While Cindy Crawford, Brooke Shields, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington & Christie Brinkley dominated the women's worldwide Supermodel catwalk, one man, single-handedly, defined the Super Male Model!
His name stands above all: Brian Buzzini.
I caught up with Brian at the NoHo Arts District Headquarters recently and chatted in length about his meteoric rise to fame in the mid-1980s, modeling for Calvin Klein & Versace, posing for Herb Ritts & Bruce Weber, his affection for gay men, and of course, the notorious Playgirl Man of The Year Centerfold with full erection (which he's very proud of).
Today, at 55, Mr. Buzzini contemplates his next moves. His entrepreneurial instincts are always on autopilot. Creating and branding a unique fitness plan for men 50+, designing Buzzini Essentials, a men's underwear line for the active and on-the-go guy... and, then, there's his four daughters... which makes him emotional and often times breaking down into silence. His daughter, Sophie, is a heroin addict, and this breaks his heart...
Brian was very specific when we got together for this interview. It was easier for him to express himself by WRITING it all down. Taking pen to paper... you know, the old-fashion way... then presenting it to me. OK. I now give you Brian Buzzini in his own words. With his own truth.
by Waide Riddle
By most accounts, in the fashion world, Brian Buzzini was the first male model to achieve 'Supermodel' status. Although, it wasn't fashion and clothing that caught the attention of celebrity photographers, agents and art directors back in 1985, it was the chiseled facial features and perfect athletic body of a self-described 'Country Boy' from the farmlands of Central California, as featured in the centerfold in the June issue of Playgirl magazine.
Brian had decided long before, he was going to pose naked despite the advice of a couple of his modeling agents.
"I didn't see this decision to pose completely nude as risky. I viewed it as an obvious way to stir-up controversy. Just ask Madonna, who was proving it during the same time period."
This wasn't a fluke. Brian had set a goal two years earlier after being discovered by agent and Owner of Elite Model Management/San Francisco, Gary Loftus, while scouting 90 miles east of the city, in the town of Modesto, California.
Brian's frame was a jaw-dropping 6'2, 205 pounds, broad shoulders and muscles. Mr. Loftus had his concerns. Laughable now, isn't it?!
"Gary would stand in front of the modeling board containing all the modeling composites of his male models and tell me, 'You've got to trim down and look like this,' as he'd show me some examples of some male model wearing a 40 regular jacket. My young cocky self would just laugh and respond, 'I'm a broad-shouldered, athletic guy! I can't trim down to that size, nor would I want to look like that skinny dude!'"
With that said, Brian began testing. Various 'clothed' photo shoots with local photographers. But, it was one photographer in particular that took a special interest in Brian: Martin Ryter; who worked as an agent along side Gary Loftus. He was also pursuing photography. Martin and Brian would get-together and shoot several times a month. Brian was now living part time in San Francisco. They would collaborate shooting a collection of Brian's very first nudes. Traveling to Santa Cruz, and back home to Brian's hometown of Hilmar, California, to utilize the beauty of the agricultural backdrop; Rivers, cornfields and barns all made for some stunning- and, shocking- photos.
After some local work in the San Francisco market during 1984, it was time from Brian to set sail across the Atlantic and try his hand in the European markets.
He connected to Models 1 Men in London and booked Burberry clothing- clothed! Brain would book several other jobs before heading back to the states at the end of '84.'
But, prior to leaving, he had a call from Martin Ryter. Martin informed him that he had submitted nudes to Playgirl and the response was 'overwhelming!' Playgirl wanted to know who he was and would love to use him as a centerfold.
And so, the interesting journey to the next stage of Brian's life would begin..shooting his Playgirl spread in SoCal with famed photographer Richard Armas. Richard and Brian would become great friends and shoot often, including the centerfold of all centerfolds, The Man of The Year Issue, January 1986, which would be their most controversial issue ever. There was a 'bonus' in this issue, a bonus Brian had intended for the June issue, but the owners and publishers of Playgirl rejected it in the beginning. For the January issue, Brian and Richard didn't give them another choice as far as the centerfold photo this time. It would be the first full erection shot in Playgirl magazine history.
The issue flew off the shelves!
"I knew it would! The only thing baffling to me at the time was how did this 22-year-old country boy know this proactive approach would work, and the seasoned staff at a major magazine publication couldn't see it? That's the story that most people don't know."
Well, the fashion industry certainly knew what had hit them.
Brian would go on to work with ALL the great photographers of the '80s' & '90s': Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Victor Skrebneski, Mathew Rolston, George Holtz, Albert Watson and so many others.
His image would represent more designers and major name brands than any other male model in history: Versace, Davidoff Cool Water Cologne, Perry Ellis, Milk, Diet Coke, Lee Jeans, Bugle Boy, Edge Shaving Gel, Kool Cigarettes (even thought he doesn't smoke) and the list goes on...
He was also known as 'The Face of International Male,' a men's mail-order catalog that reached its peak of popularity due in part to Brian's constant appearance in the catalog and on its covers.
There was also his huge gay following! His gay fans loyal to this day, he was known as having the largest gay fan base of any male model. Ever.
His gay fans and non-gay fans will be pleased to know that Brian will be appearing in an upcoming documentary about International Male and the phenomenon surrounding the catalog's success.
*** BRIAN'S BODY OF WORK ***
"Defying middle-age, 'FIT' into your fifties. Health and fitness is not only a lifestyle, it's a specific way of thinking."
50 years old seems to be the barometer to many of us as to our overall appearance and health.
In 2013, I was 50 and in some of the best shape of my life. Swimming in the ocean, doing wind sprints in the sand, mountain biking for miles on the steep and rugged trails where I live in Thousand Oaks. All of this came to an abrupt halt when I was severely injured on a job related high-fall of over 20 feet and hitting cement. A fall that wouldn't be pleasant in my 20s, certainly felt horrible at 50. No broken bones, which I would prefer, instead, ligament and tendon damage throughout my body. My head, lower-back and neck were horrific. Both shoulders, left elbow, hand and knee.
My life suddenly changed. It was now a maze of doctors, appointments, surgeries, MRI's, and of course, physical rehab.
Then came the depression and mental rehab. The depression was unbearable. I was broken. A body used to constant physical activity being abruptly shut down or even slowed down. It's an uphill battle when this happens at 50. Trust me, I was up for the challenge and much good has come from it. A certain growth. The kind of growth you can only get through some type of loss or personal struggle. It was time to set an example of what 50-something SHOULD BE. 50-something can look like 30-something!
My approach to exercise is simple: MAKE IT AS ENJOYABLE AS POSSIBLE!
I do that by adding one element to everything I do: BE CREATIVE!
When you engage your creativity, you are engaging your mind. Therefore, NOT focusing on the monotony of most workouts. I tell people, "Think like a kid-be like a kid!"
Your body is capable of so many different movements. Think 'yoga,' but elaborate on those movements, for example, incorporate an item, like a piece of furniture- whatever- into the mix. And, sweat! Sweating is good and healthy!
*** BRIAN: THE FATHER ***
There is not one thing that defines me as a person. There are many. Including, being a father to four daughters, which is daunting enough without one of them being a heroin addict. My youngest, twenty-one year old Sophie, was first introduced to heroin and other drugs at only thirteen years old by a boyfriend. This was just the beginning. Years prior, when Sophie was only four, her mother and I divorced. Although I lived close, and in the same town, two of my four daughters, Georgia and Sophie, lived with their mom. During this time there were crucial things I was kept in the dark about. Not allowing me the information to co-parent properly. It was only when I was told by my ex that we needed to send our daughter, Georgia, off to a high school residential treatment center in Provo, Utah. Months later, Sophie would be there as well. Both my ex and I would take turns visiting. We'd attend parent-teacher conferences and counseling. For the most part, both girls seemed to be doing well. That is, until, Sophie was allowed a home visit. Back in her familiar stomping grounds of Beverly Hills, Sophie would relapse.
And, it would happen again. Something I was kept in the dark about for a long time. The day before their 18th birthday- Georgia on July 24th of 2014. And, Sophie, on January 26th of 2015, they were released from the program as it was mandatory. Against my recommendations that both girls not come back to the same area where their drug problems began. They did. And, the roller-coaster ride continued. Georgia ended up partying for some time before straightening herself out. Sophie, on the other hand, continued with bad decisions and bad behavior. This time to a greater extreme.
Today, at 21, Sophie has been in and out of numerous detox and rehab facilities. Overdosed countless times. Arrested several times. Lived on the streets. Been assaulted and taken advantage of. Simply living the life of a full-blown addict.
As a father, your dreams for your children aren't unlike any other dad, you want to see them succeed. None of the parents you see sitting alongside their child at an N/A meeting, or visiting them at one of the rehab facilities, ever imagined this as their child's life.
But, here we sit.
And, here we wonder.
What went so horribly wrong?
What factors determined this reality?
The countless nights I've laid in bed, unable to sleep, because I didn't know where my youngest baby was... and is... Is she safe? Warm? Alive?
And, of course, there's always the possibility of that call that no parent wants to get, that your child has passed.
Telling myself 'there's nothing you can do but pray and get some sleep.'
Easier said than done. The fact I don't know whether I'll be attending the funeral of my 89-year-old mother or 21-year-old baby first... weighs heavy on my heart and mind, daily.
As of today, Sophie is 2 weeks sober and off the streets. Two weeks ago several family members had to intervene and pick Sophie up and take her to detox. When we picked her up she looked as bad as I've ever seen her. Strung-out. Skinny. Marks on her face from picking her skin. She was absolutely filthy dirty. And, totally delusional. As usual, she was carrying several suitcases and bags. All containing drugs and paraphernalia. And this time, she had a new addition: a large puppy.
*** The Future ***
2018 & 2019 is getting my lifestyle brand going. Buzzini Clothing Designs and getting my exercise products to market. I don't want my accident, pain and suffering to be for not.
It's important that I set an example for what 50-something can be. I've worked through major physical and mental challenges and I'm not stopping now.
Too many adventures ahead of me, and, hopefully, with ALL of my daughters along for the amazing ride!
These are Brian's words written to me in a letter. It's the way he wanted to present himself and his concerns. In the end, I asked him one simple question:
Waide- So, Brian, do you have a favorite color?
To connect to Brian Buzzini, his social media platforms are:
FB: Brian Buzzini
Instagram: brianbuzzini & brianbuzziniphotography