The editor of TWMX looks back at an old creation.
The editor of TWMX looks back at an old creation.
The old MXRacer magazine.
"I was working at Cycle News and then went to Dirt Rider in 1997, I worked for a year under Tom Webb, Ken Faught, Mark Kariya and Karel Kramer over there and they did these one-off issues on motocross and I had a lot to do with those. Those were a lot of fun and we pitched it to the higher-ups at Dirt Rider that we should do a motocross only magazine. So I worked under Ken for some reason, he had a title of executive-editor or something but all he wanted was a column in the magazine and still be able to say that he was my boss.
I was the editor and I pretty much put the whole thing together myself and to the best of my knowledge, the only thing Ken did was his column. It’s funny to think back now, it was only 66 pages of editorial which is like nothing nowadays. And back then magazines weren’t all-color like they are now. Racer X started that trend, but anyways I would have to lay out a story and say ok, the supercross story would have four pages of color because it was a big story! It was pretty cheesy but that was the way it was done back then. I had a freelance art director and her name was Heather, I forget her last name now but anyways, she had worked on Inside Motocross and we hired her. I had a good time with her, she was cool and I enjoyed working under Tom Webb as he was the publisher. I really looked up to Tom a lot back then and he’s an awesome guy. He was actually the guy that kept me sane. Tom would fix everything when Ken would go in and complain. It was always a power struggle there because Dirt Rider was the cash cow over at Peterson Publishing. MXRacer wasn’t really doing much for them but it was the cool magazine you know?
I pretty much did it myself for a long time and after Tom resigned to go work for FMF, the new editoral director was a guy named Kevin Smith and he came from Motor Trend. He was a cool guy, he reminded me of Harrison Ford really. He always made me feel safe! I could trust him and I remember that at my yearly review he suggested I get an employee because what would happen if I got hurt or whatever. Remember, MXRacer was bi-monthly, we never made it to monthly. So every two months, I had to do 66 pages and I really didn’t need any help. I shot my own photos and all that but I thought that I should do it anyways. I hired a guy named Kevin away from Cycle News and he was pretty good really, the only thing was he didn’t have the same work ethic that I had. To this day, I’m a workaholic and I subscribe to the theory that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. So anyways, that didn’t work out and I had to clip him.
That was the first person I ever had to fire and that hurt. It wasn’t cool, so then after that I ended up doing it myself again for a while. Then came another one of those reviews and Harrison Ford said that I needed to get someone else so I concocted an idea that I may as well as hire someone I could hang out with. I hired one of my best friends, Cory Neuer and he had some writing skills and he could also ride a bike ok. His photography was excellent, he became a pretty good photographer but I still did a lot of stuff myself but we could hang out now. That was it as far as staff went. I had an art director named Mitch and he was cool, he’s still the guy over at FMF doing that. He was half-Japanese and half-white with a lazy eye so you never really knew if he was looking at you or not.
I had Eric Johnson as my editor at large who contributed stories to me. I had 66 pages of editorial to do and when I gave him a story, he would turn in 75 pages of editorial so we had to get him to mince his words. It was fun working with him, I also had Davey Coombs who did some work for us as well. DC was a big part of launching the magazine actually. By no means do I mean that I did everything myself, it was just that I was the only staff guy. So EJ and DC were a part of MXRacer, and we were set. Peterson Publishing always tried to name their magazines with rider or racer in it. There was Dirt Rider, Sportbike Rider, MXRacer or whatever and I remember that Davey was bummed because he was talking about starting Racer X the magazine and because the names were similar, people were asking him if this was his new magazine.
Rich Taylor was my test rider back then and I just brought him back on-board here at Transworld. He had a lot more hair back then (laughs). At MXRacer, we did a couple of things that were popular and I brought something back in TWMX. We used to go to a guy’s house and just take pictures of all the things in it and readers always thought that was cool. It gave you an inside look at the guys away from the track. One of the coolest stories I ever did was a sidebar about how much gear it takes to clothe MC for a season. We called Fox and Spy and all that to find out what it took. We got Jeremy to stand there in his boxers with his arms out and we illustrated the rest where you could just dress him like a mannequin. We got a lot of letters about that one.
We had Johnny O’Mara as our fitness contributors and some riders write columns for us, including RC and MC. I remember when I was a little kid hanging out at my brothers and he had all these magazines. I picked up a DBR magazine which is from England and they had a column from David Thorpe. When I got to MXRacer, I thought that was cool and I asked McGrath if he would write a column inside. To my knowledge, it was the first motocross magazine to have a rider-penned column. It was funny because Johnny O wrote this fitness column and he’s awesome at being a trainer and one of the gnarliest guys out there. We would have letters from vets who said they couldn’t ride more than three laps before they got tired. O’Show’s answer would be “Cycle 50 miles, run for 6 miles and do 6000 sit-ups” and then we would get a letter from an aspiring pro kid and he’d tell them the same thing! He just didn’t know how not to work.
So that column didn’t work out too well!
Everything was great there, it was fun but I never really knew how safe I was there career-wise. The magazine was good but we never got Renthal on our back-cover. It was never very successful advertising wise. The other magazines didn’t have what we had, they didn’t have humor in them and we tried to look at it like a fans magazine. I still do that now, I try to inject humor into the stories. Our readers seemed to enjoy it. So we were doing MXRacer and when I bought my first house in Valencia and I remember going into Harrison Ford’s office and telling him that I was about to sign a 30-year loan and I had never done anything like that before. I wanted to know if the magazine was in any danger of being folded. He said in his safe, smoothing voice that I was doing a great job and he didn’t think anything bad was going to happen.
Then at some point Warren Johnson, who worked at Kawi then but now works at Fox, told me about his neighbor who had a BMX a magazine and wanted to start a motocross magazine. He said that he had told him to hire me because I was the best editor out there. Anyways, flash forward to the Indy dealer show and there was an industry go-kart race one night. So there was this dude in front of me going slow and I tried to take him out over and over. He came up to me afterwards and I thought he was going to punch me out or something but he said ‘Hi Donn, I’m Brad McDonald, Warren’s neighbor.” It was funny but he came to the party because he knew I was there. I did an interview with him and then didn’t hear anything from him for a while. He called me up six months later and he wanted me real bad, it was funny I was almost interviewing him. I told him that I wasn’t coming into the office everyday because the office was two hours away (laughs). I started Transworld with Garth Milan and Simon Cudby and MXRacer hired this English wanker named Jerry Dyer who said that all of us Americans shouldn’t go ‘piggin his style’ so DC and I made fun of him whenever we could in our magazines. He went back to England after about six issues and was never heard from again."