I grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan in the 1970s and 1980s and always wanted to be a journalist. I am fortunate now to have done that for more than 30 years.
My first reporting jobs were internships at the Grand Haven Tribune, the Muskegon Chronicle, the Idaho Statesman, the Rapid City Journal, Life Magazine and Whittle Communications. I enrolled at Northwestern University in 1985 to study journalism and in 1987, after walking onto the varsity basketball team, sold what in retrospect was a rather whiny essay to Sports Illustrated on being the last man on the worst team in the Big Ten.
In 1989 I earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and for the next few years worked in London as a Kelly Girl temp and a bartender at the Royal Albert Hall; taught at a basketball camp in Leeds; taught at a summer high school journalism camp where I met my wife (another instructor, not a camper); waited tables and sold articles when I could. I was honored to have my work appear regularly in Spy and contribute to Harper’s “Readings” section.
In 1991 I became an editor and writer at the Washington Journalism Review, later the American Journalism Review, outside Washington, D.C. My favorite assignment was a story in which I interviewed media reporters about the challenges of interviewing other reporters, who know all the tricks of the trade.
In 1994 I began a rewarding 19-year career as editor and reporter at Playboy magazine in Chicago and later New York, which included answering more than 3,400 questions in print for the advice column. In 2006 I included the best of the lot to that point in Dear Playboy Advisor (Steerforth Press), which was remaindered about two weeks after it came out.
I appeared on a number of television shows as the Advisor, including Politically Incorrect, although I didn’t look much like a sex expert (and still don’t) and so was more comfortable on the radio. In 2012 and 2013 I hosted more than 80 weekly episodes of a live talk show, “where the sexual meets the intellectual,” on Sirius/XM. In many cases, it was an excuse to meet people I admired.
During my time at Playboy, I wrote editorials on free speech and civil rights and wrote or edited more than 50 features, including a five-part series on male sexual development that won science journalism awards from the Wistar Institute and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
In the 1990s I published fanzines such as Chip’s Closet Cleaner and This is the Spinal Tap Zine and in 1996 edited an anthology, The Book of Zines: Readings from the Fringe (Henry Holt) and created a website for it, zinebook.com, which is still active. I also created spinaltapfan.com.
I’ve had a great time with all of this. Besides continuing as a freelance magazine writer, I now work as a professional genealogist, an interest I’ve had since I was a teenager. In 2014 I received the American Society of Genealogists Scholar Award and since 2013 have researched and written family histories for the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Most recently, I became managing editor of a non-profit community newspaper, The Highlands Current, based in the Hudson Highlands north of New York City.