It all started as a joke. Cartoonist Ziraldo made a drawing for a magazine showing some appetizing buttocks. The repercussion was so big that Ziraldo quipped he would start a magazine called Bundas to make fun of a slick gossip publication named Caras. He even created a slogan: "Whoever shows a bunda (the butt) in Caras does not show a cara (the face) in Bundas.
The newest national publishing venture in Brazil and one causing laughter all around and uproar in some quarters is the brainchild of a group of veterans who 30 years ago revolutionized the Brazilian small press by launching what was to become the most successful alternative national paper to date: O Pasquim (The Pasquinade, cheap newspaper). In a cheap shot against Caras (Faces) magazine, a publication by powerhouse Editora Abril, which celebrates the rich and famous with lavish pictorials, the new lampoon is called Bundas (Butts).
The colorfully slick magazine, whose first issue ran 100,000 copies and which is selling at newsstands for 2.90 reais ($1.70 dollars), is the brainchild of intellectual-cum-cartoonists Ziraldo and Jaguar, both from the defunct Pasquim, and both still very active in their profession. For Ziraldo, who faced imprisonment because of his journalistic activities during the Pasquim years, times couldn't be better for humor and satire. "Today we have hypocrisy and cynicism as raw material for our work," says Ziraldo.
It all started as a joke. Ziraldo drew a cartoon for Manchete, a weekly magazine, in which he showed some prominent buttocks. Rio's daily Jornal do Brasil liked the work and the cartoonist quipped to a reporter from that paper that it would be a good idea to publish a magazine called Bundas to make fun of Caras. He even dreamed up a slogan: "Whoever shows a bunda (the butt) in Caras does not show a cara (the face) in Bundas. Another Ziraldo's slogan goes, `Bundas magazine is the true face of Brazil.'
Soon after somebody spread the news that Ziraldo was going to launch a magazine called Bundas. Rio's daily O Globo dedicated two pages to the non-news. Interviews on TV followed. Only then things started getting serious. Says Ziraldo, "We got together, we had some 500 meetings. The main stumbling block was to find financing as well as someone who would manage the thing professionally. If Jaguar and I were professionals we`d be very rich today. Despite the success that Pasquim was, Jaguar is still paying off the magazine's debts. We are very incompetent. The immense goodwill across the country has made a magazine that did not exist into the most popular one in Brazil."
While the manager was found close by (Ivan Fernandes, son of Millôr Fernandes, one of many famous contributors) Gilberto Camargo, a group from Paraná, came up with the money. Ziraldo does not believe in market research, relying instead on the old gut instinct: "I don't know if Bundas is going to work. I have no marketing data; we've done no market research. Of one thing I'm sure: everybody is looking forward to the magazine because there's nothing like it in the press," said the cartoonist shortly before the launching of the weekly.
It took three years for Ziraldo to make the Bundas idea come true. While the writer refers to the magazine as A Bundas (with a feminine article), Jaguar prefers to call it O Bundas, in a twist he thinks gives a more dignified name to the publication. For Ziraldo it is Bundas, a revista (the magazine); for Jaguar it is Bundas, o semanário (the weekly). The ad people tried to change the name, arguing, "How can we call an ad agency and say, `I'm from Bundas.'" The discussion angered Ziraldo, who finally decreed: "The name is Bundas and that's the end of it."
Ziraldo explained the project's long gestation: "We were waiting for the right conditions to do it, because there is no longer room for adventure." He also insisted that the publication be a weekly instead of a more easily-assembled monthly, as suggested by some. "There is no monthly humor, it has to be weekly."
Jaguar even believesyou never know when these guys are putting you onthat it was thanks to the more dignified name that he was able to convince 102-year-old Barbosa Lima Sobrinho, a very active writer and president of the Associação Brasileira de Imprensa (Brazilian Press Association) to grant an interview for the magazine's premier issue. Pieces like this interview show the serious side of a publication that wants to be both the whip, as well as the cultural thermometer of the nation.
The party for the launching of the magazinethe publication's offices are in a cozy house on Bulhões de Carvalho street, in Copacabana,had all the informality and irreverence of the publication's team. Writer Luís Fernando Veríssimo joined musicians Aldir Blanco and Walter Alfaiate in a lively samba jam session before some 200 revelers They all gathered on May 31, a Monday, at the well-known barbecue restaurant Marius, in Rio's Ipanema.
The veteran team of founders and contributors want to preserve the same spirit of openness to young writers and cartoonists as existed at Pasquim's. The premiere and second issues are already giving a taste of such fresh and promising talent. Contributions from around the country are apparently pouring in. Contributors are among the best media professionals money can buy. Among the famous names in the first issue, besides those of Jaguar and Ziraldo, there are cartoonists Millôr Fernandes, Chico and Paulo Caruso, Lan, and Miguel Paiva plus writers Carlos Heitor Cony, João Ubaldo Ribeiro, Ruy Castro, Tutty Vasques, Aldir Blanc, Jô Soares, and Frei Betto.
No publication in Brazil today would be financially able to assemble such a bevy of heavyweights. And how did Ziraldo pull off this trick? "Simply because nobody asked how much they were going to make. If this works, we are going to pay well, if it doesn't, we will pay badly. But if the magazine is a hit everyone is going to make lots of money." When prospective contributors ask what they should send in, they are told to write or draw something they think no other publication would publish, a kind of reverse censorship.
As a hint of things to come, Jaguar (67, "but with the head of an 18-year-old") interrupted the flow of formal presentations on the launching night declaring: "Since this is an opposition magazine, let's start the opposition at home. Nobody talks anymore. It is absurd to stop a samba jam session of this quality to make speeches." To a reporter who wanted to know what had changed between the time of O Pasquim and the one of Bundas, Jaguar answered: "The enemy's clothes. Before it was the olive-green of the usurping military. Now the neoliberal gang wears Hermés ties and Armani suits."
Journalist Ivan Lessa, who was a Pasquim contributor and now lives in London, declined an invitation to be part of the new publication. His response: "I don't know why you Brazilians waste your time with this nonsense. Go to the beach, folks, go play soccer. Go play the guitar under the stars while beautiful morenas; do the samba, chic-a-chic-a-boom. This stuff of journalism, culture, I don't know, folks..."
While the more respectful weeklies (Veja, Isto É, and Época) reach the newsstands on the weekend, Bundas will be showing up on Tuesdays. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former contributor to the old Pasquim, and named "most successful former contributor" should be now one of Bundas's main targets. Renowned writer Luís Fernando Veríssimo, a constant Cardoso critic, writes in the premiere issue's editorial: "We are here in the name of all moral and civic values which are so often forgotten nowadays and that is contained in the word Bundas. To say things clearly and entirely. And, considering this social democracy that does not dare to say its name in public "
The premiere issue opens with the poem "A Bunda Que Engraçada" (The Butt, how Funny) by the late Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Brazil's greatest poet. In his anthem to the derrière, Drummond writes:
"A bunda, que engraçada
Está sempre sorrindo, nunca é trágica."
"The butt, how funny
It is always smiling, it's never tragic"
Bundão (big butt, but a wimp in this case) of the week is a regular feature, but it was omitted in the debut issue. There was a unanimous vote for a candidate, but his name was not revealed by the Bundas gang. Their explanation: the "weakened character" was spared "in accordance with constitutional precepts." Another regular will be the less politically-charged "Bunda of the Week", a homage to that part of female anatomy most appreciated by Brazilians of all classes.
Bundas follows on the footsteps of satirical cartoons present in the Brazilian media since the creation of Rio's Jornal do Commercio in 1837. Emperor Dom Pedro II apparently didn't lose his sense of humor in spite of being constantly ridiculed by cartoonists such as Ângelo Agostini and Bordalo Pinheiro. Dictator Getúlio Vargas also suffered under the poison pen of several humorists without jailing his critics.
Magazines O Malho (The Sledgehammer), which started in 1902, and Careta (Grimace), which debuted six years later, were the most famous satirical publications in Brazil in the first half of the 20th century. They were feared by the powerful. In 1910, for example, House president Sabino Barroso had to abandon his post after being ridiculed by O Malho, a publication that survived until 1954.
Careta was so popular that it was a staple at doctors' and dentists' offices, at barbershops and shoeshine stands. For Ziraldo, the reality of Brazilian life constantly shows the need for a humor magazine: "What we lacked was for someone to sit and say, `Leave it to me, I am going to publish this magazine.' We got old, everyone went his way to live his life. There no longer was the kind of energy we had in our 30s when we decided to put together O Pasquim. First, we didn't have the balls anymore. Now that we are over 60 we finally notice what kind of crazy boys we all were."