The Nice Jewish Guys calendar is more cheesecake than beefcake, with its photos of smiling, clean-shaven young men clutching adorable objects from challah to puppies.
It’s always irritated Duncan Pflaster.
A playwright whose work often focuses on sexual themes, Pflaster decided, after years of poking fun at the calendar with friends, that if no one else was going to add some meat to the menu, he would have to do it himself. And so was born the Naughty Jewish Boys calendar, in production now and scheduled for publication as soon as August.
Jewish women too often see their men as “nice nebbishy guys who will bring home a paycheck. They’d like to be seen as more of a sexual being. There’s definitely a lot of very sexy Jewish guys out there,” said Pflaster, 40, who is gay and planning two versions of the calendar, “naughty and more naughty,” which will feature full frontal nudity.
“Gay men will probably want the full frontal calendar, but some women will, too,” he said. “Not all men who have posed for me have posed full frontal. Some have gone shirtless; some down to their underwear and some are in just a yarmulke and a smile.”
Pflaster recruited models from among his friends and via an ad on Craigslist: “Seeking Jewish men to model for a ‘Naughty Jewish Boys’ calendar. Intended as an alternative to the emasculating ‘Nice Jewish Guys’ calendar currently out, this will show the sexy side of Judaism… Chubby/hairy ok. Yarmulkes and payess a plus. Previous modeling experience not necessary.”
Pflaster, 40, works a day job for a company that makes and installs video surveillance security systems, so he’s doing the photo shoots on the weekends. He has already photographed five men, with seven more scheduled. He’s taking the photographs himself and plans to print and sell them through Lulu.com, a web-based publishing service, for between $25 and $30. The models are receiving $50 each.
Actor and director Isaac Scranton, 32, has worked in theater with Pflaster for many years, and so decided to participate in the project despite a rocky relationship with Judaism that he attributes to the “stifling, hypocritical and ultimately abusive” community in Albany, where he grew up.
Still, he has some feelings for the faith — he has even tattooed yod-hay-vav-hay, the Hebrew letters that represent the name of God, over his heart – and he enjoys collaborating with Pflaster, so he signed on.
“As always, he creates an environment that is safe, creative and fun,” Scranton wrote in an e-mail. “The statement that Jews CAN be naughty, fun and out-there in a good way is one that definitely appeals.”
To be sure, just as Pflaster has never liked the Nice Jewish Guys, now they don’t like him, either. The company that makes the calendar, Jumbo Jet Inc., had their lawyers send over a cease-and-desist letter noting that since they debuted in 2009, JJI’s calendars have filled “a previously unfilled space in the calendar market, namely one that featured exclusively Jewish men, and in particular, the kinds of Jewish men one could take home to one’s mother.” JJI has trademarked “Nice Jewish Guys” for use in wall calendars, the letter says.
The publication of a Naughty Jewish Boys calendar will dilute the distinctiveness of the Nice Jewish Guys trademark and prevent Nice Jewish Guys from expanding their own business along naughty lines should they want to do so in the future, wrote Michael Lovitz of the Los Angeles-based firm Bowen Hayes & Kreisberg. Therefore, Pflaster should stop using the name “Naughty Jewish Boys”; stop making the calendar; remove the name from his website; abandon his domain name and let Lovitz know that he has complied no later than the close of business March 17.
Advised by a friend who is an intellectual property lawyer, Pflaster responded in a letter that the point of the calendar is not to compete with the Nice Jewish Guys product, or even make money, but to make a larger point about Jewish, and male – and female – sexuality.
Men, he said, are not allowed to be sexy the way women are supposed to be, unless they are gay. This limits and represses both men and women.
But pop culture treats Jewish men in particular harshly. According to the prevailing stereotype, Pflaster said, Jewish men like, say, Seth Rogen of “Knocked Up” get the girls because they are funny and sweet, not because they’re necessarily attractive, although he himself finds Rogen “super-hot.”
American Apparel recently ran an ad shilling its schmattes by putting them on handsome chasid Joel Weisshaus. And this newspaper has written about Jewrotica, an organization that explores the intersection of Judaism and sexuality that is part of a wave of sexually explicit websites and books aimed at arousing and raising a Jewish sexual consciousness.
Naughty Jewish Boys and Jewrotica are clearly a match made in heaven.
For the calendar, Pflaster said, “Anybody who has some sort of sexual magnetism is fine. One guy is a little older and a little hairier. There’s one guy who’s in his 20s. I’m hoping for a variety of body types. Hairy and chubby, I’m all about that.”
Naughty Jewish Boys, he said, is a labor of love, although it would be great if he made some money. He plans an initial run of 250 calendars, and Lulu.com can print more on demand.
Still, in his letter, Pflaster tried to assuage JJI’s concerns, promising that he would go out of his way in publicizing his work to differentiate it from the Nice Jewish Guys calendar and that since he hasn’t yet designed his calendar, he would take “minimal” steps to make sure the calendars don’t resemble each other when printed.
Lovitz declined to comment on his client’s next move.
Pflaster also said he would put a disclaimer on his website stating that the naughty boys are not affiliated with the nice guys.
He didn’t do this on the advice of his lawyer friend, he said, adding, “I just thought it would be nice.”
See more calendar photos here.