Mr. Magazine™

Her name is Magazine and she is irresistible. Her smell is like black, murky ink and her touch is as soft as gloss. Her eyes are taglines of mesmerizing prose that one man can’t deny. Her minions live in the palms of her enticing hands, where they are pulled close and nurtured at the bountiful breasts of her covers. She waits for the one who will love her, the one who will inhale her minions into their very soul, and the one who will carry her name.

Dr. Samir Husni was born in Tripoli, Lebanon. When he was a boy of nine, he experienced a life-altering transformation; a transfusion, if you will. It was the moment that he bought his first comic book, Superman. He held the magazine in his hands for the first time, ran the pads of his fingers across the shiny cover, and felt a sensation similar to the blood leaving his body begin to take place. In that instant, whether by osmosis, mutation, or a combination of the two, his heart began to pump ink and Mr. Magazine™ was born.

“I cannot describe the feeling other than a complete transformation,” Husni says. “My heart was beating rapidly and I could feel the ink from the paper of that magazine enter my veins and my obsession began. It was, and still is, an obsession that I absolutely love.”

And so the path of Husni’s life was chosen. It was this obsession that had him designing and creating content for his own crayon and markers publications when he was only ten years old. As a child with a sharply acute mind, Husni used wax from his mother’s candles to lift images from week-old newspapers. No one told him this was possible, but somehow he knew.

Just as no one has to tell him which magazines out of the thousands that are launched each year will survive the “digital age” and which ones won’t. He just knows. He is Mr. Magazine™.

When you walk into Husni’s office (he is the Founder and Director of the Magazine Innovation Center at University of Mississippi) the first thing you notice, besides the scattered playground where his offspring of magazines are allowed to frolic wherever they like, is the crystal ball that sits prominently on his desk. The immediate parameters encircling it are filled with varying issues of different publications, and like sentries standing guard, they protect its unspoken distinction.

The defining factor of obsessions is that they are something you cannot resist. They are mesmerizing moments in the warp of time where you are totally and completely at the mercy of a consortium of possessive minions.

Mr. Magazine’s™ ink on paper addiction is incurable. And he likes it that way. So do a few of his friends. David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines, believes a world without the obsessed Mr. Magazine is an unthinkable, untenable and uninhabitable place. “I won’t even contemplate a world without Mr. Magazine™,” Carey. “But I certainly know that our industry is fortunate to have him advancing the value of magazine brands in all their exciting platforms.”

Magazine takes pride in her many minions, and in Dr. Husni’s case, he was hit trifold with the arrows of her magnetic cupids, but only because it served her purpose.

These arrows of weakness came in the form of his vast collection of neckties and his students, not necessarily in that order. He stopped counting ties at 1,200 to preserve his sanity and his marriage. He tells his students at the beginning of the semester, “If you see me wear the same tie twice during the semester, you will get an automatic A.”

And he’s not kidding. Husni orders his ties from all around the world, from some of the most expensive – he once paid $700 for a collector’s tie with the number one on it, (there were only 50 made) – to ties with the images of his grandsons on them. He is totally and completely enamored with the silk nooses which twine around his neck like a perfect leash.

Then there are his students. They are like extensions of his family. He treats them like his children by caring enough to push them to be their very best. He monitors their progress long after they’ve left the nest of the University, keeping in touch with them, checking on them to be sure they are maximizing their skills and opportunities in their jobs.

He is as obsessed with their futures as he is with the future of the latest launch of a magazine. He wants success for them as badly as for that new publication. And his students reciprocate that sincere caring by pushing themselves to be successful, and realizing the potential that Husni saw in them from the beginning. They revere him because obsession means commitment. And Husni is committed to his students.

This obession even controls Mr. Magazine’s™ time off. He and his family can be on vacation in some beautifully exotic locale and before anyone can say, “The plane has landed,” he’s searching for the scent of ink. His children have grown accustomed to his bloodhound tactics and usually just push him off in the direction of the closest newsstand or retailer. If he doesn’t get his fix, the family doesn’t get a vacation.

The name Dr. Husni or Mr. Magazine™ may conjure up an image of a man with two personas, but that’s not entirely the case. He was born Samir Husni and he was reborn Mr. Magazine.

Vicki Wellington, the publisher of Food Network Magazine, says that when she hears the name Samir Husni or Mr. Magazine™, many things come to mind. “I think smart, funny, insightful, persuasive, collector of EVERY magazine ever made,” Wellington said. “Oh, and be careful in his office as it is tumbling over with magazines from every single decade.”

Mr. Magazine™ has close to 30,000 first edition magazines in his collection. He has five different climate-controlled storage units where his prized possessions are kept. When he visits his treasures, he can calm the stresses of the day by breathing in the essence of the ink on paper that he bolsters and loves each and every day of his life.

“Never underestimate the power of print in a digital age,” Mr. Magazine™ said. “Print is the backbone of our industry. If publishers would devote as much time and energy to their print publications as they do their digital venues, if they would get innovative and creative, we would not have to listen to the Paul Reveres of the publishing world riding through our towns crying, ‘Print is dead, print is dead.’ It’s ridiculous. Print is not dead and nor will it be.”

Mr. Magazine™ accepted his anointment by Magazine at the age of nine. His oldest grandson is only four. And if you ask him his name, he’ll proudly tell you:

“My name is Mr. Magazine™ Jr.” And the TM is spoken with a definite emphasis.

And Magazine’s seduction begins again.

Text by Angela Rogalski
Photography by Ignacio Murillo