, for example. Usually, this is where you get a note from the editor. This month, we get six notes from various white ladies, each talking about autumn and football. Kim, the publisher, likes to “get [her] booty back in the gym.” Amanda watches Grey’s Anatomy and loves Auburn football. Amanda says, “since retiring my pom-poms years ago,” she is mostly “an avid fan of shopping.” Chandler enjoys picking out the perfect game day dress, while Mallory applies football terms to her dating life, talking about “steering clear of yellow flags” and not “jumping offsides” by texting or calling too much. Shopping and fashion and dating! Football!

Pages 12-15 are light on text, heavy on fashion, mostly trying to tell you brand name college-themed crap to buy to wear to football games. No faded lucky t-shirts for these ladies. We’re talking semi off-the-shoulder tops for “flirty fun looks.” And for the dudes? Shut up and drink your embroidered flask.

Also, while it’s nice that they threw Alabama State and Troy State (yes, we still call it that) into the mix with Bama and Auburn, there’s no mention in the fashion spread of other in-state teams like Samford, UAB, or LOCAL team Huntingdon.

The Hawks do make it into the “spirit of the game” section, which consists of “facts about these colleges that we downloaded off the Internet.” In the section about Alabama State (p. 28), the editors/writers manage to misspell both “Pittsburgh” and “Steelers.” Yay, football!

But what can we really expect from a publication that on the front end says several times that “every Southern girl” waits year-round for football season and then towards the back of the magazine alongside the printing of SEC football schedules includes this fine image:

Ladies like football ... unless it is boring torture that they endure because men force them.

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.

Free Magazine Review: Montgomery RSVP (Mar/Apr 2009)

Continuing a theme here at Lost in Montgomery, it’s time for another installment of Free Magazine Review!

What’s it called? Montgomery RSVP– the RSVP seems to stand for “Rental Space Vogue Parties” (really, we’re not making this up), and this magazine seems to be the publicity organ for a company with the same name.

What is it? “The River Region Guide for All Things Social!”

Where’d we find it? Cool Beans, a a very tasty and attractive place downtown. We should do a review of it here on Lost in Montgomery later, but the basic deal is that the people who run it are super nice and the food looks quite tasty and is just a wee bit too expensive.

What’s the deal? Well, pretty much this is a high-end glossy magazine about social activities in Montgomery (and the greater so-called River Region). It’s the kind of thing that tries are hard as possible to be pretentious and it offers a great look into the world of the wealthy whites who have largely fled inner city Montgomery. In our experience, magazines like this will grunt and strain to cover various social events, but ultimately fail due to: a) bad writing and b) running out of things to write about. This issue is the one-year anniversary of this particular publication. Also, this magazine appears to be largely produced by (and directed at) women. It is published by Kim; edited by Brianne; the contributing designers are Kasey, Summer, and Erika; the writers are Shannon, Amanda, Blue, Janine, Jamie, Jennifer, and Jonalan; and the interns are Mallory and Kimberly. Also, there is an Events Coordinator, which, from the look of the magazine, is VERY important. That job is done by Tiffany.

What sections do they have? Singled Out: The 411 on Single Life; Connections: Reasons to Gather; Two Are Better: Ideas for Couples; Socially Seen; Look, Listen, Lounge: Hot New Music, Movies, Books, and Places; and a few special features.

Who advertises? Usual suspects of rich white people boutiques and shoppes (although, to be fair, many of the people pictured in this magazine appear to be orange). As expected, the “articles” are also pretty much ads, like the first piece on how to buy sunglasses (sponsored by stores that sell them). This story is especially hilariously out of touch with Montgomery living – it suggests we can justify buying $100-$250 sunglasses by saying “I’ll skip a few lunches out.” There are also ads from a few regional events (some tennis tournament and the riverboat that our city just purchased for some reason). But mostly it’s crap like wedding photographers and belly dancing lessons.

What’s interesting in this issue? The dating article is so bad, it makes my eyes hurt to look at it. It includes valuable gems about the importance of being honest when dating someone. It is written in some kind of first person perspective that seems ripped from a 12-year-old’s journal. There’s a four-page piece on wine for people who know absolutely nothing about wine but want to seem like they do. All of the articles are heavily interspersed with pull quotes, subtitles and double spacing — pretty much anything to make them seem longer than they are. As evidence of how starved for content this magazine is, this March issue contained a wrap up of some New Year’s party.

The cover story is about awful band Saving Abel. How do I know they’re awful? Check out their most famous song. The lyrics are near the very top of the Unintentional Comedy scale. Turns out these dudes are from Corinth, Mississippi, so they’re sort of, um, regional or something. They have played in Montgomery, which is more than you can say about, well, any other band that’s selling records these days. Still, they list Three Doors Down as one of their influences, so it’s hard not to dismiss them out of hand. The write up is hilarious because it alternates between referring to the musicians by their last names and their first names.The article gives the impression of being pieced together after a 10 minute conference call with the band. And their publicity photos are, well, terrible. They’re touring with a bunch of other shitty bands, so, um, be on the lookout for that.

The other big centerpiece of this issue is called “The List.” It’s a group selected by Montgomery RSVP as “the young professionals and business leaders who bring culture and energy to our area.” We’ve got a woman who was in a fashion show once and also plans weddings! We’ve got a woman who is a tax accountant who “is linked to over 10 organized causes!” We’ve got a guy who is “a multi-album recording artist!” I wish so much I could meet these people. One guy works at a bank! What does he do to enrich our community? He spends time with his family!

Things like this make me feel like the community is even more impoverished than it really is. Still, it’s not all negative. I did learn from this magazine that our town has a ballet. So, even though that’s not my favorite art form, it’s cool to know that there’s some dance culture here. And the calendar is helpful, I guess, even if it’s super depressing that Larry the Cable guy is coming to town, but we’d have to drive to Birmingham to see Dave Matthews.

All in all, I’d pick up this magazine again, even if 95 percent of the reason was to make fun of it and/or be depressed by it. There are a few glimmers of valuable information in it and the remainder of the time spent with it can be spent reading chunks of it out loud to the delight/horror of all who may be around you.