Ciao! Magazine: The Gay Dolce Vita of the ’70s
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Published in: March-April 2024 issue.

CIAO! The World of Gay Travel was a bimonthly magazine published by George Desantis in New York City. Desantis had been a school teacher but lost his job when they found out he was gay. He was also denied an advanced degree from Purdue University “because he was a homosexual, [and]he was compelled to resign a university position he had already accepted” (per The Post-Crescent of Appleton, WI, June 28, 1970). Abandoning academia, Desantis decided to publish a proudly gay magazine, so he founded Queen’s Quarterly: The Magazine for Gay Guys Who Have No Hang-Ups (wisely renamed QQ the following year). Articles in the early issues were pretty tame (“Decorating a Stylish Apartment at Half the Cost” or a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs). As art director he hired Al Shapiro, better-known as the artist A. Jay, creator of the first gay cartoon, Harry Chess. Full-frontal nudity did not appear until the twelfth issue (December 1971).

            The prolific display of male pulchritude led to brisk sales and profits, prompting Desantis to venture into other enterprises. He sold skimpy swimsuits and underwear, modeling these wares himself. He sold greeting cards; “Sex Combo” vitamins called Loravite, Vegerex and Dynavite; dildos and other “adult toys”; and a plethora of digest-sized magazines, including Tom of Finland’s Ringo & the Renegades, Gay Freedom and The Homosexual Health Guidebook. He also created the Mr. Fire Island Contest. In 1972, he ventured into the world of bodybuilders and their admirers with a larger magazine called Body.

            In February 1973, Desantis launched Ciao! The World of Gay Travel.

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Frank Serafino lectures on LGBT history at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL.


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